- "Terminal Hopscotch":Navigating Networked Space in Talan Memmott's Lexia to Perplexia
If the reader is patient enough to make it to the final episodes of Lexia to Perplexia, digital artist Talan Memmott's beautifully intricate piece of electronic literature, at some point she will encounter a puzzling image. Comprised of animated layers of computer code, checkerboard backdrops, cryptic prose, and a stick figure drawn in chalk, this image depicts a palimpsest-like environment that threatens to spin out of control. At this moment, the reader will participate in its wild oscillation by moving her mouse around the screen in an effort to find a gateway or portal to the next segment, having learned that active searching is the only way to proceed through the text. For her efforts, she will be rewarded not with a new section, a sense of closure, or a formal denouement; rather, her participation here will involve playing what Memmott has referred to as "terminal hopscotch," a looping sequence of animations that unfold ad infinitum, or at least until the reader chooses to withdraw ("Active/onBlur").
In her analysis of Lexia to Perplexia in Writing Machines, N. Katherine Hayles opens the door for such a literary approach by highlighting the manner in which Memmott creates an anonymous protagonist resigned to a divided and encoded existence that the computer interface and distributed network have made inevitable. Hayles's convincing argument is that in Lexia to Perplexia, human subjectivity is depicted as intimately "entwined" with computer technologies (49), and that this entwinement is achieved through Memmott's use of "idiosyncratic language, a revisioning of classical myths, and a set of coded images that invite the reader to understand herself as a permeable membrane through which information flows" (49-50). Hayles's analysis addresses the unique character of Memmott's project in such a way as to shed light upon digital art as a whole, providing ample evidence to support...