Ringing the Changes, Stephanie Strickland

“Stephanie Strickland’s Ringing the Changes takes as its master metaphor the embodied practices of English bell ringing, in which seven different bells are rung in highly organized permutations that are mathematically precise.  Programmed in Python, her coded work calculates various combinations based on the mathematical group theory that underlies the methods of bell ringing.  Her “ringing” then creates hypertextual juxtapositions citing passages from works on mathematics, particle physics, computational theory, environmental awareness, and the science and art of bell ringing (among many other topics) to gesture toward the larger changes that the new millennium is bringing about.  What gradually emerges is a rich medley of changes in the ways we think about what being human means, both in traditional and contemporary contexts.  This work, combining the science of permutations with the art of brilliantly crafted selections, showcases the unique gifts that make Strickland’s work both powerfully suggestive and wonderfully illuminating.”

N. Katherine Hayles, author of Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious

“This may seem like a conceptual book of code?generated variational literature, but it is also a book about fids; fids are ancient nautical tools for splicing threads, for weaving resilient patterns, for coding matter, for inhabiting information, for slowing down again and again shards and fragments of the infinite embodied. Contemplate this book as you would a rope woven from data, from minds, from math, from love.”


A code-generated project for print, Ringing the Changes is an homage to the art of bell-ringing. Ordinary folk in seventeenth-century England sought to ring all 7! ( 7x6x5x4x3x2x1=5040 ) permutations—all the different arrangements or “changes” possible—with seven bells. Their quest to perform mathematical patterns with their bodies is re-inaugurated here, using code and cited language. A full peal signifies all permutations, but shorter “method” sequences are rung today, such as the Scientific Triples peal used in this Python code. Method performances visit a number of changes, but only once each. In the ringing world, this constraint is called truth; to repeat any row would make the performance false. A random element has also been added:  each bell is given 23 sounds, analogous to overtones. Each is a voice, a short text to read, or hear, or view as a score. In any run of the code, one of these 23 is randomly assigned to its bell—subject to the constraint that all 23 choices must be allotted before any are repeated. Six of the bells have one preponderant source, cited at length; a medley of others briefly appear. Each text, over the course of 161 changes (here, pages), is repeated seven times.

The words sampled in Ringing the Changes allude to changes that need to be rung—that is, considered and heard—in our lives and communities. By permuting and re-aligning these texts, a generated order makes plain how concerns can be variously mapped and, thus, variously understood; by enacting the differences ordering and context make, it helps us to refuse a “canonical” order, or hierarchy, of attention, such as is normally enforced by print presentation, thereafter to be lionized and remediated as “true” or “fake.”

Part of the series Using Electricity.

Stephanie Strickland’s eight books of  poetry include Dragon Logic, The Red Virgin, and True North. She has also published eleven digital poems. Her multi-platform V consists of six works, the latest being Vniverse, an iPad app co-created with Ian Hatcher and keyed to the two-in-one print book, V : WaveTercets / Losing L’una, from SpringGun Press. A book and accompanying CD, Zone : Zero, includes both print and digital versions of slippingglimpse, an eco-poem that maps text to Atlantic wave patterns. Recent work includes House of Trust, with Ian Hatcher, a generative poem in praise of free public libraries, and Hours of the Night, an MP4 PowerPoint poem probing age, sleep, and the night, with M.D. Coverley.

Strickland is a long-time Director of the Electronic Literature Organization and co-editor of the first Electronic Literature Collection. She has also published a number of critical papers and interviews. As the McEver Chair in Writing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Strickland created and produced a TechnoPoetry Festival. Installations included holographic poems and Encryption Stones from the Genesis Series by Eduardo Kac; John Cayley’s what we will, riverIsland , and speaking clocks; Diana Reed Slattery’s Glide game; Sha Xin Wei’s Hubbub; Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s Text Rain; and Diane Gromala’s Biomorphic Typography.Pauline Oliveros and Yacov Sharir led a dance performance, Eugene Thacker a critical panel, and many web works were presented by student docents:  a true cornucopia of the digital!

Strickland’s  work across print and multiple media is being collected by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book And Manuscript Library at Duke University. Just out iss her collection, How the Universe Is Made: Poems New & Selected, from Ahsahta Press. For more on her work, http://stephaniestrickland.com

Ringing the Changes
September, 2019
Stephanie Strickland
$21.00; 6? x 8.25?
164 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399671-4