See Spot Link. Link, Spot, Link: How to read and appreciate electronic literature (Workshop)

Critical Writing
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

What is the difference between reading on screen and reading electronic literature? Between an e-book and an e-lit piece? Electronic literature, or eliterature, uses computer technology as an integral part of the work to convey meaning. Find out about the literary art of links, images, sounds, and motions. Make connections between images and text, between sounds and words, between motions and implications. Uncover an exciting new world where writers expand beyond the page and embrace the screen with an array of new literary techniques.

This workshop will cover 4 basic elements of electronic literature: links, imagery, motion, and sound. For each element, we will read a portion of works to see these elements in action, take part in an exercise to explore writing using these elements, and discuss techniques to recognize and understand these elements.

Links in most hypertexts (bbc news, blogs, wikipedia) are substantive links—follow these for a further elaboration on a topic. Links in eliterature can be substantive, but they can also be causal, associative, expansive, reductive, playful, etc. Thus the link itself becomes a literary device, as flexible as a metaphor or litotes.

Sample: Deena Larsen's Ghost Moons <>
Flit link on 'everything' goes to lover, implying a connection between love and everything and link on "nothing" goes to everything, showing a contradiction.
Exercise: Participants choose two pictures from the set and a string to link the two—and describe how the link connects the two pictures.
Sample: The Unknown <>
Show associations between links (follow a few links and discuss why that link landed on the page).

Imagery overlays text to tease out overtones or implications in the text. Imagery can also contrast the text, implying a contradiction with the words. Imagery can also have meaning in itself.

Sample: Rob Kendall's Study in Shades
Show how the images support the meaning of the text—the daughter disappears as the father sinks into Alzheimers, and the father's contrast—black and white rather than gray—is darkened as the daughter faces who he is now.
Exercise: Write a sentence and pick two images—see how the sentence changes meaning when juxtaposed with each image.
Sample: Stuart Moulthrop's Radio Salience
Show how imagery can become a game, and can lead to more pieces.

Motions can be fast, abrupt, flowing, slow or nearly imperceptible. The motion of the text can reveal new words, obscure connections, force a reading pace (either slower or faster than average reading paces), and create storylines. Motions can be with images or with texts.

Sample of revealing and concealing text by motion: Rob Kendall's Faith <>
Shows how texts can be re-arranged through motion.
Exercise: Get a partner and write two sentences. One person reads while the other dances about, creating a second layer of meaning to the words.
Sample: Peter Howard's Rainbow Factory
Simple animated graphics provide two perspectives.

Sound can carry words that echo the text or contradict the text. Sound can be music, language, sound effects, etc. We will concentrate on word sounds here, as we have seen sound effects used (Peter Howard's Rainbow Factory) and music used (Rob Kendall's Faith).

Sample: John Sparrow, eye in the making
< inflect/03/Sparrow/eye_newer%20Folder/eye.html>
Shows one word and repeats another word for multiple meanings.
Exercise: Play a sound. Participants write two sentences that merge with or bouce off of the sound, and explain how the sound and text go together. Play a new sound and examine how the sentences work with this sound. Write a new sentence that works with this sound.
Sample: Deena Larsen, I'm Simply Saying
Uses music/motion to uncover the multiple meanings in words.

Follow Up
Participants will be given a list of further readings to explore electronic literature in email (Rob Wittig's Blue Company <>), blogs (She's a flight risk <>), and social network applications (Why some dolls are bad). This list will include places to view electronic literature (e.g., "Drunken Boat," "Iowa Review," Electronic Literature Organization).

(Source: Deena Larsen's description for the 2008 ELO Conference)

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
Drunken Boat
The Iowa Review Web
Virtual Writing University, Experimental Wing, University of Iowa Iowa City , IA
United States
Iowa US

Organizations referenced:

The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Scott Rettberg