I had a bit of an explore on the ELit Collection Volume 2, before settling on a piece called ‘Toucher’, created in 2009 by Serge Bouchardon, Kevin Carpentier and Stéphanie Spenlé. I was drawn to this piece due to the simplicity of the thumbnail (is that what it’s called?) on the home page of the ELit Collection Vol 2, where it shows the simple outline of a hand.
To navigate through this piece of ELit, you move your mouse around the screen, and on each fingertip, there is a different one of 5 senses. However, these senses are modified into a digital form so that the 5 senses are: move; caress; hit; spread; and blow. There is also a secret sixth sense, which uses the webcam: brush. These words relate to the actions the user can perform through their means of technology, for example, ‘blow’ refers to blowing into the microphone to cooperate in the piece of electronic literature.
My personal favourites are the caress, spread, and brush screens.
This is the ‘caress’ sense, which I thought was very interesting. The reader had to move the mouse around the screen, in order to find the outline of the silhouette, and then fill in a picture of a figure lying down. When the mouse was touching the silhouette, scratching noises could be heard, as if etching the picture onto paper, and seductive noises were played as if the figure was coming to life.
I think my favourite sense was ‘spread’ and as a music student, I found it very interesting. Moving the mouse between the left and right sides of the screen, controlled the panning of the music (through the left and right earphones), and moving the mouse up and down controlled the volume, relating directly to the parallel hearing sense. Also, when the reader clicks, it creates different intensities of a paint splodge. I thought it was nice to feel like the user played an important part in creating this, almost like a piece of artwork in itself. I enjoyed experimenting with the intensity of the click and the musical sounds. The painting was created by ‘touching’ the different parts of the screen with the mouse, which I thought was about as close you could get to physically ‘touching’ the screen. I enjoyed it very much, and it was nice to get a bit creative with this one.
There was also a secret sixth sense, called ‘brush’. To engage with this, it uses the webcam of a laptop or phone, which I thought was very creative. You can just about see the outline of my head!
I think the authors of this piece of ELit have been really creative in utilizing all the possible means of technology, and they have done a good job in relating them to the five senses of a human. I also thought it was a nice change, and important to remember, that not all literature is about reading pages and pages of words, as with this one- which is about navigating through the story of 5 electronic senses. I also enjoyed the authors’ engagement with music and sound effects. Toucher almost blurs the lines between the digital world and the real one, being ironic in the sense that you never really can ‘touch’ something on a computer screen.