My telematic project is a website where you can publish a text work and watch it get vandalized by visitors in real time. Once a work is published, each visitor is given a random word in the work that they can replace by submitting a text form. Every time a word is replaced, this is communicated to each client using sockets. The visitor also gets a new word to replace. This project is implemented in glitch.com using JQuery, Sequelize, and Socket.io.
This project’s concept has evolved far from its starting point. Originally, I was looking into text RPGs and sought to create a cairn where each visitor can add a new “page” to the text RPG. This text format naturally led me to look more into the implications of language rather than taking on a game-like structure. At that point, I fully intended to write some form of poem remixer in which visitors could do things like change the rhyme structure of a written poem or transform a word to a synonym, antonym, or other related word. This still felt lacking to me, because what was the point of this transformation? I realized that I could create a more interesting work (at least to me) by focusing on that transformative aspect. I have a long history with transformative works and the futile notion of authorship and content ownership on the internet. That, and it would be kind of funny to watch a troll vandalize your work before your very eyes.
So I opened up the format to freely change any single word in the published piece. A few limitations apply. Instead of choosing which words to change, the programming assigns you a random word. You can only replace words with single words–no spaces. In order to go to a different word, you must submit your change (or lack of change) for the current word. Additionally, the text supports HTML, which provides another avenue of mayhem in exposing the ugly syntax by getting rid of an end-bracket. Where I found the most interesting interactions to arise was in the networking. Once the work is published, the author is simply another visitor to the site. The author can see their work be vandalized in real time. Just as the vandalizers can bastardize words in the original text, the author can defend by restoring their original words or even communicate with the vandalizers by sacrificing a word with an angry, caps-locked “STOP”.