Tips Before Leaving

Those forgotten practical pleasures…[are] a supremely relaxing escape from time behind the computer.
–‘Tips’ from The Gentlewoman, Issue 2, Autumn/Winter 2010

All this started because I read a magazine article focusing on the ingenious things that women, in particular, like to make and do with their hands. I wanted to create a similar list but in a different way: firstly, by posing the question: ‘When you finish working/writing/making, what do you do with your hands?’ and secondly, by asking a whole swathe of lovely people via digital/social media. For all that online communication can be vast and anonymous, it can also be personal across distance–so I reached out to friends near and far as Kathryn, the kid herself, and was warmed and intrigued by the response. (Never once did I mention a computer, but the replies suggest a widespread trend in modern working culture, class notwithstanding, that is hard not to notice…)

Jess Miley: Crack knuckles, chip off glittery nail polish with similarly chipped nail. Hover pointer finger over return button.

Katie Green: I finish any session of drawing or making with some hand stretches–more out of habit than for any particular reason other than it feels good 🙂

P. Sarat Kumar: Close the computer…if it’s after I get off the computer. Stretch. Hands move apart so that I can stretch my back.

Alex: Nothing…not everybody is as gifted , special, talented & intelligent as u……although on some days i am all the things mentioned above & more .

Adnan Wahid: I crack the fingers…

Niranjan H. G.: Depends on basically what I was doing,
normally I wash my hands. Was I sensible in my answer!?

Mathew White Mug: Do my hair maybe
Lol
I mean just adjust it

Rosie Roberts: I run my fingers through my dog’s coat, scrape paint off fireplaces, dig weeds from the garden, re-string guitars, let my new niece curl her fingers around my own, hold Rhys’ hand while falling asleep.

Rama Sangye: Your question has made me realise that my hands are almost entirely wasted on me, given that i take them for granted and do not ever consider the blessing of having them and putting them to good use!

Vishal Thomas: Hmm… well smoke

Gay Lynch: On these late winter afternoons, my writing hands scamper off the keyboard into leather gloves, swing to the paddocks and their lines of trees between double fence wires, where they heave the chainsaw over fallen boughs, twining trunks and collapsed strainer posts, keeping well clear if the chain flies off and when it does swinging away from log piles, back up the hill under subdued grey light and a sliver of a silver moon, to inspect their blisters and abrasions over dinner. After several months of this they fail to properly grip, and they shake. Do you self-harm a student once asked, looking at my scarred writing hands lying idle on the workshop table? Yes, I said.

Anonymous #1: When I come to the end of a creative endeavour, my hands remain busy a little longer as they clean, tidy and return work and home spaces to their former glory: it’s practical, ritualistic and very reflective.

Jose Zapata: I stroke my beard

Thomas James: I am rewarded with pleasure via cooking, gardening, gaming, imbibing, tapping out rhythms, and touching screens–amongst other things.

Emily Wyatt: Tools of love, power and drudgery, my weathered hands cease work to caress precious heads to slumber.

Owen Bullock: Shake them, hide them away to stop me gesticulating wildly in my excitement!

Anonymous #2: Opening beers and packing bongs

Bharat Barki: When I finish writing or reading, I either go looking for a joint or go for a jog. Joints are always better, always so you can hit one and go for a jog 😀

Ynys Onsman: When I finish working, I use my hands to repack what I unpacked that morning–phone in bag, coat on shoulders, laptop power off–then shove them in my pockets for the quick march to the train station.

Yvette Kaziowski: When I am not using my hands to bring out another’s beauty, I use them to bring beauty into my life–whether it be by a lipstick touch-up, turning the pages of a book or fashion magazine, petting my parents’ beloved dog, arranging flowers in a vase, or cooking for someone I love.

Ikhtisad Ahmed: When I finish writing, I make to clench my fists triumphantly, but dive into a thorough wringing of the hands, plagued with questions of what to do next.

Yask Desai: I use them (the right one at least) to eat a lovely fish fry, dal and rice.

Ros Prosser: Hands held locked touched smooth lines veins livers spots I’m doing with my hands what I do with everything–looking at them.

Zatō Dom: After working intensively on music or writing I practise the art of ‘Kali’, a stick / knife / sword & empty hand martial art from the Philippines, of which I am a burgeoning Padawan.

Jen Lush: Well, I pick my nails and bite them so far down that they look less like nails and more like small remnants of shell, it’s as much a habit born from nervousness as just a comforting thing to do. I also take pieces of my hair in my right hand and twirl, knot and loop it fairly expertly around my fingers making slip-knots to catch my fingers in.

Nadi Palshikar: I join my palms in a Namaste and thank the Goddess.

Stepan Ueding: Dear Kathryn, what a rude question!
But I haven’t really taken notice, my hands are shaky, it would make me even more nervous to look at them.
They do something with my hair, I think.

Matt Hetherington: what do i do w my hands after? i rest them, or use them for self-reiki!

Jelena Dinic: I have always been fascinated by hands. I remember them more than their owners. I take them for granted. I use them to communicate softly, or swiftly.  To hug and to hold. To tuck in at night and to blow kisses in the morning at the school gate.

Ana Abranches Jelinic: I am not sure there is such a thing as ‘finishing work’. My hands are always active in some form of work… I actually sleep with my hands underneath my body… maybe the only way to stop them working is to literally hold them down.


This is the final blog post in my stint as Digital Writer in Residence with the SA Writers Centre. Glowing thanks to the SAWC–especially Vanessa Jones–for hosting and occasionally cross-posting my activities; to my generous and fascinating interview participants Ian Gibbins, Peter Wildman and Lalithashree Ganesh; to the most excellent (sometimes repeat) contributors to Friends with Drinks; to everyone above who keenly and good-humouredly offered up what they did with their hands while refraining from the obvious salacious answer; to Amelia for flying in V formation, and to my social media cheer crew Sarat, Belinda, Pamela, Gabrielle, Kami, Alan, Matt, Alison, Thom, Rachael, Mike, Ian, Jaqueline, Safwath, Jagadish and Rune. Finally, cheers to you for reading, drinking and being online–for never leaving me alone out here.

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E-interview #3: Lalithashree Ganesh

Lalithashree Ganesh is a writer and an artist who is passionate about making a difference to everyone who comes across her writing. She loves storiesLalitha 3. She loves people, animals, the arts, a good book, Bollywood, music, peace, and travel. Based in Bangalore, Lalithashree produces a vast variety of work through her roles in the advertising industry and as a creative practitioner–and still had time to give deep thought to the following questions about her engagement with art and craft, in the final of this special DWIR interview series.


1. Could you give a brief history of your work as a writer?
I have had the opportunity to write for about 60 brands (renowned as well as upcoming Indian and international brands) in the the last three and a half years. My advertising career started with Big Basket, Harman Kardon, JBL and HCG Cancer Hospital, after which I continued to learn and work at different agencies–reading, researching, absorbing, understanding and nurturing a strong, impactful, yet non-pushy voice. All this happened in a rather short span of time as the pace of work and the flow of ideas was rather rapid. I went on to write for brands like Shell, Acer, Ozone Group, Air Pegasus, The Oberoi, Fortis Hospitals, Zoya by TATA, and several other upcoming brands before growing into a Brand Writer for a menswear brand. Every brand has its own personality, and I have lent my voice to a number of brands–having worked on both online and offline ads and communication.

2. I understand that you work in advertising and also pursue creative writing and visual art. How is diversity in your craft significant to you?
Yes, I believe that diversity is essential for a writer. While being a Brand Writer means one must be able to think creatively, my career involves an immense amount of research, ideation, discussion, writing and crafting of thoughts. When it comes to my passion for poetry, it is a reflection of how I view and understand the world and everything that’s happening in it and around it. Poetry and ink drawings let me explore and make sense of the world without that unavoidable boundary that my writing as a Brand Writer sets for me–asking me to be truthful, yet cautious, sensitive, and channeled with a commercial angle. In this sense, it is poetry (although unconsciously structured, yet free flowing) that lets me express myself as an individual rather than a voice representing a collective conscience. I think that this freedom of expression is gained from poetry, and painting with ink is what gives me a sense of peace and contentment in my role as a Brand Writer. Just as no day is same as any other day, so is my writing.

3. How important is it to balance your different types of writing and roles?
The Brand Writer, the Poet, and the Artist, are all a part of me. A part of who I am. Although they can be seen as separate skills or different voices, expressions, platforms and means of sharing creativity, world views and individual opinions, they are extremely significant parts of me. And to move forward, they each need the other and the world and everything in it–The Brand Writer, the Poet, and the Artist. They are gifts that help me grow and evolve. At the same time, they are what make me feel whole. Even when the pace seems slow, the important thing is to keep making a path and walking on it. And the balance will be achieved.

4. Do you find that using a mix of analogue and digital media (however you define each) helps to achieve this balance?
Well, to be honest I think that achieving that balance is all in the mind rather than in the medium. If you want to do it, then you’ll do it. When I began my career as a copywriter, I was told by the hierarchy that I must practice hard to break the literary, poetic mould that I had felt so comfortable in. In fact, I thought and believed I had to break it fully and truly failed in doing so. However, I soon realised (after a discussion with my mother) that rather than breaking what had already seeped into my blood cells, I should build another mould for myself (that of being a copywriter) and let that become a part of my blood cells too. In a sense, it is making space for what is necessary. And when some things become a part of you, the balance happens rather naturally. There is no effort to let them co-exist.

Speaking about the analogue and the digital, there definitely is a difference felt when the words are written with ink on paper as opposed to typing the words onto a screen. I believe there is something inexplicable in the analogue that may perhaps never be captured or felt via the digital. And I guess the choice is finally up to the writer–to decide where to use which medium (analogue/digital).

5. What new trends do you see emerging in your industry?
I see a lot of real stories. I see openness. I see truth. I see consistent attempts to break stereotypes. I see the emphasis for a better world through values shared. I see customer-centered communication, customer testimonials and customer stories that become ads. I see more research and understanding. I see informality in tone and language, and acceptance of the same from consumers/viewers. I see less of traditional structures as far as writing goes, and more of free flowing and quick communication. I see transitoriness and change. I see impermanence via social media–which makes forgetting as easy as remembering. I see a lot more youngsters, middle-aged men and women as well as senior citizens using their voices via social media to support important causes. I see a lot of brands and advertising agencies transitioning and embracing the digital medium in order to be current and keep pace with the happenings in the country and the world.

There are a lot of positive trends, and there are some not-so-positive trends as well. I see a bit of carelessness in using language and grammar. I see outright copying. I see a lot of compromise on quality. I see that while many messages mean well, they can also be misinterpreted, as nuances are not paid attention to. I see that there is a need for depth and ‘originality’–the focus is leaning more towards quantity, speed, and keeping the customer/audience engaged throughout, rather than going deeper in a qualitative sense.

6. Who is producing the work you’re following right now?
I don’t follow anyone in particular. When I come across work that is good and worthy, I feel inspired. I admire it and try to learn from the work/craft itself.

Feeling Not at All to Somewhat Digital

If You’re Feeling Digital, a blog entry referencing Belle and Sebastian that I posted two weeks ago, called for responses to a Google form asking questions about your work and your engagement with digital media, as well as requesting details about ideas, innovations and aspirations for your digital creative work. (This was based on one of my outlined activities with intended outcomes on my DWIR application form, so I couldn’t not do it, you know?)

Well, after this optimistic call for interaction, I was brought back down to tangible earth when no-one in the digital universe filled in the form. Not a one. Not even part-way through. That’s all good, since I’ve got something similar, personal and infinitely more successful planned for my swansong post, but it did mean that I had to do some deep thinking around this follow-up. Do I tell my legions of loyal readers (!) the truth? Or do I just ignore the earlier blog post and its call for interaction? Or do I hold off on the follow-up for another week and harangue some friends into filling in the form so I have something to report? Or do I build on the original idea of a cento manifesto on digital writing in a different way–do I just make something up as a creative response to the dilemma?

I decided to make something up. Here goes my cento manifesto comprised of content gleaned from the world’s go-to internet search engine and everybody’s friend:

Feeling Not at All to Somewhat Digital

For Sarat

Write to between ‘digital writing’
to be
to understand
the rhetorical situation of a text
ask yourself questions: look up references

A digitally literate person will possess a range of
knowledge of
an understanding of
societal issues raised by digital technologies

you have to understand the rules to break them

you will understand how
after studying this chapter.

It’s important to think upfront
form expectations about, for example, what will happen next

(you can!)

Engage with digital writing
always/hourly/daily/weekly/every so often
Nothing in between.
What’s with all these binaries?

You can reach
much wider audiences
than a physical event would allow
often you can find content before Google
is able to even index it.

How often do you shrug your shoulders and press delete after reading a marketing email?
Good point.

People accept digital things easily enough
by thinking of them as electronic
an analog watch tells the time with hands that sweep around a dial:
So if the hour hand sweeps across
If you then made the disk spin
while the traveler slowly moves
When there’s no sound, the magnet is not activated, so…

We come across so many analog computers, but we hardly notice them.

There is a new guy at my school and I think he’s cute, funny and sweet, but
what kinds of digital media does he engage with?
You can ask your readers for tips.

You can ask any sort of question you want as long as it fits your brand.

Written content doesn’t exist without authors
that
you‘ll probably be compelled to yodel it from a social media mountain!

What websites do you frequently access and why?
No comment.
Someone will have to click History > Show top sites

I knew then that the book’s migration to the digital realm would not be
computational.
This is Schrödinger’s equation, read as “the Hamiltonian of the wave …”

If you‘ve never played a leadership or management role at work, don’t panic
because your work is automatically protected the moment you write it down.

As you become clear about the meaning
of your story, you can bring
your story to life,
taking us into that moment of change.

You‘ve Got Luddites All Wrong”
You should know your ending before you start writing.
You can also sip a wine named Luddite.

My roundup is a great example.
For more on electronic copies, see the next few situations.

Your eyes may feel fatigued from the glow of the monitor, the strain of
pronouncement that will make you sick with insecurity
that will make you salivate
at the thought of dissecting traffic

We must learn to humanize digital life
as actively as
we’ve digitized human life

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed

Instead
you
need a dream and you need to use it as an ally

We are all accountable to, and for, the things we have written
specifically: software developers.

(I’m also a woman academic and I agree wholeheartedly with your response)

I am well convinced… from your love of liberty, that you will endeavour
in writing a sort of a sequel:
in life, you do not have to know its name to do it well.

I thought we were talking about analogue vs. digital.
But again

what’s with all these binaries?

 

A Friends with Drinks Refresher

Friends with Drinks, my chief project as DWIR, has been running since the 18th of July and the site is filling up with an amazing, diverse range of images and texts from all over the world. Here are just a few of the submissions I’ve been receiving and posting as editor:

Jaqueline Barmentloo
DJ Huppatz
friends (?) with drinks
Kami McInnes

my name is kami
and i’m an alcoholic
i like to pretend that i’m not
that i have things under control
and sometimes i almost do
sometimes i can just have one
or two
okay maybe three
and stop
some days i can order a soft drink
at the bar and not feel
like a soft cock
and there are nights when my teeth
don’t grind for want
of a drink
and i tell myself i’m alright
i’m no drunk
even though i’m mentally counting
the change in my pocket
to see if i have enough
for just one beer
maybe two
because i like the taste
you understand
it’s the flavour i miss
not the alcohol
those days
i pretend i have control
but on those days and nights
when my thirst burns a hole
in my wallet
when i wake up not knowing
who she is
or where we are
those days where panadol and powerade
make for a balanced breakfast
when the bruises on my arms and legs
can’t be explained
the days where my wife won’t talk to me
when my daughter is afraid of me
those days i can’t pretend
so i don’t
instead i just lie to myself
tell myself it’s all good
it’s okay to let loose
to have a little fun
you deserve it
you’re doing nothing wrong
nothing bad
just letting off some steam
drinking with yr new friends
a man needs to let go occasionally
just a night on the town
or a day out
a weekend lost
Easter missed
a birthday forgotten
but it’s okay
i got you a nice bottle of wine
we can drink it with dinner
i mean hell it was just a few drinks
just a few laughs
what’s yr damn problem with that
its not like i get violent or anything
ok, there are the holes in the walls
but would you rather i had hit you
i mean come on
it was just a few drinks
it ain’t a crime
and i’m not the only one
who’s ever lost his license
it was just bad luck
it was just a few drinks
that’s all
just one
or two

my name is kami
and i am an alcoholic
but don’t worry
i have it all under control

 

pskchemistry

Long Black, Flat White
Thom Sullivan

evenings we piece together : over coffee :
the end-of-evening café : late : before closing : close
to closing : as we spill out onto a street :
where the chairs are stacked : the streetside tables
packed away : a loose critique : a film
we enjoyed : or didn’t : the silt of a long black :
& flat white : crumbs : & rasping teaspoons :
significances between words : that elude definition :
or neatness : things we speak of : that need
to be opened : from time to time :
to change their dressings : to bring them out
into the air & light : knowing they have changed :
subsided : like a lung collapsing : or a heart :
or a filament of thought : that needs unwinding :
our habitual locales : this café, say :
at the end of an evening : of how many evenings :
as we spill out onto the street : still talking :
the suburbs in abeyance : late walkers : passing taxis :
& the whole entanglement : a world
of light & shadow :

Annette Willis
Gab Hummel

the port
Alan Peter Kelly

the smell of sea
and frangipani
my unique river
has a night life
few would believe

a blanket down
with breeze
that tussles hair
like hands
across a scalp

a rod and bait
a cheapish Cabernet
my boom box tuned
to triple j

as nearby
dolphin pod herd
school of fish
for feed and
where water dapples
to reflection
of moon
and universe

Rahul Gudipudi
Andrew Noble

Haven’t sent anything in yet? You are very welcome: submissions to Friends with Drinks will be open until the end of my residency on the 27th August (and who knows? Perhaps beyond). If you’re not sure what the project’s all about, read on…

Merging the everyday rituals of making friends and taking drinks with the digital zeitgeist, Friends with Drinks is a creative collaborative project that aims to share different experiences of drinking and place worldwide.

By way of online communion, Friends with Drinks signifies particular spaces through full and fragmentary texts, images and sounds that together create a map of what we drink, with whom and where—whether it’s morning coffee in Milan, midday chai in Lucknow, an afternoon beer in Prague, an evening martini in New York or a cup of hot milk before bedtime in Accra.

The possibilities for joining minds, locations, words, inspirations, snapshots, actions, sketches, music, clips and destinies are as infinite as the networks that draw us together. Consider what drinking represents about the spaces (analogue and digital) you inhabit and the culture/s you (may/may not) belong to, then submit your photos, artwork, writing, audio or video files to the Friends with Drinks Tumblr or Facebook page.

If you have any suggestions for or comments about Friends with Drinks, I’d love to hear from you!

 

E-interview #2: Peter Wildman

coverPeter Wildman is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. He has been working with computer coding languages, electronics and other materials for the past five years. During this time he has also been an enthusiastic teacher, lecturing at a number of Sydney’s Universities. He is currently completing a postgraduate practice based research degree at UNSW Art and Design. His research is concerned with deconstructing binaries that exist in the field of computation. Situating his work in the field of codeworks, he is interested in how computer coding languages as literature can be used to erase binaries embedded in the discourse around computation and language: codepomofo is a collection of his code poems (for viewing on PC). Here, in the second of this special DWIR interview series, Peter boldly explains the concepts underlying his creative work.


1. Could you give a brief history of your creative practice?
My creative practice began when I realised that a question I had asked my high school careers advisor had come to fruition without any direct planning. When I was 17 I wanted to be an interior designer, psychologist and an accountant. The advisor told me that these three careers were so different and I would need to choose one. After some years of wandering I realised that writing computer code in an arts field actually satisfied the motivation behind all of these aspirations. My creative practice became clear; through computer code I realised I could create aesthetic work using logic that explored concepts. Since this realisation I have been using computer code and electronics to explore concepts that interest me – communal music making, meditation and now computer coding language as a literary medium. As my practice has matured I have also started to work with concepts embedded in the medium itself.

2. How have digital media helped you communicate the intent/s behind your work?
I understand digital media in a very broad sense, as a defining term, as a method of sensing and actuating materials that are seemingly different from the analogue method. The digital, referring to a series of on and off states, and the analogue as a series of waveforms are different, but so is one analogue medium from another, or even one analogue medium from another use of that same analogue medium. For example a person writing in a word processor of a computer who then prints their prose is working digitally, where a person who writes onto paper with a pen is working in an analogue medium. There will be a difference between the person who writes with a pencil on a wall or the person who uses a branding iron to burn their words into their own body. Defining my work as digital does not help my work and I do not use this framework when considering how to communicate. If my work seems to use digital as a driving force, potentially it is just the dominance of the medium itself in our current times reflecting back upon my use of its elements. Or maybe it is the new church and I am not so into organised religion.

3. Is there a marked correlation between your creative practice and your personal beliefs?
 When I started out in my creative practice the personal was a very strong reason for creating. I believe this came from a need to create a stronger self or person. I have recently overcome a lot of personal traumas and now find it much easier to create as a process further separated from the self. I am hoping that over time I will be able to fully lend my critical and creative abilities to what is eminent in my culture and the mediums I am using. Yet I will always be there as a space through which this critique and creation manifests.

4. What appeals to you about collaborative practice? Do digital media lend themselves to collaboration more than traditional media?
I have done a very small amount of collaboration in my practice. I feel that collaboration brings different interests together that broaden and enrich work. Collaboration also enables different time frames to influence the production of a work. I don’t believe any medium would lend itself more to the collaborative process, rather each medium and mode of transmission would eventuate in a different work. For example Cosmic Poem by Tomomi Adachi and Akihiro Kubota, a series of poems being generated and sent from ARTSAT, a satellite deployed in outer space orbiting the earth, is dependent on the collaborative nature of radio signal retrieval and subsequent ‘reunification’ of these transmissions received on earth in fragments. Whilst Candy Chang’s work Before I Die transforms public spaces into walls where people can use chalk to complete the sentence Before I die I want to…

These works are public collaborations that are made in very different ways when viewing them from the perspective of digital and traditional mediums, yet neither one lends themselves more so than the other as artworks of collaboration.

5. How does digital media succeed as a method of reflecting different realities where traditional methods might not?
My interest in mediums are more idiosyncratic and attempt to cross and collapse divides of broader definitions. This is important to me because to keep a medium confined within a binary structure is to restrict it to a dominant conversation and restrain it from being a multiplicity of things in different contexts. For example I am currently interested in computer coding languages. But I have read these aloud on stage, written computer code on paper with a pencil, executed computer code by sewing graphics by hand. Each of these interactions with computer code are outside of the digital and able to exist in different ways because they are transient and defiant. This is why you will see a mix of mediums in my work and a range of influences. In my current work I am interested in how language systems, looking at one computer coding language in particular, execute or generate something. But through this I am interested in constraints, instructions, ordered processes and translation. And because of these interests I am inspired by Sol LeWitt and his series of instructions for wall drawings; Dada poetry; Fluxes actions; Oulipo constrained writing techniques; Multiples, edited by Adam Thirwell and contributed to by 61 authors; or Ramsey Nasser and his arabic programming language قلب.

E-interview #1: Ian Gibbins

IanIan Gibbins is an Adelaide poet, working across diverse forms, including electronic music, digital media, and video. He used to be a neuroscientist and Professor of Anatomy at Flinders University. His poetry has been widely published in print and on-line, often accompanied by his electronic music and videos, and includes the collections Urban Biology (2012); The Microscope Project: How Things Work (with artists Catherine Truman and Deb Jones, 2014) and Floribunda (with artist Judy Morris, 2015). With customary kindliness, Ian agreed to answer some questions about his astounding range of creative practices for the first in this special DWIR interview series.


1. Could you give a brief history of your creative practice (analogue and digital)?
When I first started writing poetry in the 70s, everything was decidedly analogue. I was part of a poetry workshop at Melbourne University, and co-edited University poetry magazine for a few years. Digital computing was available on mainframes but that was outside the reach of most people. I began using mainframe-based computers for statistics in 1975, but it never occurred to me to consider them for creative work!

I used a lot of digital technology and computing in my research at Flinders University. As microscopists, we were among the first anywhere to use digital image acquisition and processing. We had one of first the desktop computers in Australia that could do 3D animations (in this case of single nerve cells), and we used Photoshop for preparing images for publication almost as soon as it came out. My electrical recordings of the activity of nerve cells as they communicate with each other required all kinds of digital amplifiers, displays and data-gathering devices. By the time I retired in 2014, we had fully digital microscopes, powerful desktop data analysis, and all our publishing was fully digital.

As my scientific career took off, I stopped writing poetry for no special reason. But I maintained a strong interest in the arts throughout. Then, around 2003 or so, I started writing again, and things took off from there. I write in different styles, which seem to suit different audiences , so I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot work published and performed in a wide range of places over the last few years. However, more and more my work is relying on digital production processes, including sampling, generative rules, and the incorporation of visual elements with the text.

Another analogue-to-digital transition was in music. I’m a self-taught keyboard player and I really like the two extremes of keyboard music: traditional piano blues and experimental electronica. The arrival of affordable, professional-quality music-making software completely changed my approach to music, opening up all kinds of creative possibilities I’d never really imagined.

Now all these strands have come together in my recent video-poetry work, where I can combine text, sound and moving image in ever-changing ways.

2a. What is it about new/digital media that draws you to use them in your work?
Undoubtedly, it’s the huge range of creative possibilities I can access, mostly just from sitting at my computer: graphics, sounds, animation, code, or whatever.

2b. What kind of equipment do you use?
For all my experience with electronics and digital instrumentation, or maybe because of it, I’m not an equipment nerd. I like to use the most minimal set-up I can and then exploit it to the full. However, I do try to get the best quality components I can afford to do the work I want to do.

When I retired in 2014, I bought a top-of-the-line iMac with loads of memory, the fastest processors, and a giant solid-state main drive, as well as a heap of fast external storage (14 TB at the moment!). This means I can make videos with minimal waiting time for rendering, which had been driving me nuts on my previous computer.

I use Final Cut Pro X for making my videos along with Motion, Isadora, Image J and a couple of other specialised little programs for generating individual clips. I’m still learning how to use these programs to generate images from scratch, make animations, etc. My video camera is just a good quality Canon handicam, and my still camera is a fairly old Olympus digital SLR, which can take some wonderful specialist lenses I’ve had for over 30 years! I process still images with Photoshop and Image J (a scientific image processing program).

For music and sound production, I mostly use Logic Pro X, but I have some specialist smaller programs for severely warping or generating sound files, such as Audacity, PaulStretch, Photosounder, and High C. I use a Roland MIDI keyboard for input, and an Edirol analogue-to-digital module for voice and sound recordings. I’ve also got a full size digital stage piano and an wonderful old Korg synth (one of the first semi-digital models), that has almost died… And the main reason I take an iPhone around with me is to record environmental sounds.

3. Is there a correlation between your science background and your creative practice? If so, how would you describe it?
Clearly the answer is yes! And in many ways… Perhaps most surprising is that my experience in the poetry writing workshops as an undergraduate made me a much better scientific writer: I was trained to think hard about economy of language, shades of meaning and rigorous editing. I published about 120 scientific articles, an equivalent number of words to two full length novels. They are still quoted pretty widely in the field, in part because they are clearly written.

As mentioned above, much of my research involved microscopic imaging and we had get illustrations for our papers print-ready ourselves. We always aimed to have images that were both scientifically meaningful and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. We must have been successful at this because many of our images were used for cover illustrations on journals, University promotional material, and so on. Now coming into the more creative side of things, I have some confidence that I know what looks good.

The content and subject matter of much of my creative work has been generated from my scientific practice. Many of my published poems consider aspects of neuroscience, anatomy or zoology (my specialty areas), and I like to adapt scientific terminology to new meanings and contexts. I’ve been part of four collaborative art exhibitions / installations that have been explicitly based on anatomy (not absolute, 2009; Body of Evidence, 2016), microscopy (The Microscope Project, 2014) and botany (Floribunda, 2015). Some of this work has re-used old laboratory equipment and text from my scientific papers, which is very satisfying.

There is another interesting correlation between the scientific and creative practice: the mind-set you need succeed in each domain is not very different. Artists and scientists share an inexplicable drive to enter the unknown and try something that may or may not work; there are the hours of tedium as you practice the craft skills required to operate an instrument or get the best of some software or come to grips with the properties of your raw materials or nail the emotional impact you are after; and  then, when it’s all done, there is an equally inexplicable impetus to get out there and show everyone what you have found, no matter how uncertain you are, no matter how daunting the potential audience may be.

Collaboration is the norm in much modern science, and I always taken that aspect of it for granted, even while maintaining my own hands-on projects. However, in conventional creative writing and in many visual arts, collaboration is rare, even if it is common in theatre, the film industry, and so on. Much of the creative work I’ve done over the last few years has been in collaboration, and it’s been really enjoyable (and productive!) for everyone concerned. But having said that, it’s really liberating to be able to sit at home and make things on my computer without requiring massive infrastructural support or a team of technicians or the necessity to cite 100 references along the way!!

4. How does digital media succeed as a method for your creative practice where language might fail?
Brilliantly!! I love the way digital media let me work across multiple sensory channels at once, incorporating text, audio, still and moving images as I like. More importantly, digital processing allows me to sample, re-sample / process / distort words, sounds and pictures in ways that are impossible otherwise. When you combine these processes with chance, or at least unpredictable, operations, there are endless possibilities for generating new worlds of narrative and emotional expression outside the bounds of normal language.

We live in a mainly visual world. Yet, we simply do not have enough words to describe everything we can see. And although we have hundreds of words for colours, English is largely bereft of comparable words for sounds. I love the idea that we can use digital media to try to fill these gaps.

Digital media can be shared and made interactive in ways that can bring the audience and the artist together in a kind of extended collaboration. I’m gradually learning the (minimal) tools required to make more interactive work… stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath!

5. What advice could you give to someone who’s unsure of digital creative work but would like to start experimenting?
Get going… !! Creating work in digital space is no different from anything else. You have to try things for yourself, make mistakes, learn from them, from what people say about them, and be willing to be frustrated and bored brainless for extended periods of time. However, it is just as important to get good advice: read / watch / hear everything you can; look at as many on-line videos / forums / help desks / equipment reviews as you need to understand how to do something; talk to people doing work you admire; go to exhibitions; attend festivals; subscribe to journals  / websites that publish the best cutting edge work; join on-line groups with interests you share. And then get back to it…

If You’re Feeling Digital

This is a call for interaction! Scroll down; swipe on.

In my first post as DWIR, I wrote that I wanted to get to know you as writers, to learn about your work and your engagement with digital media, as well as discuss ideas, innovations and aspirations for digital creative work. To help do this, I’ve created a Google form with the idea that, if you’re feeling digital, you can tell me why and how. Ultimately, what I’d like to do is combine all the responses I receive into a kind of digital writing collage, a cento manifesto, taking and rearranging lines to create a collaborative document to post at the end of my residency.

If you read my second blog post introducing Friends with Drinks, you’d rightly get the sense that these ways of coming together online and sharing ideas are the driving forces behind my stint as DWIR. (If you are feeling digital enough to fill in the Google form above, you might want to consider submitting a piece to Friends with Drinks as well!)

Now, during my third week as DWIR, I already feel engaged–if not to you (whoever may be reading)–but to one online community among the many that exist, co-exist and interlink. Just by skimming through Carla Caruso’s last post as DWIR, I feel instant sympathy with her list of the pros and cons of digital engagement; I see the work that has gone into prior DWIR projects; I interact via this WordPress blog and the DWIR Twitter account, and feel as though I have a ready-made virtual circle to step inside.

As I read more (online) work about digital writing, I come across exciting perspectives from others belonging to this community. While searching for a thoughtful, initial definition of ‘digital writing’, I came across the DigiWriMo project, hosted by different writers/practitioners each year, which aims to redefine

“writing” in the digital, and not confine it only to words, but open up the possibilities of narrative and exposition within multimedia and multimodal projects.

This led me to Sean Michael Morris’ article Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities, a resonant declaration that fires me up about the significance of writing and sharing even a simple blog post:

…digital writing is action. Not that the writing inspires action, or comes out of action, or responds to action. But that the words themselves are active. They move, slither, creep, sprint, and outpace us. Digital words have lives of their own. We may write them, birth them ourselves, but without any compunction or notice, they enact themselves in ways we can’t predict. And this is because digital writing is communal writing.

Yesterday, in a Messenger dialogue with artist Peter Wildman, I was encouraged to reflect on the binary I tend to draw between ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ writing. After some thought, I eventually came up with:

I get my notion of analogue and digital from photography…where even though the process of creating photographs relies on (different) technology, there are infinite and unpredictable variations to analogue images–transposing this to writing, I feel that it is the same technology of ink on paper, whether applied by hand or machine, that is subject to limitations but also to physical and tangible influences.

I’m looking forward to receiving your responses soon; to learn how you write and what you think about different aspects of digital media and creative practice.

If You’re Feeling Digital Google form:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdkrGKnOhMaW18xONq13-3Xvzqw1h458er7bICl4EY8ahNJkA/viewform

Friends with Drinks:
https://friendswdrinks.tumblr.com/