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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 “Amy.com” 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 net.art 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

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 stories of these sorts. Since 1986 I have been teaching university courses engaging the historical materialities and politics of writing, the contemporary meanings of which then […]

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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