How To Read the Code Story in Living Will

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Access Living Will:

Access Living Will:

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

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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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Introduction: Digital Humanities & New Media

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LIT 306E Weekly Schedule

Professor Kathi Inman Berens

Marylhurst University, Winter 2014

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

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

Stephen Ramsay, The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do With a Million Books
T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland” app

Linda Hutcheon “A Theory of Adaptation” [Chapter one, “Beginning to Theorize Adaptation, pp. 1-32.]
Lizzie Bennet Diaries — episodes 1-25
Janet Potter, Five Reasons to Watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Mr. Darcy’s Twitter

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Mark Sample, “Notes Toward a Deformed Humanities
Paul Benzon’s deformation assignment (We’ll do a variant of this. Just wanted you to see deformation from a “making” or more accurately “breaking” perspective.)

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Josh Green, Introduction to Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Jonathan Coulton‘s cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is ripped off by Glee’s uncredited copy; see also this
Andy Baio, Kind of Screwed
Johanna Blakely, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture

Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other part 1 “The Robotic Moment: In Solitude, New Intimacies” and part 2 “Networked: In Intimacy, New Solitudes”
Jason Farman, “The Myth of the Disconnected Life

Christine  Wilks' "Underbelly" is a playable story about a sculptor haunted by voices of 19th-century women miners.

Christine Wilks’ “Underbelly” is a playable story about a sculptor haunted by voices of 19th-century women miners.

Lans Pacifico, Visualizing Emily Dickinson & Walt Whitman
Nick Montfort & Stephanie Strickland, “Sea and Spar Between
I made a 27-minute audio lecture to guide you through N. Katherine Hayles’ essay “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.

Mark Marino, “Living Will
Frankenstein app This is a CYOA [Choose Your Own Adventure] adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel.

Christine Wilks, “Underbelly
John Scalzi, “Straight White Male Is the Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is
Tara McPherson, “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White; or Thinking the Histories of Race & Computation“. This 17-minute audio lecture will guide you through McPherson’s argument.



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Cultures of New Media at USC

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/// a class that meets both on campus & via virtual classroom software ///

Photo by student Lindsey Caldwell.

We meet F2F & virtually at the same time. Photo by student Lindsey Caldwell.


9:30am – 10:50am
ASC 231 & via ADOBE Connect: links provided for each class session

Professor Kathi Inman Berens
T.A. Meryl Alper

Kathi Inman Berens: Tuesdays 11-12. Location: Inverted Fountain outside ASC East Lobby, or inside East Lobby. We can always schedule time via Google Hangout, or linger in the virtual classroom after class.
Meryl Alper: Thursdays 11-12. Location: Annenberg Patio.

This class focuses on communication practices central to New Media:
• Engagement
• Transmedia
• Mobility

These subjects work in tandem. They yield new insight into how ubiquitous computing changes communication among ordinary people, brands, networked communities and cultural institutions.

Unit 1 on “Engagement” asks: “What is the value of a ‘like’ or retweet?” Social media is fueled by databases. We’ll drill down on what that means for our expectations of privacy and how your “Quantified Self” is a commercial asset you don’t own.

Unit 2 on “Transmedia” focuses on how storytelling today moves across platforms and exhibits media-specific properties. Currently most transmedial stories bolster legacy media ad campaigns. We’ll study the Juried Winners of the 2013 Immersive & Interactive Emmys to take a close look at transmedia as
• story experiences unfolding across platforms; and
• part of a media ecosystem of networked publics.

In Unit 3 our discussion of “Mobility” will explore how ubiquitous computing extends beyond what we specifically do with our devices to alter many aspects of everyday life. We’ll look at stories being made & accessed with mobile devices. We’ll make a collaborative story of our own. We’ll ask: how does human/machinic collaboration affect what it means to be human? Is Sherry Turkle right that we depend upon devices to “edit” the public representation of our lives, and that embodied life without a “delete” function now makes us anxious?

Students in this class will
• Become adept thinking & working in virtual environments
• Design presentations that blend image, text and spoken word cannily
• Collaborate virtually & f2f
• Understand evolving standards of privacy
• Meet media industry leaders & ask questions of them
• Situate social media in the broader medial ecosystem
• Examine how databases change ordinary life & commerce
• Build slides that convey arguments visually

This “Cultures of New Media” meets both “on ground” in ASC 231 and virtually, in our virtual classroom via ADOBE Connect. In my four semesters at Annenberg teaching in a virtual classroom, I’ve found learners enjoy toggling between these environments. They discover the unique capacities of each setting.

I teach face-to-face in ASC 231 one week each month. However, your actual face-to-face time in ASC 231 will be more like 50%, because you’ll do workshops in our classroom during some class sessions, which I lead virtually through our virtual classroom software. Meryl our TA will always be in ASC 231, so there can always be an embodied experience even when we’re meeting in our virtual classroom if you want it.

Whether in the virtual classroom or ASC 231, I call on students. I love to learn your names, get to know your passions and help you become the best thinkers you can be. It’s a two-way street. I expect that you’ll come to every class prepared. If you’re not, your attendance grade will be impacted. If you miss more than three weeks of class (6 sessions), you may fail the class.

If you find yourself on Facebook or other non-classroom material during class for longer than 2 minutes, please tell me. We track “distraction.” Rather than judge it, we log our attention. Attention is a flow. I’ve found that students are highly engaged in the course material. If you’re not, let me know.

You’ll produce work throughout the semester, authoring in Twitter, Prezi or Powerpoint and Photoshop (or the open-source Gimp). All computers at ASC are loaded with the Adobe suite; and software tutorials are FREE: click the button on your Blackboard page. You’ll collaborate with others and may learn some new software.

You’ll need to be on a network-connected device during class. Please enable your device’s mic and camera; the ADOBE software automatically prompts this, and I’ll make sure you all know your way around the software during the first week of class. Please update your Firefox and Safari browsers to the latest versions. Do not use Chrome: it causes problems with the ADOBE Connect software.

BIBLIOGRAPHY — many of these items are linked below. For a full list of readings, see Weekly Schedule.
Baio, Andy. “Kind of Screwed.”
Berens, Kathi Inman & Davin Heckman: “Use the # and Tweet Yr Escape.”
Blakely, Johanna. “Fashion’s Free Culture.”
Clark, Wendy. Keynote address at ad:techSF 2011.
ComScore. The Power of a Like. (2012).
Deterding, Sebastian. What Your Designs Say About You.
Doctorow, Cory. Various works.
Farman, Jason. The Myth of the Disconnected life.
Hayles, Katherine N. “How We Read: Close, Hyper Machine.”
Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford and Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked World [New York University Press, 2013].
Lessig, Lawrence. “Remix Culture.”
Koblin, Aaron. Various works.
Palmer, Amanda. “Trust People to Pay for Music.”
Pike, Scé. “The Internet of You.”
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Ourselves [MIT Press, 2012].
USC student authors of the USChangemovement social media campaign.
Vance, Nicki and Quinn Simpson. “The Future of Connected Thinking”
Plus many posts, videos and other media artifacts. See Weekly Schedule below.

USChangeMovement was a powerful, DIY social media campaign launched by USC students last spring.

USChangeMovement was a powerful, DIY social media campaign launched by USC students last spring.

1000-point scale
Assignment #1: Engagement Best Practices Presentation: 150 pts.
Due in class Oct. 8 & 10

Assignment #2: Transmedia Researched Multimodal Essay: 400 pts.
Due dates:
• Annotated Bibliography due Nov. 7 (100 pts)
• 5 pages (half of full draft) due Nov. 19 (100 pts)
• Finished multimodal essay & 2-minute in-class presentations Nov. 26 (200 pts)

Assignment #3: Reflection on Cultures of New Media 200 pts.
Due Dec. 12

Participation, Quizzes, Attendance: 150 pts.
Reading Quiz: last day of classes Dec. 5th: 100 pts (10 questions, 10 pts each)

Week 1: Introduction to Engagement
Aug. 27, 29
in ASC 231
HW For Aug. 29:
1) Read ComScore White Paper about Facebook: “The Power of a Like”;
2) Watch 17-min. vid: Diversifying Participation by Henry Jenkins.

Thurs. Aug. 29
Discuss “The Power of a Like” and “Diversifying Participation.”

Week 2: Participation v. Privacy
Essays on datamining & privacy:
How Google — and 104 other companies — Are Tracking me on the Web” by Alex Madrigal
How To Get Privacy Right” by Nicholas Thompson
The Curious Case of Internet Privacy” by Cory Doctorow

Thursday: introduction to Spreadable Media. Twitter Lab: mobile storytelling exercise done via Twitter.

Week 3: The Value of Engagement
in ASC 231
Sept. 10, 12
in ASC 231
Discuss Spreadable Media Chapter 1. Evaluate the reach & “spreadability” of our various #comm340 tweets send during our Twitter Lab.
Bring your own examples of “best engagement practices” for our workshop.
Engagement workshops: how to discover & analyze best engagement practices

Week 4 — Storytelling & Engagement; Aaron Koblin
Sept. 17, 19
Annenberg Innovation Lab: definitions of transmedial advertising; October 2012 Transmedia Think & Do.

TedX Talks by Aaron Koblin:
Creating Art with Data
Artfully Visualizing Our Humanity

Aaron Koblin‘s works: Wilderness Downtown, Single Lane Super Highway, Exquisite Forest.
Discuss these works. Spend about 30 minutes exploring “Exquisite Forest” and “The Single Lane Super Highway.” Think about the mechanics of engagement & participation. Think, too, about “where art meets commerce”: Koblin’s partnership with Google: he leads the data & arts team at Google’s Creative Lab.

Week 5 — Where Art Meets Commerce: Aaron Koblin visits our class!
in ASC 231
Sept. 24, 26
Aaron Koblin visits class Tuesday 24 September!
Thurs: T.A. Meryl Alper presents her work on mobile devices and accessibility.

Week 6 — Introduction to Transmedia
Oct. 1, 3
via ADOBE Connect
Tues: Chapter 2 of Spreadable Media
Thurs: Wendy Clark’s ad:techSF 2011 Keynote address. Wendy is Chief Officer of Integrated Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company. She is joined on stage by Renny Gleesen (Global Digital Strategies Director for Wieden+Kennedy). Vid is 1 hour.

In addition to Wendy’s talk, we’ll discuss these well-known Coke YT vids security cameras and happiness machine. We’ll discuss Coke Chase, the campaign Coke rolled out at Super Bowl 47. Finally, we’ll review these exemplary student analyses of Engagement: Team Coke Social Media Analysis and Reflection in which they integrate course reading into their analysis.

Week 7 — Your “Best Engagement Practices” Presentations
Oct. 8, 10
in ASC 231
Students present your “Best Engagement Practices” presentations.
Reading homework to be applied next week: Chapters 3-5 of Spreadable Media

Week 8 — Transmedial Storytelling-1: indie
Oct. 15, 17
via ADOBE Connect
Spreadable Media chapters 3-5
Lizzie Bennet Diaries
East Los High
For each of these projects, explore across platforms. Video will be dominant, because these are video stories. But attend to the transmedial elements. Expect to spend two hours per show in your explorations.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, some student leaders of the USChangemovement will visit class to talk about building a social media campaign to expose an incident of LAPD racial profiling that targeted them. They will also discuss positive subsequent change in our community, such as this street fair that united students and police.

Week 9 — Transmedial Storytelling-2: cable & broadcast
Oct. 22, 24
via ADOBE Connect
Chapters 6 & 7 of Spreadable Media
For each of these projects, explore across platforms. Note the differences in marketing and messaging between corp and indie transmedial stories. Expect to spend two hours per show in your explorations.

Week 10 — Copyright & Spreadability
Oct. 29, 31
Via Adobe Connect
Jonathan Coulton‘s cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is ripped off by Glee’s uncredited copy; see also this. Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TED Talk: “Trust People to Pay For Music”; Andy Baio, Kind of Screwed.
Thurs: Shervin Razaie, “Play Your Part: Girl Talk’s Indefinite Role in the Digital Sampling Saga” Touro Law Review 175 [2010-2011]. (This is a PDF KIB will send to you). Johanna Blakely, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture

Week 11 — Alone Together? The Robotic Moment & the Dangers of “Always On”
Nov. 5, 7
KIB leads via ADOBE Connect
Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other Buy this book! We’re focusing on Part 2: “Networked: In Intimacy, New Solitudes” (pp. 151-305). Part 1, “The Robotic Moment” supplies excellent context and canvases her two previous book on self & computation. I strongly recommend that you read Part 1.
Jason Farman, “The Myth of the Disconnected Life
Henry Jenkins, “‘A Necessary Conversation’ with Sherry Turkle.”
William Powers, NPR discussion about “Digital Sabbaths.”
Your annotated bibliography is due 11/7.

Week 12 — Going Mobile: Stories & Self
Nov. 12 & 14
Over the weekend read:
Jason Farman, Site Specificity, Pervasive Computing & the Mobile Interface
L.A.inundación: L.A. Flood on your laptop: Elizabeta Montana, Juan Dominguez, Ousmane, Rafael Huitzilin Tochtli.
Watch clips that contextualize L.A. Flood: the Rodney King beatings, Anna Deveare Smith’s TED talk (4 Characters from Twilight) and a docu called “Clash of Colors.”

Tuesday in ASC 231:
Site-specific storytelling: L.A. Flood

Location: where ever you are in L.A.
You’ll tweet from the POV of a character you invent as the Flood ravages LA in 3 stages: waters rising, catastrophic flooding, waters receding. Some L.A.inundación artists will join you in the installation! See how-to instructions in the g-doc and experience “situated storytelling” firsthand.

Week 13 — Researched essay draft workshop; How We Read; The Quantified Self & Internet of Things
Nov. 19, 21
Location of class meetings: Tuesday: ASC 231; Thursday: Adobe Connect
Tuesday in ASC 231: In-class 50% draft workshop; progress and quality are graded. You’ll work in small groups discussing your progress. During the second half of class, we’ll discuss Katherine Hayles, “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” Note: this link will load a PDF directly to your computer.
This lecture will aid you in understanding key concepts: Kathi Inman Berens audio lecture on Hayles’ “How We Read”.

Thursday via Adobe Connect
The Quantified Self & The Internet of Things
Scé Pike, The Internet of You
Sebastian Deterding: What Your Designs Say About You
Nicki Vance and Quinn Simpson: The Future of Connected Thinking

Week 14 — Researched Essays due & brief oral presentations; Thanksgiving
Nov. 26, 28
in ASC 231
Nov. 26 — Students summarize their essays for the class; then we’ll plan our “Cultures of New Media” collaborative media project!

Week 15 — Our Cultures of New Media
In ASC 231
Dec. 3, 5
Bring your phones & other recording devices. We’ll make short videos about what we learned in COMM 340! You can integrate these videos into your final reflective papers/Prezis/Powerpoints.
On Thurs. Dec. 5, remember the in-class reading test: 10 questions, 10 points each.

"Team Coke" shooting a vid they made for a student-created transmedia campaign.

“Team Coke” shooting a vid they made for a student-created transmedia campaign.

The Annenberg School for Communication is committed to upholding the University’s Academic Integrity code as detailed in the SCampus Guide. It is the policy of the School of Communication to report all violations of the code. Any serious violation or pattern of violations of the Academic Integrity Code will result in the student’s expulsion from the Communication degree program.

It is particularly important that you are aware of and avoid plagiarism, cheating on exams, fabricating data for a project, submitting a paper to more than one professor, or submitting a paper authored by anyone other than yourself. If you have doubts about any of these practices, confer with a faculty member.

Resources on academic dishonesty can be found on the Student Judicial Affairs Web site ( “Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism” addresses issues of paraphrasing, quotations, and citation in written assignments, drawing heavily upon materials used in the university’s writing program; “Understanding and Avoiding Academic Dishonesty” addresses more general issues of academic integrity, including guidelines for adhering to standards concerning examinations and unauthorized collaboration. The “2012-2013 SCampus” ( contains the university’s student conduct code and other student-related policies.
Specific to This Class: For those assignments which require/allow collaboration, students are required to disclose all people who contributed to their process and identify all outside sources they drew upon in developing their answers. Failure to do so will be considered academic dishonesty.

Students requesting academic accommodations based on a disability are required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP when adequate documentation is filed. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible. DSP is open Monday-Friday, 8:30-5:00. The office is in Student Union 301 and their phone number is (213) 740-0776.

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Digital Humanities 2013: my talk

Posted by admin in Electronic Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Judy Malloy’s Seat at the (Database) Table

a Feminist Reception History


Before I read Jill Walker Rettberg’s excellent “Electronic Literature Seen From a Distance: The Beginnings of a Field,” I’d suspected that Judy Malloy’s elision from the electronic literature reception history as the first author of hypertext fiction was attributable to genre. Her comic piece Uncle Roger, a romp through Silicon Valley set in then-present day 1986, didn’t evince the seriousness, ambiguity, and intricate plotting that critics and other purveyors of taste associate with high art. I accepted without question Robert Coover’s 1992 declaration of Michael Joyce‘s afternoon, a story as the “granddaddy of full-length hypertext fictions,” even though Judy’s Uncle Roger pre-dates Michael’s afternoon by at least one year and possibly three, if one measures from afternoon‘s publication date (1990) rather than its introduction to the coterie of enthusiasts who exchanged stories authored on Hypercard and other systems.

Afternoon is a magnificent work that merits its august reputation.

But Rettberg traces the far-reaching implications of Joyce’s reputation in her distant reading, which demonstrates that afternoon is–by an order of magnitude–the most cited and taught work of electronic literature. The status Coover conferred on afternoon in his New York Times review became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s such a small thing, just one sentence in the Times; but its impact has been field-defining. Several factors converged to anoint Michael Joyce and submerge Judy Malloy. This talk sketches them with the purpose of seeing how machinic & human procedures collaborate to create conditions that make it less likely women authors will thrive.

Data visualization by Jill Walker Rettberg.  Figure #2 of her "Beginnings of a Field."

Data visualization by Jill Walker Rettberg. Figure #2 of her “Beginnings of a Field.”

Individual actors like Michael Joyce, Judy Malloy and Stuart Moulthrop — all of them pioneers of hypertext in the late 1980s and early 1990s — evinced companionable interest in each other’s work. But the database systems by which that work was shared, discussed & preserved, or NOT shared, discussed and preserved bear the traces of human cultural values & biases. Michael Joyce’s fame and Judy Malloy’s relative obscurity are products of dialectics of inclusion & exclusion that replicate, with numbing fidelity, the traditional privileges that digital media have the capacity to disrupt but often do not.

John Scalzi redescribes white male privilege as a role playing game. He writes:

How to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get without freaking out about it? Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

John Scalzi.

John Scalzi: White male privilege as RPG.

Scalzi’s is a great description of how sexism can happen without malice or even intention. In an interview with Jill Rettberg, Stuart Moulthrop describes how at the 1989 Hypertext conference he, John McDaid, Michael Joyce and Jay Bolter sat at a computer connected to the Internet and searched for other people doing similar things. They found Judy Malloy’s work:

“It was just like blues men going to each other’s performances. Yeah, allright, oh darn that’s good. Oh, we’re not that good. So we really recognized that she was somebody, and she was part of a community out there in the Bay Area that was really important and exciting. I can remember coming away from that moment thinking that, you know, there might be a real hope for what we were trying to do because other people were doing it. (Moulthrop, personal interview, cited in Rettberg, “Distant Reading”)

Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrop and many of the men I know in the e-lit community are feminist supporters who individually act to redress power imbalances when brought to their attention. Michael and Stuart are tenured full professors at elite universities. None of the pioneering e-lit women authors I’ve met occupy the tenured positions that their male colleagues earned. Just one decade later, in the early 2000s, women e-lit artists did make in-roads to university power. Caitlin Fischer and Dene Grigar direct their own programs at R-1 universities. But women of Judy Malloy’s generation were not encouraged to enroll in graduate programs.

In his 2012 book The Interface Effect, Alex Galloway glosses Lev Manovich’s Language of New Media: “to mediate is really to interface. Mediation in general is just repetition in particular, and thus the ‘new’ media are really just the artifacts and traces of the past coming to appear in an ever-expanding present” (10).

Illustration Miriam used for "code" post.

Illustration Miriam used for “code” post.

Literary history always reflects back an uncanny distortion of one’s own cultural moment, and here’s ours: at this conference I’ve heard a proliferation of tools, brilliant ways of doing new work. But I also hear, resonating in the back of my mind, Miriam Posner’s post from March 2012, “Some things to think about before you exhort everybody to code“:

The point is, women aren’t [learning to code]. And neither, for that matter, are people of color. And unless you believe (and you don’t, do you?) that some biological explanation prevents us from excelling at programming, then you must see that there is a structural problem.

Judy Malloy is almost entirely a self-taught programmer. More specifically she’s a conceptual artist who dreamed up the idea of molecular storytelling while working with books she made from card catalogs in 1977. Later, as a single mom, she supported herself and her son working with technical information, including jobs as a technical librarian and a library assistant for several research and technical companies. On the WELL in 1986, she saw in the Art Com Electric Network bulletin board database a much more efficient mode of non-sequential storytelling than the card catalogs. She ended up writing 32 UNIX shells and even built in a Boolean operator (“and”). She built this system so that she could perform “live writing,” a “Homeric” experience she likens to Twitter today.

Malloy DB Artists Books

Extending Miriam’s point about women and code: even Judy’s undisputed capacity didn’t insulate her against sexism. Nor did the goodwill and respect from the other practitioners in her community. This is a human problem without a tool solution. But it’s possible that mindful use of tools could ameliorate the problem this reception history discloses.

The disequilibrium happened gradually over time. There is no villain twirling his moustache. While it circulated on the prestigious museum & gallery scene from 1987-1989, Uncle Roger excited interest in the popular press. It was singled out in the Centennial Edition of the Wall Street Journal (published on June 23rd, 1989), and mentioned in Newsweek. But the acclaim it garnered was pre-web. It is algorithmically invisible.

Afternoon’s ISBN, and Uncle Roger’s lack of one, is the second crucial differentiator in Judy and Michael’s divergent receptions. The presence or absence of an ISBN determined access: whether a work could be archived, collected and sold. The ISBN united disparate stewards (programmers/developers, librarians, academics, vendors) to collect and fortify those few works against bit-rot or obsolescence. The vast majority lacked an ISBN, and those were the responsibility of the authors to maintain or abandon. It would be much later (1997) before Malloy would author Uncle Roger in a browser-friendly format. By then excitement for the novelty of hypertext had given way to interest in Flash-based works. A moment had passed and with it, the power that comes from cultural currency.

“Structuralism is the midpoint on the long modern path toward understanding the world as system,” notes Alan Liu in his May 2013 PMLA article “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.”

(…for example, system as modes of production, Weberian bureaucracy; Sausserian language; mass media & corporate society; neoliberalism; and so on). [These have] forced the progressive side of the humanities to split off from earlier humanities of the human spirit (Geist) to adopt a world view in which, as Katherine Hayles says, ‘large-scale, multi-causal events are caused by confluences that include a multitude of forces…. many of which are nonhuman.’ This is the backdrop against which we can see how the meaning problem in the digital humanities registers today’s general crisis of meaningfulness in the humanities (418-419).

The Malloy/Joyce reception history gives us a cogent example of how “the meaning problem” is a human and nonhuman collusion. “Michael Joyce” is a searched term linked forever by page-rank algorithms to “hypertext” and “electronic literature.” We here at DH 2013 learned about auto-completion algorithms in Anna Jobin and Frederic Kaplan’s talk in which they asked: “are Google’s linguistic prostheses biased toward commercially more interesting expressions?” Evidence they presented suggests that it is. Given that afternoon could be purchased and Uncle Roger could not, we can see how the financial interests of the New York Times and Amazon would begin to align, and how that alignment would manifest itself algorithmically.

It’s also worth noting that even if he had sought one, there is no reciprocal term that Coover could have used to deem Malloy a progenitor. “The grandmammy of hypertext fiction”? The “grand dame of hypertext fiction”? That would not work.

Put bluntly, the language to represent Judy Malloy’s achievement did not exist for Coover. He’s a wily guy, and he could have invented something. But it was not thinkable: to look to the west coast for literary origin, to esteem comedy more than tragedy, to recognize coterie distribution over a press, to praise a single mom with a Bachelor’s degree over a young male novelist with a print novel under his belt, and an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Such are the human judgments that launch a million clicks.

Coover didn’t invent “granddaddy” to describe Michael Joyce’s fiction. He invented Michael Joyce to inhabit “granddaddy.” In 1992, I wonder whether folks at Vassar, where Michael Joyce teaches, noted Coover’s pronouncement. Maybe someone cut it out from the Times and taped on the door of the English department or tacked it on a cork bulletin board. It would not have been conceivable in 1992 that the impact of that endorsement would be measurable, let alone field-defining, 20 years hence. But distant reading permits us to see just that.

By way of conclusion I return to Alan Liu’s argument about the “crisis of meaning” in the humanities. I offer you a tableau. Duke University’s Rubenstein Library purchased Judy Malloy’s Papers. The collection features Judy’s


• Printed Materials
• Notebooks
• Early Artists Books
• Writings and Programming
• Exhibitions, Talks and Readings
• Correspondence
• Media by Other Artists and
• Personal Materials

It is 15.6 linear feet. 13,200 items.

Judy herself, however, has a 1-semester Anschutz Distinguished Fellowship in American Studies at Princeton this fall. She continues to seek a university job.

This is the signal gesture of the neoliberal university: to regard thinkers as content providers. To make financial commitments toward what can be digitized (and scaled) but less and less to people themselves. Code expertise is no safeguard. Publication is no safeguard. Collegial esteem and prolific output are no safeguard.

Last night Willard McCarty said, you do it for love. I see that, feel that, and yet am suspicious of that.


October 17, 2013

Judy Malloy notes this correction: “[T]oday being #ADL13 [Ada Lovelace Day] I have a request. In your otherwise wonderful article about Uncle Roger, you say that I am a self taught programmer. Actually that isn’t true. I did a graduate seminar in Systems Analysis at the University of Denver and I took a company sponsored course in FORTRAN when I worked at Ball Brothers Research Corporation in Boulder, where I headed a team that created a computerized library catalog in 1969, a time when this was an accomplishment. However, I did teach myself UNIX shell scripts and BASIC in order to create Uncle Roger. Generally it isn’t to difficult to move between similar systems.”

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MLA14 Panel Accepted! E-Literature Translations

Posted by admin in Electronic Literature, Transmedia | 1 Comment

E-Literature Translations: Database, Platform, Language

Jonathan Baillehache
Jill Walker Rettberg
Kathi Inman Berens
Davin Heckman

The shared space of e-literature and translation is an emergent field. Iterating discussion from a groundbreaking conference at Universite Paris 8 in June 2012, “Translating E-Literature,” we imagine that one result of this MLA14 panel might be to map terrains, both shared and distinct, that become differently visible when e-literature-and-translation is brought to a larger conference convening languages and literature specialists from an array of fields.

Toward that end, our panel stretches into four types of translation: linguistic and medial translation as a translator renders avant-garde Russian books into digital poetry; the linguistic and nomenclatural challenges of building a transnational digital archive as a database; translation as a disjunction between game theme, procedure, and user interface; and Twitter as a networked publication space of micro-translations between autobiography and fiction.

Broadly our aim is to show how work with digital tools and/or in digital space reveals points of continuity and rupture within literary studies. Presentations move fluidly between translation’s traditional provenance as the bridge between human languages and the newer spaces of medial translation: conversions of print into digital, for example, and digital-to-digital translations across metadata, spoken languages, networks and embodied human interactions with machines. We believe that translation theory is at the center of understanding the flow of information that shapes literary studies today.

Still from The Night Journey by Tracy Fullerton.

Still from The Night Journey by Tracy Fullerton.

Translating for online publication offers translators the opportunity to take part into the building of the materiality of the translation by making web design choices or even by coding the mechanics of the text’s interface itself. This opportunity contributes to transforming the very concept of translation, bringing into the process of interpretation elements that are not purely linguistic, such as the kinetic, the visual and the acoustic. In his digital translations of Russian poet Ilya Zdanevich, started in 2010, Jonathan Baillehache tries to remediate the materiality of Russian avant-garde books into digital objects that display randomized textual, typographic and audio content. Baillehache’s paper, “Remediating LidantJU fAram” will present the background, the goal, the evolution and the current state of his “media translation,” a work in progress that challenges our understanding of the “task of the translator,” giving translation the limits that one is willing to give to it.

Literary scholarship cycles through different methodologies of reading, different strategies for interpretation, and in a sense, each different reading of a work is a translation. What then, when we apply digital methods to literature and use distant reading, databases and visualisations to interpret and understand a whole field? Jill Walker Rettberg will discuss how the ELMCIP project is using the Electronic Literature Knowledge Base to understand the creative communities of electronic literature across geographical and linguistic boundaries. This paper will discuss a digital database of natively digital literature, and yet there are translation problems here too. The fields of a database correspond in some ways to the grammar of a language and offer constraints and affordances in how we can describe works. The works of electronic literature in the Knowledge Base span many human languages and many platforms. Can we describe the English-language twitter fiction @OccupyMLA with the same terms as a Russian performance of digitized sound poetry? When we export the descriptions and visualize them, we gain new understandings of the whole field of electronic literature, but as in all translation, perhaps something is lost? If so, what?

Delving into “expressive AI” and “serious games,” Kathi Inman Berens proposes to examine the adaptation of visual art into game procedure in Tracy Fullerton’s The Night Journey (2007). Aiming to adapt into gameplay Bill Viola’s visual art with absolute fidelity, Fullerton and her design team invented post-production techniques that evolved from an extensive translation of slides in Viola’s video archive into a navigable experiential space. Adaptation theory, while useful, is insufficient to explain the feedback loops unique to human/machine collaboration: between source text and game design, machine and user interface, UI and gamer. Play in The Night Journey is a wordless, meditative spiritual journey through four expansive natural landscapes where typical game rules don’t apply; the player can walk through obstructions, for example. But the gamer uses a Sony Playstation 2 paddle to navigate within the space, and the kinetic link between the Sony controller and the game’s tranquil, meditative landscape results in a conflict between game theme and UI. Linda Hutcheon’s thoughtful work in A Theory of Adaptation (2006) is one theoretical space from which to expand “adaptation” into multimodal “translation” that accounts for the complexity of human/computing interactivity.

Davin Heckman will discuss literary pleasure, new media literacy, and the Networked Improv Literature (Netprov). In particular, Heckman will discuss the challenges of “close-reading” the Speidishow, a Netprov enacted via Twitter (and a constellation of supplementary web-based media) over a period of several weeks. Digging into the concept of the “readerly” and “writerly” text as identified by Roland Barthes in S/Z and The Pleasure of the Text, Heckman settles on a third term: “the riderly text.” Barthes’ initial designation of popular, default practices as “readerly” can be applied to “writerly” performances of such reading encapsulated in new media literacies as occasions for superficial forms of closure and public displays of consent or dissent for or against its determined content. Netprov is “riderly” in the improvisational character of its progression and translates the discrete spaces of reading and writing in new ways.


Jonathan Baillehache is assistant professor of French and online pedagogy at the University of Georgia. He works on translation and digitization. He has published articles on Russian and French avant-garde poetry, translation theory, and electronic literature, and has published translations of poetry from the Russian in French and English journals.

Kathi Inman Berens lectures at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and curates of electronic literature. At the Library of Congress last April, she co-curated with Dene Grigar and Susan Garfinkel the first Electronic Literature Showcase, and has co-curated exhibits of electronic literature at MLA Conventions 2012 (Seattle) and 2013 (Boston). She created Annenberg’s first synchronously virtual & embodied undergraduate class. An IBM Faculty Award Winner and member of the Research Council at the Annenberg Innovation Lab, she researches virtual classroom software and digital pedagogy. In her consultancy, Big Digital Idea, Kathi helps universities and software providers align around common goals and augment user experience.

Davin Heckman is Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Winona State University. He is the author of A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day (Duke, 2008) and his articles on digital poetics can be found in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Culture Machine, Dichtung Digital, and Electronic Book Review. He serves on the board of the Electronic Literature Organization, heads the working group for the Electronic Literature Directory, and is editor of “Electropoetics” for Electronic Book Review.

Jill Walker Rettberg is professor of Digital Culture in the Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. Her main research interest is how we tell stories online, and she has published on electronic literature, social media, blogging, self-representations online and personal visualisations. Her book Blogging (Polity 2008, 2nd ed 2013) is a key text in social media studies. She also co-edited Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader (MIT Press 2008). Jill Walker Rettberg is currently a co-investigator in the ELMCIP project, where she has been particularly involved in developing visualisations and methodologies for distant reading of the field of electronic literature using the data in the Electronic Literature Knowledge Base.

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Trace of Race: E-Lit, Computation, DH

Posted by admin in Digital Pedagogy, Electronic Literature, Teaching | Leave a comment

Today I made a 17-minute audio lecture to guide DH 306 students through this week’s readings & assignment. This week we’re talking about e-lit and identity formation, and the role software plays in eliciting our interactivity with — our performance of — such identities.
My short lecture mainly focuses on Tara McPherson’s’ “Why Is DH So White?, with the aim of glossing her argument and helping students think through its claim that it would be “naive” to believe that computing environments aren’t informed by a systemic racism. Born together in the mid-1960s, Civil Rights and Unix “co-constitute” each other in materials ways that are represented in the modularity of code languages and the UNIX philosophies that could be read as a retreat into formalism and away from the complex messiness of social injustice and upheaval. My lecture works within McPherson’s discussion of stereoscopic and lenticular “logics” — really, modes of seeing as determined by the capacities of the lens itself. It’s a wonderful metaphor that helps to explain why McPherson believes that the apparently value-neutral executions that UNIX makes possible are inescapably shaped by cultural orientations & biases.

Our theme for this week is e-lit, embodiment & identity. Building on our discussion last week about House of Leaves of Grass, poetry generators and remix, for us that also means a discussion of what code makes thinkable. We’re going to read two electronic lit works by Christine Wilks, and short critical perspectives on them by Ilya Szilak, Leonardo Flores & Brian Kim Stefans. The idea is to give you three critics’ vantages on the same work.

Christine Wilks, “Underbelly“: winner of the 2010 New Media Prize.
Christine Wilks, “Out of Touch“: commissioned by Brian Kim Stefans for SF MOMA’s Third Hand Plays series on electronic literature.

Illya Szilak, “Remembering the Human: E-Lit and the Art of Memory
Brian Kim Stefans, “Third Hand Plays: Out of Touch
Leo Flores, “Underbelly” [short post]

Finally, please read this “graduate student’s reflection” on McPherson’s argument. The author Benjamin Doyle doesn’t see causal evidence for McPherson’s claim but nevertheless finds it fascinating and asks a series of smart questions that identify the sorts of knowledge McPherson’s essay (or essays like it) would need to produce to be persuasive to “DH and non-DH audiences.” Rhetorical and logical appeals beyond the discourse of humanists are necessary because, in McPherson’s words, “we cannot read the logics of [computational] systems and networks solely at the level of our screens”; we must comprehend the code itself to make visible “information captial’s fault lines” (152). The graduate student studies with Ryan Cordell at Northeastern.

I’m guest teaching a two-week unit about electronic literature in Jesse Stommel‘s new Digital Humanities program at Marylhurst University.

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Trillions of Tropes & Tweets in 2 Weeks

Posted by admin in Digital Pedagogy, Electronic Literature, Teaching | Leave a comment

I’m guest teaching a two-week unit about electronic literature in Jesse Stommel‘s new Digital Humanities program at Marylhurst University.

Yesterday I made a 27-minute audio lecture to guide students through this week’s reading & assignment. Mainly it focuses on Hayles’ “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine, and it talks about how you might approach crafting your response to Mark Sample‘s “House of Leaves of Grass.”

I know you DH 306 students all read Stephen Ramsay’s The Hermenuetics of Screwing Around two weeks ago. Stephen begins: so many books, so little time. Even before the Internet, it was was impossible to master all knowledge. This Book Wheel was a Renaissance invention to cope with the abundance of books available after the invention of the printing press. As literary studies grew from a hobby into a profession, scholars established the (western) canon as a different kind of Book Wheel: the literary texts deemed the most influential and endowed with the capacity to distill our common culture. Even the “canon wars” of the 1990s, when queers, women and nonwhite men radically expanded what was taught on campuses and what counted as our common cultural heritage, there persisted a belief that “the canon” inhered.

Ramsay takes us in a different direction. Acknowledging the pull of the “vast [digital] archive” on our time and attention, Ramsay ends his essay with a “Screwmeneutical Imperative”:

There are so many books. There is so little time. Your ethical obligation is neither to read them all nor to pretend that you have read them all, but to understand each path through the vast archive as an important moment in the world’s duration — as an invitation to community, relationship, and play.

Does the “Screwmeneutical Imperative” announce the end of common culture? Will our paths intersect more broadly than those that link people talking together on Twitter?

Something to think about as you navigate your way through the 100 trillion stanzas of “House of Leaves of Grass”!

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