Electronic Literature as an Information System

Abstract (in English): 

Electronic literature is a term that encompasses artistic texts produced for printed media which are consumed in electronic format, as well as text produced for electronic media that could not be printed without losing essential qualities. Some have argued that the essence of electronic literature is the use of multimedia, fragmentation, and/or non-linearity. Others focus on the role of computation and complex processing. "Cybertext" does not sufficiently describe these systems. In this paper we propose that works of electronic literature, understood as text (with possible inclusion of multimedia elements) designed to be consumed in bi- or multi-directional electronic media, are best understood as 3-tier (or n-tier) information systems. These tiers include data (the textual content), process (computational interactions) and presentation (on-screen rendering of the narrative). The interaction between these layers produces what is known as the work of electronic literature. This paradigm for electronic literature moves beyond the initial approaches which either treated electronic literature as computerized versions of print literature or focused solely on one aspect of the system. In this paper, we build two basic arguments. On the one hand, we propose that the conception of electronic literature as an information system gets at the essence of electronic media, and we predict that this paradigm will become dominant in this field within the next few years. On the other hand, we propose that building information systems may also lead in a shift of emphasis from one-time artistic novelties to reusable systems. Demonstrating this approach, we read works from the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 (Jason Nelson and Emily Short) as well as newer works by Mez and the team gathered by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph. Glancing toward the future, we discuss the n-tier analysis of the Global Poetic System and the La Flood Project.

(Source: Authors' abstract at Hyperrhiz)

ELO Conference Abstract:

This panel brings together scholars from the Colombia, the United States, and Europe to examine electronic literature not as computer-enhanced text but as information systems. As developed in the four papers, this "systematic" approach would push criticism toward an understanding of these textual objects that might facilitate more multi-level readings of developing systems, moving away from a capitalist-driven aesthetic which champions the novel above all. The objects of study range from works in the Electronic Literature Collection volume 1 to a recently funded locative media elit piece being developed for Barcelona.

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Jill Walker Rettberg