Reading Digits – Haptic Reading Processes in the Experience of Digital Literary Works

Abstract (in English): 

The intensification of tactile/haptic research by academia and the digital technology industry, has given rise to several instrumentalizations of the adjective haptic, often contradicting an entire philosophical haptological tradition, going back to Aristotle and allowing us to think of the haptic from a multisensory perspective capable of destabilizing the idea of pure sensory modalities. On the one hand, such intensification is evidenced by the ubiquity of digital technological devices that call for interaction through touch and gesture as tactile/haptic functions necessary for experiencing digital content. On the other hand, it may be seen in the increasing demand for tangibility between human and machine, particularly through sensory experiences made possible by virtual/augmented reality, as well as, mixed reality/virtuality platforms. Such intense literalization of the haptic also, paradoxically, ends up reinforcing the existence and primacy of a visual culture inherent to an ocularcentric society. It is in line with this haptological tradition, as well as through the recovery of a multisensory perspective explored by a series of avant-garde artistic practices that permeate the history of twentieth-century art, that I propose to (re)think digital literary works via means of an alternative and operative redefinition of haptic drawn from the metamedial and intermedial specificities of current digital poetic practices. Based on the mapping and analysis of carefully selected digital literary works, this research intends to understand how digital poetic practices make use of certain processes of haptic reading enabled by current digital technology, in order to explore and question the processes of writing and reading in media. In order to validate an argument largely based on the examination of ambiguities and tensions highlighted by the literary exploration of interface functionalities in arts and literature, this thesis will attempt to analyze the referred ambiguity, by showing a parallel between an inherent circularity of (multi)sensory perception and the way certain circular, or rather, spiral-like, trajectories, are able to be identified across multiple arts, artists and movements. All of this, of course, is put together via a process of dialectic subversion/disruption that characterizes multiple variants of experimentalism across the centuries. Moreover, doing so is a way of finding possible answers, or perhaps, raising new questions, regarding longstanding problematics pertaining to the relationship between tradition and innovation, from which the digital era is not exempt.


Critical writing referenced:

Title Author Year
Grasp All, Lose All: Loss of Grasp and Non-Functional Digital Interfaces in Electronic Literature Diogo Marques 2016
Poetic fingerprints: digital literature’s countercultural and metamedial integration of vision and touch Diogo Marques 2017
The Endgame or a Wake?: Tropes of Circularity in Literature Then and Now Diogo Marques 2016
Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature Espen Aarseth 1997
Interface Criticism : Aesthetics Beyond Buttons. Søren Bro Pold, Christian Ulrik Andersen 2011
Scripting Reading Motions: The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines Manuel Portela 2013
The Interface Effect Alexander R. Galloway 2012
At the Time of Writing: Digital Media, Gesture and Handwriting Anna Gibbs, Maria Angel 2011
Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres 2010
Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness Roy Ascott 2003
PO.EX: Essays from Portugal on Cyberliterature and Intermedia 2014
Windows and Mirrors Jay David Bolter, Diane Gromala 2003
Making Sense of the Digital as Embodied Experience Serge Bouchardon, Asunción López-Varela Azcárate 2011
Towards an Art of Rhetoric in Electronic Literary Works: The Figures of Manipulation Serge Bouchardon 2008
Digital Manipulability and Digital Literature Serge Bouchardon, Davin Heckman 2012
Through the Touching Glass: Literature for Haptic Inter[(surf)aces] Diogo Marques 2016
Analyzing Digital Fiction 2014
Time Code Language: New Media Poetics and Programmed Signification John Cayley 2009
Writing on Complex Surfaces John Cayley 2005
Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound Lori Emerson 2014

Organizations referenced:

Databases/Archives referenced:

Title Organization responsible Arquivo Digital da Literatura Experimental Portuguesa University Fernando Pessoa
Electronic Literature Directory Electronic Literature Organization

Events referenced:

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Diogo Marques