Cyborg Tactics and Perilous Hermeneutics in Lexia to Perplexia Shifts in materiality across space.

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Cyborg Tactics and Perilous Hermeneutics in Lexia to Perplexia Shifts in materiality across space¬—from monitor to cell phone screen, from private bedroom to public bus—alter experience and sway meaning. But time also entails an expectation of change that sometimes never comes: works of electronic literature often go without the steady updates to security, appearance, and functionality that corporate software enjoys, turning into strange ruins that, if not broken, carry that possibility. Eight years after the publication of Katherine Hayles’s Writing Machines, my paper returns to one of the book’s case studies, Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia, with the goal of investigating the effects of the passing years on the hermeneutics instilled in the user by the text. Focusing on the instability that time and software evolutions have sown, I argue that in this uncertain environment, the recourse of the user is a heightened emphasis on investigation, experimentation, and attempted recovery. With these motivations in mind, I turn to various palimpsests in the text, features of Lexia that straddle the divide between the literary technique and the glitch. Palimpsests are marks of the broken Web, a layering generally born not from experimental poetics but coding errors, and in puzzling over their status and possible meanings, the user explores the tactics required/allowed/prohibited in their interpretation. Full engagement with the text requires that the user turn to capabilities of the computer beyond the browser—copying and pasting, modifying human memory, extending human sight: becoming a good cyborg. The interactive text is read by doing, and in Lexia doing entails experimentation and brings with it the possibility of danger. As the text’s content foregrounds human-machine intersections, the enactment of these tactics brings the text’s meaning closer to the body of the user—in painting a potentially perilous picture of human-machine interactions, the old and possibly broken text may be more effective than its original, new and shiny, manifestation(Source: Author).

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Audun Andreassen