Annie Abrahams
Gina Lemmon
Annie Abraham’s “Separation/Séparation is a cybertext originally written during a hospital stay in 2001. The text invites the visitor to complete a series of stress deducing exercises, a case which can be described as Ted Nelson as “Thinkertoys” concept. The viewer is almost working in multiple “mental environments…[or] working places for structured activity,” (Morris & Swiss 20) in that the viewer has to control his or her movements within the text and also may or may not perform the exercises at hand.

Textual Features
  • Beginning Dialogue: Viewer begins by clicking screen to make poem appear, “lonely soul” appears during each start-up, giving the viewer the exact same reading every time.

  • Textual Control: If viewer begins to click to fast or “with too much force” a dialogue box appearing in red and yellow will tell the reader to slow down, and that the viewer “does not seem to have the right attitude in front of the computer.”

  • One Screen: Poem fills one screen with pale yellow background. The narrative tells a story of frustrations with the body and daily stresses caused by working in a cubicle environment while also having the computer venting it’s frustrations with the worker at the desk.

  • Reflection of Western Habits in the Workplace: Poem uses stress release exercises known as to relieve and help prevent Repetitive Strain Injury. At some times viewer may be asked to pause for five or ten seconds while stretching each arm or leg to relieve pressure brought on by sitting at a desk.

Media Features
  • Minimal formatting with easy to read text and font

  • Poetic structure with lines and punctuation

  • Same reading each time

  • Pop –up dialogue invites viewer to perform an exercise

  • Minimal graphic art, piece uses red and yellow backgrounds with black dialogue

Reading Experience
The reading experience can seem frustrating at first, mostly because the text does not enable the viewer to interact with the piece as easily as others. The viewer is forced to be patient, to let the poem reveal itself slowly with one word at a time. I found the relaxing exercises to be helpful and promoted stress relief when I reacted too enthusiastically at first. The first few readings were frequently interrupted with the “You don’t seem to have the right attitude in front of your computer remark” and conveyed the stresses brought on to machine by man and vice verse.

“Here the pleasure is more diffuse but also longer lasting, ending only when the player closes the work, knowing that is she were to linger, still more flows could be discovered, more desire evoked, and teasingly satisfied.” (Hayles 69) In this case, the player does not simply close the work, but begins again, almost giving the reader hope that some change may occur, that something “new” can be brought to life that had not been seen previously before.
Alas, the piece does not change but remains the same, and leaves the viewer almost with a sense of completion. The exercises done in between the poetic display enforces the viewer to slow down, and appreciate the text for what it is. Also, the calisthenics done throughout the piece remind the viewer the importance of stretching while in the workplace, while also reminding the viewer of the computational outputs performed by machines in the workplace. The joint fusion between man and machine allow one another to air grievances; for the machine it is in the poetics part of the piece, whereas for man, it is the aerobic portion of the piece.

Other Links
Repetitive Strain Injury