Radio Salience (2007) by Stuart Moulthrop is an interactive image-text-sound instrument with a game-like interface that explores indeterminacy, accident, and resonance, taking as its muse the breathless voice of the airwaves, radio.
Rather than a passive experience, Moulthrop's Radio Salience is a complex work that explores the nature of literacy in both print and electronic environments. The work makes the important point that the fixed nature of literature, long a cornerstone for print-based literary works, is a product of the medium through which it is disseminated. Rather than the target of literature and its chosen delivery device, with Radio Salience the participant is the device whose choices about reading matter, thus replacing the passive experience of more traditional, print-based literacy. Throughout, sound is central, and although the selections may seem random, even nonsensical, they contribute to understanding the potentiality arising from this online, interactive work, certainly a different experience than more traditional reading experiences.The player (user? listener? reader? participant?) watches an array of four image panels, showing component slices from various larger images, fading in an out of view. When any two slices match, slot-machine style, the participant clicks one of the two images to see the full image and initiate a digital voice reciting a gloss or reading. In between, one hears ambient sounds, very much like a radio being tuned past multiple stations. There is no contest, or score, no leveling, no way to win, lose, or escape. However, if you click while none of the four images match, you die and start anew. Radio remains, and, as a form of transmission arts, forces the participant to consider reading in a context that is not linear, fixed, immutable, stiff, or hierarchical.
Works by Stuart Moulthrop are part of Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature, an effort funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve seminal works of early electronic literature by Stuart Moulthrop, John McDaid, Judy Malloy, and Shelley Jackson. Dene Grigar and Moulthrop are the principal investigators of the Pathfinders project. The Pathfinders project curates information about Moulthrop's Victory Garden.