The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: Project Report
This chapter documents the conceptual model of the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base, the development process that led to its development, and its technical implementation. It should be of interest to digital humanities researchers interested in the process of developing research infrastructure for the documentation of a field of research.
Developed as part of an international, digital-humanities project, Developing a Networked-Based Creative Community: Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice (ELMCIP), the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base is an open-access, online database tracing activity in and around the field of electronic literature and the digital literary arts. Inspired by Ted Nelson’s (1981) vision of literature, broadly understood as “an ongoing system of interconnecting documents,” the Knowledge Base is collecting and connecting bibliographic information and archival materials about the literary production in this field. As this information is linked and cross-referenced in various records in the Knowledge Base, the relations between objects and actors in the field of electronic literature become explicit, perceptible, recognizable, and communicable. Together these relations comprise the field. In the Knowledge Base, they are defined through content types that include authors, creative works, critical writing, events, organizations, publishers, teaching resources, and databases and archives. The Knowledge Base now includes more than 9,000 cross-referenced records in these primary content types.
The Knowledge Base is intended to document electronic literature as a dynamic field of practice, one whose cultural import becomes more comprehensible when the activities of authors, scholars, publications, performances, and exhibitions can be related to each other, in multiple configurations. We have designed the Knowledge Base as a platform in which this complex web of relationships can be made visible and available for analysis. Researchers can begin to trace the activities generated or enhanced by a work as it circulates among different reading communities. When a record of a critical article is documented in the Knowledge Base, all the creative works it references are noted, and cross-references then automatically appear on the record for the work itself. Similarly, cross-references are made to every other type of record it touches—when a work by a particular author is entered, a reference automatically appears on that author’s page, likewise for works published by a publisher and so forth. The Knowledge Base makes perceptible interactions between human and nonhuman actors, and it documents the diverse range of artistic, scholarly, and pedagogical practices in the field of electronic literature.
The Knowledge Base is an open-access online research resource. The majority of the information in the database can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection, without a log-in. The main constituency of the Knowledge Base is researchers and scholars who are serious about literary production in digital environments. The Knowledge Base serves both as a platform for research about electronic literature and as a site for self-reflexive research community formation. To that end, the Knowledge Base is a participatory online database. While a team working mainly in University of Bergen Electronic Literature Research Group has been responsible for the development of the platform itself and for the development of a great deal of the content in the database, contributors to the Knowledge Base also include many writers and researchers who are practicing artists and scholars in the field, contributing remotely in many different parts of the world. The writers who create, critique, perform, and respond to works of e-lit can shape the digital literary field by documenting the actants and activities they deem significant within the Knowledge Base, which is designed to be a collectively authored, networked research environment.
(Source: The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: Project Report by Scott Rettberg with Eric Dean Rasmussen)
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