Git as Platform for Electronic Literature Authorware

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper outlines public archives of electronic literature authoring tools and technologies via git version control as a platform for decentralized organization, with a specific focus on current and proposed future uses of the GitHub platforms. How are the source code and tooling for creating electronic literature maintained currently preserved through public open source, and how might ELO initiatives and community best practices engage with them in the future?

Throughout its history electronic literature has been been widely varied and proliferated in many ways: varied in forms or artifacts that are experimental or avant-garde in themselves, varied in modes of distribution across various platforms (including popular and experimental forms), and varied in the authoring tools and techniques used to create it. This proliferation and continual engagement with the *now* of rapid technological change is by its nature usually attached to relatively ephemeral software and hardware forms, whether StorySpace, Flash, the Nintendo DS, et cetera. As most electronic literary works are therefor by default ephemera, a long-held core mission of electronic literature communities of practice has been the preservation, archiving, and dissemination of electronic literature works. A survey briefly considers the context of many existing initiatives to catalog and archive such works -- in particular, the examples of the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base (, the CELL Search Engine (, and IFDB: the Interactive Fiction Database ( As the CELL project describes it: "To the degree that inclusion in a database is now the publishing event and the life of a literary work is defined through a trail of linked commentaries and active responses, the gathering and identification of works becomes itself a creative and scholarly activity." Currently these database catalogs tend to be primarily artifact-centric -- focused primarily on preserving a "work" -- rather than tool-centric or platform-centric, focused on preserving a practice, craft, or creative mode.

By contrast, several electronic literature authoring communities of practice are organized around particular genres or platforms -- for example, hypertext authors using Twine, IF authors using Inform, or bot authors using Tracery -- make extensive use of open source repositories and hosts such as GitHub in order to develop and disseminate authoring tools, platforms, libraries, and plugins et cetera for electronic literature authoring. These tend to be decentralized, supported by small numbers of self-hosting developers who are addressing to specific active communities of practice in their own terms. One practical consequence of this is tagging: umbrella terms such as "electronic literature" or "elit" are almost unknown in GitHub repository tags.

The paper concludes by putting forward a model for a public open source archive for electronic literature tool and platform source code, based on cataloging and mirroring a collection of forks of existing code bases drawn from across multiple electronic literature authoring communities. It is modeled on a related project in the area of creative computing, the Archive for Processing initiative (

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Twine 2009
Flash 1996
GitHub 2008

ELO 2021: Platforms and Software 3, 27 May 2021

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Daniel Johannes...