Inside Outside the Box: Default Settings and Electronic Poetics

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Developing meaningful approaches to criticism appropriate to new modes of cultural production is among the most pressing problems facing the humanities scholars today. This essay discusses digital poetry as a method of revealing defaults in a technical age. It begins with a general definition of the default, followed by a close reading of Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die (2006) and David Jhave Johnston’s Interstitial (2006) as works that challenge default settings: practically, by opening up the space for criticism within digital practice, and philosophically, by engaging with questions of mortality. Through these poetic works, I trace a path through larger social and philosophical questions about technology via Heidegger and the contemporary discourses of technoscience and posthumanism. I conclude with a discussion of the “black box” as a metaphor for an unresolved knowledge of the human between the technical and the poetic.

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Patricia Tomaszek