Over the past two months, ebr has had the pleasure to publish two of the keynotes, an essay, and a response that emerged from the 2018 meeting of the ELO in Montréal, “Mind the Gap!” These efforts represent discussions that have continued around platforms and non-platforms for publishing, engaging in, and thinking through e-lit—discussions that ebr is happy to foster and share. In this spirit, we actively encourage our readers to write their own riPOSTes (thoughtful responses) to any or all of the issues raised in the essays; if you have an idea, write to us and let’s see if we can work together!
From ELO 2018, Rui Torres’s keynote, “Humor & Constraint in Electronic Literature” tackles the presence of humourous tropes in literary practice against a long history of various approaches to humour. Serge Bouchardon’s keynote, “Mind the gap!: 10 Gaps for Digital Literature?” lists ten challenges that the field of e-lit may have to face, in the categories of the field of literature, the reading experience, and teaching and research.
Expanding upon Leo Flores’s essay from last month, “Third Generation Electronic Literature,” we are also publishing Kathi Inman Berens’s essay “Third-Generation E-literature and Artisanal Interfaces: Resistance in the Materials,” in which she explores the role of e-literature in an age of post-Web and looks to ways to communicate these changes in pedagogy.
Kathi Inman Berens’s essay draws upon Leonardo Flores’s notion of third generation electronic literature (a term described in Flores’s essay) to inquire into pedagogical models and initiatives to account for contemporary post-Web works of e-lit. In the genealogy of e-lit, the post-Web era describes the development and hosting of digital literary works on non-Web platforms, a turn in digital content production that Nick Montfort captures by noting that “Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat would be just fine if the Web was taken out behind the shed and never seen again.” This post-Web era is characterized by such features as automated templates and filter options, as well as the ability to share and re-share user-generated content at the click of a button.
As such parameters put authorial intention into question, Berens explores the heuristics of digital production and creativity (as well as their dynamics) through five recent books on e-lit that each explore surface reading (various interfaces used for reading; not to be confused with distant reading methods in the digital humanities) in relation to close reading. The five books include works by Scott Rettberg; Amaranth Borsuk; Katarzyna Bazarnik; Jessica Pressman, Mark C. Marino, and Jeremy Douglass; and Christian Ulrik Anderson and Søren Bro Pold. What each of these texts have in common in surface reading is their reflection of what is behind reading interfaces—an awareness of digital production that Berens insists is imperative for the next stages of teaching digital literacy.
Rui Torres’s essay is a thorough effort in discussing humour without also taking one’s critique too seriously. Asking “does humor belong in e-lit?” Torres answers yes: humour and e-lit have much in common, sharing the “freedom to demolish/disassemble/reveal the actual code(s) of writing; freedom to appropriate materials, reconverting them upon new contexts; freedom to integrate different material configurations.” This essays covers a western tradition of humour in philosophical, cultural, and even religious treatments, revealing it to be associated with the subversive, as well as potentially the “inconsequential and irresponsible” in academia.
Torres covers examples of e-lit that engage in the subversive—including his own PoemAds, Susanne Berkenheger’s The Bubble Bath, René Bauer and Beat Suter’s AndOrDada, exploring the use of parody in particular as a humour-evoking trope that is repeated in e-lit. The texts Abílio-José Santos’s Cuidad Veneno, Margaret Rhee’s Kimchi Poetry Machine, and his and Nuno F. Ferreira’s Fakescripts exemplify the transcoding of non-electronic literature with computational irony. Finally, Torres explores how Nuno Ferreira’s text-erasing script can be applied to the electronic book review website itself, with minimalist effect. These examples serve to show that in an age of “post-digital normativity,” e-literature has the potential to make strange, to subvert, and to find the humour in the otherwise standardized and streamlined.
Speaking to the theme of the Montréal conference, Serge Bouchardon’s keynote “Mind the gap!: 10 Gaps for Digital Literature?” offers a comprehensive list of ten challenges faced by digital literature: “bridges” to cross that are imperative to understanding its creative, readerly, scholarly, and pedagogical arcs to come.
Rather than re-name all ten of the gaps, I will provide a short summary.
Section 1 is “The Field of Digital Literature”:
1. Creation: a consideration of how online platforms serve as spaces for writing and hosting e-lit
2. Audience: a discussion of methods of reaching wider audiences, including unexpected readers for e-lit
3. Translation: an expansion of a digital culture that attempts to be universal to one that adapts for cultural specificities4. The Literary Field: an expansion of traditional qualities of the literary to account for the visual and acoustic experience of reading e-lit
Section 2 is “The Reading Experience”:
5. Gestures: the defamiliarization of the gestures of reading and writing through e-lit
6. Narrative: an emergence of new forms of storytelling (especially ones that play with the ontological elements of storytelling) through digital affordances
7. The Digital Subject: a complication of the reader’s identity through their associative digital identity through digital platforms and social media networks
Section 3 is “Teaching and Research”:
8. Pedagogy: the definition and integration of digital literacy in the ways we learn
9. Preservation: a consideration of various efforts in preserving digital literature in anthologies and archives, especially in light of planned obsolescence
10. Research: the development of varied methodologies to represent the scope and vast scale of e-literature, shaping a potential “epistemology of data”
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