Visualizing la(e)ng(-u-)age

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Electronic literature not only engages “new media” elements (such as links, navigation, structure, animation, color, images, sound, computer programming) but also toys with the very foundation of literature—the language itself. After 20 years, we need to look back to remind people about these en(gag)(-tangl-)ements. As language is rapidly shifting with new te(xt )chnologies, we need to look ahead to see where electronic literature can engage with these emerging forms of language.

First, I will briefly present previous works to provide a history of electronic literature’s engagement with language. I will cover:

Character-augmented languages such as:

· Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia and Mez’ mezzangle (languages using regular fonts which add or subtract characters to words to create other words, usually employing parentheses)

· My work-in-progress Chronic (a handwritten language which adds or subtracts letters in a similar manner but employing upper characters to add letters and overbars to subtract letters)

Visual languages such as:

· Jim Rosenberg’s diacritical marks (using lines and arrows as visual symbol in lieu of grammatical connections between words)

· Diana Slattery’s Glide language (an animated visual language where symbols represent poetic concepts)

· My “Rose” language used in Chronic (a handwritten language which assigns a coded letter with an (co)(i)nfl(i)(e)cted meaning to each roman alphabet character—for example:

“b” inflects boldness to fear
“c” inflects conventionality to non-conformity
“d” inflects distance

I will expl(ain)(ore) Chronic, to show how I have translated the work into a “simple” or non-inflected reading, and a “complex” or inflected reading using both augmented and visual language elements.

I will ask how we read and interpret these types of works—and what these works mean for the future of our language:

· What are the implications for translation into other traditional languages? Into other emerging languages?

· Will these languages/approaches be adapted into everyday speech (or morph into another language such as L33t?)

· Are any of these electronic literature languages pronounceable? performable?

· As L33t, too, can not be “read aloud”—what are the criteria for language? Is pronunciation/performance a critical element for a language?

· What is the role of new media literature in creating a new language?

· As our audiences are miniscule compared to the vast numbers of people who text, how do we develop/engage/read/appreciate these languages?

· How can electronic literature play with the new languages—can we gain a popular audience?

· What is the ergodic quotient for these works—and is the payoff there?

I do not intend to answer any of this. This presentation will be a springboard for the community to engage with these questions and start a thoughtful discussion of language and its fundamental cha(lle)nges.

(Source: Author's Abstract)

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Scott Rettberg