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Review: Conceptualisms: The Anthology of Prose, Poetry, Visual, Found, E- & Hybrid Writing As Contemporary Art, ed. Steve Tomasula. Alabama UP, 2022

Steve Tomasula’s robust new anthology delivers its readers a dazzling variety of aesthetic artifacts, as the list after the title’s colon suggests. The diversity across its 500+ pages and 14+ hours of online content separates Conceptualisms from collections of a more mainstream bent. He has gathered online animations, recorded performances, and interactive platforms along with experimental works of fiction, essays, and poetry; in the collection’s last section, we see a transcript, a legal summary, a grant proposal, and a contract, all of which Tomasula argues can be classed as literature (while also proposing that the entries raise the question of […]
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Steve Tomasula

Steve Tomasula is the author of the novels The Book of Portraiture (FC2); VAS: An Opera in Flatland (University of Chicago Press), an acclaimed novel of the biotech revolution; TOC: A New-Media Novel (FC2/University of Alabama Press); and most recently, IN&OZ (University of Chicago Press). Essays on body art, literature and culture can be found in Data Made Flesh (Routledge), Musing the Mosaic (SUNY), Leonardo (M.I.T.), and numerous magazines both here and in Europe. He holds a doctorate in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame. In addition […]

Languages of Fear in Steve Tomasula’s VAS, an Opera in Flatland

Square, the main character in VAS, is to undergo a vasectomy, as required by his wife who has gone through too many problems with pregnancy. His fear at the prospect of losing the highly emblematic reproductive function mingles with philosophical musings about the manipulation of bodies and technological advance, with its consequences on our relationship to space and time. Like most of his contemporaries, Square feels trapped in a whirlpool of acceleration, distances fading away as communication means develop. VAS – which possibly is the very novel that Square is writing – conveys a criticism of man’s illusory mastery and […]
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An Interview with Steve Tomasula

Kiki Benzon: Some contextualizing questions about TOC. What motivated you to move from the codex print narrative to a multimedia format? What were you trying to achieve there that you thought couldn’t be done in a conventional book? Steve Tomasula: It dates back to my earlier work. I was working on The Book of Portraiture and VAS was supposed to have been the last chapter of that book. To me it’s all one novel about the history of representation, so to speak. It starts off with writing in sand, the first surface, and ends up with writing on skin, the last […]

A Video Interview with Steve Tomasula by Jhave

Steve Tomasula “is the author of the novels The Book of Portraiture (FC2/University of Alabama Press); IN & OZ (University of Chicago Press); VAS: An Opera in Flatland (University of Chicago Press), an acclaimed novel of the biotech revolution; and most recently, TOC: A New-Media Novel (FC2/University of Alabama Press).” In VAS, Tomasula weaves fertility concerns into a priapic future while using a very sophisticated visual layout that renders his prose as poetry. Tomasula’s TOC, an interactive DVD, is equally ambitious, incorporating motion graphics into a meditation on thermodynamics, myth and temporality. Conducted by David (Jhave) Johnson, this interview was […]
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The Archeology of Representation: Steve Tomasula’s The Book of Portraiture

The title of this paper borrows from Steve Tomasula’s own characterization of his novel in an interview; the central idea of his book, he suggests, is “the archaeology of human representation through layers of history that make up its chapters,”  and in which “pages appear as strata in an archaeological dig” (Tarnawsky 2011). Indeed, Tomasula’s phrase “the archaeology of human representation” resonates sharply, for the specter of Foucault hovers tantalizingly throughout one’s encounter with the book. Central to Foucault’s grappling with “the history of the present” – comprising an archaeological method and a genealogical critique – is the idea that […]
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&Now Conference Review

&Now Conference April 5-6, 2004 W: Compared to the Holocaust Conference going on up in Massachusetts this weekend, I think &Now was an especially fun place to be. The preisenters were freaks for the most part, freaks and Lydia Davis, from the fringes of word art. Those who write and have other people publish books of stories or poems were probably in the minority. There was abundant electronica, collaborative text-collage performance, multimedia performance fiction, text-image-sound, and even a critic. Compared to AWP in Chicago last month (4600 in attendance), the frightening barren gothic oppressively mirthless tornadoproof Cambridge WWII Air Raid […]

Long Talking Bad Conditions Illinois Blues: A Report on &Now, A Festival of Innovative Writing and Art

I been to Chicago and I been to Detroit But I never had a good time till I got up in Illinois – Skip James, “Illinois Blues” Chicago Self-Portrait You are watching me, runny nose and throbbing headache, wheel an 80-lb. suitcase (for which United Airlines charged me a $25 overweight fee on the flight from Buffalo – still cheaper and more trustworthy than shipping) down Halsted Avenue in Chicago on a brisk sunny April Tuesday morning. The suitcase is freighted with books, and the books freighted with just about every spare moment I’ve had from my college teaching job […]
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“You’ve never experienced a novel like this”: Time and Interaction when reading TOC

“You’ve never experienced a novel like this” asserts the publisher’s information for TOC (2009), Steve Tomasula’s new-media novel. This claim, presumably, is founded precisely on the new-media nature of TOC, its delivery of text, spoken word, music, graphics and animation all harnessed and combined in a computerised narrative. The publisher’s information certainly makes some bold claims. TOC is “a breathtaking visual novel,” “a multimedia epic”; “A new-media hybrid, TOC reimagines what the book is, and can be.” And I find myself powerless to disagree. “You’ve never experienced a novel like this” speaks volumes, for experience is at the heart of […]
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Flatland in VAS

Steve Tomasula’s work, VAS: An Opera in Flatland, an imagetext developed with graphic artist and typographer Stephen Farrell, considers the role of eugenics, its history, and its impact on the body and biotechnology in a novel that serves as a visual digression of how such topics as genetics, reproduction, and body modification are culturally represented through text and image. The plot follows the thoughts of a writer named Square as he deliberates over whether to get a vasectomy (the VAS of the title) as his wife, Circle, wishes. All the while, Square’s mother-in-law, hoping for another grandchild, believes that if […]

Tech-TOC: Complex Temporalities in Living and Technical Beings

At least since Henri Bergson’s (2005, 1913) concept of Duration, a strong distinction has been drawn between temporality as process (according to Bergson, unextended, heterogeneous time at once multiplicitous and unified, graspable only through intuition and human experience) and temporality as measured (homogenous, spatialized, objective and “scientific” time).  Its contributions to the history of philosophy notwithstanding, the distinction has a serious disadvantage:  although objects, like living beings, exist within Duration, there remains a qualitative distinction between the human capacity to grasp Duration and the relations of objects to it. Indeed, there can be no account of how Duration is experienced […]
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Pierre Menard with a Pipette: VAS and the Body of Text

Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland (2002) tells a simple story. Square considers having a vasectomy as his wife, Circle, has asked him to. When I tell others this, I usually have to pause at this point in my summary to allow the nervous titters to subside. In a sense, this laughter—whether at the mundane subject matter or at the mere mention of the penis outside of a strictly clinical or politicized context—is very much to the point. It is the fact that a vasectomy could ever be considered so commonplace, “that many people wouldn’t even consider it a […]
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The Importance of Being Earnest in Flatland

In earnest, I should flatly admit—and this is important—that my field of research is dandyism in nineteenth-century British fiction, which makes my contribution a somewhat wild(ean) one. Fortunately, it is not without its own logic, and can therefore embrace the fact that although VAS, Steve Tomasula’s embedded “Pedestrian Story” (149), is set in a complex semiotic system, his “simple story/With a plot as conventional as a museum’s base boards” (38), is found to stage in a rather geometrical way the reluctance of a would-be writer, Square, to undergo vasectomy, as agreed with his wife, Circle. This plot introduces a character […]

An Emerging Canon? A Preliminary Analysis of All References to Creative Works in Critical Writing Documented in the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base

Introduction Every time contributors add a record to the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base, they have the opportunity to add references to creative works of other articles of critical writing referenced. This enables the formation of a network of critical relations, what we have described in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base project report as a “literary ecology.” Using node references and attached views in the databases, these cross-references automatically display on both the record for critical writing and creative work it refers to. Over time, this develops into documentation of the critical reception of any given work documented in the Knowledge […]
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Gathering Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020

This special gathering collects reflections of the Critical Code Studies Working Group 2020 (CCSWG ‘20), a biannual meeting to explore the intersections of humanistic inquiry and computer code studies. Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), and Zach Mann (USC), the 2020 Working Group was held online from January 20 to February 3. It brought together more than 150 participants from around the world to share ideas, populating dozens of discussion threads with hundreds of comments, critiques, and critical readings. The need to attend to code could not be more urgent. Code exerts a regulatory effect over society and […]
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New ebr Interface

Joe, (I’ve copied this to Mark and Steve who might be interested in listening in on the discussion – Hi Mark! Hi Steve!) I had a fruitful and interesting discussion with Ewan yesterday. He’s going to pull together some time estimates and costs for re-working the interface and building the database. You know, he’s the perfect collaborative partner for this – he not only knows how to build the stuff, he thinks the dynamic activities through from a conceptual standpoint, and he’s familiar with the issues involved with scholarly publishing. He’s also attempting to create a hybrid practice that includes […]

New ebr Interface (2)

Hi All, I just had to jump in here. What a courageous document / email “essay” this is. These issues of database construction, interface design and context, publication as active event, navigational cues, visual metaphors, environmental logic, reader-response “picture theory” etc., are crucial. So my first suggestion is that we archive these group emails as they evolve. We’re definitely onto something here. A lot of these issues are coming up in the net/web art scene too. Calling into question how an online publication presents itself is similar to calling into question how an exhibition context emerges for net-specific works of […]

Merely Extraordinary Beings

An “eighteenth-century” novel, Ingenious Pain seamlessly combines various cultures of eighteenth-century England: it features the medical world, with its progress in surgical and other techniques (not to mention some entertaining in-fighting among schools of both physicians and “psychologists”), but it also offers a background and foreground peopled with less “officially” recognized members of the cultural terrain – a mermaid, a cabinet of wonders, table-top-sized automata, and a hermaphrodite doctor who collects human oddities for medical experiment. With its combination of high and low culture, the novel presents a full and rounded eighteenth century, but does so with a wit and […]

A Somewhat Legal Look at the Dawn and Dusk of the Napster Controversy

What follows is a transcript of a talk I gave on April 4, 2000 at a symposium held by the Science and Technology Law Center at Albany Law School. The symposium was called “Internet Crimes and Civil Violations”; I was asked to talk about music and the Internet in that context. I had been excitedly following the growth of the Internet, and particularly the implications for music and art. The invitation to speak gave me an opportunity to try to put a bunch of disparate ideas together. I’m pretty sure I failed in doing that (and I sure didn’t talk […]
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The Language of Music and Sound

Editor’s Note: Olivia Block and Seth Nehil are two sound artists who create music by integrating sounds from electronic sources, traditional instruments, field recordings and found objects such as old tape recordings or leaves, rocks, and pieces of glass. Collaborating together and at times with others, they are part of a world-wide community of composer/performers who are developing a new lingua franca of sound that puts the natural and the artificial into play with one another: composer/performers that blur genres of sound and music, as well as sound and silence. They extend the tradition of John Cage through their use […]

Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star

the hypertext murder case “Hypertext is dead – ” declared Markku Eskelinen at Digital Arts and Culture ’99 in Atlanta. “Cybertext killed it.” No doubt, interesting hypertext poetry and fiction remains to be written, but – if we consider hypertext as a category that defines a special, valid space for authorship and criticism of computerized works of writing – Eskelinen is clearly right. The hypertext corpus has been produced; if it is to be resurrected, it will only be as part of a patchwork that includes other types of literary machines. One viable category today, perhaps the most interesting one […]

Shopping for Truth

Adrien Gargett on Pierre Missac’s unification of empirical biography and textual production, and the development of a “criticism of indirection” too often missing from Benjamin studies. Dartford, England: Like tourists in a world class museum, visitors swapped souvenir photos and packed marble halls in Europe’s largest shopping centre. Bluewater, a complex of 320 shops and restaurants on the outskirts of London, is the most prominent in a series of regional mega-malls to open in Britain, where an increasingly mobile population has warmed to this most American of commercial concepts. Built in a former chalk quarry 15 miles east of London, […]

Image + Narrative

ebr6/7 image + narrative winter 97/98 and summer 98 Welcome a two-part issue on narrative theory and the image. [the original interface, ebr2.0, can be accessed here – ed.] In this double issue we hope to explore through literature a transition already evident in the culture at large, where technology has enabled narratives of all types to undergo transformation by the image. Increasingly, our ways of telling stories, of creating meaning, are weighted away from a sole reliance on words. It’s not just that literary works and criticism have started to incorporate imagery as decoration or visual accompaniment. Writing itself […]

Duchamp Through Shop Windows

The question of shop windows To undergo the interrogation of shop windows The exigency of the shop window The shop window proof of the existence of the outside world When one undergoes the examination of the outside world, one also pronounces one’s own sentence. In fact, one’s choice is “round trip.” From the demands of the shop windows, from the inevitable response to shop windows, my choice is determined. No obstinacy, ad absurdum, of hiding the coition through a glass pane with one or many objects of the glass window. The penalty consists in cutting the pane and in feeling […]

Talking Back to the Owners of the World

Steffen Hantke on Tom LeClair’s and Richard Powers’s novelistic imaginations of terror. Since the end of the Cold War, American fiction has aided in the cultural and political effort to reorient the public imagination, making sense of this brave new world and its concomitant order. It is a significant ideological gesture to think of the present geopolitical situation as “post-Cold War” – constant repetition of the term reinforces a view that is perhaps not as clear cut as it first appears. The label itself establishes a cultural dominant, a watershed moment or turning point that could very well be considered […]

Making the Rounds

Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds follows the narrative line of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon as it bifurcates and spreads over the globe and across two centuries. When Vineland appeared in 1990, critics and reviewers immediately recorded their dissatisfaction with the novel they assumed was the follow-up to the wondrous Gravity’s Rainbow, the “project” Thomas Pynchon had been secretly (what else?) working on all those seventeen years in between. Vineland was just another novel – trademark Pynchon ideas, for sure, with its movie-dimensional characters, episodic plot that nevertheless hints at paranoiac connectedness, flaring out here and there with a rock-n-roll sensibility in […]

Dali Clocks: Time Dimensions of Hypermedia

Salvador Dali’s clocks aren’t wrong or stopped or broken. Their active faces slide like pancake batter over edges of a bureau, bend and hang across branches. Adapted to the shape of every object they meet, these clocks announce that there is no standard time in Dalí’s universe – nor, as Dali knew – in Einstein’s. In fact, Dali’s clocks are not clocks at all, if we mean bookkeepers that measure unvarying flow. But then the human heart is not that kind of clock either; rather, it is a fractal tempo tracker that runs concurrently to the beat of several highly […]

Unfolding Laramée

Eve Andrée Laramée addresses the hot topic of technology without digitizing, streaming, or projecting imagery – that is, without using “new” technology in her MIT installation, A Permutational Unfolding (1999). So startling to see a contemporary installation unplugged, especially at a site associated with technological expertise, one can hardly believe there’s not a MIDI trigger hidden somewhere. The artist transforms the List Visual Arts gallery by painting, furnishing, and upholstering the room in the style of an early 19th century, Empire period parlor which she fills with artifacts of that period. One also finds anachronistic elements such as woven copper […]

What Lies Beneath?

Daniel Clowes stands without a doubt as one of the most significant American cartoonists to emerge from the alternative comics ghetto in the past two decades. Graduating from early science-fiction and genre material like Lloyd Llewellyn to the more all-encompassing world of his pictorial potpourri Eightball (all published by the Seattle-based comics publisher Fantagraphics Books, Clowes has demonstrated a knack for narrative sophistication and character development – not to mention a keen and often devastating wit. These traits have garnered his work critical acclaim and some amount of commercial success, including the recent feature motion-picture version of his graphic novel […]

A Migration Between Media

Frequently in True North, Strickland makes reference – and hypertext may be, even in poetry, primarily a medium and method of annotation – to Muriel Rukeyser’s 1942 biography of Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903). From this source comes the narration of an incident, of a sort to help posterity recognize a man “of whom,” says Rukeyser, “so few stories have been told” (224): Gibbs spoke only once in a Faculty Meeting, during protracted, tiring debate on elective courses: should there be – more English, more Classics? More? Or less. They were astonished to see him rise, after thirty-two years, though familiar […]

Architecture as a Narrative Medium

Dorothy wants to leave Oz, the land of spectacle, so she chants “There’s no place like home,” three times to awake in familiar grey Kansas. That’s a far cry from Vienna and Paris, but in Beatriz Colomina’s Privacy and Publicity, these European cities provide the backdrop for a discussion of home. Focusing primarily on the houses and interiors designed by Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, Colomina argues that architecture, far from being immune to the influence of mass culture as traditional architectural thinking has it, was influenced by mass media such as advertising and photography. As Colomina writes: The building […]


There are blow jobs and then there are blow jobs. The volumes at hand deal with both figurative and literal examples of the genre. And they manage to range over, as well as map, the landscape of what is loosely called print journalism in book form. They reveal not just hidden agendas, but the transformation journalism has undergone at the end of the twentieth century. One might first note the obvious: they are all written by men. There are books written by women inspired by Bill Clinton’s life and loves (Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning), but these are, in the […]

The Medial Turn

Following such foundational studies as Robert Nadeau’s Readings from the New Book on Nature (1981), N. Katherine Hayles’s The Cosmic Web (1984), David Porush’s The Soft Machine (1985), and Tom LeClair’s The Art of Excess (1989), Strehle and Johnston continue to work with a remarkably stable canon whose authors have “turned to modern science and technology for alternative concepts of narrative necessity and thematic organization” (Johnston 64). In the distributed network of alternatives that these mainstream studies have created, Pynchon occupies the shifting center, Barth and Coover persist in the academic margins, Gaddis and McElroy stand in perennial need of […]

Media, Genealogy, History

Remediation is an important book. Its co-authors, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, seem self-conscious of this from the outset. The book’s subtitle, for example, suggests their intent to contend for the mantle of Marshall McLuhan, who all but invented media studies with Understanding Media (1964), published twenty years prior to the mass-market release of the Apple Macintosh and thirty years prior to the popular advent of the World Wide Web. There has also, I think, been advance anticipation for Remediation among the still relatively small coterie of scholars engaged in serious cultural studies of computing and information technology. Bolter […]

Harry Mathews’s Al Gore Rhythms: A Re-viewing of Tlooth, Cigarettes, and The Journalist

Reviewing Harry Mathews is an onerous task, for the review is a taxonomical genre, and Mathews defies classification. Perhaps it is best not to assess his writing but to process it. One could leaf through it using one of his own devices, such as “Mathews’s Algorithm” – a literary machine he invented which recombines given elements according to a simple, elegant procedure. Indeed, Mathews’s texts – which include Oulipian exercises, poetry, translations, reviews, short fictions, memoir, and novels – read as if generated by an algorithm with a few bugs still in it. Mathews has characterized his singular prose style […]
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Alire: A Relentless Literary Investigation

1999 will mark the 10th anniversary of the web-based literary journal Alire. The journal – created in January 1989 by the Parisian group L.A.I.R.E. (Lecture, Art, Innovation, Recherche, Écriture), which included Philippe Bootz, Frédéric Develay, Jean-Marie Dutey, Claude Maillard, and Tibor Papp – is known as the oldest multimedia journal in Europe, and certainly one of the oldest in the West. Before the arrival of CD-ROMs, before the Internet explosion, the journal was already publishing poetry written for and intended to be read through computers. The tenth anniversary will be an occasion to return to several of the pathways located […]

Poetry in the Electronic Environment

Stephanie Strickland on the translation of poetry from print to screen. Talk given at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, April 10, 1997 I want to start by evoking some of the many times that poetry is not a “book” of poetry: for instance, Prospero’s Books, a film, itself a version of Shakespeare’s theater poem, “The Tempest”; poetry videos, poetry spots on the radio; and many kinds of live performance, from slams to sonic poetry. We have also, today, for the first time, hypertext. Poems, and collections of poems, can be composed as, or into, hypertext, using the many specific capabilities […]

When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Voice, Vision, and the Prosthetic Subject in Dancer in the Dark

Sound is not voice. The desire for it to be so, however, seems to lie at the heart of much compelling art, music, and film. How we feel about this desire – that to be human at all is to thoroughly take that desire for granted or, conversely, that to live in post-Enlightenment (much less postmodern) culture is to see that desire as romantic in the worst possible sense – is a question visited upon audiences with the most uncanny and disconcerting force in Lars von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark. When the film was first released in May […]
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Un Policier sur la Police: The Gritty Reality Behind the Fonts You Read

on the ghost in the machine: the font as spiritual medium in CD-ROM poetry design “No one up here pays attention to reviews. We don’t care about reviews. Frankly reviews are mostly for people who still read. Like most of the written word, it is going the way of the dinosaurs. Most people get their information from the cinema and electronic media. I don’t know any actors or people in show business who have any serious interest in what is written about our world.” – Bruce Willis Up to now, setting type on a computer has followed a logic of […]
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Wiring John Cage: Silence as a Global Sound System

Is there a music to media ecology? John Cage argues: “Music as I conceive it is ecological. You could go further and say that it IS ecology” (Birds 229). The radical nature of this claim still demands to be understood. The challenges of Cage’s long trajectory across various media signal his stance toward a complex exteriority, an eco-musicology he calls “the impossibility of language” (113). Cage is a thinker of complexity, that is, of the materiality of systems, of the “working” aggregates he names music. His work is not adequately summarized by too-quick dismissals as a neotranscendentalism or Romanticism (as […]
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Reading Writing Space

Arriving on the literary scene in the early ’90s, Jay David Bolter’s Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing is one of those pro-hypertext books whose earnest boosterism leaves you feeling a little embarassed. Nonetheless, Bolter’s book has recently been seen changing hands around graphic design graduate programs — I once heard it referred to as “the only interesting writing about new media.” While interesting isn’t a word I would use to describe the writing itself, the book does touch upon a central area of interest to graphic designers: the impact of technology on the material embodiment […]

Sleepless in Seattle

A postmodern parlor game we liked to play in grad school worked like this: at an appropriately advanced juncture in the evening, distribute a text to each person there. Make sure there is a range of texts—no, a real range, as in not only Chaucer and Erdrich and Pynchon and Acker and Austin, but a cookbook, a comp class assignment, a phone book, an album cover, loose sheets that missed the can. Then take turns driving—the designated driver (sobriety unrequired) points to a person who randomly picks a place to begin reading; that person reads until halted by an open […]

Bare-Naked Ladies: The Bad Girls of the Postfeminist Nineties

About halfway through the 1994 film Bad Girls, Anita Crown (Mary Stuart Masterson), a young widow, discovers that she is no longer entitled to a claim on her deceased husband’s land rights. She has sought the advice of a lawyer, and when he informs her that the claim is invalid, she avows, “If your laws don’t include me, well, then they just don’t apply to me either.” This could well be the rallying cry of the bad girl in a so-called “postfeminist” era. Like Thelma and Louise, the four women in Bad Girls violate patriarchal laws and end up purifying […]
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Stealing Glances: Women(‘s) Writing on the World Wide Web

[ Some of the links to journals mentioned here are no longer active; others are, and yet others, such as Amy Janota’s “” appear to be under new ownership. See Todd Napolitano’s contemporaneous essay, Of Graphomania, Confession, and the Writing Self for another view on Web journals, and Rob Wittig’s Justin Hall and the Birth of the Blogs for a more recent discussion of what came to known as “blogs” -eds. ] Exactly what constitutes women’s writing on the World Wide Web is a problematic question. Almost any Web page constructed by/for/about women might be labeled as “women’s writing.” Since […]
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Designing Our Disciplines in a Postmodern Age – and Academy

Common sense ought to tell us it requires less effort to open a web browser than it does to walk across campus. Which is fine, at least for the moment, at least until academicians in both the humanities and the sciences begin to appreciate the potential for interdisciplinary exchange that the network now offers them. And by interdisciplinary, I don’t mean the routine say you say me patter of a literary critic having a conversation with a colleague in history. Instead, I mean aggressive interdisciplinary work, as when a cultural studies scholar looks in on the Artificial Intelligence Lab at […]
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Of Tea Cozy and Link

Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink performs an autopsy on the hypertextual corpse. The hypertext corpus has been produced; if it is to be resurrected, it will only be as part of a patchwork that includes other types of literary machines. (Nicholas Montfort) Many thanks to Nick Montfort for his “Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star” reviewing Espen Aarseth’s work Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Aarseth’s work is part of a valuable base of critical material that has attempted to refine the poetics of electronic literature on-the-fly, so to speak – to establish criteria in a field that is very young. As the form […]

Interferences: [Net.Writing] and the Practice of Codework

Rita Raley on the varieties of code/text, as discovered in the object-oriented aesthetic of Mez, Ted Warnell, Talan Memmott, Alan Sondheim, and others. 6.) Code. Use the computer. It’s not a television. Excerpted from Lewis Lacook’s posting of his “rules” for to the Webartery mailing list, reposted to the Nettime list (February 14, 2002). Codework refers to the use of the contemporary idiolect of the computer and computing processes in digital media experimental writing, or [net.writing]. Some of the prominent practitioners include Alan Sondheim, who has given the practice and genre its name, Mez (Mary-Anne Breeze), Talan Memmott, Ted […]
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The Code is not the Text (Unless It Is the Text)

Digital utopianism is still with us. It is with us despite having been tempered by network logistics and an all-too-reasonable demand for ‘content.’ Admittedly, New Media has aged. It has acquired a history or at least some genuine engagement with the reality principle, now that the Net is accepted as a material and cultural given of the developed world, now that the dot.coms have crashed, now that unsolicited marketing email and commercialism dominates network traffic. Nonetheless, artistic practice in digital media is still often driven by youthful, escapist, utopian enthusiasms. Net Art as such pretends to leapfrog this naivety through […]
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Fecal Profundity

1. A gorgeous little book for a filthy little topic, Laporte’s History of Shit almost defies analysis. A history of the psychoanalytic, social, cultural, and political appropriations of human waste, Laporte’s approach is almost as fluid as his subject-matter and the result is both fascinating and frustrating: full of whimsical insight, jumps of logic, free association and half-constructed arguments that are reiterated 50 pages later. It is also engagingly illustrated with contraptions for the control of four centuries of Western shit, and the cover design evokes an anus. Although influenced by Freud (“whose three requirements of civilization are cleanliness, order […]

Attacked from Within

The simultaneous publication of these three texts on the first anniversary of 9/11 presents a unique opportunity to assess both relations among prominent voices in critical theory and the political meaning of aspects of theoretical discourse. Readers who are familiar with these authors will not be surprised by the dominant perspectives and some of the ideas in these texts: Baudrillard’s negotiation of the simulacral and the real, Virilio’s critique of the extensions of military technology, and Zizek’s appeal to Lacanian concepts are all on display. Baudrillard, Virilio, and Zizek use these frameworks to address the significance of 9/11, but the […]

Materiality and Matter and Stuff: What Electronic Texts Are Made Of

Following Katherine Hayles, Matthew Kirschenbaum agrees that materiality matters. I’ve found both sides of the exchange about what cybertext theory can and can’t do useful and stimulating. I’m grateful to ebr and the various participants. Here I want to push the discussion of “materiality,” a word used by both Markku Eskelinen and Katherine Hayles, and a word I myself have been using since I started writing about digital media in the mid-1990s. For materiality does indeed matter, as Hayles has said. This is precisely the point I make (and a phrase I use) in an article forthcoming in the journal […]
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A User’s Guide to the New Millennium

In 1993, Simon During edited the Cultural Studies Reader for Routledge, a volume that helped consolidate the then-emerging field (and Routledge’s place in it). The New Media Reader, majestically edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort for the MIT Press, will represent an achievement of equal or greater import for the rapidly accreting field of new media and digital studies. Anyone who doubts the necessity of a “reader” for an ostensibly screen-based enterprise is missing the point: as the editors note, new media’s past is to be found among hitherto fragmented and incompatible documentary forms: “on the Web in PDF, […]

The Avant-Garde and the Question of Literature

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present Wittgenstein, Tractatus (6.4311) It seems increasingly apparent to me that formally experimental writing is running counter to the main current of history. Whether we consider the global expanse of capitalism, the unrivaled position of the United States in international affairs, the rise of the Republican party nationally, or the worldwide audience for Hollywood film and American popular music, the general direction of the last three decades has been toward increasing consolidation of the dominant. My aim in […]
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Welcome to Baltimore

Welcome to Baltimore (aka) Charm City (colon) A Charm Bracelet of Half-Baked Delicacies or Xenophon’s Anabasis and the Collapse of the Avant Garde into Waves of Ecstasy There’s an epigraph: A motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition setting forth a theme. [Greek, epigraph, to write on] – American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language “Hey, Rock, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” – Bullwinkle J. Moose The GI Bill Considered as the Indian Removal Act What brings us to Baltimore? We can thank a forward-looking piece of legislation at the end of […]

Words and Syllables

No other American writer has anatomized the madness of our culture with more prescience than Don DeLillo. With rare intuition, a novelist takes a look at the depths of the nation’s soul – imagines, magnifies, distorts, and moves on – while American reality catches up. The Bush administration’s $16 million simulation exercise in Chicago and Seattle, for the purpose of testing the emergency preparedness in the event of bio terrorism, is eerily reminiscent of the SIMUVAC episode in White Noise (1985). In DeLillo’s cultural satire, an emergency response team stages a simulated evacuation amid a real environmental disaster caused by […]

Metadiversity: On the Unavailability of Alternatives to Information

Despite its apparent global variety, the Internet is more linguistically uniform than it is linguistically diverse. Almost all Internet traffic is conducted in one of the world’s 100 or so dominant languages, and the great majority takes place in the top 10 or so languages, with English being especially dominant due, among other reasons, to its use in the Internet’s coding infrastructure. Unwritten and nonstandardized languages, which make up the majority of the world’s approximately 6,700 languages, are hardly accounted for in the structure of Internet communication. On the worldwide distribution of languages see Grimes, Ethnologue. The emphasis in today’s […]
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Sim Capital: General Intellect, World Market, Species Being, and the Video Game

Today’s headlines, “NASDAQ Drop Leads Global Market Fall,” promises a definitive answer to the question as to whether “digital cultural objects” are “assimilable within the capitalist commodity form”: “no.” This was the question posed to participants at the Special Symposium on Cybercapitalism at the Institute of Advanced Social Studies. Princeton University, USA, March 29, 2001, where this paper was first delivered. It draws on collaborative work in process on the interactive game industry with Dr. Stephen Kline and Greig de Peuter, both of Simon Fraser University. This paper also draws on recent research on the computer and video game industry […]
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Women in the Web

Katie King on the challenges and rewards, in her own life and the lives of her students, that emerge when writing about personal encounters with technology. One of the project formats the editors solicited for this collection they described as “workplace narrative.” Not only will you read here a narrative of my workplace, my work, and my fellow workers, but also a commentary about some “working relations” narrativized within this workplace in January 2001. Telling stories, examining stories, and reshaping stories have all been essential activities in my teaching, research and professional understandings. This essay attempts to entangle and untangle […]

Next Generation Student Resources: A Speculative Primer

A survey of humanities research websites (and how to teach with them) by Susan Schreibman. The World Wide Web is both a source of frustration and richness for educators. It is a source of frustration in that students plagiarize from it more easily than from published texts, while they do not seem to be able to differentiate reliable from unreliable resources. Our own searches often reveal substandard source material, particularly when held in comparison with print publication. Some educators refrain from using the World Wide Web in the classroom because they feel intimidated by their students’ seemingly superior ability to […]
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Resistance Through Hypertext: ACTing UP in the Electronic Classroom

Laura Sullivan and her students explore webwriting and content provision as activist tools. Rosemary Hennessy challenges progressive academics “to return cultural studies to the fundamental category of capital” (83). To do so will mean going against the dominant tendencies within a discipline which often “produces ways of understanding that exile meaning-making and identity in the realm of culture, sheltered from any link to capital or class” and thus “reiterate[s] a cultural logic that has been one of capitalism’s most potent ideological forms” (83). My work in the electronic classroom has tried to avoid the kind of cultural studies that Hennessy […]
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The Fan’s Desire and Technopower

Whether they fret over Ziggy Stardust or the condition of posthumanity, fans and scholars share, argues Harvey Molloy, a few habits of mind. The Fan’s Desire When I teach my course in Writing and Critical Thinking, I try, like every other teacher of composition, to awaken in my students a sense that they should approach their writing as a valuable exploration of an interest, instead of as an obligatory duty that must be performed in order to complete an assignment. As a model of passionate writing, we review a number of fan sites and Web logs on the Web. The […]

The Florida Research Ensemble and the Prospects for an Electronic Humanities

In works such as Applied Grammatology, Teletheory, and Heuretics, Gregory Ulmer has rigorously advocated a shift from critical interpretation of culture to theoretically-charged cultural invention. His articulation of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theories informs not merely a composite system of textual criticism but an expansive method of artistic creation. Ulmer’s theories of invention have vitalized his collaboration with the Florida Research Ensemble, a diverse group of artists and scholars who have worked for over ten years to counter the instrumentalist tendencies of new media. Instead of suggesting immediate ways to fix social problems, the FRE attempts to describe the psychological undercurrents […]
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A Project for a New Consultancy

Gregory Ulmer describes his current work, not as scholarship or critical writing, but as a “project for a new consultancy.” And it was partly for advice that I initially contacted Ulmer to request an interview for the electronic book review. I wanted to see whether Ulmer’s ideas about electronic literacy (“byteracy”) could be of use in designing an online review of books and media. Also, since I happened to be organizing an ebr forum around Michael Bérubé’s article, The Politics of Selling Out, I thought that Ulmer might help me to extend Bérubé’s arguments to electronic economies. I reasoned: the […]

The Revolution May Not Be Computerized

A colleague recently remarked to me, “I don’t want to write essays on paper any more. It’s so much easier to manipulate a document in hypertext. I mean, if it’s on paper, it may as well be engraved in stone.” Though I quickly pointed out the limits to this line of thinking, shuddering to imagine my graduate school thesis about comparative mimesis in eighteenth-century narratives placed on par with the acclaimed ten-part essay dictated to Moses, I began to ponder the implications of these new malleable texts in this “late age of print.” The quotation is from J. David Bolter, […]

who is michael bérubé and why is he saying these terrible things about us?

part i: macaroni and meatballs everywhere i turn these days – the new yorker, harper’s, the voice, the chronicle of higher ed., not to mention the academic presses – i seem to run into either a piece of writing by or a reference to michael bérubé, proof-positive that he’s attained academic superstar status of the kind enjoyed during the turn-of-the-eighties by andrew ross… and now i have before me yet another of bérubé’s institutionally-centered ruminations, cultural criticism and the politics of selling out… sheesh… this one reads at times like an apologia, with bérubé self-consciously quoting himself by way of […]
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A Preliminary Poetics

Introduction Interactive drama has been discussed for a number of years as a new AI-based interactive experience (Laurel 1986; Bates 1992). While there has been substantial technical progress in building believable agents (Bates, Loyall, and Reilly 1992; Blumberg 1996, Hayes-Roth, van Gent, and Huber 1996), and some technical progress in interactive plot (Weyhrauch 1997), no work has yet been completed that combines plot and character into a full-fledged dramatic experience. The game industry has been producing plot-based interactive experiences (adventure games) since the beginning of the industry, but only a few of them (such as The Last Express) begin to […]

Victoria Vesna responds

Computer games are clearly a distinct form of media, with an emerging history and place in entertainment and increasingly in the arts. At this particular juncture, there is much misunderstanding of this new genre primarily because games are played through established technologies such as televisions and computers. At the same time, games display characteristics that are, at least superficially, similar to existing media forms, which creates possibilities and confusion at the same time. The numerous recent attempts to develop games as extensions of profitable movies have resulted in abject failures and rare, weak successes. This, in my opinion, is due […]

John Cayley’s response

Stuart Moulthrop’s concerns in addressing networked and programmable ludology are strongly inflected by issues and values in the ethics and politics of “new” media, summed up for me in his reminder that “cyberspace is not a book or a moving picture but a complex virtual environment that should never be allowed to become second nature.” Inclinations such as these are heartily welcome and always salutary, especially given Mouthrop’s engaged stance and engaging literary persona, but here his chief counterpoint, Markku Eskelinen, represents a consciously theoretical approach to the game at hand. This leaves Moulthrop to speculate on mights, woulds, and […]

Card Shark and Thespis

Hypertext Fiction and Its Critics Although games, visual art, and textual experiments had long been areas of academic research, the first artistically convincing explorations of literary computing appeared in the late 1980s. It was only in these years that computers became sufficiently commonplace that a computational creation could realistically hope to find an audience. Of equal importance was the gradual acceptance of Ted Nelson’s thesis (Nelson 1976) that computers could be tools for artistic expression, for even in 1982 the title of Nelson’s Literary Machines was meant to shock and surprise. The final and critical step, first taken by an […]

Game Design as Narrative Architecture

The relationship between games and story remains a divisive question among game fans, designers, and scholars alike. At a recent academic Games Studies conference, for example, a blood feud threatened to erupt between the self-proclaimed ludologists, who wanted to see the focus shift onto the mechanics of game play, and the narratologists, who were interested in studying games alongside other storytelling media. The term “ludology” was coined by Espen Aarseth, who advocates the emergence of a new field of study, specifically focused on the study of games and game play, rather than framed through the concerns of pre-existing disciplines or […]

Introduction to Game Time

The following sketches a theory of time in games. This is motivated by: (1) plain curiosity; (2) theoretical lack: much work has been done on time in other cultural forms, but there is very little theory of time in games; and (3) the hope that a theory of game time may help us examine specific games, help trace the historical development of games, connect to the big question of how a game feeds player experiences, and generally serve as an analytical tool for opening other discussions in game studies and game design. Most computer games project a game world, and […]

White Noise/White Heat, or Why the Postmodern Turn in Rock Music Led to Nothing but Road

I. “White Noise/White Heat,” or Why the “Postmodern Turn” in Rock Music Led to Nothing but Road – A Preface (of sorts) TEN YEARS BURNING DOWN THE ROAD I wrote “White Light” near the end of the 80s, which had surprisingly proved to be perhaps rock music’s most fertile and innovative decade. I originally wrote the essay as a feature article that appeared in American Book Review in the Spring of 1990 (McCaffery, “White Noise”). I was aware that ABR readers were book-lovers not rock fans, and my main goal in developing the essay that way – i.e., presenting an […]
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A Remediation’s Remediation?

In Remediation: Understanding New Media (Bolter and Grusin 1999) proposed a theory on media evolution that attempted to break with the myth of the newness of new media and the linear supersession of older media by newer ones (their main target, although this is not the explicit program of the book, is definitely Marshall McLuhan, whose teleological Understanding New Media is clearly meant to be remediated by a more nuanced and more powerful theory). Coining the notion of Remediation, they argued that each new media refashioned at least one older medium. This process of refashioning, however, does not obey a […]

Optical Media Archaeologies

Two histories of optical media have recently been produced in Germany, and at first glance they would seem to be complementary texts. They both cover roughly the same time period – from the origins of linear perspective to the development of virtual reality – and both authors were clearly familiar with each other’s work. Oliver Grau’s Virtual Art is a revised and translated edition of his earlier book Virtuelle Kunst in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Virtuelle Strategien (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Press, 2001), which was itself an expanded version of the dissertation he completed at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1999, and […]

From Virtual Reality to Phantomatics and Back

The technologies and speculations associated with “virtual reality” and cognate terms (such as “cyberspace”) have recently made it possible for scores of journalists and academics to develop variations on a favorite theme – the newness of the new, and more specifically, the newness of that new and wildly different world-historical epoch, era, or Zeitgeist into which we are supposedly entering (and on some accounts, have already entered) with the creation of powerful new machines of simulation. The innovative powers of the machines of virtual reality are so extensive, it would seem, that they are even supposed to be able to […]
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Unusual Positions

All forms of “interactive text” demand a physical body with which to interact. When we use the now-common interface that consists of a mouse and keyboard as input devices, and the computer screen as display mechanism, it is easy to forget the body whose eyes perceive the screen, and whose hands and fingers manipulate the mouse and keyboard. In her book How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles (1999) has eloquently explored how “information lost its body.” Hayles investigates the theoretical, historical, and literary maneuvers through which modern society has dissociated information from a body or medium. The consequent elevation […]

Adrianne Wortzel’s response

Praise for the body art of Camille Utterback, and commentary on controls. Early on in the feature film Superman, reporter and professional victim Lois Lane falls from a helicopter dangling from the roof of a New York skyscraper. Plummeting to her certain death, she is rescued in mid-air by Superman (aka: a man made of steel [and, for all we know, in some instances, of bits and bytes]), in his first appearance both in Metropolis and in the film. Such is his innate tenderness and his fine-tuning as a deus ex machina that he alters his ascending velocity to her […]

Camille Utterback responds in turn

First, thank you to both respondents for their insightful and kind comments! To respond: Matt Gorbet critiques my implication that “poetic” interfaces do not allow users to maintain control of the interaction, stating instead that it is precisely the simplicity and clarity of this control that allow my examples to be successful. I agree that whether a work is artistic or purely functional, the connection between a user’s actions and these actions’ effects on the system must be clear and immediate. If a user cannot easily understand how his or her actions affect an interactive system, then the interactivity is […]

Bill Seaman responds in turn

Body politics and mouse use scroll through the scene. (To Diane Gromala) 1) “Textuality — an open, infinite process that is meaning-generating and subverting.” Yes. This is one of the forms of textuality that I am interested in. Yet I want to go beyond the logocentric – the analogy of the text in discourse – somehow even in the extended sense of writing that Derrida describes (probably because he is a writer), he seems to bring us back to the way “writing” and/or “text” operate to understand that extension. The central issue is this – I do not believe we […]

Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics (sidebar)

Sidebar images from “Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics – Media-Element Field Explorations.” 19.sidebar.4-8. Examples of The World Generator in use. 19.sidebar.9. Control panel display for The World Generator. back to Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant […]
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What Does a Very Large-Scale Conversation Look Like?

Introduction The new electronic spaces that I am interested in have the following characteristics in common: They are large. Many sites now support interchanges between hundreds and thousands of people. Usenet newsgroups and large listservs are the most common of such sites. I call these usually text-based, usually asynchronous interchanges, very large-scale conversations. (Sack 2000c) They are network-based. More specifically, they support network-based communities. The boundaries of these spaces and the communites they support are not geographic boundaries. Communities of artists, writers, and scientists are examples of pre-internet, network-based communities; i.e., communities based upon a social network and some shared […]
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Stephanie Strickland’s response

There is an uncalculated cost to abstracting information patterns from a body, and then again to forming a “data body” from patterns: an energetic cost, a time cost, and a loss that comes from viewing bodies as mere vehicles for pattern, whether that pattern be mathematical, statistical or structural. Vesna addresses these issues in n0time, as she did previously in Datamining Bodies. Her solution is to visualize social networks using tetrahedra and tensegrity (Kenneth Snelson, Buckminster Fuller) principles. In other words, a figure that has shown itself to be highly useful at many scales for gravitational architectures—of all polyhedra, the […]

If Things Can Talk, What Do They Say? If We Can Talk to Things, What Do We Say?

Introduction (The Gossip on Voice Chips) This essay develops a frequently asked question (FAQ) list for Voice Chips. Like the questions in most FAQs, these questions are not actually frequently asked, but they might be, and like every FAQ, the attempt is to structure the accumulation of experiences in a sociotechnical project. Voice Chips and their newer partners, speech recognition chips, are small low power silicon chips that synthesize voice, play prerecorded voice messages, or recognize voice commands. Although this functionality is not new, what makes voice chips unique is that they are small and cheap enough to be deployed […]
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Simon Penny’s response

Simon Penny adds object-context to the talking machines of Natalie Jeremijenko’s essay. Talking greeting cards, talking ashtrays, talking toilet roll holders: these are some of the more alarming products of the information economy, more alarming for their utter triviality and transience. Natalie Jeremijenko’s analysis of voice chip products (and secondarily, of voice recognition products) attempts a sociology of machines integrated into the human social circuit. This integration occurs on the basis that the machines engage, in some sense, in speech and speech acts. As she points out, this speech, lacking any but the most rudimentary sentience, confounds theories of speech […]

Metaphoric Networks in Lexia to Perplexia

Reading subjectivity into the software interface, N. Katherine Hayles offers a compelling case for computational authorship. As leading theorists and practitioners Marvin Minsky (1985), Daniel Hillis (1999), and Brian Cantwell Smith (1998) have been telling us, computers are much more than hardware and software. In their most general form, computers are environments of varying scope, from objects that sit on desktops to networks spanning the globe. Indeed, in Edward Fredkin’s (1990) interpretation, computational processes ultimately generate the fabric of the universe. It comes as no surprise, then, to find researchers arguing that computation is fundamentally altering the ways in which […]

Liberation Hurts: An Interview with Slavoj Žižek

The following interview with Slavoj Žižek took place on the morning of September 29, 2003 in the Palmer House Hilton, a Gilded Age-era hotel in downtown Chicago. In the hotel’s opulent lobby, it was easy to spot the bearded Žižek amongst the nattily dressed businesspeople and well-healed tourists. As befits a self-described “old-fashioned left winger,” See Geert Lovink, “Civil Society, Fanaticism, and Digital Reality: An Interview with Slavoj Žižek” in Uncanny Networks (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002) p. 39. Žižek seemed dressed down for our meeting. Yet when he lectured at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute later that night, Žižek […]
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Weight Inward into Lightness: A Reading of Canoe Repair

“Canoe Repair” takes place at a transitional time for the main character. Zanes moves from New York City to a New Hampshire town and has to adapt to a new life and a new job, running a Laundromat, as well as to his son’s new hang-gliding activity and his wife’s new TV job. Thus, “Canoe Repair” occurs at a moment when rural and urban worlds are put in “connection and disconnection at the same time” (“Midcourse Corrections” 50). While we learn more about Zanes’ occupations, we also read a portrait of the town’s life. We discover a picture of America […]
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Above Us Only Sky: On Camus, U2, Lennon, Rock, and Rilke

And I felt ready to live it all again too; for the first time , in that night alive with stars and signs, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I was happy again. -Albert Camus The Stranger My father is a rich man He wears a rich man’s cloak Gave me the keys to his Kingdom (coming) Gave me a cup of gold He said “I have many mansions” And there are many rooms to see But I left by […]
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Privileging Language: The Text in Electronic Writing

The following essay began as a response to Chapter Six of First Person, The Pixel/The Line, which Noah Wardrip-Fruin invited me to contribute to electronic book review ’s version of that text. 1. There are several things I’d like to write in response to all three essays of The Pixel/The Line – by John Cayley, Camille Utterback, and Bill Seaman – but I’d like to lead into this response by quoting a passage from Seaman’s Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics. My primary concern will be with the issue of text and meaning and the reduced terms with which these are […]
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Free Culture and Our Public Needs

Stanford law professor and first-tier cyberlaw theorist Lawrence Lessig has probably thought more about the relationship between copyright, the Internet, and technology than any other intellectual. In 1998 Lessig represented Web site operator Eric Eldred in the ground-breaking case Eldred v. Ashcroft, a challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Unfortunately, he lost the case. The reasons for the defeat are delineated in Lessig’s latest book Free Culture, a synthesis of recent popular thought on copyright. The central claim of Free Culture is that in the past decisions could have been made that would have both stunted (or […]

Riga Under Western Eyes

If you’re under the impression that Americans are wealthy, check out the capital city of Latvia. This essay was written for the launch of electronic text + textiles, a residency based in Riga, Latvia. The author gratefully adknowledges David Mace for supplying auto statistics, Linda Krumina for fashion tips, and Toms Rosenbaums for population statistics. A Latvian now working and studying in Argentina, Toms became a point on the data he researched. On a Sabbatical in the Spring of 2003, I was going by train along the North Sea coast and then by bus through the Baltics – from Hamburg […]

Notes from the Middleground: On Ben Marcus, Jonathan Franzen, and the Contemporary Fiction Combine

I. Rising action If Ben Marcus’ well-meaning defense of experimental/innovative/slipsteam/anti-didactic/non-simple/counter-discursive/et al. writing becomes the end-point for our post-millennial discussion of the William Gaddis’, the William Burroughs’, the Kathy Acker’s, not to mention the Kass Fleisher’s, the Lance Olsen’s, the Steve Tomasula’s, and the more than 100 other writers, artists and purveyors of pro-language, pro-innovation who participated in the second &NOW conference at Lake Forest College in early April 2006,The conference is reviewed by participant-observer Ted Pelton, publisher of Starcherone Books. then the terms of this debate may have inadvertently become as effective as a good ol’ red state/blue state hootenanny. […]
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The Eternal Hourglass of Existence

Knowing no more about the book than its title, Nietzsche’s Kisses, this work of fiction triggered in me an association to a line that must have been in my unconsciousness for years, a remainder of a lasting, difficult relationship with the dead man who wrote it: “Der beste Autor wird der sein, welcher sich schämt, Schriftsteller zu werden.” The best author will be the one who is ashamed to become a writer. Professional writer, that is, and writer of fiction – the loose translation above misses the finer meanings of Schriftsteller, especially as they are opposed to the less technical […]

Critical Code Studies

“Hello World” is one of the first programs that computer scientists write in a programming language. The program, usually only a few lines of code, causes the computer to output a greeting, as if it were speaking. The Lisp (List Processing language) version of such a program, for example, looks like this: (DEFUN HELLO-WORLD () (PRINT (LIST ‘HELLO ‘WORLD))) DEFUN defines the function HELLO-WORLD (with no set arguments). The computer as a result will speak its greeting to the world in our natural language. What could be a more appropriate language for this activity than Lisp, a family of algebraic […]

The Way We Live Now, What is to be Done?

The sites referenced by McGann appear under the ebr ‘enfolded thread,’ which was established at the time this essay was published. This paper was presented at the University of Chicago on Friday, 23 April 2004. Late in the 19th century, Matthew Arnold looked to France as a model for a salutary “Influence of Academies” on culture in general. Twenty-five years ago Arnold’s academic inheritors appeared to be living the realization of his hope. But then came the crash. Humanities scholarship and education has been a holy mess for some time. Looking at the way we live now in the academy, […]

Seeing the novel in the 21st Century

Steve Tomasula’s latest book, The Book of Portraiture, published by FC2, continues his project, begun with VAS and IN & OZ, to reshape the novel to accommodate technology, artistic, social, and sexual history. The Book of Portraiture is a cunning reply to the historicity that demands a response. Using the formal innovations of postmodernism with a naturalistic treatment of historical conditions, Tomasula has composed a nearly comprehensive text that shows us the stakes of making art in the 21st Century. The novel is composed of five chapters that are as much thesis as plot, from the first, which narrates the […]

Geek Love Is All You Need

Steven Shaviro reviews Shelley Jackson’s Half Life, the first print-based novel by a pioneering hypertextualist. Shelley Jackson’s Half Life is a dazzling and amazing book – the first print novel by the author of the hypertext fictions Patchwork Girl and My Body, the short story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy, and the short story “Skin,” which is being tattooed one word at a time on the skin of volunteers. Half Life is ostensibly, or overtly, about a pair of conjoined twins, Nora and Blanche Olney, who have separate heads but share a single torso and set of limbs. “Twofers,” as […]

Plagiarism, Creativity, and the Communal Politics of Renewal

Collage and cutup are ways of interrupting the continuity of the controlling discourse – mosaic is a way of renewing discourse. Mosaic: new tiles, old fragments, odd scraps remix. Out of remnants new design. Continuous not discontinuous (Sukenick, “In My Own Recognizance”) I “The best way to consider originality,” Edward Said provocatively argues in The World, the Text, and the Critic is “to look not for first instances of a phenomenon, but rather to see duplication, parallelism, symmetry, parody, repetition, echoes of it… The writer thinks less of writing originally, and more of rewriting.” And he goes on to conclude: […]
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Perloff on Pedagogical Process: Reading as Learning

I’ve been reading Marjorie Perloff’s criticism, and putting it to use in my own, for many years now. She remains one of the few critics not also a poet who demonstrates a consistent understanding of the new, innovative, avant-garde (or choose your term) poetries while working from a historically solid understanding of 20th century literature, indeed the whole modernist ‘heave’ as Pound might have put it. Differentials, her new collection of essays, adds some new names and works, returns to others, and, despite containing essays written for a wide variety of occasions, seeks to make some specific arguments concerning the […]
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Letters That Matter: The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1

John Zuern considers the significance of the first volume of ELO’s Electronic Literature Collection for the future of electronic arts. “What are letters?” Nell, the young heroine of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, poses this question to her older brother Harv in response to his explanation that the letters “MC” are an abbreviation for “Matter Compiler,” a household device that in the novel’s nanotech-saturated world assembles consumer goods on demand from their molecular components. The children are examining the MC’s interface, made up primarily of a scrollable menu of animated icons, “mediaglyphics,” that represent the available products. It is only […]
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Electronic Literature circa WWW (and Before)

The Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 1 is essentially the first major anthology of contemporary digital writing, and there are few things not to appreciate about it. Sixty varied and highly refined works are included, produced by artists who have been practitioners for many years. A viewer who is not open to participating in explorative, often abstract works, may not like or be able to appreciate the content, and surely there are high-quality works that are not included (as in any literary anthology), but the material gathered here could hardly be more representative of what is happening in various digital genres […]

How to Think (with) Thinkertoys: Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1

Adalaide Morris considers ‘tutor texts’ in the Electronic Literature Collection and, in doing so, articulates a poetics for the emerging field of e-lit. Instead of fulfilling Ted Nelson’s dream of ‘computer lib,’ the most compelling entries in the Collection emphasize the continuing necessity of writing under constraint. When the revolution turns out to be, not a liberation from a culture of control but its transformation, practices long familiar to experimental poets in print become generalized throughout new media and their panoply of ‘thinkertoys.’ “Our greatest problems,” Ted Nelson declared in his 1974 back-to-back double tract Computer Lib / Dream Machines, […]
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The Death of a Beautiful Woman: Christopher Nolan’s Idea of Form

In a reading of Christopher Nolan’s films (with and against texts by Poe, Wittgenstein, Searle, and Derrida), Walter Benn Michaels examines the autonomy of the work of art. 1 accidentally on purpose Christopher Nolan’s movie Insomnia is a remake of a Norwegian movie (directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg) and, although the two movies are very much alike (as Nolan says, they have “almost the exact same plot and situations” [Prestigiacomo]), they differ in at least one important way. Both involve a senior detective and his junior partner being sent far north (from Sweden to Northern Norway in the original, from L.A. […]
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The Database, the Interface, and the Hypertext: A Reading of Strickland’s V

Reading Stephanie Strickland’s V: Losing L’una/WaveSon.nets/Vniverse, Jaishree Odin explores the implications of the paradigm shift from modernity to postmodernity for our understanding of reading, writing and living. The uniqueness of a new-media work is the mobility of its elements, present as binary code in computer, yet capable of being mobilized into action through user interaction or through programming. Many new media works make full use of multiple functionalities of current software applications, bringing to light in unique ways the effect a well-designed interface can have on the meaning-making process. How do we read these digital texts that mutate with the […]
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Structure and Meaning in Role-Playing Game Design

1. Introduction Every role-playing game takes place in a fictional world – a setting. In a session of play, players typically generate more information about the setting than they find in the canonical game materials. They may also create new rules or change canonical rules and setting elements to suit their tastes. Even if they use the game material without modifications, they choose how to assign importance to the various rules and setting elements. Players often extrapolate connections between small details in the provided world. This creates content that they consider implicit to the canonical game. Other groups may possess […]
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Writing Façade: A Case Study in Procedural Authorship

1. Introduction The essence of the computer as a representational medium is procedurality – the ability of the computer to engage in arbitrary mechanical processes to which observers can ascribe meaning. Computers do, of course, participate in the production of imagery, support communication between people via the mediation of long-distance signals, control electromechanical devices, and support the storage and interlinking of large quantities of human-readable data. Many tools are available that allow users to engage these various capacities of the computer, such as image manipulation or Web page authoring, without requiring users to think procedurally. But it is precisely the […]
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Editors’ Introduction to “Computational Fictions”

Editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin introduce the essays of the “Computational Fictions” section of Second Person, focusing on the conversion of human ludic interaction into computational processes – a necessary condition for computer games. Editors’ Introduction to “Computational Fictions” What makes computer games different from other games? What makes Pong different from tennis, video poker different from traditional poker, or one of EA’s Lord of the Rings computer role-playing games different from Dungeons & Dragons? Of course, the differences are many, when considering particular games – for example, whether referees are employed, cards are used, or hard cover rulebooks […]
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Pax, Writing, and Change

1. These brief notes are offered in place of something longer and more fully considered, for which there will probably never be time. These days, reflection is a luxury in most working lives, and it comes particularly dear for those who work in cybertext, which can claim neither the high-cultural entitlements of literature nor the market appeal of video games, but subsists on the margins of those worlds, among others. Most who move in this edgy space are amateurs, obsessives, and/or academics, people driven by, if not to, distraction. We are always “of two minds,” as Michael Joyce (1975) put […]

On Soft Cinema: Mission to Earth

Cinema and Software The twentieth-century cinema “machine” was born at the intersection of the two key technologies of the industrial era: the engine that drives movement and the electricity that powers it. While an engine moves film inside the projector at uniform speed, the electric bulb makes possible the projection of the film image on the screen. The use of an engine makes the cinema machine similar to an industrial factory organized around an assembly line. A factory produces identical objects that are coming from the assembly line at regular intervals. Similarly, a film projector spits out images, all the […]

Middle Spaces: Media and the Ethics of Infinitely Demanding

The novel has long been associated with ethics. This link goes back to F.R. Leavis, but Andrew Gibson has shown that this tradition is alive and well today not only in the work of humanist critics like Wayne Booth, but among postmodernists like Richard Rorty and J. Hillis Miller. One way to interrogate Simon Critchley’s theory of ethics and political resistance in Infinitely Demanding is to set it alongside of contemporary novels and to ask how they respond differently to the same cultural moment. It isn’t hard to see Critchley’s book as a response to the bleak political moment in […]
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The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming

When gamers interact with their environments . . . probing often takes the form of seeking out the limits of the situation, the points at which the illusion of reality breaks down, and you can sense that it’s all just a bunch of algorithms behind the curtain. – Steven Johnson, Everything Bad Is Good for You Puppet master: An individual working “behind the curtain” to control the game. – Sean Stacey, “The Unfiction Glossary” In early August 2004, the alternate reality game I Love Bees gave its online players, over 600,000 in number, their first real-world mission. On a Web […]
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On A Measure for Marriage

In the summer of 2004, I was approached by my friend Greg Moccia with a unique task: to design a live-action role-playing event at which he could propose to his girlfriend. The resulting game was A Measure for Marriage, a one-session LARP in which players took the roles of nobles and attendants as they attempted to find romance, thwart villainy, and restore true love in an improvised Shakespearean comedy. Of course, designing a LARP about romance that must end with a real proposal is a daunting task, and the success of A Measure for Marriage was a result of careful […]

Video Games Go to Washington: The Story Behind The Howard Dean for Iowa Game

On December 16, 2003, popular Web magazine Slate published an article by journalist and author Steven Johnson (2003). Reviewing simulation games that engage problems of social organization, Johnson posed a question: “The [2004] U.S. presidential campaign may be the first true election of the digital age, but it’s still missing one key ingredient. Where is the video-game version of Campaign 2004?” Upon reading this article, we smiled at its perfect timing: at that very moment we were developing The Howard Dean for Iowa Game, the first official video game ever commissioned in the history of U.S. Presidential elections. Former Vermont […]
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Eliza Redux

Eliza Redux Then The first manifestation of Eliza Redux The title for this film has now been changed to The Veils of Transference to differentiate it from the online Eliza Redux. was a pre-scripted film produced in 2001 depicting a twenty-minute psychoanalytic session between a robot and a human, during which the robot and human switch back and forth in their roles as analyst and analysand; and in the end, it is the robot, in its role as a patient, that has a “baring of the soul” cathartic experience. The robot-actor in this case was essentially a puppet; its locomotion, […]

Tape for the Turn of the Year: Conversations with and about Daniel Wenk

This essay-narrative originally appeared in a catalogue published by Eastwick Art Gallery in Chicago, and it was also included in ebr 11. FRIDAY EVENING, January 1999 Gold Star, 10:30. Two draft beers, DAB ($7.00 with tip). Daniel agrees that an interview would be better than an essay. He wants a text that will be unlike all the other catalogue texts. During the past few days, he’s been reading my copy of Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Could we do something along the lines of a metalogue? Daniel asks if I know whether, on the Internet, he might […]
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On an Unhuman Earth

“Why shouldn’t Wordsworth be read through Whitehead? Why shouldn’t the canon of Romantic poetry be read alongside the inscription technologies of cartography or tour guides?” Eugene Thacker’s challenge to the recent compartmentalization of academic literary studies is inspired by a reading of Ron Broglio’s book, Technologies of the Picturesque. For Thacker, as for Broglio, literary Romanticism and phenomenological reflection are not the only unifying forces against the dissolution of the technological subject. It is often said that humanities departments in the States – and especially English literature departments – have turned away from theoretical reflection towards historical, sociological, and even […]

Locating the Literary in New Media

Only in North American academia would the first three titles listed above have appeared before the fourth. Only here would “culture” be the first thing literary scholars think of writing about when confronted with a transformation in the material media of our own practice. Works of literature are cited in these first three books, occasionally as participants in the transformation but more often as casualties or, at best, as well-crafted, all-too-human expressions of what it feels like to live through the transformation. Race in Thomas Foster and Martin Kevorkian, gender in N. Katherine Hayles, and class in all three are […]

A Language of the Ordinary, or the eLEET?

“If every link is a next, every memory is a was.” – Michael Joyce, Othermindedness Michael Joyce tends to avoid overstatement or overemphasis, and nowhere is this more true than in his characterizations of the World Wide Web. The Web – which he refers to as something that “our culture has slipped on … like a lonely guy slips on a T-shirt from the Hard Rock Cafe” (Othermindedness 52) – underwhelms him. A more expansive collection of these characterizations, many taken – in the true spirit of surfing and sampling – out of context, would include the WWW as something […]

Intensifying Affect

For Nick Spencer, January 28, 1966 – July 18, 2008 – In Friendship 1. Discussions of the history of 20th- and 21st-century critical thought often proceed by delineating an itinerary of schools (new criticism, structuralism, poststructuralism, new historicism, new materialism, neo-formalism, etc.) and ‘turns’: the linguistic turn, the religious turn, the ethical turn, the ontological turn, the spatial turn, the rhetorical turn, the medial turn, and of late the so-called ‘affective turn’.Of these phrases, perhaps the one that caught on the least is that of the ‘medial turn’. See, however, Joseph Tabbi’s essay “The Medial Turn” for a lucid exposition. […]

Strange Sympathies: Horizons of Media Theory in America and Germany

This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien in Göttingen, Germany, 10 June 2006. A slightly different version was published as “Strange Sympathies: Horizons of German and American Media Theory.” American Studies as Media Studies. Ed. Frank Kelleter and Daniel Stein. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008. 3-23. I In linking a national civilization (America) with media, this conference suggests a road less traveled in media studies. Media studies as a field has generally taken three main forms. One is textual and interpretive: to read and figure out what is taking place, for example, in The Sopranos. […]
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Charles Darwin: Conservative Messiah? On Joseph Carroll’s Literary Darwinism

The legacy of Charles Darwin remains as vexed as ever. In my part of the States, a debate over Darwin is played out on the backs of cars. To signify their theological commitments, some affix plastic silhouettes of fish to their bumpers or trunks. Sometimes the point is driven home by placing the name “Jesus” inside the fish. The occasional secularist joker lampoons these logos with a parodic variation that gives the fish tiny feet and a little smile. These turn it into a lizard, presumably from the Galapagos Islands, and often the point is made explicit by inscribing “Darwin” […]
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Ping Poetics

Sandy Baldwin investigates the manner in which a computer “ping trace” can be classified as a form of digital poetics, and discusses the underlying symbolic practices of both poesis and poetics that encompass coding and computation. An earlier version of this essay was given at the 2008 Electronic Literature Conference in Vancouver, WA. Thanks to all who listened and commented. “Only the imagination is real.” William Carlos Williams Hello Baghdad. Hosts are open, packets receiving. I’m in Iraq in milliseconds. But the DoD turns me back, their firewall refusing to echo, ending my request. I tell you the net is […]

Ebooks, Libraries, and Feelies

Suddenly, reading has the become subject of broad public excitement and debate – sprinkled as it’s been with the magic pixie dust of consumer electronics marketing. How will we read in the future when books, like every other type of media, have become fully digital? Not a day passes, it seems, when some new ebook reader is announced. This month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Steve Ballmer made his pitch for Windows-based tablet computers by demonstrating their ability to run a Kindle ebook reader. What a strange moment, when books are the hot topic of electronics marketing. Electronics companies, reviewers, […]

Between Play and Politics: Dysfunctionality in Digital Art

Let me jump right into the heart of my topic, by presenting two examples. The first, Image Fugurator, a project by Julius von Bismarck which won the Prize Ars Electronica 2008 in the category Interactive Art at the Cyberarts Festival in Linz, Austria, inverts the functioning of a regular camera. Whereas in a normal camera the light projected by objects is captured unto film, with Image Fugurator, an image stored on film within the camera is briefly projected onto the external world when the flash goes on. The whole process is triggered when the camera senses other flashes in the […]
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Computers, Cut-ups, and Combinatory Volvelles

In this piece – part introduction, part artist’s statement – Whitney Anne Trettien reflects on her “combinatory” approach to the history of “text-generating mechanisms.” Author’s note: Each piece of writing reconfigures its object historically; the following is no exception. Part introduction and part artist’s statement, this essay reflects upon the historical methodologies I pursued in producing my born-digital critical archaeology of text-generating mechanisms – a work of criticism that, like the baroque volvelles and experimentalist cut-ups it studies, forces the reader to navigate through descriptive bits of text to combinatorially accumulate knowledge. Woven into these reflections are threads of writing […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week One Discussion

What does it mean to apply a “critical” lens to programming code? Members of the CCS Working Group grapple with this and other foundational questions, hashing out the methods, boundaries, and stakes of a new academic field. This essay is part of a series on Critical Code Studies distilled from a six week online discussion. Editor’s note: We are pleased to present a distilled version of the lively discussion that took place in the summer of 2010 at the Critical Code Studies Working Group. Mark Marino, the organizing chair of the group, has written an introductory essay to these discussions […]
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Dead Trees, or Dead Formats?

David Haeselin reviews Ted Striphas’ The Late Age of Print, which explores the crucial role of book publishing in today’s society of controlled consumption. The oft-repeated death knell for reading, Striphas argues, is the equivalent to a Fox News jeremiad on the death of American morality: it’s wholly ideological and selective. In 1929, Joseph Wharton Lippincott, the president of the National Association of Book Publishers, penned an article in Publisher’s Weekly noting a nascent trend of built-in bookcase construction in new houses, as well as ways of retrofitting older ones. Strangely enough, many customers needed “mimic books” to actually utilize […]

The Binding Problem

This review is a simultaneous publication from the current issue of American Book Review. *** A literary text is processed in the brain like any other complex stimulus: mysteriously. While particular types of sensory input tend to be processed in specific regions of the brain – the cerebellum specializes in motion perception, for example, and the amygdala and hippocampus are implicated in emotional memory – our engagement with objects and spaces is seldom, if ever, the product of a single sensory or cognitive process. The information required to carry out a task like reading a book involves parallel interactions among […]

Lydia Davis Interviews Lynne Tillman: The ebr Interview

With additional questions from Eric Dean Rasmussen and Rone Shavers, the editors, representing Electronic Book Review. Lydia Davis: Some writers I know are very unhappy writing, and some fly high. On a scale of one to ten, from agonized to elated, what were your feelings in the midst of working on American Genius, A Comedy? Lynne Tillman: I ran the gamut, from one to ten. One was my not being able to find the voice that moved it all, told it. A ten was, for instance, when I was writing the séance scene, which was so wacky I couldn’t believe […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Three Discussion

In Week 3 of a six-part series, Critical Code Studies contributors spelunk the mysteries of Colossal Cave Adventure, a seminal text adventure game. Delving into close readings of the original FORTRAN code, the group plots the twisty passages linking media theory, deconstruction and philosophies of programming. Group Code Annotation: Colossal Cave Adventure According to Donald Knuth, designer of the “literate programming paradigm,” Colossal Cave Adventure is the “ur-game for computers” (Knuth 1998/2002). Because computer games have, for decades, been a point of connection between the worlds of technology (from the Greek techne, “skill”) and art (from the Latin ars artis, […]
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Skin Deep: Lynne Tillman’s American Genius, A Comedy

My parents had to have my dog put down when I was a kid. Later in life, I had a finely bred cat that went crazy and had to be destroyed. I have hemophobia which makes an ordinary blood-test an ordeal. So much I share with Helen, the narrator of Lynne Tillman’s recent novel American Genius, A Comedy. Further references will be given in the text to AGAC. No doubt there are other things we have in common, for Helen’s compulsively repetitive monologue at once invites and irritatingly repels such easy forms of identification. AGAC, of course, is a book […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference – Week Four Discussion

In Week 4, Critical Code Studies contributors kept the magic alive as they discussed Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s “On Sourcery and Source Codes,” the first chapter of her forthcoming Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. Informed by Chun’s psychoanalytic reading and her awareness of the materiality of code work, the conversation deals with fetishism, gender, genetics, and performativity in ways both abstract and tangible. Week 4 of the CCS discussion began with a reading from the first chapter of Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s recent book, Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. We are grateful to MIT Press for allowing us to share […]
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“You are cordially invited to a / CHEMICAL WEDDING”: Metamorphiction and Experimentation in Jeff Noon’s Cobralingus

I feed too much on inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes. -George Eliot Art destined to live has the aspect of a truth of nature, not of some coldly worked out experimental discovery. -Eugenio Montale Let’s get it on, sugar. Let’s get it on.- Marvin Gaye In January 2001, Guardian Unlimited published Jeff Noon’s manifesto, “Post Futurism,” in which Noon laments the contemporary state of […]
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See the Strings: Watchmen and the Under-Language of Media

This essay was first published by The MIT Press in 2009 in the collection Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. High Magic Comics belong to an interstitial form, occupying a privileged place between the dominant media of word and image. They are enough like long-form prose narrative for some to be known as graphic novels, and they are first cousins to storyboards, important genetic material for most films. Indeed, as Scott McCloud suggests, a comic is a bit like a film reel with a slow playback rate (8). Yet we should also […]
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Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages: The Case of Electronic Literature

Preface This essay is modified from a keynote lecture I gave at the “Arabic Electronic Literature: New Horizons and Global Perspectives” sponsored by the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai on February 25-27, 2018. The conference organizers, Jonathon Penny from RIT and Reham Hosny from Minia University, arranged for simultaneous English-Arabic translations, enabling all participants to understand and respond to each other’s presentations. I learned that an Arabic group dedicated to electronic literature, The Unity, already exists and has several hundred members. Although it was not clear how active the group is at present, a spokesman was given space in the […]
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Due Diligence

The essays collected in Against the Grain were first presented in 2008 during the International Pynchon Week conference that took place in Munich, Germany. Mainly devoted to Pynchon’s seventh book, Against the Day, the collection reminds readers of the questions that any scholarship devoted to this most intertextual, allusive, encyclopedic, and thoroughly investigated writer must necessarily address: how to make an original contribution to a “Pyndustry” (to use the editor’s term [12]) that has been thriving for over thirty-five years; how to do justice, in 15-25 pages, to a novel of over 1,000 pages; how to distinguish between the casual […]

Where Are We Now?: Orienteering in the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 2

In an increasingly monolingual, globalized world, the second volume of the Electronic Literature Collection may just offer a map of the territory. The question the reviewer, John Zuern, poses is how do we navigate this terrain going forward? Although we can now make what we write instantly available more or less everywhere in the world, every act of writing takes place somewhere, in a particular location, at a particular time, in a particular dialect of a particular language, and within the corresponding geopolitical, historical, cultural, and linguistic parameters. Moreover, every act of writing is somatically situated, exerting a strain, often […]
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“Is this for real? Is that a stupid question?”: A Review of Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts

In a 1997 interview, Dennis Cooper lamented that his novels’ formal qualities often got lost in the attention bestowed upon his extreme subject matter (qtd. Canning 309). The five-novel George Miles Cycle (Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, Period) explores the eroticization of death amid a swirling confusion of fantasy and reality, and the sex is often as violent and graphically depicted as the murders. Cooper’s cycle presents such transgressions as queer sex, incest, pedophilia, kiddie and snuff porn with uncomfortable rigor and a brutally disengaged tone. Within them, the figure of George Miles circulates, sometimes named George, sometimes taking other names, […]
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New Media: Its Utility and Liability for Literature and for Life

PREFACE Beginning with the title, a variation on Nietzsche’s “Use and Abuse of History for Life,” this paper offers a practice-based theory of how new media writing and traditional prose scholarship might converge. The essay itself will be in the form of a literary remix. Hence, the author’s own sense of the affordances and constraints of new media will be conveyed primarily through the words of Nietzsche as well as selected works of critical writing in and about new media. One of the essay’s themes is already evident in the essay’s derivative form – namely, that the only way that […]
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Critical Code Studies Conference- Week Five Discussion

In week five, Stephen Ramsay performed a live reading of a livecoding performance: in a video, he presented a spontaneous commentary over a screencast of Andrew Sorensen’s “Strange Places,” a piece Ramsay had never seen before. The screencast showed Sorensen using Impromptu, a LISP-based environment for musical performance that he had himself developed, to improvise a piece of music; Sorenson developed the piece’s musical themes by composing and editing code. The video allowed the audience to watch Sorenson write and edit his code in the Impromptu editor window. This presentation inspired a discussion that broke livecoding down into two overlapping […]
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Digital Manipulability and Digital Literature

Introduction On a theoretical level, the Digital is based on the manipulation of discrete units with formal rules (Bachimont). On an applicative level, interactive works are based on the gestural manipulations of semiotic forms (text, image, sound, video) by the reader. Both types of manipulations mentioned above are related. Manipulation is indeed the essence of the Digital. In terms of manipulation, the Digital offers a range of technical possibilities. To what extent can these possibilities affect the conditions and modalities of literary writing? The idea here is to confront literary creativity with the manipulative possibilities of the Digital. To what extent […]
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Looking for Writing after Postmodernism

Review of Mark Z. Danielewski, edited by Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons.  University of Manchester Press, 2011.  Everyone is tired of talking about postmodernism.  This is especially the case with literature, where few writers ever embraced the term enthusiastically.  Today calling yourself a postmodernist novelist seems to mean picking a fight with Joyce and Hemingway that everyone else has lost interest in, like an uncle who insists on trying to get everyone worked up about Iran Contra every time the family gets together. Regardless of how we imagine that thing that comes after postmodernism, Mark Danielewski is likely to be […]

Shuffle Literature and the Hand of Fate

Introduction The paper formulates the category “shuffle literature” to help reveal important qualities of certain intriguing works of fiction and poetry. We show how unusual formal and material aspects of these literary works interact with one another, revealing new things about aspects of literature that have been gaining scholarly interest and have increasingly attracted readers. Given the many new concerns about changing ways of reading, it seems particularly relevant to have a closer look into the form of literary expression that invites the reader to choose her own way of progressing the story while still belonging to the traditions of […]

“The dead must be killed once again”: Plagiotropia as Critical Literary Practice

Rui Torres tracks the practice of intertextual borrowing or “plagiotropia” between the works of Portuguese experimental poets. Plagiotropia is a tangible and fecund practice in digital poetry, where poetic texts migrate and grow across media. Torres’ arguments culminate in an examination of his own online combinatory cyber-poetry, which creatively re-writes earlier pre-digital experimental works. Introduction Húmus by Herberto Helder (1967) is recognized for its direct quotation from Raul Brandão’s 1921 poem of the same name.  However, Helder’s work is more than the simple intertextual suggestion of a text: it transforms it, putting into motion its latent power, reviving it. As […]
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Reading Topographies of Post-Postmodernism: Review of Post-Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism by Jeffrey T. Nealon

The world of things has become a world of signs – a universe that both brings into being and is brought into being by symbolic codes. Perhaps it is for this reason alone that that most symbolic of all codes, the literary text, can foreshadow a future world while the contemporary world suggests the future of poetics. – Steve Tomasula Jeffrey T. Nealon’s Post-Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism restages and reactivates Fredric Jameson’s call, over twenty years prior, for a new situation and new mode of criticism adequate to late capitalism. While reduplicating Jameson’s title, terminology, methods […]
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Galatea’s Riposte: The Reception and Receptacle of Interactive Fiction

“…with wonderful skill, he carved a figure, brilliantly, out of snow-white ivory, no mortal woman, and fell in love with his own creation.” —Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book X  “Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb. In painting, sculpture, or music it is easy enough to see that the art shows forth, but cannot say anything.” —Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism “Yes, it hurts being carved. The stone beyond the boundary of oneself is numb, but there always comes a time when the chisel or the point reaches down to where feeling begins, and strikes.” —Emily Short, “Galatea”  Introduction […]
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Lift This End: Electronic Literature in a Blue Light

Since this is a paper about the computational context of literary writing, and to some extent poetry, I have invested heavily in metaphor, at least as far as the title is concerned. Taking key terms in no particular order: by end I mean not so much terminus as singularity or convergence of opposites, that defining, indefinable point where turn becomes return as one state gives way to another; from the imperative lift, I take both the sense of elevation or burdening (lift up) and appropriation (shoplifting); and by the numinous article this, I will eventually mean the inescapable subject of […]
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Convergent Devices, Dissonant Genres: Tracking the “Future” of Electronic Literature on the iPad

Since its release in 2010, the Apple iPad tablet has launched a new form factor for computing, driven by the chameleon-like interface of direct manipulation provided by its touch screen. The iPad and the many other tablets that have followed in its wake (including the Kindle Fire, the many varieties of Android tablets, and the Windows Surface and touchscreen-centered Windows 8 devices) are transforming our physical relationship with texts by co-opting many of our expectations of print and integrating them with a range of gesture-driven interactive elements. As these electronic “books” have emerged on tablets, ranging in form from clear […]
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Condors’ Polyphony and Jawed Water-lines Catapulted Out: Gnoetry and its Place in Text Processing’s History

Chris Funkhouser and Andrew Klobucar situate the poetry anthologized in the recent collection “Gnoetry Daily, Vol. 1: a collection of poetry written interactively with computers” within a long genealogy of computer aided writing in order to illustrate how that genealogy continues to be both aesthetically generative and socially significant. Editor’s note: The following essay mixes the voices of its authors, Christopher Funkhouser and Andrew Klobucar. conceived of named Daily one research substance   poems ostensibly language years programmatic hard or no your   and nothing different   Jim arrangement work explores discovery   which author to explicitly remove   lines […]
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The E-Literary World and the Social

According to Janez Strehovec, e-literature operates on the model of post-Fordist immaterial production. He argues it’s precisely because “a part of contemporary art (especially the new media one and e-literature) is crossing into the service sector of (new) networked economy in the post-industrial, information, spectacle-  and software society” that e-literature needs to cultivate its own autonomous context. E-Literary World and the Service of E-Literature It often seems that autopoiesis and self-reference play a crucial role in the basic understanding of e-literature, which the established scholarship (e.g. e-literary criticism) considers first and foremost in terms of its new media specificity. This […]

Post-Digital Writing

Originally given as the keynote lecture at the Electronic Literature Organization conference, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, June 22, 2012 Disclaimer: This lecture was written after having been out of touch with the field of electronic literature as it is represented by the ELO for half a decade. The author’s work has shifted from literary studies to applied design research, and towards modes of electronic publishing where the experiment lies in production and distribution, such as in Libre Graphics and open source book sprints. Nevertheless, this might help to reframe electronic literature within larger cultural developments in writing and publishing. […]

Debates in the Digital Humanities formerly known as Humanities Computing

Soon it’ll be ten years since William Pannpacker, official blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education and commentator of the 2009 Modern Language Association’s annual convention famously proclaimed the Digital Humanities “the next big thing.” The last decade saw many gatherings, many articles written with DH in mind, many tweets – because the “big thing” also constitutes itself via small texts – and various collections of essays defining what DH is and what it is not. Notable among these is Matthew K. Gold’s 2012 Debates in the Digital Humanities whose second installment appeared in 2016. Both volumes, with 49 and […]
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Against Desire: Excess, Disgust and the Sign in Electronic Literature

This essay argues for a resistance to the semantic slippage that algorithm invariably I will only be concerning myself, for the duration of this essay, with works of electronic literature and not with phenomena such as Facebook or Google in which texts are also assembled largely via algorithm. However, I think the present analysis could be expanded to account for these Internet applications. My sense of the “invariable” injection of indeterminacy is partly based on Lev Manovich’s observation, stated in “Database as Symbolic Form” and, later, in The Language of New Media, that a paradigm shift has occurred in our […]
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Digital Humanities in Praxis: Contextualizing the Brazilian Electronic Literature Collection

In the following essay, Luciana Gattass discusses the formation of a Brazilian Electronic Literature Collection via analysis of works identified in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base. Positioned between the existence of geographical data and the question of a national literature, Gattass considers the role of the human critic in the age of big data. A Preface and a Disclaimer If the first “wave” of Digital Humanities was said to have prompted a quantitative turn, e.g. the compilation and implementation of databases as well as the organization of information in elaborate arrays, then the much anticipated “second wave” is to be “qualitative, […]
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One + One = Zero – Vanishing Text in Electronic Literature

Introduction Snapchat, an app for iPhone and Android that is growing more popular across the world, especially among teens, is one of the latest iterations of vanishing text and image in the electronic world. If not quite literature—although it certainly might be by now, as e-writers turn to ever more inventive software for literary expression—it definitely represents a contemporary version of vanishing text and image. Snapchat allows users to snap a picture, send it to others, and assign a time frame for that picture to expire and no longer be visible. Typically, a picture can be viewed from one second […]
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Nature’s Agents: Chreods, Code, Plato, and Plants

This essay is excerpted from Swanstrom’s monograph, Animal, Vegetable, Digital: Experiments in New Media Aesthetics and Environmental Poetics (under contract to be published by the University of Alabama Press).   “The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from “oak or rock,” it was enough for them.” —Plato “The leap from living animals to humans that speak is as large if not larger than that from the lifeless stone to the living being.” —Martin Heidegger “Today was a sunny day and I was able to sunbathe a lot… I […]
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Iteration, you see: Floating Text and Chaotic Reading/Viewing in slippingglimpse

What she’s doing is, every time she works out a value for y, she is using that as her next value for x. And so on. Like a feedback. She’s feeding the solution back in the equation, and then solving it again. Iteration, you see. – Tom Stoppard, 44 [I]n order to understand geometric shapes, one must see them. It has very often been forgotten that geometry simply must have a visual component – Benoit Mandelbrot, quoted in Holte 1     Figure 1: screen shot slippingglimpse   The first screen of slippingglimpse beckons “select one   to start.” Select which […]
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Field Notes from the Future of Publishing

End Scene Our mission was simple: write, edit, and publish a book in three days from the floor of the Frankfurt Book Fair.  It was a deliberately outlandish thing to do, setting up a booth at the largest, noisiest book expo in the world and inviting a small group of writers to sit there, talk, type, and edit a series of answers to the question “what is the future of publishing?” Dramatis personae on-site included celebrated science fiction writer and essayist Charlie Stross, publisher and Virginia Quarterly Review web editor Jane Friedman, author and entrepreneur Dan Gillmor, and novelist, essayist […]

… without shame or concern for etymology: 11 September in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

Countdown Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, most of which is set in the German ‘Zone’ during and shortly after WW2, is pervaded by references to the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “There is a mean poem about the Leid-Stadt, by a German man named Mr. Rilke” (644) the narrator notes; evoking the Tenth Elegy of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Strange, though, alas, the streets of Grief-City, where, in the artificiality of a drowned-out false stillness, the statue cast from the mould of emptiness bravely swaggers: the gilded noise, the flawed memorial. O, how an Angel would utterly trample their market of […]
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Electrifying Literature: ELO Conference 2012

How does the electronic literature community continue to develop? Amaranth Borsuk looks towards the print literature community, and suggests that we adopt a number of its most successful practices. This series of short interventions were made at the “Futures of Electronic Literature” discussion at the bi-annual Electronic Literature Organization conference in 2012. Titled “Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints,” the conference took place at West Virginia University in Morgantown on June 20th to June 23rd. The contributors were organized by Stephanie Strickland to offer suggestions on how to improve the organization as it attempts to re-define its mission in a shifting […]

Where do we find ourselves? A review of Herbrechter’s “Critical Posthumanism”

If posthumanism signals the end of a certain way of describing—or, more precisely, orienting—selfhood, then we might ask, as Ralph Waldo Emerson did at the start of his famous essay, “Experience” (that addressed, among other crucial issues, slavery), “Where do we find ourselves?” (266). To be sure, technology has already expanded ideas about seeing the human as created through evolution. Marvin Minsky argues that robots will be the next evolutionary phase; they will be our “children.”Ray Kurzweil anticipates the ethical issues of posthumanism will be worked out by machines gaining consciousness and then guiding themselves (and, presumably, us) through deeper […]
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Nature is What Hurts

Review of Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. The posthumanist turn in recent theory and cultural studies continues apace. Posthumanism, briefly, is in general the effort to challenge and even displace the vestiges of anthropocentrism that persist within the conceptual regimes of the human sciences. In this, it follows a series of sustained and by now familiar decenterings of certain privileged subject positions: the postcolonial decentering of a certain Western subjectivity, or the queer decentering of a certain heteronormative subjectivity, for instance. Posthumanism wishes to go further, however, and […]

A Vital Materialist goes to The Lego Movie

Thing-power perhaps has the rhetorical advantage of calling to mind a childhood sense of the world as filled with all sorts of animate beings, some human, some not, some organic, some not. It draws attention to an efficacy of objects in excess of the human meanings, designs, or purposes they express or serve. (Bennett 20) This is an essay to be taken with a child’s, or Gilles Deleuze’s, naïveté. To those who fail to find such thinking sufficiently serious, take heed—you may well find yourself neatly aligned with The Lego Movie’s antagonist, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who is also the […]

Beginning with “The Image” in How It Is when translating certain processes of digital language art

This essay appears previously in the proceedings of the Universities of Paris 8 conference “Translating E-Literature/Traduire la littérature numérique.” Practices and theories of translation are situated at a crucial position in the domain of the practices and theories of language. We are comfortable with distinguishing practices of language whose systematic differences allow us to say that the users of languages in which they are separately competent are, nonetheless, “mutually unintelligible” to one another, and so we may say that they are using different, distinct languages. However, certain practitioners may be proficient in any number of such languages and they may […]
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Beyond Repair: A Reply to John Bruni

John Bruni’s review raises a number of important questions about what I’d still be inclined to call an emergent and major theoretical paradigm, namely posthumanism. In Posthumanism: A Critical Analysis (Bloomsbury 2013—an updated translation of my Posthumanismus—Eine kritische Einführung, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2009) I argued that the best way to understand the phenomenon of posthumanism is by looking at it as a discourse (more or less in a Foucauldian sense). Everything that directly or indirectly says something about the “posthuman,” including the no-longer-quite- and the more-than-human, constitutes the disputed object of that discourse (comprising all sorts of texts, practices, subjects, institutions, […]

Sublime Latency and Viral Premediation

Fig. 1 Screenshot of the ESG MalwareTracker Worldwide Infection Map One glance at the ESG MalwareTracker (fig. 1) is enough to make one’s skin crawl. Borrowing a visual strategy from epidemiology, MalwareTracker uses a map to depict computer virus infections worldwide. The map is dotted with red insects with shiny bulbous bodies that appear to be sized in proportion to the number of infections in a location.  There are only three discernible sizes, representing 11 suspected infections at the low end (Cape Verde), up to 1.7 million at the high end (the United States).  Each country has just one insect […]

Infiltrating Aesthetics: Videogames, Art, and Distinction

Despite concentrated critical analysis spanning two decades (or more, depending on who you ask), videogames still have a legitimacy problem. Critics have only in the recent past made the case for videogames as culturally legitimate pieces worthy of academic study, and predictably, the form’s previous stigmas – deserved or otherwise – have carried into the debate over its place in the art world and the academy. For example, an article on the University of Southern California’s videogame design graduate program’s recent influx of women students focuses on the benefits that this demographic shift may have vis-à-vis the ubiquitous expectation of […]
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Not a case of words: Textual Environments and Multimateriality in Between Page and Screen

A book is a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment-a book is also a sequence of moments… A book is a space-time sequence. – Ulises Carrión. The New Art of Making Books Ulises Carrión, A Comparative Media Theorist On the verge of becoming a canonical figure in Mexican literature amidst the larger context of the Latin American literary scene of the second half of the 20th century, Ulises Carrión broke apart from the mainstream of literary production. Having written two novels published in the early 1970s and relocated in Europe, Carrión began a […]
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Digital Ekphrasis and the Uncanny: Toward a Poetics of Augmented Reality

The aim of this little volume is, as far as may be, to translate into verse what the lines and colours of certain chosen pictures sing in themselves; to express not so much what these pictures are to the poet, but rather what poetry they objectively incarnate. Such an attempt demands patient, continuous sight as pure as the gazer can refine it of theory, fancies, or his mere subjective enjoyment. —Michael Field (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper), preface to Sight and Song, 1892 After the author is gone and the page is gone, what is left but for the poet […]
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Practicing Disappearance: A Postmodern Methodology

Things live only on the basis of their disappearance, and, if one wishes to interpret them with entire lucidity, one must do so as a function of their disappearance. (Baudrillard, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? 31) The use of the past tense in the central theme of this issue – “what in the world was postmodernism?” – implies that postmodernism has disappeared from the landscape of contemporary literary, critical, artistic, and philosophical practice. While previous articles in this collection chronicle the emergence of postmodernism and how it came to disappear, this article asks what we can learn from its disappearance. […]
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Getting Lost in Narrative Virtuality

“Getting lost” in a work of fiction is a conventional expression that speaks to the immersive power of narrative. The reader (which here will include the viewer and the player) is so moved or transported by the drama, characters and unfolding terrain that she loses herself to the physical world and perhaps cannot hear the person directly in front of her. Another sense of getting lost in a text, described by Umberto Eco in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, is a “digressing and lingering [that] helps to enclose readers with those time-woods from which they can escape only after […]

Aurature at the End(s) of Electronic Literature

The actual ends of ‘electronic literature’ are implied by a name that embraces its supposed means. ‘Electronic’ refers to means in a way that is well understood but promotes quite specific means as the essential attribute of a cultural phenomenon, a phenomenon that was once new, a new kind of literature, a new teleology for literary practice, an ‘end’ of literature having its own ends, the end of electronic literature in its means, misdirected ends justified by misappropriated means. This brief essay will not remain bound up within the conceptual entanglements of a name. We will move on from ‘end(s)’ […]
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Speaking to Listening Machines: Literary Experiments with Aural Interfaces

INTRODUCTION In his book The Interface Effect (2012), Alexander Galloway considers how interfaces are not simply tools or stable objects, but “effects” (33) of concrete material conditions, as well as “practices of mediation” (16) that reflect culture. Computational devices are thus not simply machines that emulate other media, but translation processes occurring between many layers of code. Behind the surface-level of the interface, myriads of performances take place, too small and too fast for the human eye to perceive. Articulated with these, there are layers of protocols to which these processes must comply in order to be interpreted. These protocols […]
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Information Wants to Be Free, Or Does It?: The Ethics of Datafication

    Soaking in info, the soothing facts  In just a minute we’ll get to the bottom of just about anything Anything at all (Pat Maloney, “Deaf Ear to the Ground” 2014) Introduction We live in an age of surveillance. We now blog about our lives openly. We carry around smartphones that push geospatial information about our location into the cloud. All this voluntary datafication has changed the way surveillance works so that now data can be easily captured rather than laboriously gathered. Ever since 2013 when news organizations like the Guardian began reporting on the extraordinary collection of classified […]
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Thirteen Ways of Looking at Electronic Literature, or, A Print Essai on Tone in Electronic Literature, 1.0

This experimental essai is written in performative awareness of the challenges of tone in electronic literature. It is a developing piece and will appear in writethroughs, readthroughs, playthroughs (the sous rature mark seems appropriate) elsewhere Key: electronic literature, literature, tone, print, lexia, footnote, postscript, post- literary, countertextual. Instructions for Use If you are not interested in literature (or literature), in all its guises, do not read this text. If you do, read Wallace Stevens’s ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ first, but don’t expect poetry in what follows. Next up, read Stephanie Strickland’s ‘Writing the Virtual: Eleven Dimensions of […]
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Creating New Constraints: Toward a Theory of Writing as Digital Translation

Translation and translation issues are among the most fundamental issues in any writing practice or theory and no writer can avoid addressing them. Countless theories and methods have given birth to no less countless ideas and speculations, best and worst practices, illuminatingly simple and deceivingly complex outcomes, as well as dead ends and springboards to the endless process of rereading and rewriting texts in and between all kinds of languages –and more and more also between all kinds of media, for it is now generally accepted that the whole field of adaptation also belongs to the larger field of translation […]
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Of Myth and Madness: A Postmodern Fable

Chris Kraus’s After Kathy Acker is tour de force stuff. In some sense, this is to be expected. Acker led a colorful, bohemian existence before and during her reign as the enfant terrible of postmodern literature. Legendary for her “transgressive” fiction and edgy punk image, Acker was one of the few writers—and only woman writer—to achieve a degree of fame as a countercultural figure in her time. Aware of the dangers depicting such a cult figure, Kraus has written a thrilling biography that respectfully lays bare the self-mythologization and image cultivation behind what would become Kathy Acker. Neither hagiography nor […]

Self-Aware Self-Censorship As Form

McElroy’s 2017 talk, Forms of Censorship; Censorship As Form, delivered at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine, addresses contemporary forms of censorship and how they shape contemporary literature and discourse. He identifies three forms of censorship: (i) “official acts enforced by police prohibiting the printed word or publicly… heard voice,” (ii) the “muting effects” of censorship in autocratic societies, and (iii) the “glut” of “lying, multiplying, derivative” efforts, “spreading without overtly meaning to conceal or prohibit or blot out.” The first form of censorship can be regarded as a more ‘traditional’ and direct type of censorship, while the […]

Electronic Literature Translation: Translation as Process, Experience and Mediation

1. Introduction We meet computer-based translation online on a daily basis, and while it often is helpful when trying to read a text on foreign language, we often have to read through errors and misunderstandings caused by the statistical translation algorithms. Increasingly such computer-based translation seeps into software as sloppy machine translation of help text, interface texts and instruction manuals, especially when you get outside of those languages for which there are more automated technologies. Sloppy machine translation often reinforces the experience of navigating a somewhat deserted place without any human intervention, reading texts written by and meant for nobody, […]
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A Response to Strange Metapaper on Computing Natural Language

How to answer the invitation by the editors of electronic book review to provide a response of some kind to ‘A Strange Metapaper on Computing Natural Language’? Should I write a report or review meant to evaluate the suitability of this ‘strange metapaper’ for publication? If so, then in which ways would my report be essentially different to those of the three reviewers whose reports already assess what Portela and da Silva call the ’embedded paper’, ‘If then or else: Who for whom about what in which’? In the version that appears on electronic book review, the authors have added […]
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Descending into the Archives: An Interview with Hypertext Author Bill Bly

Brian Davis: The Fall 2017 volume of The New River features Volume Two of your three-volume work-in-progress hypertext, We Descend: Archives Pertaining to Egderus Scriptor. That’s quite a long title. What’s this project about? Bill Bly: We Descend is the short name for an ensemble of writings put together and passed along over a span of many generations. It takes the form of a three-volume hypertext novel that masquerades as a critical edition, with all the commentary, apparati, and other scholarly encrustations appertaining thereto. The overall story (and, since it’s hypertext, this story can be got at more than one […]
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Elpenor: its multiple poetic dimensions

1.Structure of the work 1.1 Scenic configurations Created in 2015, Elpenor exists in two languages: English and French. It can be shown in installation, played in performance or published in a virtual machine. Its readable side develops on 2 separate screens. The interface is displayed on one screen, a text changing in time is on the other one. The interface consists of an image. Moving the mouse on the image changes it. The audience is immersed in a changing musical atmosphere. In the installation and performance configurations, the text is projected onto a large screen behind the small screen on […]

Lines of Sight: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a System (Organism, Poem, or Otherwise)

Part 1: Introduction In Ecological Poetics, or Wallace Stevens’s Birds (Chicago, 2020), Cary Wolfe offers a deeply probing and densely theoretical engagement with the poetry of Wallace Stevens. The thesis of this project is deceptively simple: in it, Wolfe asserts that Stevens is an ecological poet. Those familiar with Stevens’s poetry might be tempted to assume that this is because of Stevens’s affinity for describing in detail features of the natural world, including birds, landscapes both domestic and wild, and other attributes commonly associated with an environmental sensibility (however many things this capacious term might mean). Those more familiar with […]
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Suspended Poetics: Echoes of The Seven Odes in Arabic E-Literature

Contemporary Arabic e-literature reproduces the ritual function of the earliest written poetry in Arabic. As a form of ritual, communication doesn’t merely communicate information about a world that already exists; communication creates our social world. As media historian James Carey describes it, communication creates, sustains, and transforms the very culture we inhabit as communicators. This function of communication as ritualized creation of social reality poses the problem of the individual. How is the individual speaker or listener, the individual voice and the individual ear, related to the community that communication builds? This question of the individual communicator within the community […]
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Literary Readers in Cognitive Assemblages

In “Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages,” Katherine Hayles works to reposition our relationship with technological devices, viewing the human user not as an “autonomous being[]” who uses and develops these devices, but rather “as a component in a cognitive assemblage.” In this way, Hayles requires that we view cognition “as a spectrum rather than a single capability.” Here, Hayles intervenes in the pervasive mythos of the human as “completely autonomous” (an anthropocentric fantasy she aligns with Thoreau), and proposes instead a way of viewing digital literary production as communal, a process that sees not just activity, but creativity, distributed between […]

Sound at the Heart of Electronic Literature

Introduction One might suggest a central consideration of Arabic electronic literature is the shape-shifting nature of electronic literature in general. What one sees when looking for electronic literature depends upon the perspective from which one looks. I suggest another way of considering electronic literature: by listening. This essay considers sound—especially that of the storyteller’s voice, but including environmental and mechanical sounds as well—to be at the heart of every literary experience, whether contextualized in print or pixels. Conceptual Framework This centrality of sound draws directly on the rich oral history of Arab cultures and storytellers who, using only their voices, […]

E-Lit’s #1 Hit: Is Instagram Poetry E-literature?

If ever there were e-literature that could fill a stadium, it’s Instagram poetry. This essay, which I presented on the panel “Toward E-Lit’s #1 Hit” at the Electronic Literature Organization 2018 conference in Montréal, responds to Matthew Kirschenbaum’s keynote at the prior year’s conference. Kirschenbaum traced the coincident development of stadium (“Prog”) Rock–specifically Electric Light Orchestra–and electronic literature, a twinning that led some of us to speculate about what might constitute massively popular e-literature, its “#1 hit.” Formally more akin to a greeting card than traditional poetry because of its sentimentality and combination of text and image, Instagram poetry is […]
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Mind the gap! 10 gaps for Digital Literature?

Introduction 1. The Field of Digital Literature Gap No.1: Creation: From Building Interfaces to Using Existing Platforms? Gap No.2: Audience: From a Private to a Mainstream Audience? Gap No.3: Translation: from Global Digital Cultural Homogeneity to Cultural Specificities? Gap No.4: The Literary Field: From Literariness to Literary Experience? 2. The Reading Experience Gap No.5: Gestures: From Reading Texts to Interpretation through Gestures? Gap No.6: Narrative: From Telling a Story to Mixing Fiction with the Reader’s Reality? Gap No.7: The Digital Subject: From Narrative Identity to Poetic Identity? 3. Teaching and Research Gap No.8: Pedagogy: From Literacy to Digital Literacy? Gap […]
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Third Generation Electronic Literature and Artisanal Interfaces: Resistance in the Materials

When I’m teaching students to build websites in HTML and CSS, I hear the Prince song as I tell them: “tonight we’re gonna program like it’s 1999.” HTML is a display language, not programming, but I like how the syllables of “program” scan for “party.” What is the role of hand-coded, artisanal e-literature in today’s corporate Web, where browsing is branded through intermediaries like Facebook and Google? Rather than browsing the open Web, a click inside of the Facebook app redirects within the app to a Facebook-hosted version of what one clicked on. In this sense, social media platforms are […]
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UpSift: on Johanna Drucker’s DownDrift

Too often science fiction ignores science, or concentrates on technology: spaceships, lightsabers, lasers. Typical sci-fi alien films are usually army invasion films: uniforms, jeeps, helicopters, weapons. Yet occasionally books arise that explore unique and provocative universal potentialities, books that are provoked by scientific research and grow into speculative knowledge. Johanna Drucker’s DownDrift (2018) is such a book. Its narrator is a distributed organism, Archaea, — Archaea? Relatively few people, besides biologists, have heard of archaea. But it is genuine science, not fiction. Archaea is a third distinct branch of life, structurally-similar to bacteria but chemically-distinct, discovered in the 1970s. DownDrift’s […]

Digital Writing: Philosophical and Pedagogical Issues

Introduction: Writing in troubled waters “Computer technology, both a product of and a tool for calculation, has submitted the written text, image processing, musical sounds and the vibrations of the human voice to the same digital writing process. The extension of its applications is so far-reaching that we may indeed feel troubled or disturbed by the continued use of the term, ‘writing’. However machines do write, and they write everything”, argues Clarisse Herrenschmidt. This article deals with the troubled feelings which we may have when confronted with a machine that writes, as referred to by Clarisse Herrenschmidt. It aims to […]
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“The Effulgence of the North”: An Introduction to the Natural Media Gathering

A Note from the Co-Editors: This Introduction is in dialogue—literally—with the contributors to the “Natural Media” gathering. Roll over the dialog bubbles embedded in the text to read marginal comments by Karen Bishop, Elizabeth Callaway, Alenda Chang, Zachary Horton, Diana Leong, and Joseph Tabbi. The remarks were posted in the mysterious pre-publication period after the essays had passed the initial stages of peer review. These exchanges, while somewhat informal in tone and digressive in shape, suggest how thinking-in-practice continues at different stages of the publishing process within an editorial milieu that, like so much of the infrastructure and labor supporting the […]
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Electronic Literature Experimentalism Beyond the Great Divide. A Latin American Perspective

0. It may be true that contemporary digital culture is by now deeply rooted in everyday life of an important part of world’s population–including our habits of writing and reading. Yet digital literature remains more or less invisible to most people. Many people can feel “at home” within digital everyday life and, still, consider that literature is only something related to print books, at most digitized. Regarding this–at first sight–paradoxical situation, I will argue that its cause lies in the strong experimental impetus that digital literature has entailed since its first appearances in mid- 20th century. E-lit has kept this […]
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In Defense of the Difficult

A cosmological perspective on the numerization of human languages Contemporary western and westernized cultures have fully embraced Technic, an accomplished reality system that, as we hope to briefly show, is all-encompassing and deeply troubling. Reciprocally, the embrace has enabled Technic to bring forth a specific kind of culture that can be understood as a device whose primary aim is to perpetrate, expand and infuse its world-making powers into every realm of human existence. The embrace is a techno-serpent that bites its own tail. But what sort of techno-poison does the serpent’s bite instill? Federico Campagna (2018) has proposed to think […]

Re:traced Threads: Generating Feminist Textile Art with Tracery

Introduction “Re:traced Threads” is a hybrid physical-digital work inspired by the discourse of computational craft. It is an installation piece that includes both procedurally-generated, ephemeral, digital artifacts of poetry (displayed on a computer monitor) and the physicality of handmade quilts (displayed on the wall). The project builds on the traditions of quilted poetry, which combines methods of applique and piecing with both written language and representative or abstract imagery, but using a digital, procedural source to guide the making. The project consists of two elements: a Twitter bot producing hypothetical works of quilted textual art, and a set of 9 […]
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Screen Capture in Digital Art and Literature: Interrogating Photographic, Interface, and Situatedness Effects

With a disarmingly simple gesture, a quick keyboard shortcut captures what appears on the screen, in part or in whole. Print screen: the practice is now a daily banality. It archives what scrolls on our screens and enable us to leave this momentary display of the present and its individual consultation. This way, we engage a wider reflection on the Web, its spatiotemporalities, its images and its modes of recordings.  For this article, I would like to question the practice of screenshots as they are increasingly being used in digital art and literature. I will therefore analyze three different projects: […]
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Embraceable Joe: Notes on Joe Brainard’s Art

Joe Brainard (1942-1994) is an artist recognized by a relatively narrow circle of devotees, far less famous than some of his friends and collaborators – Andy Warhol, Frank O’Hara, and John Ashbery, though his prodigious artistic output encompasses over a thousand visual works – collages, assemblages, oil paintings, gouaches, and drawings – showing some affinity with Pop Art, Minimalism and camp, as well as more than a dozen literary volumes of what might be termed experimental life writing. Today, his best-remembered works are a series of images of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy cast in unlikely, humorous contexts and his 1975 book […]
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Collaborative Reading Praxis

Our reading project is a digital humanities effort in that it is a collaboration that employs digital computing practices in order to analyze a text from the perspective of humanistic hermeneutics…. Our intervention in this book is to show how digital-based practices can enable literary interpretation while also providing new models of how interpersonal collaboration works. — Pressman, Marino, and Douglass, Reading Project 137 In 2009, we three scholars embarked on a collaborative reading of a single work of literature. One text, three readers. The work is a piece of electronic literature that combined a one-word-at-a-time story with flashing images, […]

Digital Creativity as Critical Material Thinking: The Disruptive Potential of Electronic Literature

This article has greatly benefited from the research group “Exocanónicos: márgenes y descentramiento en la literatura en español del siglo XXI” (PID2019-104957GA-I00), part of the Spanish Programa Estatal de Generación de Conocimiento y Fortalecimiento Científico y Tecnológico de I+D+i funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades. Creative Making as Critical Thinking: A New Framework for the Digital Humanities At the turn of the 21st century, literary critics like Johanna Drucker (2002), Jerome McGann (2001) or even digital poet Loss Pequeño Glazier (2002) wrote about the importance of “making things” as a way of doing theoretical work. The benefits […]
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Lit Mods

A lesson in sabotage Modifying a machine Alter the machine so that it won’t work without you So far improve it that you alone are good enough for it Give it a secret fault that you alone can repair Yes, alter it so that any other man will destroy it If he works it without you That’s what we call: modifying a machine. Modify your machine, saboteur! —Brecht, The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht (435) Introduction This essay traces different genealogies of “modification” and “modding” in art, games, and literature in pre-digital and digital contexts. Though it departs from “art […]

Appealing to Your Better Judgement: A Call for Database Criticism

Like so many in comparative literature, I knew exactly two works of electronic literature as a BA student: Dakota by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries and Shelley Jackson’s My Body — a Wunderkammer. I loved both of these works, but was skeptical about the future of digital literature considering we only encountered it in classes, never in daily life. Imagine my delight when I found out about public electronic literature databases! It felt like entering a candy shop, filled with so many works I could browse through endlessly. Works that I liked, works I did not like, and works that I […]
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Unhelpful Tools: Reexamining the Digital Humanities through Eugenio Tisselli’s degenerative and regenerative

By the moment users become aware of what is happening in amazon, one of Eugenio Tisselli’s most recent works, they have already become complicit in a simple, digital rehearsal of this precious biome’s destruction. Running a block of code that we have been instructed to copy and save as “amazon.HTML”, we witness a forest of green “trees” (represented by the “*” symbol) become replaced by brown numerals at an ever-increasing speed until, after a few minutes, the screen becomes almost entirely covered by these ever-changing digits, soon resembling an indecipherable, illogical stock ticker where once there was a peaceful forest. […]
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Being the Asterisk: Noah Wardrip-Fruin and the Future of Game Studies

!! U B THE * !! Many Main-Run Features Starring U! She read it through and then went back to the first line, puzzled. U B the asterisk? Was she tootoxed or not toxed enough? You be the ass to risk. Gina nodded. For all she knew, she was looking at the secret of life. — Pat Cadigan, Synners (1991, 142) Noah Wardrip-Fruin excels at illuminating the not-so-obvious, regularly serving up Eggs of Columbus, concepts that seem entirely self-evident once he has explained them, but which somehow elude understanding until he opens our eyes. Consider his indispensable ELIZA effect, the […]
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“the many gods of Mile End”: CanLit Print-Culture Nostalgia and J.R. Carpenter’s Entre Ville

While Canadian poets have made forays into digital writing, one could be forgiven for questioning whether there is an identifiably Canadian substrate of new-media poetry. bpNichol, whose First Screening (1984) seems somehow as influential as it is sui generis, is one option. Still, the work is of a piece with Nichol’s other work, which ranges wildly across and between genres and formats; Nichol is a shapeshifter, or possibly something like Canadian poetry’s William Gibson – a technology-obsessed weirdo who, although partially or coincidentally Canadian, is identifiable more as someone who jacks in to the cyberspace of Neuromancer (1984) than as […]
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“language isn’t revolutionary enough”: In/Human Resources and Rachel Zolf’s Gematria

“Mass affluent consumers’ key satisfaction drivers aspi- / rational by most common queries of most-common- / English-words-engine: fuck Q1 sex Q2 love the shit god i” (Zolf) “Capitalism is profoundly illiterate.” (Deleuze and Guattari) In the acknowledgements of Human Resources (2007), Rachel Zolf sardonically admits that “Funding from the Canada Council for the Arts [CCA] and the Ontario Arts Council [OAC] Writers’ Reserve gave [them] invaluable time and space to write” (2). The credit is caustic, given the text’s dual role as a book of poetry and a self-help guide for navigating the “Canada Council Art Bank,” an institution according […]
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Digital Ganglia and Darren Wershler’s “Nicholphilia”

The focus of this essay will be Darren Wershler’s NICHOLODEON: a book of lowerglyphs and its living, digital manifestation as a ganglion of texts and links in its online version, NICHOLODEONLINE. Wershler creates a textual homage to the influential Canadian avant-garde poet, bpNichol, in NICHOLODEON, which is a “book” initially published as a print version in 1997 and then later in an online iteration as NICHOLODEONLINE in 1998. The materiality of each iteration differs drastically from the traditional appearance and presentation of its book version to its online manifestation. NICHOLODEONLINE is a moving and dynamic aggregate of pathways—it is a […]
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Reconfiguring Flatness on Screen: A Short History of Cover Designs for Chinese Web Novels

Hardly any readers of Chinese Web novel would pay much attention to the “cover” for the serial narrative they are fervently pursuing. This is not surprising, given that the book design and Web design are converging in the digital age (Mod); moreover, it is the serial design of the narrative and the platform that compels a reader’s return to the novel. Indeed, if the book is disappearing into the Web, what is the point of salvaging a book cover for a Web novel? If the Web novel, as a branch of e-literature, is essentially “a writing-centered art” that explores “the […]
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Post-Digital Debates and Dialogues from the electronic book review

  Video recording of the Post-Digital Dialogues and Debates from electronic book review Zoom book launch September 17th, 2020 Scott Rettberg: We’re very excited to be doing a book launch tonight for Post-Digital: Volume One and Volume Two. Joe Tabbi, who’s the editor, is here with us. Just to say a bit about the volumes before Joe gets into it. I wouldn’t say it’s the ‘best of’ the electronic book review,’ exactly, but it’s a selection of texts from ebr from the past 25 years that the journal has been published. ebr is one of the leading – and it […]
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How to Re-Hijack Your Mind: Critical Making and the ‘Battle for Intelligence’

Pharmacological Design So you have realized, or admitted to yourself, that digital media really have reformatted your mind. You feel ill at ease in those few moments when you do not have your smartphone. You have a stack of books on your bedside table; if they are not dusty already, they soon will be. But the phone in your hand is also a book, after a fashion—an unending book that seems to adapt to your desires. “You” in the preceding paragraph is in fact me. With effort and the proper conditions, I can still find myself in a sustained state […]
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Restoring the ‘Lived space of the body’: Attunement in Critical Making

When we introduce critical making projects to our students, they are excited to think about themselves as designers and about the materials they will work with. However, they do not consider how their making process fits into larger systems. For example, when prototyping augmented reality experiences, students focus on what they can get players to do: how they can anchor stories to spaces on and off campus and create interactions around them. They are less attentive to the fact that their players are people and that their AR stories are anchored in community spaces. For this reason, students need help […]
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Researching Writing Technologies through the Speculative Prototype Design of Trina

Trina: A Design Fiction brings together speculative computing (Drucker, SpecLab), speculative software (Fuller), and speculative design (Dunne and Raby) in equal measure. The story is a feminist reconfiguration of language, bodies, and writing technologies, co-authored by myself and Janet Sarbanes. In Trina’s collaged photo-graphics, text, image, and environment coalesce. We read/watch/listen as Trina traverses the gendered politics of typewriters and guns, Left Bank literary expats, and the personnel files of E. Remington & Sons, interrupted by perfunctory sessions with an AI therapist. The graphic story is told entirely through the interactions between Trina and her speculative software prototypes, designed in […]
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“Is this a game, or is it real?”: WarGames, computer games, and the status of the screen

Computer games, programming, and hacking have been linked since the nascent years of computing. WarGames, a film about computer games, programming, and hacking, was released in the summer of 1983, at the tail-end of the Golden Age of Video Games when early arcade and home video games were at the height of popularity. The film’s viewers in 1983 would have been acquainted with computer games like Space Invaders (1978), a shooter game with a striking soundtrack and bit-mapped graphics, and Zork (1980), an adventure game in which the user navigates a maze via text-based interactions with the program. When the […]
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Speculative Interfaces: How Electronic Literature Uses the Interface to Make Us Think about Technology

This paper follows the threads of speculative interfaces through electronic literature and the digital humanities, arguing not only that the speculative interface is a key attribute of electronic literature, but also that speculative interfaces are an important methodology in the digital humanities. I will discuss the interfaces of three works of electronic literature, each written decades apart: Christopher Strachey’s M.U.C. Love Letter Generator (1952), Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story (1990) and Kate Pullinger’s Breathe (2018). Each of these creates a new, speculative interface: Strachey programmed a mainframe computer to generate love letters, Joyce pioneered hypertext fiction, and Pullinger created a […]
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Contemporary Posterity: A Helpful Oxymoron

What does it mean to be post? In a time of countless movements of post-[x], the value of the prefix itself becomes of interest: what happens to a concept when we turn it into a ‘posterity’? In the light of recent discussions surrounding post-humanism within electronic literature (cf. Literary and Aesthetic Posthumanism), as well as the questions surrounding post(?)-pandemic platforms discussed at the 2021 ELO Conference (cf. ELO 2021), it seems that we are far from being post-post, and the prefix continuously returns in different forms to allow us to discuss ongoing, multidirectional, and complex changes with a sense of […]

Neocybernetic Posthumanism and the AI Imaginary: Artificial Communication in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora

Since its consolidation in the late 1940s, cybernetics has been the primary locus for defining the posthuman as a comingling of computational devices, cyborg amalgamations, and AI entities. At the same time, in its development to the present moment, other lines of cybernetics have performed a series of self-reflections, generating cogent conceptual and philosophical responses to their original technoscientific premises. That process has endowed contemporary systems theory with a range of important differentiations. Foremost among these is the distinction between first-order and second-order cybernetics. First-order cybernetics maintains traditional scientificity in its stance of objective detachment toward the systems it designs […]
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Repetition and Defamiliarization in AI Dungeon and Project December

Introduction Recent advances in machine learning provide new opportunities for the exploration of creative, interactive works based around generative text. This paper compares two such works, AI Dungeon (Walton, 2019) and Project December (Rohrer, 2020a), both of which are built on the same artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, OpenAI’s GPT-2 and GPT-3. In AI Dungeon, the player can choose from several predetermined worlds, each of which provide a starting point for the story generation. However, while interacting with the system within this world, the player can stop, edit, modify, and retry each utterance, allowing the player to iteratively “sculpt” the AI’s […]
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Week One: Introduction to Critical Code Studies

Software as Literature In 2006 Mark Marino released his Critical Code Studies Manifesto. This essay laid the groundwork for a recognized field of Critical Code Study: reading code as a work of literature. Everything involved in creating software, the code, the comments, the repository commit messages, the data structures, can be objects of interpretation. I am writing this in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment is high, but people are hiring COBOL developers. The unemployment insurance machines are in COBOL, and they are breaking. There are technical reasons why these systems are failing. What else will we find? From […]
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Week Two: Indigenous Programming

Main thread: Despite being taught around the world, programming languages are written primarily in English. Why is English our default? While an increase in support for the international text encoding standard Unicode has allowed developers to create computing languages in their native tongues, their widespread adoption is far from the norm. In Week Two of the Critical Code Studies Working Group, Dr. Jon Corbett (a Cree/Saulteaux Métis media artist, computer programmer, and sessional faculty at the University of British Columbia), Dr. Outi Laiti (a Sámi Associate Researcher at the University of Helsinki’s Indigenous Studies program and project manager at […]

Electronic literature as a method and as a disseminative tool for environmental calamity through a case study of digital poetry ‘Lost water! Remains Scape?’

The terms “making” and “building” have circulated for some years in the field of Digital Humanities (see Drucker 2009; Svensson 2010; Stephen and Rockwell 2012; Klein 2017; Endres 2017). These terms indicate empirical and pragmatic approaches and have brought a paradigm shift in the graphic tools and digital technologies used for visualization. These approaches in the humanities deploy the information and innovative visualizations to reinforce and supplement the conventional hermeneutics. This transformation is underpinned by interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration and brings together a range of stakeholders and experts from different fields such as writers, artists, researchers, and the public. Scholars […]
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The Art Object in a Post-Digital World: Some Artistic Tendencies in the Use of Instagram

This paper aims to reflect on two labels that have been used to define sets of artifacts born out of the same context but evoking different connotations. I refer to the terms “post-digital” and “post-internet”. Both terms allude to a post-stage, a leap that announces a cultural shift, perceived by artists but difficult to pinpoint and demarcate with precision, a prefix that might refer to ‘after’ (chronologically) as well as ‘beyond’ (spatially); often used to highlight that what has been superseded is the novelty and exceptionality of the internet and digital technology. Actually, these terms address the fact that digital […]
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Digital Narrative and Experience of Time

It is often said that our relationship with time has changed in recent years. New Management strategies mean that employees feel themselves subjected to ever increasing urgency and stress. FOMO, the fear of missing out is a phenomenon inherently linked to the digital environment and its constant flow of information. The Covid-19 crisis has no doubt accentuated this tendency, with its injunction to stay connected and respond immediately to digital notifications and solicitations on a 24/7 basis. According to Paul Ricoeur (1984), “Time becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, and narrative attains its […]

Language |H|as a Virus: cyberliterary inf(l)ections in pandemic times

I have frequently spoken of word and image as viruses or as acting as viruses, and this is not an allegorical comparison. -William S. Burroughs If the computer virus is a technological phenomenon cloaked in the metaphor of biology, emerging infectious diseases are a biological phenomenon cloaked in the technological paradigm. As with computer viruses, emerging infectious diseases constitute an example of a_ counterprotocol phenomenon. Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit Linguistic Inflections In Plague and the Athenian Imagination (2007), Robin Mitchell-Boyask considers the hypothesis of the Athens Plague being responsible for changes in the ways Greek tragedies came to […]
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Learning Management Platforms: Notes on Teaching “Taroko Gorge” in a Pandemic

When I first proposed this paper, I had wanted this to be a closer analysis of learning management systems and their abilities and shortcomings in encouraging non-programming students to engage with code in critical and literary ways. But, as it so often does at the end of term, the grading took its toll. Indeed, this is particularly true for me as an adjunct instructor juggling the grading for more students than I care to admit while preparing for the next term to begin. So, this paper is in some ways less of an analysis of the platforms at play, and […]
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Platforms,Tools and the Vernacular Imaginary

Vernacular digital expression is the flux of signs that make up everyday networked life: the memes, selfies, bots, loops, emojis, profiles, webcam backgrounds, email signatures and everything else. Unlike what was once called “folk art” in pre-digital cultures, vernacular digital culture will always be intimately connected with the technology companies and network infrastructure that allow digital communication to occur. The types of platforms and tools determine the types of computational and multimedia writing that takes place. “Vernacular” is appropriated here as a more generic term for the delocalized forms of everyday internet expression. In his 1981 Shadow Work, the countercultural […]

Hypertextument: reading the new Victory Garden

Victory Garden 2022, one of the latest web reconstructions of e-literary classics made by the Electronic Literature Lab, delivers a promise of yet another 20 years of exploration of this vast hypertext. Created in Storyspace and originally published in 1993 by Eastgate Systems, Stuart Moulthrop’s hypertext fiction achieved a status of a unique, literary evergreen, a wide ranging digital ouvre. The dense network of interconnected text spaces (993 lexias and over 2800 links) delivered an abundance of divergent stories that run in parallel or, sometimes, in contradiction to each other. Add to this some blind alleys and “secret” spaces, and […]
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Writing as a life form: A Review of Richard Zenith’s Pessoa: A Biography (2021)

I’m nothing. I’ll always be nothing. I can’t want to be something. But I have in me all the dreams of the world. -Álvaro de Campos, from “Tobacco Shop” (1928), All translations of Pessoa by Richard Zenith. To create, I’ve destroyed myself. I’ve so externalized myself on the inside that I don’t exist there except externally. I’m the naked stage where various actors act out various plays. -Vicente Guedes, from the Book of Disquiet (text 299, c. 1918). I’ve made myself into the character of a book, a life one reads. Whatever I feel is felt (against my will) so […]
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