Electronic Authorship, Collaboration, Community, and Practice

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Community has been a central focus of my career in the field of electronic literature, particularly in helping to shape and structure the Electronic Literature Organization, a USA-based nonprofit organization central to the field, and more recently as project leader of ELMCIP: Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation and Practice. I consider practical research and artistic community development vital to the creation of a persistent environment that enables network-based creative communities. When creative communities and research communties are not geographically co-located, institutional identities, online publications, directories, and knowledge bases, and in-person conferences, festivals, and events provide for a kind of floating agora that enables creative community to thrive across borders.

At same time, my practice emerges from my background as a fiction writer. Creative writing is generally if not correctly conceived of as a solitary act in which collaboration plays a lesser role than in other sorts of creative practice, for example the production of a staged drama or film. Both writing and reading fiction are typically understood as highly subjective acts, and authors and artists are understood to "own" their ideas and works in a personal way. Network based reading and writing practices foreground a number of complications of subjective writing and reading, from community-based writing projects, to multimedial literary productions, to radical changes in the nature of the reception and reader response process. None of these changes eliminate "the author" per se, but all force us to reconsider the frame of authorship and the models of collaborative creative literary practice enabled by the computer and the network environment.

This presentation will discuss some of the ways that electronic literature complicates conceptions of authorship and collaboration in the context of its emergent creative community. I will test these ideas against examples, both from my own practice as an author of network-based fiction projects including The Unknown, Kind of Blue, The Meddlesome Passenger, and Implementation, all of which involved different models of collaboration, as well as recent collective or collaboratively authored electronic literature projects including The Last Performance by Judd Morrissey, Mark Jeffrey, and others, the Exquisite_Code project by Brendan Howell and others, and TOC: a New-Media novel by Steve Tomasula and a team of artists and developers.

(Source: ISEA2011)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen