Every time a new communication form is created, culture inevitably shifts, and E-literature’s effect on culture will surely change the way we think about poetry, animation and programming. While it has great potential to challenge the dominant poetic medium, great improvements must be made to the way in which E-literature is produced. One can criticize the current offerings for consisting of primarily “look what I can do” qualities, however it is important to recognize that without innovation, change does not occur, and that these are the beginnings of what could be a revolutionary movement in visual culture. Because of the unprecedented access to software that allows for artists to create animations and upload for anyone in the world on the internet, this art form has the potential to spread its use to political and social movements across cultural boundaries.
Yet still, the general consensus seems to be that we cannot appreciate this art form. Perhaps our gaming culture has given us unrealistic expectations when viewing these works, or perhaps the creators of such works should be listening more to the desires of their potential audience. In the past ten years alone, the capabilities of graphical technologies has changed drastically, and perhaps in another ten years, the look of E-literature will have changed so drastically that we will put more importance into the way we regard this medium. Continue reading
Is preserving electronic literature important? Should libraries and archives be responsible for keeping machines and software that can play older pieces of e-lit? I believe that most definitely they should.
The dawn of the 21st century marks an important transition in time: it is the point where computers are no longer a privilege and a novelty, but an increasingly accessible and necessary part of our daily lives, and it is an accessibility that is endowed with a remarkable creative potential. This development is no more apparent than in the evolution of literature from a static print-based medium, into the dynamic and diverse context of electronic literature.
Frankly, it is the duty of archives to archive material, and I feel that these institutions would be remiss in their roles if they did not adapt to the changing form of literature and make an effort to catalogue and preserve works of e-lit. As someone who has struggled with accessing some of the ELC1 works I know first hand how frustrating it is to be faced with a piece that, despite numerous patches, updates and frustrated attempts to “trick” my computer, will not open or play properly. When taken into consideration that the ELC1 is only three years old, it becomes clear how important it is for libraries and archives to preserve technology that will be able to play older pieces of electronic literature.
It is understandable that as technology advances it would take increasing efforts to catalogue and maintain the machines and software necessary to store and preserve works of electronic literature. However, I think this is a necessary undertaking that could lead to an entirely new institution: the e-lit archive.
It is easy to imagine such an archive: a long, dimly lit series of environmentally controlled rooms with no windows (to ensure optimal viewing of computer screens), the faces of e-lit archive patrons illuminated by the glowing screens of a hundred outdated machines, reverentially typing on keyboards wearing special keyboard-preserving gloves, their behaviour directly transposed from the way we currently handle historical “special collection” texts. The e-lit archive would catalogue and preserve works of electronic literature while simultaneously providing the additional service of expanding e-lit readership.
While e-lit may not be the most popular or widely accessible literary genre, it is still a legitimate literary form, and I believe it is important for libraries and archives to retain not only works of e-lit, but also the technology that can operate and play said pieces. The e-lit genre must be properly archived and preserved, not only for current readers and e-lit enthusiasts, but also for future generations of readers who will look back in intrigue upon the transition from the frozen printed word, into the endless diversity of electronic literature.
– Sophia M.
It goes without saying in our time that technology changes rapidly; so too, does the art that utilizes it. The advancements of electronic media are a constant, and its use by artists and writers are both widespread and increasingly instrumental in the latest developments in contemporary writing and art. E-lit is no exception to such advancements. Not everybody, though, is as attuned to the notion of E-lit, and they surely have their reasons. It might be that they are too used to the concept of print and its usage, or that they might not be as well equipped with newer forms of technology. After all, there will always be resistance to changing something that has worked for so long. Print users who are resistant to this relatively new form may contest that text on screens is not literary or literature at all. They might find e-lit harder to grasp than print. But they cannot refute that technology is changing the way culture develops, and thus changing the way we view language and art. The probability is that in changing times both print and electronic literature prevail, and both will find a place in society. As William Patrick Wend notes: “[e-lit’s] place in serious literary study can be seen in its broad acquaintance with fields like cultural studies, postmodern fiction, new media, and deconstruction.” E-lit takes its place among everyday readers of literature – and this can be seen by “how much even a casual acquaintance with [it] can modify, accentuate, and broaden the expanses of the very books readers adore.” What makes e-lit literature? N. Katherine Hayles tackles this question in full detail in her book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. In it, she predicts that digital literature will be a significant component of the twenty-first century canon (159). She bases this on the fact that almost all contemporary literature is already digital; that print literature, save for the exception of a handful of books produced by fine letter presses, consists of digital files throughout most of its existence (159). There, she further points out that digitality is so essential to contemporary processes of composition, storage, and production that print should be properly considered a particular form of output for digital files rather than a medium separate from digital instantiation (159). If the digital is so prevalent with its signature, how can we not help but to incorporate it into our lives? Unless we make ourselves blind to its possibilities and choose to ignore what it has to offer us, and hereby shut out these new reading experiences. I would have to agree with most of what Katherine Hayles proposes in her predictions, although I wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at the Electronic Literature Volume 1, which I thought was a poor example of vibrant e-lit. I think there definitely is the potential for creativity in this exciting new strand, as well as a lot of space for growth. The opportunities for such creativity and growth will be infinite, and as long as technology evolves, e-lit will never hit a dead end.
What is it about the glimmering points in the sky that fascinate us so? What is it about them that has compelled all man at some point in his life to stare at them in wonder; wonder about what secrets or wisdom they hide? “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky,” an electronic literature piece created by Sharif Ezzat, is a captivating contemplation of the power the celestial has in connecting all people through the sharing of stories and relationships.
What happens when you can not only construct a visual of meaning in your minds eye, but the words play out the dynamic essence of the words they describe right in front of your eyes? What you get is Dan Waber’s piece “Strings”, a compelling poetic work that represents the different characteristics of the various exchanges inherent to human life, and to literary connection with the depiction of a string forming and reforming words, moving them, and making them interact with each other, as we would in our daily and textual relationships.
With every slide, each representing a certain theme, we are shown both a linguistic and motional display of the thoughts being played out; from the “yes/no” tug of war of the string showing the nature of argument, to the indecisive and teasing floating of yeses, nos and maybes, tentatively and shyly interacting on the screen, to the poetic and romantic display of the words “your arms around me”, by implementing the rotation of the string in a circle to convey the connection and intimacy that one feels in a romantic relationship
Dan Waber’s portrayal of these living words, listing and acting the different engaging connections we partake in and exhibit not only helps us connect to the ideas and emotions revealed through use of a winsome choreography of text, but also makes us connect to the writer himself in the mimicking of a writers hand by illustrating the word creation in handwriting, both conveying the writer’s personal imprint of the piece, and the journey with Waber as his hand moulds the “string” into the particular words he deems perfect for the illustration of the thoughts he wants to share with the reader.
“Strings” is a titillating experience for the reader, engaging him in an insight to the dynamism and effectively charming way words can demonstrate and reveal the various everyday relationships that take place between combatants, friends, lovers, and even the ethereal connection between reader and author. While the genre of electronic literature and poetry may seem intimidating to traditional and conventional reader, “Strings” is a appealing and refreshing introduction to this new and growing medium.