Nick Montfort discusses two of his computer-generated texts that manifest as print-on-demand books, websites and gallery installations. Though distinct in form and content, Autopia and The Truelist were guided by the author's self-imposed constraints and programmed with minimal code to produce predetermined, "novel-size" outputs. Montfort intends these texts to engage the imaginations of readers with the combinatory aspects of language in culture as well as invite them to a deeper reading of the generating code.
Leah Henrickson explores the contexts surrounding the publication of The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed, advertised as “the first book ever written by a computer” at the time of its release in 1984. Drawing from contemporary reviews, personal correspondence with the book’s creators, and analysis of the book itself, Henrickson offers insight into precisely how this book was produced, and by whom. Although a computer program called Racter is listed as the author of The Policeman’s Beard, this attribution does not accurately reflect the human labor driving the book’s development and dissemination. This essay illuminates these networks of human labour that ultimately led to Racter and The Policeman's Beard.
The lively dialogue among the contributing authors, ebr’s longest-serving and newly appointed editors, and the engaged and interested audience, which accompanied the Post-Digital / Dialogues and Debates book launch in September 2020, is an interesting insight into the recent debates on the multifaceted ramifications of digital disruption and the ways in which it has transformed our society, culture, and aesthetics. The discussion throws some light as well on the always fascinating history of the early electronic literature initiatives which had laid the groundwork for what eventually turned out to become the whole new field of intermedia literary practice and the sub-discipline of trans- and interdisciplinary academic inquiry. The authors of the mammoth 2-volume anthology recruit from the variety of contexts and offer diverse looks at the post-digital condition of our contemporaneity.
Renren Yang insightfully reveals the rarely (if ever) explored domain of cover designs for Chinese Web novels. Tracing their evolution from a print format that enables the tactile and sensual pleasures of opening the actual book to its supposedly more immaterial digital incarnation, Yang reimagines the very idea of a book cover in the digital age. This closer look reveals how serialized novels’ cover design frames the reader's experience, demonstrating as well the fact that the already well established periodization of the First, Second, and Third Generation e-literature are culturally and geographically specific, and dependent on the local histories of computing technology beyond Euro-American context. Analyzing the conceptual tension and fusion between book cover as a “mixed medium” and digital cover as “intermedium,” and drawing upon Chinese pictorial tradition, Yang defines the ontology of the digital book cover as an attempt at reconfiguring “flatness” on the digital screen.
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.