( Note 27 ) david Knoebel's exquisitely choreographed "Heart Pole from his collection "Click poetry features a circular globe of words, with two rings spinning at 90 degrees from one another, "moment to moment" and "mind absorbing." A longer narrative sequence, imaged as a plane. The narrative, focalized through the memories of a third-person male persona, recalls the moment between waking and sleeping when the narrator's mother is singing him to sleep with a song composed of his day's activities. But like the slippery plane that shifts in and out of legibility as it twists and turns, this moment of intimacy is irrevocably lost to time, forming the "heart pole" that registers both its evocation and the on-goingness that condemns even the most deeply-seated experiences. ( Note 28 ) The next move is to go from imaging three dimensions interactively on the screen to immersion in actual three-dimensional spaces. As computers have moved out of the desktop and into the environment, other varieties of electronic literature have emerged. Whereas in the 1990's email novels were popular, the last decade has seen the rise of forms dependent on mobile technologies, from short fiction delivered serially over cell phones to location-specific narratives keyed to gps technologies, often called locative narratives. In Janet Cardiff's The missing voice (Case Study B) (1996 for example, the user heard a cd played on a walkman keyed to locations in London's inner city, tracing a route that takes about forty-five minutes to complete; Her Long Black hair was specific.
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In good Emily Short's savoir-faire, for example, solving many of the if puzzles requires the user to make a leap of inference from one device to another that resembles it in function; for example, if a door and box are properly linked, opening the box also. In subtle ways, if can also engage in self-referential commentary and critique. In Jon Ingold's All roads, the player character is a teleporting assassin, william delosa, over whom the interactor discovers she has minimal control. ( Note 22 ) The allusion evoked by the title all roads lead to rome suggests that the imperial power here is the author's power to determine what the interactor will experience. The player character's vocation can thus be interpreted to imply that the meta-textual object of assassination is the illusion that hypertext is synonymous with democracy and user empowerment. Donna leishman spins a variant of interactive fictions in her work, where the visual interface invites game-like play but without the reward structure built into most interactive fictions. Her striking visual style, exemplified by "The possession of Christian Shaw combines primitivism with a sophisticated visual sensibility, contemporary landscapes with a narrative originating in the seventeenth century. ( Note 23 ) Rather than striving to progress by solving various puzzles and mysteries, the interactor discovers that the goal is not reaching the end (although there is a final screen providing historical context for the visual narrative) but rather the journey itself.
(As a pair of mirror phrases in moulthrop's reagan Library puts brief it, "This is not a game" and "This is not not a game".) nevertheless, there is a general difference in emphasis between the two forms. Paraphrasing Markku eskelinen's review elegant formulation, we may say that with games the user interprets in order to configure, whereas in works whose primary interest is narrative, the user configures in order to interpret. ( Note 19 ) Since interactive fiction cannot proceed without input from the user, nick monfort in Twisty little passages: An Approach to Interactive fiction, the first book-length scholarly study of if, prefers the term "interactor." ( Note 20 ) In this pioneering study, montfort. The interactor controls a player character by issuing commands. Instructions to the program, for example asking it to quit, are called directives. The program issues replies (when the output refers to the player character) and reports (responses directed to the interactor, asking for example if she is sure she wants to quit). Alternating game play with novelistic components, interactive fictions expand the repertoire of the literary through a variety of techniques, including visual displays, graphics, animations, and clever modifications of traditional literary devices.
In my keynote speech at the 2002 Electronic Literature symposium at ucla, these distinctions led me to call the early works "first-generation" and the later ones "second-generation with the break coming around 1995. ( Note 7 ) to avoid the implication that first-generation works are somehow superseded by later aesthetics, it may be more appropriate to call the early works "classical analogous to the periodization of early films. ( Note 8 ) Shelley jackson's important and impressive patchwork girl can stand as an appropriate culminating work for the classical period. The later period might be called contemporary or postmodern (at least until it too appears to reach some kind of culmination and a new phase appears). As the varieties of electronic literature expanded, hypertext fictions also mutated into a range of hybrid forms, including narratives that emerge from a collection of data repositories such. Coverley's Califia and her new work Egypt: The book of going Forth by day ( Note 9 the picaresque hypertext The Unknown by dirk Stratton, Scott Rettberg and William Gillespie, reminiscent in its aesthetic of excess to kerouac's On the road ( Note 10 michael. To describe these and similar works, david Ciccoricco introduces the useful term "network fiction defining it as digital fiction that "makes use of hypertext technology in order to create emergent and recombinatory narratives." ( Note 17 ) Interactive fiction (IF) differs from the works mentioned. ( Note 18 ) The demarcation between electronic literature and computer games is far from clear; many games have narrative components, while many works of electronic literature have game elements.
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Readers with only a slight familiarity with the field, however, will probably identify it first with hypertext fiction characterized by linking structures, such as Michael joyce's afternoon: a story note 3 stuart moulthrop's. Victory garden note 4 and Shelley jackson's, patchwork girl note 5 ). These works are written in Storyspace, the hypertext authoring essay program first created by michael joyce, jay david Bolter, and John. Smith and then licensed to mark bernstein of Eastgate systems, who has improved, extended, and maintained. So important was this software, especially to the early development of the field, that works created in it have come to be known as the Storyspace school.
Intended as stand-alone objects, Storyspace works are usually distributed as CDs (earlier as disks) for Macintosh or pc platforms and, more recently, in cross-platform versions. Along with Macintosh's Hypercard, it was the program of choice for many major writers of electronic literature in the late 1980's and 1990's. As the world Wide web developed, new authoring programs and methods of dissemination became available. The limitations of Storyspace as a web authoring program are significant (for example, it has a very limited palette of colors and cannot handle sound files that will play on the web). Although Storyspace continues to be used to produce interesting new works, it has consequently been eclipsed as the primary web authoring tool for electronic literature. With the movement to the web, the nature of electronic literature changed as well. Whereas early works tended to be blocks of text (traditionally called lexia) ( Note 6 ) with limited graphics, animation, colors and sound, later works make much fuller use of the multi-modal capabilities of the web; while the hypertext link is considered the distinguishing feature.
Readers come to digital work with expectations formed by print, including extensive and deep tacit knowledge of letter forms, print conventions, and print literary modes. Of necessity, electronic literature must build on these expectations even as it modifies and transforms them. At the same time, because electronic literature is normally created and performed within a context of networked and programmable media, it is also informed by the powerhouses of contemporary culture, particularly computer games, films, animations, digital arts, graphic design, and electronic visual culture. In this sense electronic literature is a "hopeful monster" (as geneticists call adaptive mutations) composed of parts taken from diverse traditions that may not always fit neatly together. Hybrid by nature, it comprises a trading zone (as Peter Galison calls it in a different context) in which different vocabularies, expertises and expectations come together to see what might come from their intercourse. Note 2 ) Electronic literature tests the boundaries of the literary and challenges us to re-think our assumptions of what literature can do and.
2 Genres of Electronic Literature, in the contemporary era, both print and electronic texts are deeply interpenetrated by code. Digital technologies are now so thoroughly integrated with commercial printing processes that print is more properly considered a particular output form of electronic text than an entirely separate medium. Nevertheless, electronic text remains distinct from print in that it literally cannot be accessed until it is performed by properly executed code. The immediacy of code to the text's performance is fundamental to understanding electronic literature, especially to appreciating its specificity as a literary and technical production. Major genres in the canon of electronic literature emerge not only from different ways in which the user experiences them but also from the structure and specificity of the underlying code. Not surprisingly, then, some genres have come to be known by the software used to create and perform them. The varieties of electronic literature are richly diverse, spanning all the types associated with print literature and adding some genres unique to networked and programmable media.
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In brief, one cannot begin to answer the great 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. 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 bill 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 committee's formulation: "work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.". As the committee points out, this definition raises questions about which capabilities and contexts of the computer are significant, directing attention not only toward the changing nature of computers but also the new and different ways in which the literary community mobilizes these capabilities. The definition is also slightly tautological, in that it assumes pre-existing knowledge of what constitutes an "important literary aspect." Although tautology is usually regarded by definition writers with all the gusto evoked by rat poison, in this case the tautology seems appropriate, for electronic literature.
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 peers 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 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.
without the pragmatic, writerly tactics employed in the 'two bits' essays already online in the elo library. 1 a context for Electronic Literature. The Scriptorium was in turmoil. 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. 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" joseph Tabbi employs from Don delillo for the epigraph to his essay is a helpful one: "you didn't see the thing because you didn't know how to look. And you don't know how to look because you don't know the names." delillo's words orient us in the direction of the language-driven, social work that Tabbi argues for in his vision of a semantic literary web. 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 category. Both essays are major contributions to the study offer of electronic/new media literature — useful, i believe, to those readers new to digital literature as well as those writers, critics and teachers who have helped develop or actively follow and critique the development of literature. While both hayles and Tabbi agree on many points (and cover some of the same territory there 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).
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Electronic Literature: What is it? Katherine hayles (ucla contents. Abstract, preface 1 a context For Electronic Literature 2 Genres of Electronic Literature 3 Electronic Literature Is Not Print 4 Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination, notes. Abstract, this essay surveys the development and current state of electronic literature, from the popularity of hypertext fiction in the 1980'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 the 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. A final section discusses the Preservation, Archiving and Dissemination (PAD) initiative of the Electronic Literature Organization, including friendship the Electronic Literature collection Volume i and the two white papers that are companion pieces to this essay, "Acid Free bits" and "Born Again Bits." Intended audiences include. 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. Preface, thom Swiss, Professor, University of Minnesota.