Porting E-Poetry: The Case of First Screening

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This presentation seeks to examine issues around the practice of porting electronic literature,
particularly E-poetry by examining the case of First Screening by bpNichol, a Canadian poet who
programmed a suite of e-poems in Apple BASIC in 1984. This work was preserved, documented, ported, curated, and published in Vispo.com in 2007 by a collaborative group of poets and programmers: Jim Andrews, Geof Huth, Lionel Kearns, Marko Niemi, and Dan Waber. This publication consists of a curated collection of four different versions of First Screening which I will analyze in my presentation:

1. The original DSK file of the 1984 edition, which can be opened with an Apple IIe emulator, along with the Apple BASIC source code as a text file, and scanned images of the printed matter
published with the 51/4 inch floppy disks it was distributed in.

2. A video captured documentation of the emulated version in Quicktime format.

3. The 1993 HyperCard version, ported by J. B. Hohm, along with the printed matter of that
published edition.

4. A JavaScript version of First Screening ported by Marko Niemi and Jim Andrews.

I will make the case that these ported versions are ontologically different by performing media-specific analysis of each text, and critical code readings of their programming and source codes. Through close readings of the presentation (screen) and logical (source code) layers of each version I can point out what is gained and what is lost every time this suite of electronic poems is ported. For example, when the code poem embedded in lines 3900 – 3935 of the original Apple BASIC program is ported into another programming language, such as Hypercard or Javascript, it ceases to be a code poem because it is generated by different code to be displayed on the screen.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen