Individual Work
Arf Magna

“Arf Magna” created by Nick Montfort reflects the qualities of dog and owner relationships, providing more depth and insight into what it means to be considered a ‘man’s’ best friend.’ The interactive electronic poetry describes the different characteristics of a dog’s behaviour and the variety of ways it can be perceived.

Once brought to the page of HTML, the viewer will be instructed to click to begin. After clicking the screen, the progression of the poem is completely up to the viewers' discretion. By allowing the reader to manipulate the text themselves it allows readers to make the poem as long or as short as they desire. The ergodic literature that “Arf Magna” provides gives the reader the responsibility to change the poem themselves by moving the cursor across the screen. The action of moving the cursor requires the reader to do the work physically instead of relying on the words to appear instantly.

Within “Arf Magna,” the reader chooses how they want to read the text by manipulating the screen with the cursor, choosing what text, colour or sound the viewer wants to appear. Moving the cursor horizontally across the screen changes the background colour and second word of the sentence that appears. Moving the cursor vertically on the screen changes the ending of the sentence. The text is stationary in the same font and white colour throughout the poem and located in the middle of the screen. The variety of background colours varies from bold and bright colours to subdued and darker shades. The variety of colours complements or contrasts the text and also allows the reader to choose text that looks the most visually pleasing. The structure of the sentences throughout the poem always includes four words. The two words that remain the same throughout the poem display, “dog’s and “is.” The second and fourth words of the sentence are adjectives that are interchangeable throughout the experience. The adjectives used to describe dogs positively reinforce the healthy relationship and loving bond that humans and pets can share. The large variety of words to choose from emphasizes the different ways dogs offer joy and comfort to humans.

Sound is also incorporated throughout the experience that changes tones according to where the cursor is placed on the screen. Moving the cursor in randomized patterns alters the sound along with the words and the background colours that appear. The range in tones varies from high to low pitches that give the reader the choice on how they want to hear the poem.
The sound incorporated throughout the poem does not involve any speech or voice but notifies viewers through auditory cues and pitch when the text is significantly altered. The poem uses visual, auditory and physical elements that contribute to the effect and end result of the electronic poem. The interactive experience relies on the viewer in order to change the sound, colour, and text while allowing each experience to be perceived and read differently in a unique way.

The electronic literature that Montfort produced is a spin-off of "Ars Magna" by Ramón Llull in 1305. "Ars Magna" was first published as a paper wheel that gave readers the chance to view different propositions of God through manipulating the wheel themselves and recreating their own reading experience. Similar to Ramón Llull’s intentions, Montfort provides a more user-friendly platform for recreating literature and the structure of the poem. Montfort’s title of the poem, “Arf Magna” mimics the sound of a dog’s bark while also paying tribute towards Ramón Llull's experimental reading that "Ars Magna" provides. Montfort’s impression of Ramón Llull’s work displays the innovation of reading experiences through electronic literature and the digital elements that shift the way readers experience and interpret literature.

Montfort’s work is easily accessible on a single page of HTML through open-access software. The experience is free and does not require an account for users to participate. Montfort’s work highlights the progressive and inclusive atmosphere the digital literature enables. The reading experience gives readers the chance to manipulate how they read, perceive and hear the poem and contributes towards the interactive experience that digital humanities allow. The digital poem is user and age-friendly while reinforcing the inclusive community that electronic literature produces. Montfort’s “Arf Magna” can also be found on the 2021 Fall Issue of New River and can be accessed through that platform with the HTML link it provides. The experience broadens the traditional way of reading through the digital platform, while creatively examining the numerous ways that dogs benefit owners’ lives.