- Review(Re-)Reading Moving Letters: Love Notes, Codes and Digital Curtains: A ReviewPfeiler, Martina (2010)A review of: Simanowski, Roberto, Jörgen Schäfer, and Peter Gendolla (eds.) Reading Moving Letters. Digital Literature in Research and Teaching. A Handbook. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2010.
- ArticleAspects of Arabic Online Literature in the GulfLenze, Nele (2010)Literature and poetry in Arab countries developed upon a rich tradition of oral story-telling and are still vital parts of cultural life all over the Gulf. In the age of new media, distribution of literary production has changed and now offers a wide spectrum for story transmission. As a consequence, online literature has emerged as a popular means of communication; short stories posted on blogs, in forums, and online publishing houses generate much commentary. This exchange of thoughts appears to be important for many web-users in the Gulf and triggers stories to “travel” from one virtual location to the other and affects the notions of author and censorship. Generally, it seems that Arabic online literature differs from online literature in other regions of the world. Until now, there exists only limited academic research on this phenomenon. Based on the analysis of a large text corpus of original Arabic online literature and interviews that I have conducted with authors in early 2010, this paper serves as a short overview of the concepts of online literature in the Gulf and discusses its various characteristics.
- ArticleEditorial: Reading Digital Cultural ObjectsTomaszek, Patricia (2010)
- ArticleElectronic Literature and the Mashup of Analog and Digital CodeNavas, Eduardo (2010)This essay examines the complexity of contemporary electronic literary practice. It evaluates how electronic literature borrows from, and also influences, the reception of the textual message in other forms of communication that efficiently combine image, sound and text as binary data, as information that is compiled in any format of choice with the use of the computer. The text aims to assess what it means to write in literary fashion in a time when crossing over from one creative field to another is ubiquitous and transparent in cultural production. To accomplish this, I relate electronic literature to the concept of intertextuality as defined by Fredric Jameson in postmodernism, and assess the complexity of writing not only with words, but also with other forms of communication, particularly video. I also discuss Roland Barthes’s principles of digital and analogical code to recontextualize intertextuality in electronic writing as a practice part of new media. Moreover, I discuss a few examples of electronic literature in relation to mass media logo production, and relate them to the concept of remix. The act of remixing has played an important role in the definition of literature in electronic media. All this leads to a recurring question that is relevant in all arts: how does originality and its relationship to authorship take effect in a time when the death of the author is often cited due to the growing amount of collaboration taking place in networked culture?
- ArticleEvery Game the Same Dream? Politics, Representation, and the Interpretation of Video GamesSoderman, Braxton (2010)Every Day the Same Dream is a short art game created by the radical game designers Molleindustria, formed and fronted by the Italian artist Paolo Pedercini. The game was produced in 2009 and has since garnered praise within and without the gamer community. This essay pursues a sustained close reading and playing of the game with the goal of providing an interpretation of its complex political meanings. During the exegesis of the game I explore new, interpretive forms of analysis that have arisen around the video game medium (i.e. Espen Aarseth's notion of simulational hermeneutics and Alexander Galloway's concept of gamic allegory). I argue that these forms tend to privilege the understanding of game mechanics and player actions over visual and narrative representations in a game. While these new hermeneutical methods are undeniably useful for uncovering the significance of a particular video game I show how they can be used to marginalize and eclipse interpretive methods focused on gamic representations, thus potentially truncating a game's overall significance or "message." This essay demonstrates that Every Day the Same Dream's political meanings cannot be exhausted by focusing exclusively on game mechanics or player actions, and that a critic needs to pay close attention to the entirety of a game's meaningful modalities—including visual and narrative representation—in order to understand the totality of a game's significance. In the end, while I engage with recent theories of interpretation within game studies, the core of the essay pursues a viable, political reading of Molleindustria's haunting, remarkable dream.
- ArticleInside Out of the Box: Default Settings and Electronic PoeticsHeckman, Davin (2010)Developing meaningful approaches to criticism appropriate to new modes of cultural production is among the most pressing problems facing the humanities scholars today. This essay discusses digital poetry as a method of revealing defaults in a technical age. It begins with a general definition of the default, followed by a close reading of Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die (2006) and David Jhave Johnston’s Interstitial (2006) as works that challenge default settings: practically, by opening up the space for criticism within digital practice, and philosophically, by engaging with questions of mortality. Through these poetic works, I trace a path through larger social and philosophical questions about technology via Heidegger and the contemporary discourses of technoscience and posthumanism. I conclude with a discussion of the “black box” as a metaphor for an unresolved knowledge of the human between the technical and the poetic.
- ArticlePerformative Reading: Attending THE LAST PERFORMANCE [DOT ORG]Rettberg, Scott (2010)The Last Performance [dot org] by Judd Morrissey, Mark Jeffrey, the Goat Island Collective, and more than 100 other contributors, is a work of database literature that exists in a number of different manifestations online, in performance, and in museum installations. The work-in-progress was initiated in 2008. It was composed using a constraint-driven collaborative writing process that invites user contributions. In this essay, Scott Rettberg considers the difficulties of attempting a close reading of this type of electronic literature, and suggests some strategies for attentive reading, driven by close reading of fragments of the work and awareness of how the work functions as a computational and narrative system.
- ArticleThe Monstrous Book and the Manufactured Body in the Late Age of Print: Material Strategies for Innovative Fiction in Shelley Jackson’s PATCHWORK GIRL and Steve Tomasula’s VAS: AN OPERA IN FLATLANDVincler, John M. (2010)In recent decades a growing number of innovative writers have begun exploring the possibility of creating new literary forms through the use of digital technology. Yet literary production and reception does not occur in a vacuum. Print culture is five hundred years in the making, and thus new literary forms must contend with readers’ expectations and habits shaped by print. Shelley Jackson’s hyptertextual novel Patchwork Girl and Steve Tomasula’s innovative print novel Vas: An Opera in Flatland both problematize the conventions of how book and reader interact. In both works an enfolding occurs wherein the notion of the body and the book are taken in counterpoint and become productively confused. Jackson’s book, alluding to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is about a monster composed of various bodies while the book itself is also a monstrous text: a nonlinear patchwork of links across networks of words and images. Tomasula’s Vas—alluding to Edwin Abbott Abbott’s 1884 satire, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions—is set in “Flatland” foregrounding the two-dimensional materiality of the page, all while the linear novel within the pages of Vas is under siege by supplementary information about the body in the form of collaged digital images, scientific facts, and historical citations that address such issues as body modification, in vitro fertilization, genetic code, and DNA. Both Vas and Patchwork Girl can be read as exemplary works in the late age of print, in part, because they effectively foreground the materiality of the book, while radically transforming the conventions of the book. In so doing, both works utilize paratextual and extratextual elements. Literary production and reception does not occur in a vacuum. Print culture is five hundred years in the making, and thus new literary forms must contend with readers’ expectations and habits shaped by print. Shelley Jackson’s hyptertextual digital novel Patchwork Girl and Steve Tomasula’s innovative print novel VAS: An Opera in Flatland both problematize the conventions of how book and reader interact. In both works an enfolding occurs wherein the notion of the body and the book are taken in counterpoint and become productively confused. This calls attention to what I will call a dual dualism, a circuit of interaction between mind and body and the literary work and its interface (most commonly a printed book). Within this circuit, it is envisioned that the body engages with the book to facilitate the mind engaging with the literary work. Patchwork Girl and VAS problematize this dual dualism as their authors simultaneously exploit it for literary effect.
- ArticleUnderstanding New Media Art Through Close Reading: Four Remarks on Digital HermeneuticsSimanowski, Roberto (2010)With the increasing importance of digital media in all areas of social and cultural life, it is necessary to define a conceptual framework for understanding the social changes it generates. This implies to introduce students and readers to the new methods of critically interacting with media in digital culture. Conference presentations and publications develop the theoretical background and methods needed in scholarship and education to approach the new topics. At various universities, scholars discuss the consequences of such developments under the umbrella terms of digital literacy, digital humanities, or “electracy.” Nevertheless, scholars also must concentrate on the aesthetic aspects of digital media, investigating in new artistic genres emerging from or changes in existing genres brought about by digital media. This, however, should not happen on the ground of a metatheoretical discussion or thematic reading, as was common in the 1990s, when the understanding of the technology (such as hypertext) as the embodiment of contemporary critical theory distracted critical attention for the actual work and led to misinterpretations of the theory applied in favor of establishing a link between this theory and technology. It is important not to reduce any specific example of digital art to the status of typical representative of some aspect of digital media or of some genre of digital art. It is time to pay attention to the specificities of particular works. This does not mean that we should abstain from discussing a specific work as an example of a genre, or try to refrain from understand a genre itself as a signifying form in contemporary culture. If close reading aims at critical reading, making generalizations and suggestions concerning certain interdependencies between the particular artifact and the broader cultural situation will be inevitable. The crucial questions are where one starts, how much attention is paid to the work at hand and what, first of all, are the central aspects of a hermeneutic perspective in digital media. The following text proposes a few general ideas towards the development of digital hermeneutics.