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Missed Collections: Away From the Canon, Toward the Archive

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper expands on some of the questions raised by my presentation at the 2009 Digital Arts and Culture conference, held last December at UC Irvine. While examining the work of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI), I asked what it might mean for a new media practitioner to intentionally disregard or shun many of the medium’s inherent capabilities. I was interested in the way in which YHCHI seemed to be protesting some of the assumptions or characteristics of the nascent canon of electronic literature, i.e. that works of new media are inherently multidirectional, adaptive, non-linear, etc.

With this paper, I turn from interrogating specific works of electronic literature to perform a broader analysis of the ideology that underpins (e-) canonicity. This paper responds to the Electronic Literature Organization’s conference theme “Archive and Innovate,” by positing that it might now be possible to move away from the rather exclusive notion of the canon, complete with its ideological, print historical baggage, and move toward a more inclusive, “open-source” mode of textual preservation: the archive. Building on Matthew Kirschenbaum’s quick nod to Freud’s Archive Fever as well as Lev Manovich’s discussion of the database as a “symbolic form,” I flesh out some of the significant differences between the traditional notion of the print canon and the innovative model of the digital archive. What might new modes of preservation, such as the Electronic Literature Organization’s online collection, offer that traditional modes of collection and storage do not? What could an electronic literary archive or database do at a conceptual level that might impact the way we write, access, or read these types of texts? In attempting to answer these questions and a few others, I hope to further encourage our discussion of (e-) textual preservation and storage.

(Source: Author's abstract for ELO_AI)

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Audun Andreassen