What is Electronic Literature? What is the difference, overlap with “regular” literature? What kinds / genres appeal to you as a form you might want to create?

Note: As a reminder, we do not meet in person this week; this work is mostly a reading and exploration assignment, a week off of media creating.

E-Literature 101

We need not get bogged down in definitions, but for some starting points consider from the Electronic Literature Organization that it’s literature that is “born digital” or “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer. In the paper published there Electronic Literature: What is it?

“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. Electronic literature tests the boundaries of the literary and challenges us to re-think our assumptions of what literature can do and be.

Or from Wikipedia:

Electronic literature or digital literature is a genre of literature encompassing works created exclusively on and for digital devices, such as computers, tablets, and mobile phones. A work of electronic literature can be defined as “a construction whose literary aesthetics emerge from computation”, “work that could only exist in the space for which it was developed/written/coded—the digital space”. This means that these writings cannot be easily printed, or cannot be printed at all, because elements crucial to the text are unable to be carried over onto a printed version.

Much of the efforts to define electronic literature aim to differentiate it from the printed form, so it is more than digitally accessible literature. Again, from Electronic Literature: What is it?

. 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.

To learn more, you might also want to explore the ELMCIP (Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice).

What do you think characterizes Electronic Literature? That is part of our exploration.

The Electronic Literature: What is it? paper offers a list of genres of electronic literature as “hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, ‘codework,’ generative art and the Flash poem”.

Probably the most accessible ones you will explore will be hypertext fiction or interactive fiction, where you consider what is achieved that could not be done in traditional literature forms. We have seen one form of generative art in our work with twitter bots last week — a question to consider is how much the method of a twitter bot do more than random generate sentences, how might it generate a story? (hint, you might look at some of the other options than the Column method we used).

As an introduction to the genres, review the slide presentations (one and two) Dr Mia Zamora shared for her Norway NetNarr class, especially looking at the examples.

Your One Checklist Goal

This week’s assignment is to explore examples of Electronic Literature from the sources listed below find a piece that “speaks” to you in the way it tells a story or how it uses electronic means to create an interesting experience. Pick one that is in a style or genre you might be interested in creating your own story in.

This video might help you approach the electronic literature reading process:

You should add this as an example to the Referencium document on Electronic Literature and write a reflective blog post that is a few paragraphs long, not just describing the story, but an analysis of its electronic literature qualities:

Explore the examples to discover a piece that is meaningful to you personally, and write critically about how that piece of electronic literature makes its meaning. In other words, write a close reading of that e-literary text.

How do you read this text, and how do you navigate this text? How does the text position you as a digital reader? What multimodal elements are incorporated into the elite text (sound, image, kinetic text, video, links, AI, animation, etc.).

What symbolic language is employed in the text you selected? How is interactivity experience in this choice of elit? Please choose a piece of elit that you are inherently drawn to, and write a critical review of how it works, and what kind of meaning you take from it.

Sources of Electronic Literature:


Featured Image: Pixabay image by PIRO4D-2707530 shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Alan Levine
Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at CogDogBlog.com. His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet. He and his dog enjoy the peace of a little home in Strawberry, Arizona.

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