20 March 2013

Visual Poetry

In my post 'Evolution technology: Visual Digital Literacy', a response to the MOOC 'Digital Cultures and E-learning' via Coursera and The University of Edinburgh, I explored the notion of how visual representations are considered less scholarly or rigorous than written exposition. I use, as an example, artist Ebon Heath, whose beautiful word sculptures expound my thinking that visual representation is just as valid as written explorations of thinking. His three dimensional poetry rebuts any criticism that we can only think and explain sufficiently in the written form.

The final assignment of the course asked for a digital representation of an element of the course that had impacted on us, or that we wanted to explore more. I admit that I did find it difficult to express my learning of the course in a visual way, as I am, by default, a writer. However, I think that being taken out of my comfort zone actually made me think harder and really consider what it was I wanted to say without waffle, without the luxury (mine) of being able to explain or justify my choices. I had to be clear, concise and choose carefully. I created a Glossi (a great beta tool that allows you to create your own magazines) to show my thinking about visual representation of understanding and knowledge with particular emphasis to the impact technology has on education. I called it Silent Noise linking to Heath's expresion of the multitude of information and media we are exposed to every second of every day but are becoming oblivious too because of its omniscience and our immunity due to over exposure.

I love Heath's work and message and I like the idea of drawing or creating with words; art and writing are the same to me - visual and language arts - and if I can bring them together, I will. Recently I was shown a tool that possibly merges these two mediums - word and visuals - in a really easy way. Tim Holman is an "Aussie interactive developer living in busy New York" and amongst his "folio, and web playground" - all of which are worth a play - he includes TEXTER. This little HTML5 'playground' allows you to type in any text - not sure of the limit, I included a whole poem - and then, with a swipe and a swirl, to draw with the words. Beautiful.

The faster you draw, the bigger the text; you can change minimum and maximum sizes as well as angle, background and text colour (hex). I include below my first attempt to 'draw' one of my favourite poems, 'Full Moon and Little Frieda' by Ted Hughes.

Full Moon and Little Frieda

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket - 
And you listening. 
A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch. 
A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror 
To tempt a first star to a tremor. 

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm 
wreaths of breath - 
A dark river of blood, many boulders, 
Balancing unspilled milk. 
'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!' 

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work 
That points at him amazed.

There are many implications for this across the curriculum, not just in English. I am planning a photo/image based poetry assignment for my IGCSE group after the spring break; I am going to ask learners to create a Glossi of their understanding of the set poems and just may have to include a visual representative of the poem using TEXTER as part of it. Watch this space for more about this as it develops.
Posts exploring the Digital Literacy and E-learning Course in more detail:-

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