Geo-locative narratives and e-lit: A Literary Positioning

Abstract (in English): 

At The MITH/ELO Symposium, guest speaker N. Katherine Hayles concluded her talk proposing that electronic literature needed to leave the limits and the realm of the screen. Her words proved an inspiration to our panel. The HERMENEIA Research Group ( and the Centro Avanzado de Investigación en Inteligencia Artificial (CAVIIAR-the Advanced Research Center in Artificial Intelligence) subsequently proposed to the Spanish Department of Industry and Technology the generation of a literary space that would use the technologies foreseen as having the greatest social penetration: cellular telephony, personal computation, Web 2.0 and geographical positioning, i.e. a literary GPS.

Among the technologies that have seen a meteoric rise in the last decade, the Global Positioning System (GPS) holds a prominent place. The concept of geo-location (to determine precisely the current position on earth’s surface, often within meter precision) has permeated society and is now an integral part of every day’s life. This technology is possible thanks to a network of satellites that orbit the earth, and transmit a signal encoded according to a public protocol. A literary GPS could deliver iambic feet to meters of readers across a city. Such a system was named the Global Poetic System Version 1, and was granted with an endowment of 200.000 € for a year of execution (2008). As of 2009, the system has gone through two iterations; therefore the current implementation is termed the Global Poetic System Version 2 (GPS2). The GPS2 seamlessly glues together literary information and geographic positioning. The GPS2 is an ambitious project that tries to incorporate literary creations into the space of digital technologies, bringing literature over to the great public. The literary works it has delivered have been both new creations and works from canonical archives.

Racing from projects such as Legible City, the city in the background of Alex Gopher’s The Child, or Antoni Abad’s project Canal*ACCESSIBLE out to the street and out of the strictly literary context, readers would interact with the environment by means of readings. Our project wanted to foment literary consumption in the social environment associated with the reading, and stimulate the creation of social networks associated with the shared experience of literature. in which handicapped people in Barcelona uploaded inaccessible locations to an online database via multimedia SMS, we longed for the possibility of constructing a literary city where people could read literature, share their readings, and propose texts through a system. We imagined an interface where readers could download a literary adventure to their handheld devices (GPS receiver, PDA, phone), and go on a walk while listening to some famous poems, or let a machine create randomized poems with geo-located literary information.

After a thorough review of the genre of located narrative, we discuss antecedents and works in-progress, including The L.A. Flood Project , Senghor on the rocks, The Ruyi, Venice Act, etc. Our panelists will discuss various aspects of this system and discuss its potential future applications for literary innovations and archiving.

 (Source: Authors' abstract for ELO_AI)

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Audun Andreassen