Morse Code Remix: Translating Words into Audio-­Visual Collage


Jessica Barness
Assistant Professor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Jessica Barness is an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University. Barness’ creative work is in both print and screen design, exploring how language and behavior are reshaped in interactive contexts. Her current research interests include visual translation, glitches, aesthetics and rhetoric in graphic design.

A (Dis)Connected Twenty-­Six is a digital interface that transforms a user’s typed word into an array of audio-­visual ‘ingredients’ for screen-­based collage. Situated at the intersection of design, interactive artwork and writing, this interface is a stage for a performance of translation, transforming letters of the alphabet into a curated collection of images and sound. Morse code – with its ability to be read, seen, heard and spoken – is used here in a modular way to form the project’s foundation.

The user begins by entering a word of their choice, which prompts a display of stylized Morse code on screen. When rolled over, the Morse code dashes and dots launch images and sound, and can be dragged and positioned anywhere on the stage. Clicking on a button within each Morse code letter translates the media one final time back to typographic letterforms. Images layer visually according to the syntax of the user’s word. The user experience is both indeterminate and determinate: modular elements may be continually rearranged on screen, or a configuration captured at any time by printing the collage.

The project presents an opportunity for user-­‐oriented performance that is also social; the making of each collage is an imaginative act of discovery, and is visible to others during its creation. It references the past (Morse code) as a way to examine possibilities of the future (interactive ‘writing’). By literally using language and code, it offers a glimpse at the ways writing and audio-­visual activity can come together in an unusual production of media-­rich artifacts.