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Internet heroes: 

Poetry in the digital age with Ľubomír Panák


Poetry and technology don’t traditionally make good bedfellows. Whether it’s Shakespeare’s 16th century sonnets or the works of Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling – classic poetry is far more likely to be written during a time when ink and quill ruled the land.

However, following the advent of digital technology in the 1980s, poets began to experiment with new mediums. Digital poetry – a form of the wider practice of electronic literature – is an attempt to bring the written word to life using computers.

One person with a keen interest in digital poems is ESET web developer Ľubomir Panák, having worked on many different projects alongside his girlfriend Zuzana Husarova, who has a PHD degree in the field.

 What excites me is the exploration of technology in different contexts 
“What excites me is the creative use of technology as well as the exploration of technology in different contexts,” explains Panák. “It’s the possibility to build something beautiful and unexpected that people can enjoy in different ways.”

Their works, such as ‘Pulse’ in 2010 and ‘4079’ a year later, demonstrate how poetry texts can be manipulated through HTML code to present their ideas in provocative ways. They’ve also taken them to annual electronic literature events in London, Paris and Prague, showcasing the pieces for likeminded individuals around the globe.

By Panák’s admission, it’s still largely experimental and avant garde at this stage, although “some things may bubble up into the mainstream.” In fact, some of the ways in which technology is influencing reading practices are very recognizable – such as the introduction of tablets and e-readers, which have revolutionized how we consume literature.

“Academics are now using the term ‘post-digital literature’” says Panák, “which means that the “digital” is now so common that it is normal to use it, and is not anymore in the stage of exploration of new areas.

“That means people can smoothly use digital technologies and are mixing it with traditional media – for example physical books which are using sensors and processors inside to enrich the experience. It’s something like popup books but with digital technology inside. The rise of personal devices like tablets is pointing to more interactive stories, and soon the field of digital literature will become quite a common concept.”

The constant evolution of technology means that it’s impossible to predict the future for Panák and Husarova. Indeed, their poems so far have taken many different forms, from interactive installations to web-based interactive generative poems.

Regardless of the technology, though, Panák says that what is more important is the evolution of how we interact with texts.

He concludes: “For me, what has been more enriching is learning that texts can be perceived in different ways, and how I as a reader can choose how I will read and explore them.”

To learn more about Panák’s work, visit his website where you can find all of his latest projects.

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