Electronic Literature at UiB!

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This post conveys information for DIKULT 203, Electronic Literature. You’ll find here a course description, our reading schedule, assignments, grading rubrics, and links to electronic literature collections and coding resources.

Screen shot of Jim Andrews' "Aleph Null," a work of visual poetry.

Screen shot of Jim Andrews’ “Aleph Null,” a work of visual poetry.

I’m Professor Kathi Inman Berens, a Fulbright Scholar visiting UiB from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I earned my Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. You can learn more about me here. My office hours will be Thursdays 9-10AM in HF Building 235a. I am also available at other times; email me at kathiberens at gmail dot com to set up an appointment. I’d like to meet with each of you at least once this term. Our class meets Tuesdays in Datalab 124, Thursdays Group Room O.

The University of Bergen is home to the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, an ambitious database archive of seven thousand cross-referenced records of electronic literature. We will each contribute one entry to the ELMCIP knowledge base. You’ll also write a “close reading” analysis of a work of e-lit, make your own adaptation of the poetry generator Taroko Gorge, collaborate on a “locative” story that we’ll set here in Bergen near campus. Together we’ll conceptualize that story, build it, play it using our mobile devices, then write about it.

This is UiB’s official description of DIKULT203’s requirements and guidelines.

Reading Schedule

Here is the Reading Schedule.

UiB mandates about 1000 pages of reading. We should measure our time in hours rather than print pages. Longer works of e-lit on this syllabus might take 3 hours to read and 2 more hours to write notes and compare to other works. Shorter works will vary in duration. The criticism will aid you in contextualizing the e-lit and will deepen your knowledge of e-literature’s medial fragility and the challenge of preserving access to it, and e-lit’s emerging role in the canon of literature.

I am a good teacher of writing. We’ll approach e-literature texts as objects for you to emulate, remix, rip off and analyze.

Emerson, Lori. 2013. Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. Minnesota University Press.

Pressman, Jessica. 2014. Digital Modernism: Making It New in New Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ryan, Marie-Laure, Lori Emerson and Benjamin Robertson: The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. 2014. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Strickland, Stephanie. 2014. V: WaveTercets/Losing L’Una (second edition). Denver: Spring Gun Press.

Online Archives
Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1
Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 2
ELMCIP Knowledge Base
I Love E-Poetry
Electronic Poetry Center
Eastgate Systems
Authoring Software

Course Description: What is Electronic Literature?

At the simplest level, it’s a collaborative experience you initiate between yourself, a computer, software, and the artist’s designed concept. Often but not always, these experiences convey a story; sometimes words do different kinds of expressive work than the semantic work we’re accustomed to in print-based media, where the materiality of words is usually invisible. Sometimes, as in Jim Andrews’ visual poetry I’ve captured above in this post’s thumbnail image, there are no words or letters at all.

In print media, words are the vessels of “ideas,” but in electronic literature the medium (animation, text, image, sound, touch) is as much an expressive part of the art as the “ideas.” Ideas are never unaffected by the medium in which they are conveyed. E-lit works “perform on request” (Ted Nelson, cited in Scott Rettberg (“Electronic Literature,” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, 2014), and YOU the reader convey that “request” by touching the computer through keyboard, touchpad, screen or mouse. We’ll investigate “the literary” as a type of experience that may or may not involve words, but which is one way or another about “writing,” even if the writing we examine is source code and its outputs.

E-books are not electronic literature. E-books are printed stories converted to digital display for convenience, so they can be stored and read on portable digital devices. Electronic literature requires an algorithm to run. It “performs,” and so do you, actively shaping your experience of the story, or understanding the limits of your agency as a reader to intervene in that particular story’s machinic process. I’ll teach you how to classify electronic literature according to platform, interactivity and genre; but as you read entries in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, you’ll see that even the same work can be classified differently depending on how readers engage it. (See, for example, Roberto Simanowski’s short illustration of this dilemma on p. 135, “The Double Life of Texts.”)

Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will have:

    an overview of the history and genres of electronic literature
    familiarity with key works of hypertext fiction, digital poetry, and interactive fiction.
    an understanding of how visual, kinetic, temporal and interactive features work in narrative and poetry in electronic literature, and how they complicate our understandings of the reader and of the literary in general
    an understanding of the basic principle within the programming.

After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

    apply theories about electronic literature in their own interpretations of specific works
    reflect upon their own creative practice and use feedback to improve their work
    write specifically for digital environments
    grasp elementary principles of programming
    understand coding and design as elements of writing practice.


Course Work
There are two compulsory activities leading up to the assessed final project.

1) Students will participate in a collaborative practical project
2) Each student will choose a work of electronic literature to they present orally to the class and write a critical description of at least 400 words

In order to take the exam it is required that the student has participated in at least 75 percent of the teaching and classroom activities. Course participation is approved by the course leader.

More detailed presentations of compulsory and semester assignments will be presented on the student portal.

Final Projects
Students can choose between two alternative assignment types:

1) Create a work of electronic literature and write an introduction to the work of 1,500 words that sets it in a critical context.

2) Write a comparative analysis of two works of electronic literature, 4000 words in length.

Teaching Methods

There are sixteen lectures and eight sessions in the lab over thirteen weeks. In addition, each student will have one supervision meeting with the lecturer in connection with semester thesis.

Because we are collaboratively building a locative work of e-lit, sometimes our “lab” will be outside on the sites testing our project. You will also be expected to attend Prof. Inman Berens’ lecture at the Bergen Public Library Thursday, Nov. 4th at 7PM.

In our instructor-led labs, some of them co-conducted with Professor Scott Rettberg, we will creatively blend experimental conceptual work and practical digital techniques.

Each student will have one supervision meeting with the lecturer in connection with semester thesis.

Assessment Methods

Students can choose between two alternative assignment types:
1) Create a work of electronic literature and write an introduction to the work of 1,500 words that sets it in a critical context.
2) Write a comparative analysis of two works of electronic literature, 4000 words in length.

Grading Scale
Grade scale A-F.

I look forward to working with you!

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Our Adjuncts, Ourselves: My Stand for MLA Executive Council

Posted by admin in MLA | 1 Comment

I would be the second adjunct elected to the Modern Language Association Executive Council.

Elections open shortly and will run through fall 2014.

I joined MLA as a graduate student in 1996. A bunch of us from Berkeley went to the DC convention where we joked sotto voce about committing suicide during job interviews. Our advisors thought jobs weren’t surfacing because we weren’t working hard enough or were otherwise blowing it. Our feet felt the tremors that became the full-blown job crisis. MLA was a club we couldn’t get into, but in 1996 senior faculty didn’t see these failures or long delays as systemic.

Today, MLA is more heterogeneous. As an adjunct I’ve convened three panels at successive MLA conventions, which would have been unthinkable in the 90s (“Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom” with Brian Croxall in 2012, “The Classroom as Interface” in 2013, “E-Literature Translations: Platform, Database, Language” in 2014).

The 1976 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves with image from New Faculty Majority: http://www.newfacultymajority.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Students.png

The 1976 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves with image from New Faculty Majority: http://www.newfacultymajority.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Students.png

Of course, the professoriate is transformed. Even those with full time jobs or coveted tenure positions are living in a world shattered by adjunctification. Adjuncts now comprise up to 70% of new hires, and are working too hard and too precariously to agitate individually for change. That’s why organizations like New Faculty Majority, Adjunct Nation and Adjunct Action are important inroads to collective labor, and why The Adjunct Project is valuable crowdsourced information. At Maria Maisto‘s urging, the U.S. House of Representatives investigated adjunct working conditions and issued The Just-In-Time Professor report in January 2014. Some critics would wish MLA to act with the purpose of a labor organization, but MLA’s mandate is wider than that.

I ask you to vote me onto the MLA Executive Council because I have firsthand experience of professional power and weakness, and that sensitizes me to aspects of our profession that should factor into our decision making as we move forward. A scholar and curator of electronic literature, I begin my Fulbright year at University of Bergen’s Digital Culture Research Group in August 2014. I’m a bridge builder with a successful practice of collaboration. I’ve made feminist choices for family and lifestyle above prestige. In 1998 I chose the city I wanted to live in — Los Angeles — then found work as a NTT professor of writing. In 2009 our family relocated 1000 miles north of my job, and I developed skills in virtual classroom software so I could continue working part-time at USC, moving to the Communication School from the Dornsife College of Arts and Sciences. I won an IBM Faculty Award in 2012 for my work in virtual classroom software and was appointed to the Annenberg Innovation Lab.

I haven’t spoken out much as an adjunct because I was afraid I would lose these things.

Earning a lot less than I used to prompted me to strategize how my research could be valuable outside of academia. Since becoming an adjunct, I’ve earned about the same amount of money consulting as I do teaching. Adjuncts are underemployed in the academy, but our story skills are in demand outside it. An Ignite talk I delivered to the Technology Association of Oregon (see embedded video below) is one example of how my research speaks to media professionals. Even as we oppose adjunctification, MLA would do well to train members to discern whether their expertise finds application outside of academia. Colleagues in almost all other academic disciplines supplement their incomes this way.

Consulting isn’t a panacea. Some MLA members would never wish to work outside academia. Not all literature scholars have research interests that clients will pay to engage. Understood. But the powerlessness my cohort felt in 1996 is answered by a responsive MLA in 2014 that issues new recommendations for doctoral study, opens access to the Job Information List, includes contingent laborers, and actively diversifies its executive leadership. Rosemary Feal’s invitation to stand for the Executive Council suggests MLA’s openness to scholarly careers like mine that evolve in unusual ways. Many of us today have such careers. The ethos of open access publication and the outreach of 4Humanities are borne of a similar drive to make the work of the humanities more visible and publicly relevant.

Vote for me, and you’d have an advocate who has made personal choices about living wages and work/life balance; who believes in social justice and works for it; who is passionately engaged in her own research and the vibrant communities it touches. This is a crucial moment in MLA’s long history. My career and those of many of my friends are testament that it’s not too late to find support for your research even if you didn’t walk that path from the beginning. MLA’s invitation to stand acknowledges that scholars may draw from a diverse set of priorities when establishing their own paths, and that in 2014 our profession might be the richer for it.


[Link forthcoming when ballot goes live.]

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Support new Creative Writing Forum at MLA by June 15!

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Many e-lit artists belong to the Modern Language Association, the largest advocacy group for scholars and teachers of literature and languages in higher education. We in electronic literature have a rare opportunity to form with other creative writers an official MLA Forum devoted to Creative Writing, “RCWS Creative Writing.” [RCWS = Rhetoric Composition and Writing Studies.] If this proposed Forum can acquire 35 signatures by JUNE 15th, MLA will give access to advocates of creative writing a guaranteed SPEAKING ROLE in MLA governance and at each annual Convention.

Creative Writers Activate!

Creative Writers Activate!

Bethany Nowviskie, president of the Association for Computers and the Humanities, teaches us by her leadership that bureaucratic change is Archimedes’ Lever. If you’re one of those people who says, “it’s not ‘digital humanities,’ just “humanities,” or who wishes e-literature to find support beyond the digerati — this is one important way to give e-lit a lever in MLA and in higher ed per se.

It’s easy! SIGN THE PETITION to support the creation of this Creative Writing Forum, which will draw together artists publishing in digital, print and hybrid forms. Here are the conditions:
1. You must be a MLA member.
2. You’ll need an account on MLA Commons, which is free and takes just moments to create.

Do you believe in MAKING AS A CRITICAL PRACTICE? Support this Forum and share the petition widely in your circles. This is another great opportunity for e-lit artists and advocates to join superpowers with others articulating a role for MAKING as critical expertise. Wonder Twin powers activate!

If formed, what are RCWS Creative Writing Forum responsibilities?
1. A 5-member Founding Exec Committee will create a letter of application (2-5 pages) presenting the Forum’s goals by 15 September 2014.
2. Those 5 people will create calls for works at subsequent MLAs after the group is approved.
3. The workload will be staggered and balanced among the 5 committee members.

It’s been 40 YEARS since MLA revised its structure specialties or advocacy groups. Gone are the confusing distinctions between MLA “divisions” and “groups”.

Cheryl Ball says: “[I]t was a FIGHT to get [MLA] to even make this group, let alone push forward the creative writing forum within it. Most MLAers assume [creative writers] just go to AWP [Association of Writers and Writing Programs]. And they might, but I think the real theoretical work of e-literature happens at MLA instead (as far as *big* conferences go).”

To quote another superhero: Make it so.

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Disperse the Light

Posted by admin in curation, Electronic Literature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disperse the Light

ELO 2014 Media Arts Show June 19-21, 2014 in Milwaukee, WI
Kathi Inman Berens, Curator

The Media Arts Show runs June 19-21 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Golda Meir Library.  Poster by Talan Memmott.

The Media Arts Show runs June 19-21 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library. Poster by Talan Memmott.

Now, when almost all writing is done digitally and when easy-to-use tools empower anybody with a socket to “make stuff,” the Electronic Literature Organization asks: what makes us different? Fifty responses to that question by artists from around the world converge for eighteen hours of live, on-site access at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library. Many of these works are not available in a browser: whether its a program exploring the expressive potential of pi, or a motion-based story you make via Kinect, a MIDI sound mixer, a tablet and a computer, or a “Vniverse” that fits in your pocket: many of the works we’re exhibiting can’t be accessed in a browser. Visit the Media Arts Show in the Digital Humanities Lab 9AM-5PM Thursday and Friday June 19 and 20; 10-12noon Saturday June 21. Description of all works and linked access to browser-based art will be permanently archived on the ELO14 website for the conference HOLD THE LIGHT.

The Media Arts Show is free and open to the public.

Artists from France, Poland, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Ireland, Slovakia, Hong Kong, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States will exhibit work. Artists will be on-site for two Media Arts Demo Sessions Thursday June 19 2PM-3:30 and Friday June 20th 9AM-10:30. They’ll talk informally with guests as guests wander the floor and interact with their works. Demo sessions are free and open to the public.

Evenings of Performance will start at 7:30PM Wednesday at the Hilton Doubletree, Thursday at the Golda Meir Library and Friday at the Doubletree. Evening shows are free and open to the public. Schedule of performers is forthcoming.

We who are steeped in “Acid Free Bits” understand more than most the ephemerality of digital art. This show is a stay against that, a moment we’ll stretch to accommodate our passion for literary discovery and play. An aubade.

The Featured Works of the ELO 2014 Media Arts Show

anna anthropy — And the Robot Horse You Rode In On
Abraham Avnisan — quantum collocation: experimental poems for the iPad
John Barber — Radio ELO
Joel Beeson & Dana Coester — War Poems: Critical Race Theory in Database Narrative in Digital Public Histories
Alan Bigelow — My Life in Three Parts
Jim Bizzocchi — ReCycle 3
Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher — Abra
Mez Breeze — Wish4[0]
Andy Campbell & Christine Wilks — Inkubus
Dana Coester — The Reverberatory Narrative: Toward Story as a Multi-Sensory Network
M.D. Coverley — Fukushima Pin-Up Girl
Luc Dall’Armellina — HD Project
Claire Donato — Claire Donato’s “We Discuss Disgust: ’Patafeminism Rides The Digital Abject: Cixous, Kristeva, Lispector, Jackson, Hayles, Damon, Lorde, and Others”
Pierre Fourny (ALIS Company), Serge Bouchardon & Luc Dall’Armellina (i-Trace Collective) — La Séparation/Separation
Natalia Fedorova — Digital Lettrism
Natalia Fedorova, Taras Mashtalir, and Daniel Johnson — Objective Poet: Multimedia Sculpture
Caitlin Fisher — Cardamom of the Dead
Christopher Funkhouser — #4ArtForFreedom
Jacob Garbe & Aaron Reed — Ice Bound
Ben Grosser — ScareMail
Carolyn Guertin & Katherine Jin — Wandering Mei Mei
Tully Hansen — Writing
Daniel Howe — AdLiPo
David “Jhave” Johnston — Give Me Your Light
Jeff T. Johnson & Andrew Klobucar — LETTERS FROM THE ARCHIVERSE
Eric LeMay — The Montaigne Machine
Silvio Lorussio — Douglas Rushkoff’s New Book
Will Luers, Hazel Smith, Roger Dean — Motions
Judy Malloy — And Speak of Long Ago Times [part VI of From Ireland With Letters]
Piotr Marecki & Aleksandra Malecka — The Postulate to Hyperdescribe the World: Film Poems by Katarzyna Giełżyńska
Mark C. Marino & Family — Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House: The Mysterious Floor
Mark C. Marino & Rob Wittig and many participants — Speidishow
Stacey Mason — Stop & Smell
Maria Mencia, Jeneen Naji, Christine Wilks, Zuzana Husárová — Upside-Down Chandelier
Joe Milutis — Stéphane Mallarmé’s The Conversation
Nick Montfort — Round
Judd Morrissey — The Operature
Kathleen Ottinger — Best.Hello
Joseph Peters — (Re)Playing the Lottery
Scott Rettberg & Roderick Coover — TOXI-City
Chris Rodley & Andrew Burrell — Everything Will Be OK
Johanna Rodgers — DNA: a Digital Fiction Project
Jim Rosenberg — Inframergence
Anastasia Salter & John Murray — View From Within
Catherine Siller — Not-Not
Stephanie Strickland & Ian Hatcher — Vniverse [adapted to iOS]
Eric Suzanne (né Meyer) — Post-Obsolete Book
Steven Wingate — daddylabyrinth
Rob Wittig & Mark C. Marino — The Mission [Statement]

Dozens of new electronic literature writers answered my call for submissions to the Gallery of E-Lit 1st Encounters. A warm welcome to all who submitted; artists from Mexico, Italy, Germany, Australia and the U.S. submitted work that captured the attention of the jurors. These works will be featured on one machine at the Media Arts Show and permanently archived on the ELO14 website.

Gallery of E-Lit 1st Encounters

Nichole Arvin –Traces
Chester Cunanan — wanted:Guild
Gabriel [Marquet] & Augusto [Wolfson] — Anacrón: hipótesis de producto todo
Dominique Giles — Don’t Panic
William Hicks — Symmetries
Morgan Hutchinson — Rea and the Squaw
Jaci Jones, Jason Robbins, Tyler Downey — @SONNETONEFOUR
mic mac — ION 1
Lans Pacifico — A Certain Slant of Light, Typographically Speaking
Marion Schwehr — #OutOfBlue
Hiram Sims & Steven Newell– Bridle Your Tongue

Art is one part of the Media Arts show. Community is another.

Many people at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who’d not previously been involved with ELO have unstintingly offered their expertise, time and resources. Ann Hanlon of the DH Lab secured ideal physical settings for the show and procured all of the equipment we borrowed, from computers to partitions to high-frequency microphone receptors, display tables, HD monitors and power strips. She and Matt Russell have championed this show. Without them it wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you, Ann and Matt, for being ideal partners.

UWM students, faculty and staff answered a call for assistance I posted on my website, and generously volunteered to aid with installation, supervision of art and machines, docenting, video recording evenings of performance, and show breakdown. Thank you Renato Umali, Joseph Donelan, Kris Purzycki, Tyler Smith, Rachael Sullivan, Cristina Ossers, Hal Hinderliter, Jed Fudally, Eddie Danecki, Jim Burling, Justin Schumaker and Chris Williams.

Jurors Jonathan Baillehache, John Barber, Alan Bigelow, Jim Bizzocchi, Stephanie Boluk, Amaranth Borsuk, Jim Brown, Odile Farge, Caitlin Fisher, Jerome Fletcher, Leonardo Flores, Jacob Garbe, Susan Garfinkel, Samantha Gorman, Claudia Kozak, Eric LeMay, Adam Liszkiewicz, Erik Loyer, Will Luers, Stacey Mason, Jeneen Naji, Aaron Reed, Anastasia Salter, Illya Szilak, Yra van Dijk, and Zach Whalen wrote brilliant and nuanced evaluations that became the core of the media arts selection process. Thank you.

Thanks also to ELO President Dene Grigar, who taught me about curating and brings e-literature to a broad audience, and ELO14 Program Committee co-chairs Sandy Baldwin and Marjorie Luesebrink, with whom I’m honored to work. Finally I commend and thank our host at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Stuart Moulthrop, whose acumen and goodwill helmed this year-long endeavor.

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Want to work a Media Arts Show? Here’s How!

Posted by admin in curation, Electronic Literature | 1 Comment

Join a team installing a Media Arts show at Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukeee June 17-21!

Volunteers will get insider experience building a media arts exhibit featuring 48 interactive, hands-on works!

Volunteers will get insider experience building a media arts exhibit featuring 48 interactive, hands-on works!

The Electronic Literature Organization’s 2014 Media Arts Show, running in conjunction with ELO’s HOLD THE LIGHT conference, will feature 48 new works of multimodal interactive art. The exhibit JUNE 19, 20 & 21, will be co-located in two rooms at the UWM’s Golda Meir Library: the Digital Humanities Lab, and the 4th Floor Conference space.

I seek six docents and one social media manager. Volunteer for some or all of the date range, June 17-21. Learn the step-by-step process of installing artworks on computers, and how to design the physical experience moving guests station-to-station. Meet artists from around the world, and play for yourself some of the most innovative digital art happening anywhere. Curious about oculus rift? Or how stories shift from screen to wall to body and back again? Come hang with us and be part of building a one-of-a-kind art show.

Students with computer experience are welcome, but it’s not necessary. The social media manager would ideally have experience messaging on behalf of a student group or other entity.

As curator, I’ll work on all elements, from social media down to finding power strips, so no student will be asked to do a job and then “left alone” to figure it out. We’ll collaborate! It’s a lot of fun — the energy, excitement & adrenalin of building to launch at 9AM Thursday 6/19. Here’s the timeline.

–create a social media presence for the ELO14 Media Arts exhibit on Twitter, Instragram & Facebook. Goal: drive foot traffic.

SETTING UP Tues. 6/17 10-5 and Wed. 6/18 10-5
–configure the desktop on the UWM machines we’re borrowing to foreground the featured works (I can teach this);
–load some software made by the artists onto the UWM machines. I have instructions from the artists.
–arrange the computers on tables to promote physical flow through the exhibit space;
–create & print signage directing flow of traffic within GML
–create & print signage to hang outside of GML to attract attention to the show and entice people to come in

DURING EXHIBIT Thurs. 6/19 & Fri. 6/20 9AM-5PM; Sat. 10AM-12PM
–supervise equipment to prevent theft or other forms of tampering
–create temporary exhibit space where artists will demo their works during two 90-minute informal “demo” sessions
–alert the curator if a machine is not operating properly
–count the number of guests
–direct guests to the other part of the exhibit in GML
–monitor social media streams
–generate “livetweets” depicting guests engaging art, comments you overhear, artists discussing their work, etc.
–From 7-7:30PM on Thurs. June 19, be around to troubleshoot the Evening of Performances at Curtin Hall on Thursday 19 June.
–Ideally, a student would wish to video document this show. We’d be delighted to meet someone who’d help us videotape one or more of the Evening Performances!

–remove installed artwork from machines
–[artists are responsible for removing their own installations on 4th floor]
–restore desktops to original condition
–put away borrowed items like table cloths, powerstrips, cords, adapters, etc.
–remove signage
–make the space look identical to the condition in which we found it! :)

INTERESTED? Send me an email: kathiberens at gmail dot comalong. In the subject line write: ELO14 DOCENT. Tell me why you’d like to be a docent and what skills you bring to the project. Approximately 50-100 words.

I’ll write LETTERS OF COMMENDATION thanking students and detailing their work experience on this project. For exceptional workers, I will act as a personal reference.

Thanks for your time!
–Kathi Inman Berens, Ph.D.
ELO 2014 Media Arts Curator

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Authenticity in Distributed Networks: a #MLA15 Proposal

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“Authenticity in Distributed Networks” is a deep dive into how humans and machines collaborate to make or adjudicate authenticity. Machines “authenticate” information, but without consciousness. Humans derive authenticity from cognitive and embodied processes; consciousness is a gatekeeper, confirming or disconfirming information. Although machines lack consciousness, their collaboration with humans in rendering authenticity is not simply instrumental. It’s co-constitutive. Katherine Hayles names this co-evolutionary process “technogenesis.” Hayles’ How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis historicizes the co-evolution and argues persuasively that techne and cognition interoperate on mutual terms. Technogenesis decenters the ontological priority of humans. Hayles illustrates: “The process of writing down was an integral part of [Richard Feynman's] thinking,” she observes of the physicist. “[T]he paper and pencil were as much a part of his cognitive system as the neurons firing in his brain” (93).

Will Luers' "Fingerband" at the exhibit Les littératures numérique d'hier à demain at the BNF in Paris, September 2013.

Will Luers’ “Fingerband” at the exhibit Les littératures numérique d’hier à demain at the BNF in Paris, September 2013.

The five scholars on this panel hail from engineering, media studies, music performance, literature, and game design. We share a conviction that literary performance in computational environments requires a broad range of expertise to surmise authenticity, and that authenticity is a complex node.

We trace how information circulates between readers, computational environments, texts, and authors. The logics of such circulation recalls Reader Response Theory, where mechanistic explanations of the how texts operate aimed — and failed — to universalize experience. Consider this panel one “Site of Memory” that “Negotiates” our discipline’s past “with a difference.” Our approach to new medial environments understands they are perforce racial, gendered, and colonialized. There is no such thing as “purely formal” mechanisms. Among the “sites of memory” this panel excavates is the history of twentieth-century literary formalism and critical identity theory.

Drs. Luigi Benedicenti and Sheila Petty — an electrical engineer and a media lab director — explore the challenges of measuring “authenticity” in digital cultural objects, and in particular, in screen-based interfaces. They offer their experience using découpage analytique, a term derived from cinema that involves shot by shot analysis of visual composition, editing, narrative and sound in a holistic approach in a pilot study on screen-based interfaces. They selected a series of media fragments that include poetic, visual, and language texts, as well as those that combine these features, and presented them on a variety of screens: a computer monitor, 2 tablet computers, and a touch-screen phone. They examined the cognitive and aesthetic features of how a particular genre (an essay, a sonnet, a net art project) is experienced on each platform and whether the essence of its content is altered or influenced. Benedicenti and Petty ask whether it is possible, or even desirable, to achieve “authenticity” and what it would mean for the text, reader, author when we must create adapted versions of the texts for different digital devices. Additional factors in the cognitive process such as culture, race, gender and sexual orientation (among others) of the reader could impact “authenticity.”

OccupyMLA excited a contentious reception on the #MLA13 hashtag and in the Chronicle of Higher Education, where people debated whether the “hoax” violated the implied gift economy that is the MLA Twitter community. Of the hundreds of OMLA participants, only the two designers Marino and Wittig knew it to be a “fiction”; the vast majority of co-authors contributed “not-fiction” to this “fictional” work. Several prominent female participants pointed out that the “hoax” quality of OMLA reinforced female vulnerability. Kathi Inman Berens reconstructs how the OMLA archive memorializes the live installation. A platform of immediacy and partial attention, Twitter-as-story site is susceptible to human errors of attention and memory that the network “remembers” and propagates indiscriminately. The #OMLA medial spread circulated far beyond OMLA and the authors’ control: so widely, in fact, that the shattershot of its medial impression is functionally unrecoverable. The OMLA archive, juxtaposed against frail but distributed human recollection of its live installation, reveals the ways in which an archive is also a repository of lost or unfindable stories.

Can browser-based activist art reframe how people understand the “authenticity” of information? A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz‘s Mark Ditto Mark, a Chrome browser extension co-authored with Lucas Miller, transforms the Internet into a conceptual novel by replacing the proper nouns on a webpage with either “Mark” or “Ditto.” The effect is arresting: information we seek gets co-opted by “Mark Ditto,” who “replicates” himself where ever you go. People commonly refer to an active browser as a “window,” as if it provides them a fixed view of an exterior world—behind glass, one they cannot touch—instead of actively offering an interpretation of data. This talk reframes the browser window as a space of critical and artistic intervention. By automatically injecting JavaScript into each webpage, browser extensions can rewrite the narrative of the entire Internet while still preserving its underlying information, giving readers a critical purchase on the “authenticity” of the self constructed by and through the browser.

“New forms of technology-based performance can bring attention to significant qualities of human experience that we only notice when technology disrupts them,” observes Jeff Morris, Studio Director in the Performance Technology program at Texas A&M. “In such a performance, elements inherent in traditional performance do not appear without deliberate design. Bringing attention to the previously unappreciated elements of live performance allows us to see any musical performance as more than a sequence of sounds, but an intermedial experience involving visuals and movement, and playing upon pre-conditioned expectations. As such, “music” becomes literary, where literary reading tools disclose new dimensions of digital music performance. Weblogmusic compels performers and audiences to notice and question how they feel about (human) presence and authenticity in “turn-based” communications formats: its “born digital” events only really exist in the viewer’s web browser, in that moment. Network glitches and shuffling mean that each performance will be unique, that the appearance of causality is suspect, and that there can be no master copy. These properties allow us to reflect on how we value the substance of a work and where we look for it.

Hayles, N.Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2012.

Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford and Josh Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: NYU Press. 2013.

Luigi Benedicenti is a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Regina. Benedicenti received his Laurea in Electrical Engineering and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Genoa, Italy. He is a Professional Engineer licensed in Saskatchewan and a licensed Italian Engineer. His collaborative network extends beyond Saskatchewan with TRLabs and IEEE, and Canada through collaborative work with colleagues in Europe, South East Asia, and North America. Benedicenti’s current research is in three areas: Software Agents, Software Metrics, and New Media Technology. He envisions the unification of platform, tools, and optimizations for the provision of persistent distributed digital services, regardless of people’s location and delivery device.

Sheila Petty is professor of media studies at the University of Regina (Canada). She has written extensively on issues of cultural representation, identity and nation in African and African diasporic screen media, and has curated film, television and digital media exhibitions for galleries across Canada. She is author of Contact Zones: Memory, Origin and Discourses in Black Diasporic Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2008). She is co-editor (with Blandine Stefanson) of the forthcoming World Directory of Cinema: Africa (Intellect Books). Her current research focuses on transvergent African cinemas and interpretive strategies for analyzing digital creative cultural practices. She is leader of an interdisciplinary research group and New Media Studio Laboratory spanning Computer Science, Engineering and Fine Arts.

Kathi Inman Berens lectures at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and teaches 21st-century communication practices. In 2014-15, she’ll be a Fulbright Scholar at the Digital Culture Research Group at the University of Bergen in Norway. An IBM Faculty Award Winner in 2012, Kathi is a USC Annenberg Innovation Lab Research Council member. She curates electronic literature at venues including the Library of Congress. She has articles forthcoming this year from LLC: Literary and Linguistic Computing (Oxford UP) and Hyperrhiz, and a chapter in Steve Tomasula: The Art and Science of New Media Fiction (Bloomsbury). In January she published a short piece Double Flip: 3 Insights From Flipping the Humanities Seminar in Hybrid Pedagogy.

Adam Liszkiewicz is a media artist and activist from Buffalo, NY. He designs experimental and socially conscious games with RUST LTD., coordinates development of the Tenants in Action mobile app with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), and is an assistant editor at the online journal Anti-. He is the author and editor of several chapbooks, including LL (Scharmel Iris, 2013), ALPHABET MAN (Slack Buddha, 2010) and COUNT AS ONE (New River, 2009), as well as a forthcoming full-length collection, AFEELD. Adam received an M.F.A. in Media Arts Production from SUNY Buffalo, and is currently a Provost’s Fellow in the Media Arts and Practice PhD program at the University of Southern California.

Jeff Morris is a composer and Studio Director in the Performance Technology (PerfTech) program in Texas A&M University’s Department of Performance Studies. His work centers on the impact of technological mediation on the human experience, such as expression, authenticity, and presence. It approaches the question, “In a time when human activities are increasingly replaced by machines and when machines are mediating human interactions: what does it mean to be human?—in what ways do we sense and make sense of each other’s presence?” His work includes live performances and computer software created for these environments for performance-based inquiry in venues including the International Computer Music Conference, International Society for Improvised Music conference, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, and the Triennale di Milano museum. He was a featured artist in concerts in Manhattan, Austin, and Sweden.

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How To Read the Code Story in Living Will

Posted by admin in Electronic Literature, Teaching | Leave a comment
Access Living Will: http://markcmarino.com/tales/livingwill.html

Access Living Will: http://markcmarino.com/tales/livingwill.html

At bottom of doc, click on "tutorial" in line 157.

At bottom of doc, click on “tutorial” in line 157.

Living Will-3

This is one of the webpages the Living Will source code produces.  The story is rife with allusions & metacritical commentary: squarely in the tradition of literary modernism.

This is one of the webpages the Living Will source code produces. The story is rife with allusions & metacritical commentary: squarely in the tradition of literary modernism.

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CFP: “Authenticity in Distributed Networks”

Posted by admin in Electronic Literature, MLA, Transmedia | Tagged | 1 Comment

At MLA 2015, to be held Jan. 8-11 in Vancouver, Canada, I wish to convene a Special Session panel that interrogates how distributed networks of human and non-human agents disclose new dimensions of “authenticity.”

Referring to the material substrate that “authenticates” data “integrity” and also to the identity performances such data manifests, this panel seeks talks that explore how medial form, coterie performance, literary output and digital forensics collaborate with and sometimes “corrupt” each other.

I particularly welcome papers from scholars who may not be working with digital art as their primary texts nor identify as “digital humanists,” but whose research works in tandem or productive tension with ideas in this call.

Image by Jonathan Yule. Check out his awesomeness in the Works Cited below.

“Helbotica” by Jonathan Yule. Check out link in the Works Cited below.

Originating in court intrigues, coterie texts have always been “encoded”: a surface story unlocks greater meaning for those who can decrypt its signs. As communities of literary practice, coteries evolve a private language that may or may not tell itself in literary “output,” and craft rules of participation that police who’s in and who’s out.

Rebecca Sutton Koeser and Brian Croxall’s “Networking the Belfast Group” reveals some ways in which databases can defamiliarize received histories of coterie practice. Using automated semantic enhancement of digitized letters and poems, Sutton Koeser and Croxall note in their preliminary results: “[I]t becomes apparent that literary histories often underrepresent those who might be considered part of the Group. Women such as Marie Heaney and Edna Longley, who played a more supporting role in the Group, and the poet Medbh McGuckian, who did not participate in the Group at all, are ultimately central to the network surrounding it.”

The distributed aesthetics of a Netprov, a bot performance, a hybrid classroom, a set of mobile stories pinned to (psycho)geographic location, text messages projected ephemerally onto public space: all of these prompt new reception practices that adjudicate between database and human capacities for memory and association. “Arts practices that are participative and discursive, multimodal, multiplatform and multi-sited exceed the performative,” Rita Raley suggests. Individually, such works are “really only intuitively legible under the rubric of ‘project’ itself. A project, however, is singular whereas a practice is reiterative. It functions within a certain material structure that is sharable and translatable to different contexts, and it is that structure that is available to critical scrutiny” (10).

“Sites of memory can be lost and, sometimes, partially remembered according to nonlinear temporalities,” Margaret Ferguson writes in “Negotiating Sites Of Memory,” the 2015 MLA Presidential Theme. In an article I’m writing about a fiction installed and read in Twitter, I’m struck by how its archive of Tweets deforms or misrepresents the live experience. The enduring “memory” of this fiction’s installation is utterly unlike itself.

“The preservation of digital objects is logically inseparable from the act of their creation,” declares Matthew Kirschenbaum. “[T]he cycle between creation and preservation effectively collapses because a digital object may only ever be said to be preserved if it is accessible, and each individual access creates the object anew” (60, emphasis Kirschenbaum’s).

What is “authenticity” in these contexts?

Send 300-word abstracts and a short bio to kathiberens at gmail dot comalong by 15 March.

Ferguson, Margaret. “2015 Presidential Theme: Negotiating Sites of Memory.” Modern Language Association Convention website accessed 17 February 2014.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “The .TXTual Condition,” in Comparative Textual Media, eds. N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman. University of Minnesota Press. 2013.

Koeser, Rebecca Sutton and Brian Croxall. “Networking the Belfast Group through the Automated Semantic Enhancement of Existing Digital Content.” Journal of Digital Humanities, 2:3 (Summer 2013).

Raley, Rita. “TXTual Practice,” in Comparative Textual Media, eds. N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman. University of Minnesota Press. 2013.

Yule, Jonathan. “Helbotica.” Jonathan Yule Graphic Design website accessed 17 February 2014. Hat tip to Leonardo Flores’s I ♥ E-Poetry (linked to in text of call), where I first saw Mr. Yule’s illustration.

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Submit Art! E-Lit First Encounters due 2/15/14

Posted by admin in curation, Digital Pedagogy, Electronic Literature, Teaching | 3 Comments

Do you remix, write stories, play with image and text? Have you ever jumped into a story as it unfolds on a Twitter hashtag? If you’re a teacher, please share this with your students even if you don’t teach media making! Self-taught artists most welcome.

If you’re curious about literature being made on computers, come check out what we’re doing & share your stuff.

Jason Nelson's "Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise," a game-poem about how games flatter us.

Jason Nelson’s “Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise,” a game-poem about how games flatter us.

M.D. Coverley reading from her work-in-progress last weekend at the Chicago Arts Institute.

M.D. Coverley reading from her work-in-progress last weekend at the Chicago Institute of Art.

Electronic literature artists use a huge range of digital tools for making art. There’s no one way to do it. M.D. Coverley is telling her latest story, Fukushima Pinup Girl, in a spreadsheet. Jeremy Douglass’ poem “8 Was Where it Ended” nests 8 stanzas inside ordinary folder icons you find on your desktop. Undergraduate Lans Pacifico used TypeDrawing for iPad to “color in and over” a sketch of deer to visualize Emily Dickinson’s “A Certain Slant of Light.” Jason Nelson’s “Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise” is a playable poem that “satisfies your compliment addiction.” Adaptation, remix, re-visioning, hacking: come play in the new medial spaces of literary engagement.

If you’ve made a project, no matter how big or small, please submit it to the virtual Gallery of E-Literature First Encounters!

There’s no fee to enter, and there’s plenty of community that would dig your work.

Marylhurst student Lans Pacifico visualizes Dickinson's "A Certain Slant of Light"

Marylhurst student Lans Pacifico visualizes words from Dickinson’s “A Certain Slant of Light”

Hosted in conjunction with the 2014 conference of the Electronic Literature Organization, the virtual gallery will present works created by newcomers of all ages & backgrounds. Students, hobbyists, teachers, programmers, video artists, Twitter storytellers, folks noodling around with their devices & dreaming: Send us your stuff.

What is e-literature? Stories that change when you mess with them, as my students like to say. Stories designed to be read on a computing device and which “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer” (Hayles). If the story doesn’t respond to your interaction — if it just scrolls like an ebook — it’s not e-literature.

1) Prepare a brief statement about your work of art (200-500 words). What’s your concept? Or how did you make it? Tell us a little bit about this 1st Encounter.
2) Include a link to your art!
3) Send your submission to eliterature2014 [at] gmail [dot] com by 15 February 2014
4) Questions? Send them to eliterature2014 [at] gmail [dot] com, or post a comment below

1) Inclusion in a group of new & emerging writers
2) Access to the best new work in this wide & exciting field
3) Reflection on your work from experienced media artists, curators & scholars
4) Welcome to attend E-Literature Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee June 19-22. (No stipend for travel & expenses, but we’d welcome you warmly!)
5) Must one attend conference to be included in virtual gallery? Nope.

1) Goodwill
2) Courage to share your work
3) Cash? No — Absolutely Free

SPREAD THE WORD: Share this call with others making cool stuff!

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Enlightenment Level Up

Posted by admin in Electronic Literature | Leave a comment

Sony PlayStation 2 & The Night Journey

[I showed this 10-minute walk-thru of The Night Journey while I presented this talk at MLA 2014.]

The Night Journey (2007) is an experimental video game created by Bill Viola in collaboration with “serious” game designer Tracy Fullerton and her team at the USC Game Innovation Lab. A renown video artist, Viola’s aesthetic is characterized by slowness and a distinctive texturing of multivalent layers. As he shoots, he lingers over a subject, so to watch some of these pieces is also to watch an interpretation of time. Fullerton and her team have produced a number of highly regarded independent games including Cloud, Flower and flOw.

Translating Bill Viola’s aesthetic into a playable 3D space required Fullerton and her team to invent what she calls an “expressive geography”: a conversion of game space from a familiar one that optimizes a player’s speed and accuracy of movement through a “realistic” setting to one that adjusts responsively to the player’s movement, action and reflection. As you’ll see in the 10-minute “walk thru” I’m showing in the background as I talk, the landscape changes to reflect the gamer’s mindset as parsed by the game’s mechanics; as she moves slowly through stages of “enlightenment” the “poetic” landscape — that’s Bill Viola’s word — juxtaposes the gamer’s perceived mindset against natural cycles of decay.


Fullerton’s team manufactured the “expressive geography” in a post-production process they invented to layer video-like effects such as burn, blur, glare and interlacing on top of the 3D modeling.

An aesthetic designed to render as a playable space “the natural raw material of the human psyche,” as Bill Viola put it, will attract participants who do not consider themselves gamers. The creation of experimental and “serious” games by Fullerton, Ian Bogost, Katie Salen, Mary Flanagan, MoleIndustria, among others, is motivated in part to demonstrate that games are not inherently, in Fullerton’s words, “vapid and violent.” Like any mass culture entertainment product, games typically reward actions we might find trivial or even reprehensible. “The very evolution of the game form is imperiled by its limited cultural status, the expectations of its core community, and the exclusionary practices of its chief creatives,” declares Fullerton. The Night Journey was experiment to discover whether there is a “game mechanic for enlightenment.”

Fullerton’s spare rule set enables a subtle procedural rhetoric. The rules prohibit a fast epiphany. Even though The Night Journey‘s spiritual aspirant quests for enlightenment, Fullerton expressly rejects the “quest” game narrative in which the gamer scrambles to unlock levels and find treasure. The Night Journey enforces a slow traversal. The more you stop moving and reflect, the more you stave off darkness and earn capacity to speed up. One begins the game moving at the pace of actual pedestrians. Conventions of game worlds — such as having to dart around obstructions — don’t work here. A satisfying game reward comes early when one walk *right into* the Big Tree in the center of the canyon at the beginning of the game. That reward demonstrates what’s possible when one break with conventions of gameplay.

“Translation” means literally “to carry across.” The Night Journey is materially a multivalent translation in porting video aesthetic in to playable 3D gamespace, and its stylistic multivalence ports the aesthetic of sculptural screen art installation into the navigational possibilities afforded by the Sony PlayStation 2 game controller.

“Installation artworks are participatory sculptural environments in which the viewer’s spatial and temporal experience with the exhibition space and the various objects within it forms part of the work itself,” observes Kate Mondloch in her book Screen: Viewing Media Installation Art. “These pieces are meant to be experienced as activated spaces rather than as discrete objects: they are designed to ‘unfold’ during the spectator’s experience in time rather than to be known visually at once. Installations made with media screens are especially evocative in that as environmental, experiential sculptures, they stage temporal and spatialized encounters between viewing subjects and technological objects, between bodies and screens” (18).


Certainly the same is true in The Night Journey‘s mandala-shaped gamespace, where a durational aesthetic slows the gamer’s movement. I’m particularly struck by Mondloch’s idea of “temporal and spatialized encounters between viewing subjects and technological objects.” In typical gameplay, a controller is meant to disappear from one’s consciousness. But in a slow game like The Night Journey, gamers whose kinesthetic habits have been shaped by vibrating controllers have an opportunity to view from a distance the medial role of the PS2 as a HID — human interface device. It is from Fullerton a deliberate and physically intimate critical intervention.

Sony claims that the PlayStation2 is “the best selling game console in history, selling over 150 million units.” Whether or not history bears out Sony’s claim, 150 million is a lot of units. The physical postures and attitudes born of those engagements have shaped legion gamers. The console’s own procedural rhetoric becomes an object of interrogation as the PS2 controller is deployed strategically The Night Journey as interlocutor between gamer and machine.

The Night Journey strips the PS2 controller of vibration. Fullerton’s intervention jams gamers’ kinesthetic habits. This is a big deal because Sony invented the “DualShock” controller and vibration is one of the most information-rich conduits of feedback when one is gaming. The controller houses two motors within the handles. The left is larger and more powerful than the one on the right to allow for varying levels of vibration. Vibration is in this sense stereoscopic. Different nuances of vibration can free up the gamer’s vision and hearing, resources she can put to use anticipating next steps in the game. Vibration thus makes the feedback loops between machine, software and human even faster.

Fullerton’s decision to strip the PS2 controller of vibration in The Night Journey game space serves her high-level procedural goals to slow down and even to disorient the gamer. Typically, maps and vibration are two important features when the procedural goal is to motivate movement from one point to another and stage dramatic moments of game play.

In the first installation of The Night Journey, at SIGGRAPH 2007, Fullerton set up the game in front of a TV and gamers sat on comfy chairs. The living room setting invited gamers to pick up the PS2 and orient themselves as they would before a typical game. Fullerton told me that she watched as gamers leaned in toward the screen and used the controller to accelerate their movement through the world. But that expectation is what Fullerton has designed to The Night Journey to frustrate. Movement through the world is very slow. Only as the gamer stops motion and pauses to reflect does she earn the capacity to move more quickly. The gamer who sticks around and engages the game mechanics to trigger enlightenment experiences eventually becomes endowed with the capacity to hover then fly above the landscape. One of the game’s procedural claims is that enlightenment is a physical practice as much as it is a mental or spiritual discipline, as ancient postures of yoga, meditation and labyrinth walking disclose. That’s why its adaptation of the PS2 into a device radically unlike the one used in the Sony console is such an important piece of the game experience. Its critical intervention is procedural and embodied.

I’ve found that, playing The Night Journey for long stretches of time, lack of vibration renders the playspace lonely. It disorients me. I didn’t know until I played this game how much I rely on vibration: how gaming is a conversation facilitated by the humble HID.


Disorientation in the space serves a high-level aesthetic goal, so I expected it. But the loneliness surprised me. No vibration means I lack the computer’s confirmation of my existence in the gameworld. I didn’t understand until I played this game how much of my gaming experience is a dialog between me, software and machine, because in the games I play, I’m often moving so fast that there’s no time to feel anything other than the adrenalin of rushing.

There are other outputs that approximate one’s presence in the game, such as a haunting soundtrack that gently prompts one to reflect by rising to a crescendo, and sound effects such as feet crunching dry leaves or snow and limbs splashing water to locate one’s point-of-view in the game. Because there’s no map, these sonic cues are critical to establishing position, since the “goal” of each quadrant is to reach and enter and reflect inside the hermitage. But the lack of the controller’s gentle shake makes me feel I am in “consumption” mode; despite the gorgeous and performative sonic elements, which provide continuity, without vibration I feel like I’m simply absorbing the experience through vision and sound rather than truly traversing it.

In terms of the storyworld itself, a PS2 shorn of vibration suggests a culturally inscribed notion of the spiritual aspirant as a solipsistic hermit. Rather than “communing” with nature — a dialogic process that would be procedurally indicated by nature signaling back to me via vibration — one wanders through the space but leaves no trace at all. This is hardly how one imagines Rumi or Buddha engaging with nature as they whirled, or meditated beneath a tree.

What I would call a “poetics of frustration” operates differently in The Night Journey than in, say, some works of electronic literature where the point of the piece is to confront the reader with her own thwarted desire to make progress through the text, such as Judd Morrisey’s The Jew’s Daughter or Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia. In this case, The Night Journey‘s poetics of frustration is materialized in the quiet and still PS2.

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