Sensory Modalities and Digital Media

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

My presentation will discuss the use of information and social networking software in electronic writing with the aim of identifying and analyzing several important new directions in literary criticism in the digital era. 

As I argue, one of the most significant pedagogical outcomes of media convergence within the literary arts centres upon criticism’s necessary de-emphasis of traditional genre-based modes of analysis and assessment. While digital works may resemble, perhaps even aesthetically mimic, the various analogue formats upon which they are based, both the qualitative and quantitative distinctions between texts, audio and image-based forms remain conceptual, not actual. Subsequently, the primary interpretative paradigms for all forms of digital cultural production tend to emerge via spatially accrued tensions and patterns between the work and its literal location within an information network. 

To acquire meaning, to be, in other words, rationally interpretable, digital works depend upon some kind of placement within larger constellations of interrelated, inter-functioning data systems. New methods of literary criticism, it follows, must inevitably derive from careful consideration of such networks and their capacity to influence and authorise how texts appear as works of coherence and argument. 

To this end, I will exhibit several possible architectural plans for the design and construction of new media resource systems able to employ advanced semantic technologies for the interpretation and/or construction of meaning within texts. My argument will consider the possibility whether such systems are not only useful in the interpretation of digital writing, but necessary. Work and research I have recently completed towards implementing a full media lab for the Digital Humanities program at Capilano College will serve as an example of the type of critical tools and methods upon which the field of literary criticism may increasingly depend. 

Such systems, I suggest, not only help organise digital writing for the purpose of critical study and analysis, their very structure implies a completely new concept of literary meaning in itself, one in which a text's cultural significance and function remains essentially indeterminate, save for its relationship to different interpretative semantic networks. In this way, contexts of meaning and interpretation, regardless of the field of knowledge must, in themselves, be recast and reconsidered as dynamic, network driven structures rather than static archives of related texts.

(Source: Author's abstract, 2008 ELO Conference site)

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Scott Rettberg