One + One = Zero – Vanishing Text in Electronic Literature

Abstract (in English): 

The concept of “erased” text has been a recurrent theme in postmodernist criticism. While most speculation about the presence or absence of an absolute text is applied to print literature, the manifestations of digital text present a new and entirely separate level of investigation.
The combination of visible language and hidden code do not negate the basic questions of language and interpretation – these continue to be important in our study of electronic texts. However, the visible text – under the influence of code – can be modified, transformed, and even deleted in ways that introduce markedly different implications for reading strategies and meaning structures.
This paper will explore a selection of works from electronic writers illustrating text/code practices that involve disappearing “text.” Text can absent itself by the simplest of reader actions – the mouseover or the link which takes the reader to another “lexia” in the piece. But text can also be obliterated by actions of the code, unassisted by the reader/navigator. Moreover, there are intermediate techniques to create vanishing text. Oni Buchanan and Betsey Stone Mazzoleni’s The Mandrake Vehicles – subtitled “meaninglessness and back” – is a good example of clearly visible, reader-activated, yet code-determined text manipulation. Stuart Moulthrop’s Deep Surface takes a different approach to “executed” text – imagining a “deep reading simulator.” Reiner Strasser and M.D. Coverley’s In the White Darkness proposes a symbolic function for elusive text and image. Stephanie Strickland’s slippingglimpse lets the movement of water itself be the mechanism for creation and erasure of text. These, and other works, begin to suggest a set of categories that might be identified in electronic literature.
The presence/absence of meaningful information in electronic fiction and poetry can signify in many ways. And, we may ask, when the text is gone, does it leave a “trace”? Or is vanishing text in electronic literature actually a case of One (text) + One (Code) = Zero (0)? (Source: ELO 2013 Author's abstract)

Pull Quotes: 

The most important difference between print texts and born digital works is that of input and outcome. As Stephanie Strickland noted in her “Born Digital” essay, “To read e-works is to operate or to play them.” Several electronic writers use text/code practices that involve disappearing “text” or image. Text can absent or present itself by the simplest of reader actions – the click (which might activate anything from a Flash file to a sound clip), the mouseover (which might obliterate text by color change, show/hide functions, time-outs), or the link (which might take the reader to another “lexia” and resist return), or the act of typing in text responses (which might elicit further information or restrict same).


Chercher le texte | questions after Sandy BALDWIN, Marjorie LUESEBRINK and Giovanna DI ROSARIO 

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Alvaro Seica