Note by Bernard Cohen
the thirty short pieces which make up the under-layer Foreign
Logics over about a year, about half in the three months
of the collaboration and the rest substantially re-written
or re-shaped in those three months. Their settings are unstated,
though they are based on my experience of "being tourist"
or "being foreign" in Europe (including England), Taiwan,
Australia and New Zealand.
selected ten words from each piece, and these became the over-layer,
the part of each episode which is visible on arriving. (The
underlayer becomes gradually visible as the user moves the
mouse nearer to a randomly generated hotspot on each page.)
the process of drawing out ten words from each piece to make
the over-layers of words in orbit was also one of narrative
construction. I wanted to suggest a story with each group
of words, and also either to disguise the under-layer through
misleading word choice or to inflect its reading through emphasising
words which may not be ordinarily emphasised in reading it.
is often said to be a solitary occupation and (on one level
of composition) it is: I think of words in my head and then
write them down (into a notebook or a computer). At some stage
I put them in an order. I begin to think of them as (potentially)
making up a larger unit: a story or a novel or a poem or article
or radio or performance piece or hypertext. Perhaps I set
out to write in one of these forms or perhaps the words suggest
a form to me.
ways, writing is always collaborative. Writers need feedback
and, if serious about producing good work, appreciate constructive
criticism and editorial suggestions. Any published work becomes
immediately subject to industrial forces, including the structure
of the publishing company, the appearance of the publication
(its "packaging"), the means of distribution and marketing
the work or the publication in which it appears and so on.
participates in this way of working from early on. A piece
may be commissioned, in which case its style, form and/or
length will usually be set by someone other than the writer.
the romantic image is of the writer in his or her garret,
most contemporary writers are not isolated, at least not culturally
isolated. Media is everywhere. It is impossible to drive through
the countryside without seeing advertising (on billboards,
bumper stickers etc). A writer would have to be stiflingly
conscientious to avoid extraneous cultural influences, and
would probably be a much worse writer because of it: steering
clear of newspapers and books and TV could hardly contribute
to an understanding of human interaction today.
is that there is no such thing as uninfluenced writing: it
is not now nor has ever been possible. For me, a more authentic
and honest approach is to acknowledge that complete originality
is impossible and to choose the sorts of influences which
will help me to write in ways which try to fulfil my ambition
for a piece of work.
Logics is a collaboration in these general senses, but
also (and more obviously) a collaboration by direct negotiation.
David said he liked the first pieces I showed him, but that
he hoped most would be shorter. He didn’t like me using line
breaks, so nothing looks like a poem any more. I liked his
icons, but not the timing of the original music. We discussed
the pros and cons of triggering PONG automatically, and vigorously
considered its frequency. Certain technical proposals were
too complex or unstable.
Foreign Logics came about
to the project
book, Tourism (Picador Australia, 1992) was in the
form of a tourist guidebook to Australia. I thought of the
book as a sort of novel, though it had no protagonists or
plot, only really an organising voice and the hint of a love
story (and even this was without any sense of who the lovers
were). Critics were divided on the book’s merits. One called
it a "postmodern tour de force" whereas another declaimed:
"The back cover blurb calls it a novel, but you might as well
call it a gazebo or a stirrup pump."
was not a best seller. It is currently out of print, though
it does retain something of an underground reputation and
earned me a place on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young
Australian Novelists list in 1997, five years after its publication.
I met Peter Ride, artistic director of DA2 Digital Arts Development
Agency, when I presented a workshop in a writing-for-the-internet
course he’d convened. I gave him a copy of Tourism,
and he — appropriately enough — read it on a flight to Canada.
the potential of its form, introduced me to David Bickerstaff,
and commissioned a prototype. The rest might be literature...
Cohen, May 2001
to Foreign Logics