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Notes Abstract This essay surveys the development and current state of electronic literature, from the popularity of hypertext fiction in the 's to the present, focusing primarily on hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, "codework," generative art and the Flash poem.
It also discusses the central critical issues raised by electronic literature, pointing out that there is significant overlap with Diversity art essay contest print tradition. At the same time, the essay argues that the practices, texts, procedures, and processual nature of electronic literature require new critical models and new ways of playing and interpreting the works.
Because this essay is the first systematic attempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders may find it useful as an overview, with emphasis on recent creative and critical works.
And you don't know how to look because you don't know the names. Katherine Hayles opens the aperture more widely and the angle differs slightly as well. Her electronic literature "primer" is a wide-ranging essay that takes the pulse of the e-literature field at this particular moment, reminding us that "literature" has always been a contested Diversity art essay contest.
While both Hayles and Tabbi agree on many points and cover some of the same territorythere are also some interesting differences between the essays.
Katherine Hayles is largely concerned with defining a field, Joseph Tabbi is concerned more with defining the possibility and conditions of literature's persistence in digital environments.
The authors pitch their respective 'approaches' to different audiences; each seems to have a different sense of what needs to be done first — critique digital literary works Hayles or define the conditions for the emergence of possible digital literary works Tabbi.
Both strike me as equally important. And most of us in the Electronic Literature Organization believe that the two critical orientations represented work together. In short, you can't have one without the other, and you can't have anything at all without the pragmatic, writerly tactics employed in the 'Two Bits' essays already online in the ELO library.
Brother Paul, the precentor in charge, had detected a murmur from the back row and, furious that the rule of silence was being compromised, strode down the aisle just in time to see Brother Jacob tuck something under his robe.
When he demanded to see it, Brother Jacob shamefacedly produced a codex, but not one that the antiquarii of this monastery had copied — or of any monastery, for this Psalter was printed. Shocked as much by the sight of the mechanical type as Brother Jacob's transgression, Brother Paul so far forgot himself that he too broke the silence, thundering that if books could be produced by fast, cheap and mechanical means, their value as precious artifacts would be compromised.
Moreover, if any Thomas, Richard or Harold could find his way into print, would not writing itself be compromised and become commonplace scribbling? And how would the spread of cheap printed materials affect the culture of the Word, bringing scribbling into every hut and hovel whose occupants had hitherto relied on priests to interpret writing for them?
The questions hung in the air; none dared imagine what answers the passing of time would bring. This fanciful scenario is meant to suggest that the place of writing is again in turmoil, roiled now not by the invention of print books but the emergence of electronic literature.
Just as the history of print literature is deeply bound up with the evolution of book technology as it built on wave after wave of technical innovations, so the history of electronic literature is entwined with the evolution of digital computers as they shrank from the room-sized IBM machine on which I first learned to program sporting all of 4K memory to the networked machine on my desktop, thousands of times more powerful and able to access massive amounts of information from around the globe.
The questions that troubled the Scriptorium are remarkably similar to issues debated today within literary communities.
Is electronic literature really literature at all? Will the dissemination mechanisms of the Internet and World Wide Web, by opening publication to everyone, result in a flood of worthless drivel?
Is literary quality possible in digital media, or is electronic literature demonstrably inferior to the print canon? What large-scale social and cultural changes are bound up with the spread of digital culture, and what do they portend for the future of writing?
Note 1 These questions cannot be answered without first considering the contexts that give them meaning and significance, and that implies a wide-ranging exploration of what electronic literature is, how it overlaps and diverges from print, what signifying strategies characterize it, and how these strategies are interpreted by users as they go in search of meaning.
In brief, one cannot begin to answer the questions unless one has first thoroughly explored and understood the specificities of digital media. To see electronic literature only through the lens of print is, in a significant sense, not to see it at all.
This essay aims to provide some of the context that will open the field of inquiry so that electronic literature can be understood as both partaking of literary tradition and introducing crucial transformations that redefine what literature is.
Electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast "digital born," a first-generation digital object created on a computer and usually meant to be read on a computer. The Electronic Literature Organization, whose mission is to "promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media," convened a committee headed by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, himself a creator and critic of electronic literature, to come up with a definition appropriate to this new field.
The committee's choice was framed to include both work performed in digital media and work created on a computer but published in print as, for example, was Brian Kim Stefans's computer-generated poem "Stops and Rebels". The definition is also slightly tautological, in that it assumes pre-existing knowledge of what constitutes an "important literary aspect.
Please read our Data Protection & Use Notification to learn more. Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing "The publishing industry looks a lot like these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive.".
Can you imagine having the passion, drive, talent, and focus to labor not only weeks or months, but sometimes years (and often with nominal financial reward), to create something others can pick up, open, ignore, digest, savor, critique, enjoy, and experience in the form of a published book?
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