Hayles and the Literary

In Hayles book Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, she discusses a distinction between the shifts in literature from the era of the book as a “precious artifact” to a more modern “electronic literature” looking at a range of first generation digital objects (1-3). These digital objects range from the initial “[lexia] with limited graphics, animation, colors, and sound” to objects with “a fuller use of the multimodal capabilities of the Web” (6). Among these objects she lists a range of interactive fiction like, “Bad Machine” or “Carrier (Becoming Symborg).” She then interprets these works within her book.

Her basic premise for interpreting electronic literature and digitally born literature focuses on computer mediated text as layered (163), multimodal, separately stored and performed, and temporally fractured (164). “These characteristics provide focal points for the recursive dynamic between imitation and intensification” (165). Specifically, the print novel imitates electronic textuality and intensifies the specific traditions of print at the same time (162). Ironically, print authors that fear electronic literature making print obsolete may not recognize that the same technology can “be seen as print in the making: we have met the enemy and he is us.” What some may see as a battle others may see as a symbiotic dance.

In the recent CNN Money article “10 Luminaries Look ahead to the Business of Reading” various authorities discuss this very dynamic:

(Fortune Magazine) — 1. Kurt Andersen, novelist and public radio host
“Anything remotely resembling news media is going to continue to migrate online until very little or none of it is produced on dead trees. But what remains to be figured out is how it’s paid for, and whether this whole system of enormous magazine and newspaper staffs can be reconfigured to be sustainable in this new age.”
“I think we’ll see content that’s a deeper, better hybrid of audio, video, and print emerge, and that will become the default expectation of people. “
3. Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia
“I think we’re going to continue to see more or less what we see today — a mix of free and paid, advertising-supported content, and a lot more community-generated content. But I don’t think we’re really going to see any radical changes to that mix because it is working well for consumers. “
5. Marc Andreessen, co-founder, Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz, a venture fund
“The good news is that reading is alive and well and flowering in a way we’ve never seen before. Text is the primary format of the Internet. More and more text is flowing over Facebook every day. The written word is alive and well and thriving.”
9. Kevin Rose, founder, Digg
“I want a lot of social features to be built into the tablet reading experience. If I’m reading a book I want to see where my friend left off, or I want to be able to leave a voice annotation around a chapter so if a friend stumbles upon that chapter they can listen to what my thoughts were around that area. I want rich media incorporated into my books. I want the ability to go out and look up instantly on Wikipedia what something means or see pictures or video around that. That doesn’t exist today.”
10. Matt Mullenweg, founding developer, WordPress
“I think in the future we’ll see more content produced by smaller organizations.”
“I think for the written word, the elements of it that make it successful — the basics of typography, the quality of writing — haven’t changed very much in hundreds of years. And those fundamentals don’t change when you’re on the screen, whether you’re looking at a tablet or a Kindle or anything like that.”

The biggest concerns seem to be how to pay for this content, who new authors will be, and what the content will look like or how it will function. Many of the people in the full article discuss the IPad as the preferred alternative to the Kindle. (The IPad has not been released as of yet. It is scheduled for a late March or an early April 2010 release date, depending on the model. It was debuted in January by Jobs.)

This is certainly an exciting time to study the literary. I am most surprised by the resistance to the literary and re-mixed media. I accept that it can be a frightening prospect to have everything change, but change is a part of life. You either embrace it or get left behind. Also, I was doing a book review search for Electronic Literature, and I couldn’t find a single article on it other than a brief library review. Yet this book is seminal to the field. I must be missing something. Does anyone know where to look?

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