Understood as an interactive experience, Lexicon is a form of
that has to be discovered rather than immediately understood. It
a series of encounters: with programmatic images, and with
who are visiting the piece at the same time. People passing
the Lexicon, are its performers. The patient and the curious may
that with words they can control the sequence of events, as
Understood as a tool, Lexicon combines word play with image
Each of Lexicon's visual effects and transitions is
associated with a word. Arranged in various combinations
produce visual phenomena that could be described as interactive
or even, perhaps, as creativity (yours, not mine).
Just as the astronaut broke free of the reality of his native
landing on the moon, the cybernaut momentarily leaves the reality
mundane space-time and inserts himself into the cybernetic
of the virtual-reality environment control program.
-- Paul Virilio, La vitesse de libération
Most graphical interactivity has come to resemble the
exploration of preconceived spaces. It differs little from
video games etched into mazes of ROM (read only memory).
Fascinating, perhaps. Targeted at the consumer, these spaces
are not conducive to metamorphosis and reorganization.
Lexicon deemphasizes spatial navigation, emphasizing language
and performance instead. This is not to demonstrate that
by eliminating the spatial metaphor in interactivity we
will suddenly elude the cybernetic straitjacket, but
rather, to delve into the problem of public creativity in
Lexicon invites participation at a number of levels,
including the writing of scripts that affect
what others experience when they visit the
This writing is easier than it may seem.
There are special words that cause visual effects to occur when
a script is "running"; however, people can make meaningful scripts
they understand how Lexicon works. This leverages what people
already know, and
tries to make the learning process less rigid.
Lexicon balances the image between the time-honored
practices of written narrative and the often frustrating
dominance of programming codes in digital media. Collaboratively,
participants can intervene either as authors who understand words
meanings, or as programmers, or via a middle-path that involves a
little of both roles. Of course, people can simply click their way
piece, as spastic apes always do when browsing the Internet.
(Actually, call me cynical, this is the path of least resistance,
the one I think most people will follow, too. So be it.)
At the divide between verbal composition and computer code,
Lexicon reveals parallels, possibilities, and significant
When communicating with words, humans generate an enormous variety
of combinations and meanings. Almost everyone can do it, too.
The situation for computer-mediated communication is somewhat
different,-- especially if
images are involved. Visual creativity in interactive media is
mired in complicated
"authoring" software and programming. Lexicon points graphical
interactivity toward the dialogic model of spoken languages, and
the uncertainty of shared experience. Like stage plays, the various
performances of a Lexicon's scripts can produce diverse results.
Lexicon offers a 'live' telematic medium for communication
and verbal-visual composition.
However, significant aesthetic biases are more deeply embedded in the
software, in the codes that actuate the scripts and translate words into
imagery. There are limits to the
variations of imagery that can be achieved through changes of
sequence and performance.
In this regard, Lexicon frames some important questions about the
of creativity in the context of software. Who will
expand the vocabulary?
Whereas in speech anyone can coin a
special training, programming visual poetics requires specialized
Lexicon is designed to allow its vocabulary to grow, yet it does
not offer a northwest passage to avoid the expertise problem.
Whereas the dominant paradigm of software development treats
code as a commodity provided to consumers by experts, Lexicon
articulates the linguistic character of software and asks
whether something of the old, free-speech paradigm can be
People who are familiar with the Java programming
language (or who are simply ambitious) can add to Lexicon's
the Lexicon Development Kit (LDK).
It is unclear whether this will inspire and enable much
Even if it does not, Lexicon will have demonstrated
problematic changes in language, authorship and creativity that do
to be well understood by the public,-- or by artists for that
Moreover, it may serve to illustrate concretely the linguistic importance
of the open source movement, which, after all, is more than just a
vague artsy meme. The Lexicon codes are
in fact available for review, revision, and cooperative invention.