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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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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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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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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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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 […]

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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Week Two: Indigenous Programming

Main thread: http://wg20.criticalcodestudies.com/index.php?p=/discussion/70/week-2-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 […]

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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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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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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