Emulating hypertext: a feminist, postphenomenological perspective

Critical Writing
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2021
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This paper presents a feminist, platform-conscious approach to reading and preserving a work of early, pre-web electronic literature: Kathryn Cramer's short Storyspace hypertext fiction, "In Small & Large Pieces" (1994). Ensslin adopts a postphenomenological approach centered around Material Engagement Theory (MET), which was originally developed by cognitive archeologists and anthropologists to reflect the material significance of extended, embedded, embodied and enactive cognition, also known as "e-cognition" (Ransom and Gallagher 2020), for human development and subjectivity. Glossed briefly, "extended" refers to the relational idea that "minds and things are continuous and interdefinable processes rather than isolated and independent entities" (Malafouris 2016: 9); "embedded" foregrounds the situated, spatially contingent nature of these processes and relationships; "embodied" emphasizes the fact that the things we interact with become cognitive extensions of the human body, and that "human-technology relations are not representational relations but embodiment relations" (Ihde & Malafouris 2018: 205); and "enactive" signifies that "cognition is not the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven mind but is the enactment of a world" (Varela et al 1991: 9; Iliopoulos 2019). What we learn, know, understand and feel is therefore a product of our active, embedded and embodied interaction with the things around us, and that includes technologies of reading and play. Applied to reading electronic literature, MET can help us understand how the materialities of e-literary creation and experience have a recursive, reciprocal and diachronically dynamic effect on our relationship with a work, but also more generally with our own understanding of what we do and who we are in the field and the community. Ensslin examines how MET can account for how emulation-often stigmatized as legally fraught and inauthentic-can become an integral part of restorative and productive co-reading.

This paper was a contribution to the panel, "On the Effect(s) of Living Backwards", at the ELO 2021 Conference.

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Events referenced:

Titlesort ascending Date Location
Electronic Literature Organization 2021: Platform (Post?) Pandemic 24.05.2021
University of Bergen Bergen
Norway
NO
,
Aarhus University Aarhus
Denmark
DK
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Astrid Ensslin