Electronic Literature Communities

Abstract (in English): 


To fully understand the nature of creativity and community in the field of electronic literature, the ELMCIP project chose to use several methodologies. First, we organized a seminar on the topic. The ELMCIP Seminar on Electronic Literature Communities, held in Bergen on September 20–21, 2010, invited researchers from within the project and external contributors to present analyses of specific communities within the field of electronic literature. Seventeen papers were presented and discussed, covering communities in France, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Scandinavia, and the US, as well as international communities such as in interactive fiction (IF). Presentations are available in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base,1 and all are documented with full text and/or audio recordings.

As a second step, we invited and solicited contributions to a special issue of Dichtung Digital, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the field of digital art and electronic literature since 1999. The number of strong papers was so high that we decided to release two issues of the journal (issues 41 and 42). These collected essays comprise the most extensive collection of analyses of electronic literature communities published to date and include nineteen scholarly articles. Some of these papers were written by scholars looking at a community from a distance in time or geography, while other papers were written by scholars and authors who were participants in the communities they describe.

In addition to these articles from and about a wide variety of electronic literature communities, social geographer Penny Travlou, a co-investigator on the ELMCIP project, spent time in selected artistic communities, using participatory observation and ethnographic methodologies to gain insights into their creative processes and community formation. Her work is discussed in detail in a separate chapter in this volume. An additional resource is the report “Electronic Literature: Publishing and Distribution in Europe” that Markku Eskelinen and Giovanna di Rosario wrote for the project (also included in this volume).

The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base has proven to be invaluable in gaining an overview of those community structures that may not be visible at first glance. When we began the project, we thought of the Knowledge Base as a way to share our findings and document project activities, but it has turned out to be a great deal more than that, providing a robust and constantly expanding infrastructure for studying the field of electronic literature itself. As the ELMCIP project is drawing to a close, we are just beginning to truly harness the steadily growing data contained by the Knowledge Base through visualizations, network analyses, timelines, and content and tag analyses.

In addition to the contributions of project members, scholars, and authors from the electronic literature community, three PhD and postdoc researchers have devoted three months to working with the Electronic Literature research group in Bergen to build solid documentation of specific national or linguistic communities. All of these were funded externally to the initial ELMCIP project budget: Dr. Luciana Gattass developed a research collection of Brazilian electronic literature; Melissa Lucas developed a research collection of Nordic electronic literature; and Dr. Natalia Fedorova is developing a research collection of Russian electronic literature—all within the structure of the Knowledge Base and thus interlinked and integrated with our existing data. In addition, University of Bergen-based PhD scholar Patricia Tomaszek initiated a collection with references to Polish electronic literature, and we expect more focused collections of this nature. It is clear that this work will continue to progress after the ELMCIP project itself is completed.

This chapter presents key findings from the sixteen separate analyses of communities in the Dichtung Digital issues and analyses of the data in the Knowledge Base of Electronic Literature.

(Source: Electronic Literature Communities by Jill Walker Rettberg and Patricia Tomaszek)

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Scott Rettberg