Post(?) Pandemic Prose

Abstract (in English): 

When the global pandemic spread in early 2020, we, as many others, wondered what was happening and what it all meant. Almost all cultural activity moved online and the electronic platforms took even stronger hold of our lives. We started gathering material about the impact of the Covid 19 on e-literature and digital creativity for a round table presented at the ELOrlando 2020, the first completely online ELO conference ever. This work led to the project Electronic Literature and Covid 19 (supported by DARIAH EU), which includes an exhibition at this year’s conference, a research collection at the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, other presentations and further research.

Life under the pandemic is like living under a largely invisible threat that emerges as catastrophic and tragic when death rates go up. At other times the threat of the virus is barely visible and can mainly be traced as deserted streets. Sometimes the way it invades our shared, common imagination gets quickly normalized as yet another persuasive data visualization, digital map demonstrating a sudden upsurge in viral spread or simply another infographic with increasing numbers. It might be compared to how Svetlana Alexievich describes the Chernobyl disaster (in Chernobyl Prayer, (1997), Penguin 2016), as an unknown catastrophe that was and is difficult to understand for the many Belarusians and Ukrainians living in the disaster zone since it did not look like war or natural disaster. Chernobyl’s invisible radioactive cloud that in 1986 spread across Europe, functioned at the time much like invisible viral danger today, as a post-human, ecological crisis requiring a new understanding and politics. And, like Chernobyl, the pandemic has demonstrated the fractures in many societies’ foundations such as economic inequality, racism, inadequately equipped institutions and health services, and incompetent leaders (see also Latour, Hayles Taussig, Mbembe, Chun et al. in Critical Enquiry, vol. 47, number S2, Winther 2021). Luckily, the pandemic has also shown caring communities and societies, newfound interests in the domestic, the local, and the environmental, including the climate crisis (see e.g. Markham AN, Harris A, Luka ME. Massive and Microscopic Sensemaking During COVID-19 Times. Qualitative Inquiry. October 2020.).

Besides its importance for health, society and the economy, the pandemic might be seen as a paradigmatic cultural change happening in a time with locked down cultural life, which can be seen from behind the global screens of platforms. Electronic literature plays an important role in exploring how people gets through daily life during the pandemic, how we see our homes, communities, cities, environments, institutions, how people become part of both progressive (BLM, Metoo, etc) and reactionary (QAnon, etc) movements. Digital platforms have played a large part in this, e.g. through the various #, through their ways of promoting extremism through profiling algorithms, through their transforming of institutions, etc.

This panel will present early outcomes of the project, present a framework for the exhibition, and an analysis of the themes of the submitted works. We will also invite feedback from the ELO community of researchers, practitioners and artists.

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Record posted by: 
Milosz Waskiewicz