In Strickland’s Quantum Poetics essay, I found myself wondering about the term “world lines”. Actually, I found myself wondering about a lot of terms in that essay, but that one stuck with me. I did a little bit of research: a world line constitutes a spacetime measurement of an object (or a person) with regards to their existence. It is the “path of that object in 4-dimensional spacetime”, as Wikipedia puts it. A path.
In Quantum Poetics, Strickland’s very first paragraph on Time Dimensions mentions how new media poetry captures this world line style: “We are taken, not by the site or the map, but the ongoing journey”. This endless continuation is quite evident in Strickland’s own work. It’s a journey, from the book WaveSon.nets / Losing L’una to the Vniverse program. Strickland believes that electronic poetry and literature can bring about a sense of the feeling of time. Her question of experiencing a world line through new media provides an interesting discussion: does it?
Because I don’t see it. Perceiving time has always been a difficult enough for me without someone attempting to show the flow of time through poetry. Strickland proposes that electronic literature explores time dimensions and makes them visible, feel-able. How could you ever feel time? It is a concept, an existence in an entirely different dimension from us, unperceivable, immeasurable, uncountable. We can only imitate the concept with clocks and calendars. We cannot experience it. It is beyond our capability.
Strickland thinks the Internet may be a rival for time. She believes the Internet acts as a “fractal tempo tracker”, like the human heart, a beat in tune with several drummers. She calls attention not to the tempo, but to the intervals, the fluctuations in the rhythm. The Internet is its own world line, one we created, but when I’m browsing Reddit on my computer, I’m not experiencing a world line, I’m experiencing the Internet, an imitation.
Electronic literature may work on a different level than other literature, but it doesn’t work in a different dimension. It works toward time, towards understanding and re-understanding our sense of temporality, and cannot yet reach that point. Strickland believes it already has, and says autostereograms (“Magic Eye” books) are an example of how we already have the capability to understand different levels of information. Should I cross my eyes while reading the Vniverse to find real meaning? What is the exact method I must follow?
I liked reading Strickland’s work. I had issues with it, since narrative exists somewhere imperceptible, or at least damn difficult to find, if it all. Plus, the way it all connects together with the Vniverse is quite rhizomatic. But I didn’t find time. It’s somewhere, but not in quantum poetry. My experience was with words in a star map, not with a world line.