In this conversation with ebr Editor Lai-Tze Fan, internationally acclaimed artist Caitlin Fisher talks through her origins, inspirations, and processes with a clear message: things can always be unlocked with more than one key and stories can always be told with more than one method. Fan asks Fisher about the 20th anniversary of These Waves of Girls at the end of Flash, the archival impulse of her stories from doll collections to hand-held museums, and the importance of creating tiny stories out of high technologies and giant institutional labs. Of the many lives Fisher has already lived and of her works to come, this conversation gives only a glimpse—a snap of the universe.
Dani Spinosa asks Bertrand Gervais about the place of digital literatures across Francophone and Anglophone Canada, the issue of genre and labelling in the field, and his work with NT2. Gervais here foregrounds the ground-breaking contributions of Québécois writers, artists, and scholars that are foundational to Canadian digital humanities and media studies across the country, and speaks to how important it is that digital publishing prioritize accessibility and evolution.
In this riPOSTe-turned-essay, John Cayley reflects on “the perpetual problem of terminology” in the field of electronic literature.
Carl Watts argues that J.R. Carpenter’s Entre Ville constructs Canadian literature as a unified, holistically understood entity that is both broadly accessible and fleetingly familiar. In so doing, Carpenter’s work aligns representations of Montréal with uses of new media, with the cross-cutting and mutually exclusive identities of the former mirrored in new-media poetry’s partial or conditional embrace of the formal possibilities of digital poetry.
This essay engages with the complex translation of materiality that occurs between Darren Wershler’s NICHOLODEON (1997) and its eventual digital incarnation as NICHOLODEONLINE (1998). Both of these works pay homage to the influential avant-garde Canadian poet, bpNichol. Beyond situating Wershler’s texts in a historical framework that moves from Nichol to the 'Pataphysics of Alfred Jarry, Sean Braune looks at select metadata “clues” that Wershler left behind for the curious-minded reader (human and machine), as well as placing Wershler’s work (and Nichol’s by extension) in the context of theories of language that move from the human to the “tower of programming languages” that are described by Rita Raley and Friedrich Kittler.
MLA Chernoff closely examines Rachel Zolf's intentionally unreadable suite of transmedial poetry, Human Resources (2007), in order to discern a digital poetics of appropriation that carefully grapples with the problematics of historically exclusionary institutions like conceptual poetry and CanLit. They argue that behind the constraint-based, numerological practices used to create these strange poems lies a pragmatic – yet metaphysically-grounded – method of reframing the professionalization of creative writing and upending the neoliberal conventions of governmental grants.
“looked at me like I was wild s”: The Mediation of Settler-Colonial Visuality in Jordan Abel’s Injunby Alois Sieben
Alois Sieben investigates how Jordan Abel’s Injun experiments—poetically, visually, digitally—with an anxiety-provoking limit to the settler-colonial gaze, rather than feeding this gaze a new representation of Indigeneity. Abel’s work is positioned within David Garneau’s history of Indigenous screen objects, in which something is held back from the settler-colonial gaze, a form of deprivation that exposes the blind hunger of this gaze, turning it back upon itself.
The Visual Music Imaginary of 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein: Exploring Philosophical Concepts through Digital Rhetoricby Nohelia Meza, Giovanna di Rosario
88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (To be Played with the Left Hand) (2008) by Canadian artist David Clark is a web-based Flash creation that explores the life and works of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In this paper, we show how rhetoric and digital technologies join to visually express philosophical concepts. The idea of “visual music” has been previously addressed in various fine arts such as literature, film, painting, sculpture, and music itself. We argue that in electronic literature it is possible to explore this concept by means of what we propose to call “gestural melodic manipulation”, which is the interplay of semiotic units (e.g. videos, sounds, images, linguistic texts) that the reader can add to the narrative by means of interaction and manipulation. In Clark’s e-lit work, “visual music” triggers the literary characteristics of the text by exposing different discourses and diverse thematic through intertextual and intermedial practices.
Electronic Literature as Digital Humanities: Contexts, Forms & Practices is a volume of essays co-edited by Dene Grigar and James O’Sullivan that provides a detailed account of born-digital literature by artists and scholars who have contributed to its birth and evolution. Rather than offering a prescriptive definition of electronic literature, this book takes an ontological approach through descriptive exploration, treating electronic literature from the perspective of the digital humanities (DH)––that is, as an area of scholarship and practice that exists at the juncture between the literary and the algorithmic.
Documenting a Field: The Life and Afterlife of the ELMCIP Collaborative Research Project and Electronic Literature Knowledge Baseby Scott Rettberg
The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base is a large-scale digital humanities database that emerged from a six-nation European research project on electronic literature. The Knowledge Base has since grown to become the most comprehensive open-access contributory database in the field, and is still actively developed. The project director, Scott Rettberg, reflects on the process involved in developing the database and the challenges involved in continuing to document the ever-changing landscape of the field of electronic literature.
Excavating Logics of White Supremacy in Electronic Literature: Antiracism as Infrastructural Critiqueby Ryan Ikeda
Thinking about the ways in which critical infrastructure studies can allow us to engage in antiracism critiques and practices, Ryan Ikeda provocatively challenges the electronic literature community to address some of the symbolic and material structures that he argues uphold the field. To this end, Ikeda positions elit infrastructure as dynamic and generative sites of cultural activity, and attends, in particular to the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, recent ebr discourses on decolonization, ELO fellowships, and literary historical genealogies, to examine how each constructs, affirms, racializes and extends power, privilege, and status to its members.
Experimental Electronic Literature from the Souths. A Political Contribution to Critical and Creative Digital Humanities.by Claudia Kozak
Claudia Kozak evaluates the potential of experimental e-lit to build decolonial critical paths within global digital humanities. Framing her perspective in the Epistemologies of the South (Sousa Santos) and decolonial thinking (Mignolo), she draws attention to politics of knowledge and analyses issues such as linguistic hegemonies, e-lit imaginaries and genealogies emerging from the Souths and unexpected mixtures between experimentalism and third-generation e-lit in Latin America.
How do we think about things — like electronic literature — that combine the operational aspects of computing systems with the affective and representational aspects of the arts? We could view them through the frameworks of computer science, the literary arts, or critical interpretation. These can all be valuable. But they are all, inevitably, partial. Wardrip-Fruin proposes that digital humanities frameworks can provide a way of thinking about the dual elements of electronic literature simultaneously. Here he provides a case study: a strand of research that is both in computational approaches to social simulation and in the creation of works that build upon, and guide the development of, these simulations. He discusses the digital humanities concepts of operational logics and playable models that help him and his collaborators understand their work as they carry it out.
Presenting the writerly and highly remixable analog edition as both pre- and proto-digital, Carly Schnitzler revisits Robert Grenier’s Sentences. She compares the analog version of “shuffle literature” (in choosing the term, she follows the footsteps of Nick Monfort and Zuzana Husarova), published as five hundred index cards stored in a box, with its 2003 digitized edition. Such comparison serves to set the ground to investigate further the potential for writerly literary forms of what Lawrence Lessig once described as Read/Write culture, beyond the analog/digital dichotomy. The detailed and attentive analysis proposed by Schnitzler leads to somewhat surprising conclusions, where the algorithmically driven automatic choices present far less potential for meaningful and open-ended interaction with the text. Simultaneously, all the nuances surrounding the relatively early efforts at rendering Sentences as an object of networked reading are demonstrated here, including hints on digitization as a practice with its own history.