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#ELRPUB: Intervista con Fabrizio Venerandi

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Fabrizio Venerandi è cofondatore della casa editrice digitale Quintadicopertina di Genova. In questa intervista che da inizio alla serie #ELRPUB dedicata all’editoria digitale, Venerandi ci parla della produzione, del mercato e della storia dell’editoria digitale offrendoci anche delle riflessioni su temi come la lettura, l’estetica e l’archiviazione delle opere digitali in formato EPUB.

 

 

ELR: Fabrizio Venerandi, nel 2014 hai rilasciato un’intervista all’ELR in cui ci hai parlato delle “Polistorie” (2010). Nel 2017 hai creato un’altra opera altrettanto innovativa: le “Poesie elettroniche”. Di cosa si tratta?

Fabrizio Venerandi: “Poesie Elettroniche” è un ebook di poesie che ho scritto e programmato in formato EPUB3. L’idea che sta dietro a questo testo di letteratura elettronica è che la programmazione di codice dia vita a nuovi strumenti retorici che si affiancano a quelli tradizionali come la rima, l’endiade, la similitudine, l’alliterazione, etc. Questi nuovi strumenti retorici sono legati alla tecnologia e quindi alla scrittura di algoritmi che “fanno fare” cose ai versi che non sarebbe possibile fare ugualmente su un libro di carta.

“Poesie Elettroniche” è una prima formalizzazione di alcuni di questi nuovi strumenti. Ho scelto un numero molto limitato di interazioni lettore/testo e ho lavorato su quelle per mostrare le possibilità espressive di ognuna. Quello che mi interessava era soprattutto mostrare come questi nuovi strumenti retorici non fossero delle semplici wunderkammer fatte per stupire il lettore, ma che avessero una finalità espressiva ben precisa.

In questo caso la silloge raccoglie una serie di poesie scritte in un periodo molto negativo per la mia vita. Mi ritrovavo a scrivere cose che non avevo la forza di rileggere e che – sostanzialmente – non volevo che nessuno leggesse. Ma che dovevo comunque scrivere per estrarle e buttarle fuori di me, perché mi stavano intossicando. Il codice è stato un modo naturale per me per fare qualcosa di nuovo: potevo scrivere queste cose senza doverle leggere e senza doverle far leggere nella nudità della loro messa in versi. I versi infatti, nell’ebook, cambiano, si modificano nel tempo, si nascondono nelle ore di luce, si muovono per lo schermo, si generano solo se sollecitati, si cancellano ed evitano di mostrarsi nella loro interezza. Il codice è funzionale alla mia necessità espressiva.

La  seconda cosa importante per me è stata produrre questo ebook come oggetto destinato al commercio. Un prodotto editoriale di mercato, messo in vendita sui maggiori canali di distribuzione digitale, con un suo ISBN e con un suo prezzo. Volevo mostrare come la letteratura elettronica sia un modo naturale di leggere un testo, rintracciabile all’interno di uno store generalista, e distribuito nel maggior numero possibile di lettori. Eliminare l’idea che electronic literature significhi solo ed esclusivamente sperimentazione on-line, magari nata e destinata ad un circolo ristretto di accademici.

ELR: Come cambia il modo di leggere con un libro elettronico in formato EPUB?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Dipende dalla consapevolezza di chi ha creato il testo e di chi lo sta leggendo. Il novantanove per cento dei testi ebook in commercio non sono libri digitali, ma libri digitalizzati. Non offrono niente di diverso rispetto alla tradizionale lettura sequenziale di un libro di carta. Diverso il caso in cui il testo è pensato, programmato, progettato per essere letto in formato digitale. Già in ePub2 è possibile creare “polistorie”, afferenti a quella che viene chiamata hypertext fiction. Ma ancora di più in EPUB3 dove il testo può sfruttare codice vero e proprio.

ELR: Secondo te c’è una consapevolezza e una volontà forte, nel tuo ambito lavorativo, per lo sviluppo di nuove tecnologie che agevoleranno il passaggio dall’editoria a stampa all’editoria digitale?

Fabrizio Venerandi: No. C’è un freno a mano inserito da parte di diversi soggetti sia nazionali che transnazionali. Non si tratta di limiti tecnici, ma prettamente economici e di mercato. Gli editori non investono in testi nativi digitali perché è un prodotto che non potrebbero poi spendere su carta (mentre è vero il contrario); alcuni grandi soggetti come Amazon ed Apple depotenziano le possibilità della lettura digitale con un supporto povero o inesistente ai formati più avanzati come EPUB3, cercando invece di chiudere il lettore in ecosistemi proprietari; le specifiche per la letteratura elettronica sono primitive e incoerenti, avendo in mente un libro di carta “arricchito” da elementi digitali, invece che un testo nativo digitale; i DRM vincolano e dissuadono la creazione di killer application per la lettura. Sono tutti fattori, questi ed altri ancora, collegati l’un l’altro che hanno di fatto rallentato quello che – ingenuamente – nel 2010 pensavo sarebbe stato il progresso naturale della lettura digitale. Vedremo cosa succederà con DPUB.

ELR: Oltre a scrivere e pubblicare ebook tu insegni anche editoria digitale. A chi si rivolgono i corsi e come sono strutturati?

Fabrizio Venerandi: I nostri corsi sono segnalati nel sito Ebook Design School  Si rivolgono a chiunque abbia a che fare con la scrittura e l’editoria digitale: case editrici, liberi professionisti, scrittori, docenti. I corsi sono strutturati a moduli tematici: mercato, promozione, redazione digitale. La parte di progettazione e costruzione ebook è svolta in due laboratori che partono dalle basi della marcatura per arrivare ad un ebook completo.

ELR: Da una breve ricerca sul web sui libri elettronici risulta che la storia dell’editoria digitale inizi attorno all’anno 1993 quando due italiani, Franco Crugnola e sua moglie Isabella Rigamonti, hanno creato il primo libro elettronico e quando il poeta Zahur Klemath Zapata pubblica “L’Assassinio come una delle belle arti” di Thomas de Quincey in formato DBF (digital book format). Secondo te quando ha avuto inizio la storia dei libri digitali e quali sono alcuni dei momenti salienti della storia dell’editoria digitale?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Io sposterei le lancette indietro di una ventina di anni. Per quanto mi riguarda la letteratura elettronica è già tale con la nascita delle prime text adventure, quindi a metà degli anni settanta per la lingua inglese e il 1982 per l’Italia con Enrico Colombini. Noto una certa ritrosia nella critica accademica nel considerare queste opere come letteratura elettronica perché erano (almeno inizialmente) giochi, non erano opere editoriali in senso stretto, nel senso che non assomigliano in nessun modo ad un libro ed erano nei loro primi anni letterariamente molto scarne. Invece proprio il fatto che non assomigliassero a “qualcosa di editoriale o letterario” è il segno che erano software avanzatissimi nel proporre una fabula che non si leggeva come si legge un libro ma a cui ci si approccia con un intreccio intimamente digitale. Molti concetti e strutture dei text adventure sono ancora oggi molto più centrati su una nuova narrativa rispetto a tanti ebook “aumentati” che invece appaiono come una semplice espansione del libro di carta.

ELR: Per la preservazione delle opere digitali esistono varie strategie come la migrazione, la duplicazione, l’emulazione o l’utilizzo di metadati. Quali di queste strategie possono essere o vengono usate per gli ebook?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Utilizzo di formati aperti, rimozione dei DRM e copia. I formati chiusi sono un rischio per la preservazione e soprattutto per la fruizione continuata dei loro contenuti. Un conto è poi creare un ambiente virtualizzato nel quale far “girare” un determinato contenuto ormai obsoleto, un altro è pensare il contenuto digitale come qualcosa che non diventa affatto obsoleto ma viene sfruttato in maniera sempre diversa man mano che si evolvono le tecnologie per la lettura. Nel momento in cui scrivo le tecnologie più solide sono quelle del W3C.

ELR: In un tuo articolo pubblicato su Nazione Indiana hai descritto i “Formati per fare ebook”: EPUB2, EPUB3, MOBI e KF8. Eppure il formato che viene usato prevalentemente sembra essere ancora il pdf. Come si sono sviluppati il mercato dei libri elettronici statici in formato pdf e quello dei libri elettronici arricchiti con funzioni multimediali e interattivi in formato EPUB?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Il pdf non è un formato che nasce per fare ebook, ma per rendere trasportabile un impaginato finalizzato alla stampa. Negli anni si è sviluppato, ha assorbito numerose funzioni di accessibilità, ma continuo a pensare che i formati liquidi, legati a doppio filo con gli strumenti di lettura on line, abbiano maggiore possibilità di sviluppo nel medio-lungo termine. Già oggi la lettura di narrativa con schermi piccoli funziona notevolmente meglio in ePub o KF8 rispetto che pdf. Ma non si tratta per me di una guerra di religione: molti dei nostri ebook ipertestuali sono pubblicati anche in formato pdf. L’importante è che l’editore abbia in mano, a monte, uno workflow di sviluppo che veda il pdf come una delle possibili uscite del suo contenuto, non l’unica. Riguardo agli epub con funzioni interattive, come dicevo sopra, hanno avuto finora uno sviluppo marginale. Quando mostro le cose che Quintadicopertina ha sviluppato in questi sette anni, da Locusta Temporis a Poesie Elettroniche, vedo ancora stupore e interesse per queste cose, segno che qualcosa non ha funzionato. Lo sdoganamento del prodotto letterario nativo digitale ancora non c’è stato.

ELR: Quale di questi formati (Fixed layout e Reflowable layout) viene utilizzato per i libri digitali di Quintadicopertina e per quali ragioni?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Ad oggi abbiamo sempre utilizzato il formato reflowable. In un mercato così piccolo, vincolarsi ad una sola dimensione di lettura è un rischio. Ma – di nuovo – non è una guerra di religione. Ci possono essere progetti e collane tablet-oriented, in cui anche il fixed potrebbe avere senso.

ELR: Secondo te quali sono i fattori estetici più importanti per l’impaginazione di un ebook?​

Fabrizio Venerandi: Va ripensata l’estetica della pagina, perché non abbiamo una pagina, ma contemporaneamente abbiamo contenuti inseriti in uno “spazio pagina” che può ibridarsi a seconda di chi sta leggendo quel testo e di come lo sta facendo. Nei testi più sofisticati possiamo avere contenuti che cambiano adattandosi alle scelte di chi legge, quindi cose che possono apparire o meno all’interno della pagina stessa. Certi elementi che oggi non possiamo utilizzare, come le note a pié di pagina, vanno completamente ripensati. Anche gli elementi grafici inseriti nel testo assumono una grandissima importanza, perché diventano ancore di memorizzazione dei contenuti, essendo sparita la “visione foglio”, soprattutto se questi elementi non sono più accessori del testo, ma integrati e interagenti con i contenuti stessi. È un tipo di progettazione che è diversa sia da quella della pagina web, sia da quella del libro, pur avendo elementi comuni con entrambe. Non parlerei nemmeno di ‘impaginazione’, quanto di ‘istruzione’ . Non impagino dei contenuti ma gli insegno cosa sono e come devono comportarsi quando si relazionano con i loro vicini.

ELR: Quanto è importante conoscere le lingue di programmazione per creare degli ebook in formato EPUB? Che consigli daresti a coloro che vogliono iniziare a imparare a programmare?

Fabrizio Venerandi: Nel medio termine io credo che sia un punto di non ritorno. Se stai costruendo contenuti digitali, ovvero testi, suoni, animazioni e immagini marcate, codificate, programmate, ‘istruite’, conoscere la marcatura, i CSS, la programmazione e quello che c’è sotto al cofano ti permette di avere in mano tutto il sistema di produzione. Detto molto banalmente: ci sono cose che semplicemente non ti verrebbe in mente di fare se non conoscessi il codice con cui si possono fare. Idee che non emergerebbero nella tua testa. E anche il contrario: eviteresti di disperdere risorse in progetti digitali abnormi fatti controcorrente che non hanno senso.  Per quanto riguarda quali linguaggi di programmazione imparare: credo che in questo momento sia utile sapere cosa sia XML e HTML5, la gestione degli stili con i CSS, i linguaggi di programmazione per interrogare dati come XQuery, i tool pratici come le RegEx e ovviamente Javascript.

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#ELREAT: La poesia nell’epoca del newmedia (2001)

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La ELR propone la seconda intervista di Eduardo Kac per la serie #ELRFEAT. Daniela Calisi lo interroga sul rapporto tra letteratura e nuovi media.

L’intervista è stata pubblicata sul blog Contentodesign nel 2001 e ripubblicata qui con l’autorizzazione da parte di Daniela Calisi e Eduardo Kac.

 

La poesia olografica

* Una poesia olografica o olopoesia è concepita costruita e rappresentata olograficamente , le parole che la compongono si dispongono in uno spazio 3d che è nello stesso tempo reale e immateriale; il lettore può muoversi attorno ad essa e ad ogni suo spostamento la poesia cambia e fa sorgere nuovi significati.

* La percezione di una poesia olografica non è né lineare né simultanea, ma avviene attraverso frammenti visti in modo casuale dall’osservatore in base alla sua posizione rispetto al testo. La percezione spaziale dei volumi, dei colori, i gradi di trasparenza, i cambiamenti di forma, le posizioni relative di lettere e parole, l’animazione, l’apparizione e la sparizione delle forme sono elementi inseparabili dalla percezione sintattica e semantica del testo.

Chi e’ Eduardo Kac 

Eduardo Kac, scrittore ed artista con una spiccata predilezione per i media elettronici e le opere basate sull’utilizzo della luce, è oggi internazionalmente noto per le sue installazioni interattive e la sua “bio arte”.

Espone la sua prima collezione di holopoems nel 1985 al Museo dell’immagine e del suono di São Paulo. Fino al 1987 continua la ricerca nel campo dell’olografia per presentare poesie caratterizzate da spazi turbolenti e forme mutevoli, a partire dall’87 inizia a sperimentare nuove tecnologie con cui elaborare i suoi testi facendo nascere la “digital holopoetry”.

Espone la sua prima collezione di holopoems nel 1985 al Museo dell’immagine e del suono di São Paulo. Fino al 1987 continua la ricerca nel campo dell’olografia per presentare poesie caratterizzate da spazi turbolenti e forme mutevoli, a partire dall’87 inizia a sperimentare nuove tecnologie con cui elaborare i suoi testi facendo nascere la “digital holopoetry”.

Le sue opere sono esposte in svariate gallerie , sono state presentate in esposizioni internazionali e sono parte di collezioni permanenti esposte, tra l’altro, al Museum of Modern Art di New York, al Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection di Chicago, ed al Museo di arte moderna di Rio de Janeiro.

 

Intervista con Eduardo Kac

Daniela Calisi

Quale pensi che sia il giusto approccio intellettuale alla new media poetry? Come ci si deve avvicinare a questo genere di poesia, con quale bagaglio culturale?

Derrida è un buon punto di partenza perché Derrida afferma che nessuno scrittore ha il pieno controllo del medium scritto. Quello che io e Pablo Gyori cerchiamo di fare è portare alla luce questa consapevolezza profonda.

Io trovo molto utile ciò che Jon Cayley ha scritto in “Beyond Codexspace“. Dire che così come c’è una specificità nelle condizioni materiali del libro nello stesso modo c’è una specificità nelle condizioni immateriali dell’ambiente virtuale e che la semplificazione non funziona nello stesso modo in questi due ambienti. E che quando fai un segno sulla carta quel segno acquista un carattere permanente che il lettore non può cambiare, il libro non gli consente di farlo.

Nel libro puoi saltare ad una certa pagina senza prima dover sfogliare tutte le altre. il fatto di avere una sequenza di pagine, di poter saltare direttamente al fondo, le caratteristiche date dalla fisicità del libro, quello che Cayley chiama il codexspace, sono rimaste inesplorate a lungo. Quando i poeti hanno preso coscienza di questa fisicità hanno cominciato a farne uso come mezzo di comunicazione.

Quando prendi in considerazione che il poeta può utilizzare non solo il testo ma anche le condizioni materiale in cui il testo viene prodotto, vedi chiaramente che nel cyberspazio o nello spazio olografico o sulle reti lo scrittore è pienamente cosciente delle possibilità ma è anche pienamente cosciente che a prescindere da quanto si impegni a creare segni statici non può controllare come questi segni saranno percepiti dal lettore. Allora la questione diventa come scrivere un testo che può tenere conto non solo dell’interpretazione, ma anche della negoziazione delle condizioni materiali del testo. Quale tipo di navigazione creerai? In quel momento stai impiegando gli stessi elementi materiali di produzione che il lettore impiega quando ricrea il testo nell’atto di leggerlo.

I poeti che fanno uso di queste nuove tecnologie, cosa chiedono in più al lettore?

L’impulso è analogo a quello di altri poeti. Perché Appollinaire avrebbe incorporato elementi visivi nelle sue opere?

Questo fa parte della creatività. Cercare di comprendere e spingere i nostri limiti oltre ciò che già conosciamo, cercare di creare delle nuove possibilità, di rispondere ai cambiamenti nella sensibilità del nostro tempo. […] Cercare di scrivere in questo nuovo modo, traendo il massimo dal nostro tempo. Viviamo in un momento in cui facciamo esperienza dell’accelerazione in un modo unico nella storia, facciamo esperienze con un testo che si dissolve ed esplode in televisione, la parola parlata che viaggia e si muove nel modo attraverso il satellite, c’è l’immaterialità, la convergenza dei media che è un fenomeno unico del nostro tempo, la letterarietà delle parole in movimento che vediamo in televisione, nelle introduzioni dei film. Tutti questi elementi hanno creato la base perché le persone siano in grado di assorbire questi testi.

Una cosa da tenere ben presente è che l’aspetto rivoluzionario dei computer nella letteratura non è tanto in quanto mezzi di produzione ma in quanto mezzi di fruizione, questa è la differenza chiave. Perché non si tratta solo del poeta che può scrivere in un modo diverso ma soprattutto del lettore che può leggere in un modo diverso. Questo potrebbe spiegare il gap perché, sì, i computer stanno diventando molto comuni ora, ma potresti ugualmente aspettarti di poter portare con te le tue poesie, o comunque di poterle leggere dovunque tu sia.

E poi c’è il fatto che la poesia non è un’arte *popolare*, è propria di una comunità relativamente ristretta, quindi è importantissimo che la lettura diventi accessibile in questi nuovi formati. Per esempio con la poesia olografica ciò è molto difficile perché è molto caro riprodurla in grandi quantità.

L’aspetto veramente rivoluzionario del computer in questo campo è il fatto di consentire al lettore di fare un’esperienza esattamente come l’autore l’ha concepita. Anche all’interno di una comunità già predisposta a fruire la poesia si pone il problema di rendere questi nuovi tipi di poesia accessibili. Perché ad esempio i Videopoems non sono accessibili su internet perché si tratta di files enormi, e internet in questo momento non può trasportare un tale quantità di informazioni in tempi accettabili, potrà farlo un giorno ma non oggi. Esistono le poesie olografiche ma non puoi pubblicare un libro di poesia olografica perché una sola pagina ti costerebbe 5000 dollari. Nei testi basati sul network poi, che sono più accessibili, c’è il fatto che assomigliano sempre di più alle opere multimediali e aprono la strada ad autori che magari hanno perso coscienza del fatto che stanno lavorando in campo poetico perché la distinzione tra opera multimediale e opera poetica per loro si è dissolta.

Written by ELR

March 21, 2018 at 10:00 am

Interview with Mez Breeze

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What lies beneath our screens? Can humans read programming languages? Where lies the boundary between human langugage and machine language? The ELR has invited Mez Breeze, artist and writer of new media works, to participate in this interview to talk about code works, Mezangelle and the importance of learning to code. Also, we have tried to draw a distinction between fiction, video games and art in some of her latest works that are characterized by multimodal narrative, game mechanics and VR technology.

 

ELR: Mez Breeze you are an artist and a writer who works with new media. You began in the early 1990s and your work includes many different literary genres (electronic literature, transmedia, code poetry, codework, literary games, etc) and net art and game art. How did you become interested in digital culture, where did your original inspirations come from?

Mez Breeze: If I had to pinpoint a specific catalyst for my interest in digital culture, it’d probably be when researching the Internet for an Arts Institution talk in the early 1990’s. The talk was based on the concept of Cyberspace and was given either in 1992 or 1993, though my Cyberspace interest was piqued originally when I was studying an Applied Social Science degree back in the late 1980’s [when I was first introduced to the term].

Regarding original inspirations, there’s two that spring to mind: the first being my exposure in 1992 to VNS Matrix [who I later wrote about/interviewed in Switch Magazine]. Their mix of feminism, text/image merging and virtual engagement intrigued me; at the time I was creating mixed-media installations involving painting, computer text and computer hardware. I was prompted by my intrigue with VNS Matrix to Internet-delve in 1994 when using Telnet/Unix, and exploring avatar use and identity-play with other virtual participants through projected text and interactive, game-like fiction. Two of my avatar names from that time included “ms post modemism” and “aeon”.

My second main inspiration in relation to digital culture can be traced from my love of gaming. I’ve been a gamer since way back when, madly playing first-person shooters Doom and Quake in the mid 1990’s. I was also thoroughly immersed in Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs including Everquest and World of Warcraft [in which I co-ran a guild for a while] and have used these platforms to produce creative projects too. An applied example of inspirations that have filtered down into specific digital works is seen in the sense of space and oddness that you’ll encounter in the “Mo’s Universe” section of All the Delicate Duplicates gameworld: this was in part shaped by my own personal intrigue with language and landscapes in general, and how the vastness of the rural [especially like here in Australia] can seem open, alien, fascinating. When I was a kid, my Dad would take us on Sunday drives into the countryside, and we’d spend hours trekking through abandoned houses and dilapidated sheds, finding and collecting strange objects – once we explored a half-burnt house where I found several abandoned chess pieces that I kept for years, and remember thinking how weird these objects – designed for placement in a game – seemed when placed outside in the dirt, in a completely different context. It was during these treks that I also came to view the half hour or so before dusk as a weird, fantastical time when anything could happen: when the light shifted so suddenly sometimes that a real sense of almost David-Lynch-like strangeness could result.

ELR: This year you released “All the Delicate Duplicates” (2017) in collaboration with Andy Campbell with whom you also worked on: “#Carnivast”, “#PRISOM”, in 2013, and “The Dead Tower“, in 2012. The description on the homepage of “All the Delicate Duplicates” states that it is a work of fiction, but it is also a PC game. What relationship exists between video games and literature in your opinion? What is priority in “All the Delicate Duplicates”: the plot or the game mechanics?

Mez Breeze: The relationship between video games and literature is a complex one, especially in today’s muddied cultural climate where a proliferation of narrative based games [think: walking simulators, indie games, altgames, artgames, XR games, interactive fiction etc] has shifted the definition of what constitutes a game, and prompted questions concerning the validity of digitally-produced literature [and how both intersect]. There’s been so much said about whether video games can be considered art [or as high literature] in the past few years that the topic seems played out [pardon the games pun!] and almost redundant – my feeling is: games can be art, games can be literature, and the combination of game mechanics and literary conventions can act to create emergent artgame/game-art forms.

In relation to our literary game “All the Delicate Duplicates”, there’s no clear priority in terms of the plot or game mechanics. At present, the project consists of two main parts: a narrative game and a fragmented web-based fiction version, both of which delve into the delusional life of a computer engineer named John, his relationship with Charlotte, his daughter, and how the memories and inherited objects of John’s enigmatic relative Mo skew both their lives. We’re currently working on the third aspect of the project to complete an “element trilogy” of sorts: this third angle is being developed as a standalone Virtual Reality [or VR] work – it presents an angle of the story that is yet to be unpacked.

ELR: As an artist and writer who has worked in different fields like literature, video games, and art. Where do you put the boundaries between these different modes of expression? Are there any boundaries at all? Is it possible to correlate the aesthetics of literature, video games, and art?

Mez Breeze: In a sense my entire practice has been [and continues to be] one big creative experiment. From creating code poetry using Mezangelle back in the 1990’s, to transmedia [Alternate Reality Games and “Socumentaries” in late 2000s], to literary and AR games, to VR sculpting/modelling, I see all these modes of expression as elements in a progression web. As long as the work, or experiments, produce engaging and interesting output, I’m there. One fascination I have is how to best embody storytelling in works that are largely viewed as technologically ephemeral [VR, AR or XR based] and that operate at the intersection of a multitude of boundaries. At present, I’m interested in embodiment here in how it encapsulates a mix of intimacy and identity projection that comes from diving into a high-end VR-based experiences: the immersive quality is entirely different in this type of VR medium in that a VR user has to make a distinct effort to participate, has to don gear that firstly reduces their ability to engage in their actual physical space in standard ways [such as their vision and hearing being “co-opted” into the VR space]. The leap of faith a user needs to make in order to establish a valid “willing suspension of disbelief” [as Coleridge so beautifully phrased it] is already set in motion by the fact a user is entirely aware that their actual body is involved in the VR experience [haptically, kinetically], as opposed to a more removed projection into a story space via more traditional forms [think book reading, movies, tv]. In my experience, this body co-opting can lead a user to either be on the alert from the beginning of the VR experience, and so they are harder to get onside in terms of true immersion, or they readily fall into the experience with an absolute sense of wonder.

Another example of how I’m constantly prodding and testing creative/mode-based boundaries is how I’m currently using VR to create 3D models/tableaus [sculptures?]. For example, within 24 hours of first using Blocks, Google’s poly 3D asset creation tool, I’d created a script for a VR Alphabet Book, as well as the first two 3D models of the 26 animated scenes. With continued work, this VR-based book will operate through interactive navigation via use of haptic controls [that is, primarily by touching objects and invoking movement] rather than relying just on the written word as the primary method of conveying meaning. We’re attempting a similar spatial and haptic emphasis through the latest instalment of the Inanimate Alice franchise, a digitally-born set of stories relating the experiences of Alice in episodes, journals, games, and other digital media. The latest instalment is a VR Adventure Experience called Perpetual Nomads, a Coproduction between Australia and Canada, that combines aspects of game-like literary storytelling in a Virtual Reality form.

ELR: You invented a programming language in 1994 called Mezangelle. You use Mezangelle in your printed book “Human Readable Messages”. How are readers supposed ‘to read’ this book? Could you explain to us what aesthetics of computer code means?

Mez Breeze: I’m reluctant to suggest [or indeed unpack] definitive explanations of Mezangelle works and/or computer code aesthetics. Works created in Mezangelle are designed to function and meaning-establish via an individual’s own subjective meaning framework. There is no “wrong” way to interpret Mezangelle: many people parse only the poetic underpinnings, whereas some in the code-loop absorb the programming elements or ascii-like symbol. Output is dependent on the structures that are being emulated, mashed, and/or mangled, and again have less to do with my manifest intention and more to do with a more universal lattice-like cohesion. While engaging a Mezangelled text/snippet, a reader/user is encouraged to construct meaning [but isn’t necessarily forced to absorb: there’s always the option to omit, to resist] in a tumultuously fractured meaning zone that bends and happily shifts comprehension goalposts. Shattered rule-fragments exist [t]here, but determination of meaning depends on an acknowledgment that there is never only one level of interpretation, or an ultimately correct [or incorrect] option: there is never a singular definitive/functional interpretation involved in order to construct valid meaning.

Others have attempted to analyse Mezangelled works on a more granular level: one of the better-known attempts comes from theorist Florian Cramer, who says of one of my earliest codeworks “_Viro.Logic Condition][ing][ 1.1_“: “What seems like an unreadable mess at first, turns out to be subtle and dense if you read closer. The whole text borrows from conventions of programming languages; it presents itself as a program with a title, version number, main routine – indicated with the line “[b:g:in]” – and several subroutines or objects (which, like in the programming language Perl, are indicated with two double colons). But the main device are the square brackets which, like in Boolean search expressions, denote that a text can be read in multiple ways. For example, the title reads simultaneously as “Virologic Condition”, “Virologic Conditioning”, “Logic Condition” and “Logic Conditioning”. This technique reminds of the portmanteau words of Lewis Carroll and James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”, but is reinvented here in the context of net culture and computer programming. As the four readings of the title tell already, this particular text is about humans and machines and about a sickness condition of both. The square bracket technique is used to keep the attributions ambiguous. For example, the two words in the line “::Art.hro][botic][scopic N.][in][ten][dos][tions::” can be read as “arthroscopic” / “art robotic” / “Arthrobotic” / “horoscopic” and “Nintendo” /  “intentions” or “DOS”. So the machine becomes arthritic, sick with human disease, and the human body becomes infected with a computer virus; in the end, they recover by “code syrup & brooding symbols”. So mez has taken ASCII Art, as we can see it in the exhibition above, and Net.art code spamming and refined it from pure visual patterns into a rich semantical private language. She calls it Mezangelle which itself is a mez hybrid for her own name and the word “to mangle”. But why did we accept and shortlist the piece as software art? In the jury, we defined software art as algorithmic code and/or reflections of cultural concepts of software. In my opinion, mez’ work fits both parts of the definition. Since her square-bracketed expressions expand into multiple meanings, they are executable, that is, a combinatory sourcecode which generates output. But it’s also a sophisticated reflection of cultural concepts of software which rereads the coding conventions of computer programming languages as semantical language charged with gendered politics. It’s imaginary software which executes in the minds of computer-literate human readers, not unlike the Turing Machine which was an imaginary piece of hardware.”

ELR: How important is it today to study programming languages? What do you think about the idea of teaching code, like foreign languages, being taught at school?

Mez Breeze: It’s a fantastic idea to implement an educational strategy that includes teaching programming languages, absolutely: teaching code as early as possible [say, in the primary school curriculum] while keeping inclusivity and diversity as a priority [as well as emphasising emotional intelligence, a chronically neglected subject] would be my preference.

Interview with Eman Younis

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Many roads lead to the study of electronic literature – and eventually to the ELR. In this interview Eman Younis, a member of the Arabic Electronic Literature research group, tells us how she found her way to the New Media Studies and what challenges the research group meets when it is faced with cultural issues of tradition-conscious Arabic countries.

 

ELR: Eman Younis you are a member of the Arabic Electronic Literature research group. How did you start studying electronic literature and how did this organization come about?

Eman Younis: In fact, my interest in Digital Literature started by accident. I was looking for material on the Internet about Contemporary Youth writing in preparation for writing my Ph.D. dissertation in modern Arabic literature. In the course of my search, I came across articles that deal with Digital Literature in general – Arabic and Non-Arabic. The subject drew my attention a lot and aroused my curiosity and I started looking for more and more information about the field. When I was sure that there is sufficient information and data to conduct a scientific research, I decided to change the subject of my dissertation to ‘Digital Literature’. At that time, I was among the first Arab researchers who conducted a scientific research about this genre of literature.

Regarding the group of Arab researchers in Digital Literature, they are a small group of researchers whom I joined by recommendation of the scholar  Riham Hosni, who is in charge of this project. She thankfully initiated  the building up of a special Website under the name of AEL (Arabic Electronic Literature) that aims to put the Arabic Digital Literature on the World Map and introduce its most important Arab creators, researchers and critics in this field to the world.

ELR: In 2015 you published the essay titled “Interaction Between Art and Literature in Arab Digital Poetry and the Issue of Criticism” in which you discuss the critical approach to electronic literature. You suggest that an open and dynamic form of expression like electronic literature needs a “hypercritic” that allows the analysis of the audio-visual effects that interact with the literary text. Can you tell us more about this concept? Where is that critic? Which role does technology play in the analysis of works of electronic literature?

Eman Younis: Before I start talking about this term and concept, I want first to talk about the research from which the term emerged. Nearly two years ago, I and one of my colleagues wrote a research about the “Interaction between Art and Literature in Digital Poetry.”  We chose the poem “Shajar al-Bougaz/ al-Boughaz Trees” by the Moroccan poet Mun’im al-Azraq to be our sample of discussion and application. It is a very long and compound poem. What characterizes our research is that we are two researchers in two different fields. She comes from the field of art and I come from the field of literature. We decided to mix between the tools of ‘artistic criticism’ and the tools of ‘literary criticism’ in analyzing the poem and the result was amazing. We reached conclusions, which we would not reach if each of us worked separately.

In this way, the term and concept of ‘Hypercritic’ started to crystallize. We  found that the electronic text requires both an extraordinary writer and an extraordinary critic, which we called ‘Hypercritic’, who is a critic that possesses different critical tools that enable him/her to deal with a text within broader horizons. In my opinion, the most important one of these tools is the ‘tools of artistic criticism’ because Electronic Literature goes under the category which has become known by the name of Digital Art. If these tools are not available in one critic, then it is possible to rely on a group of critics from different fields as my colleague and I did in order to analyze the text.

Some people might object to the idea of Hypercritic from the point of view that each writer interacts with the text in a different way according to his or her culture, education and vision, but we believe that here lie the aesthetics of the Digital Text.

In reply to this claim, I say that we should differentiate between an ordinary reader and ordinary critic. When we talk about the reception of the literary work by the reader/receiver, there is no doubt that the process of interpretation remains confined within the abilities of the readers to decode the text, and each reader might reach with the work to a point that differs from the other reader. In return, when we talk about the reception of the text by a knowledgeable critic, we expect that he/her will reach with it interpretative points that are deeper, more stable and more convincing because his/her conclusions depend on serious theories and critical directions.

ELR: The AEL has organized an event together with the Rochester Institute of Technology dedicated to electronic literature which will take place in Dubai from 25 – 27 February 2017. What are some of the topics that you are especially looking forward to?

Eman Younis: As I have mentioned, the main goal of the conference is to put the Arab Digital Literature on the international map of digital literature. Lots of Western critics do not know anything about Arabic Digital Literature.  Besides, they are ignorant of our researches in this field due to the fact that this literature has not been translated into English. In view of this situation, the conference constitutes an opportunity for us to introduce some of the Arabic experiments and the most important academic and scientific researches and studies in this field.

In fact, we have put down several axes for this conference. The most important of these are: critical studies; the impact of the social networks on literature; experiences of individual writers; children’s digital literature; challenges and obstacles; future of the Arabic Digital Literature.

ELR: What does the panorama of the Arabic electronic literature look like to date? How many authors and academic scholars are there? Is there a development in the community?

Eman Younis: Digital Literature appeared in the Arab world in 2001, when Muhammad Sanajleh wrote his first interactive novel titled Zilal al-Wahed/Shadows of Oneself, which was followed by several other works. Very few Arab writers have followed his steps such as the poets: Abd al-Nur Idris and Mun’im al-Azraq and Muhammad Ashweka from Morocco; the poet Mushtaq Abbas Ma’en from Iraq and others. Despite these attempts, the Arab Digital Literature is still moving very slowly in quantity and quality in comparison with what is taking place in the Western World, not only on the level of the number of texts, but on the level of critical research and studies that accompany these works, and even on the level of electronic sites and magazines that take care of it.

In spite of the efforts that are made in the Arab world in this direction, the written literature still occupies the first place in the Arab countries. However, Digital Literature at this stage seems to be not more than a problematic experience that dangles between the tide and ebb of acceptance and refusal in the critical sectors.

Certainly, there are lots of reasons that hinder the rooting and establishment of the digital literature in the Arab countries such as: the political reasons that the Arab world suffers from these days, the economic conditions, and the abysmal digital gap between the developed countries and the developing countries. Digital Literature requires large economic resources and entails high expenses, which are not available to most writers in the developing countries. This situation explains the slow growth of Digital Literature in the Arab world and its absence in some countries of the Third World. Besides, a large number of the Arab writers, especially the older generation, suffer from “Computer Illiteracy”. Generally, the Arab mentality does not accept change and diverting from the familiar conditions easily. Thus, the Digital Literature entails breaking of many fixed postulates upon which we have grown regarding the concept of literature and the roles of the writer and the reader.

Furthermore, lack of interest in teaching Digital Literature in many institutes and universities in the Arab countries and its exclusion from the official teaching programs also constitute an additional crisis that hinders the movement of its development and awareness of its importance on the desired level.

I would like to point out here that I have written a study about this issue, which has not been published yet, in which I deal with the most important challenges that face the Arab Digital Literature these days, which is the subject that I will talk about at Dubai Conference, too.

ELR: What does the organization of the AEL want to do in the near future to develop the research, the discussion and the creation of works of electronic literature?

Eman Younis: This question can be better answered by Riham Hosni because, as I mentioned before, she is the person in charge of the project of AEL. However, in my opinion, our goal today is to show the world what we have achieved in this field so far regarding the creative experiences and critical studies on the one hand,  and our accompaniment of the international development and our benefit from it, on the other.

Interview with Reham Hosny

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What do Scheherazade, a Persian mathematician and the Rochester Institute of Technology have in common? Electronic literature!

The Arabic culture has contributed in many different ways to the history of electronic literature and there are many works of Arabic electronic literature. The ELR has interviewed Reham Hosny, the director of the Arabic Electronic Literature research group which aims to the creation of a network of Arabic authors and scholars and the promotion of Arabic electronic literature.

 

ELR: Reham Hosny you are a member of the Arabic Electronic Literature research group. How did you get involved with electronic literature and what is your role in the research group?

Reham Hosny: Well, it just so happened that I started working with Sandy Baldwin at WVU and then RIT in my Ph.D. project, which focused on digital poetics in the Arabic and Anglo-American contexts. I am lucky to be the first Arab scholar to study e-lit internationally with a prominent professor like prof. Baldwin who has become my role model and mentor. By the time, I have participated in many conferences focusing on the development and pedagogy of e-lit and proposing new perspectives on e-lit such as my newly presented concept of Cosmo-Literature.

This start opened many avenues for joint projects in the field; an important one of them is Arabic Electronic Literature (AEL) network. It is the first project of its kind ever that is interested in globalizing Arabic e-lit and putting it on the world map of the field. Prof. Baldwin and myself noticed that the Arabic e-lit and the Arab e-lit authors are not represented in the world e-lit scene. Much of the digital poetics is drawn from a small range of Anglo-American texts and critics. To get a broader understanding of the field, we should reflect upon different perspectives on e-lit from different parts of the world. We felt that it’s the time to shift the world e-lit community interest from the western e-lit to e-lit in other parts of the globe such as the Arabic e-lit as well as propose new concepts and ideas on e-lit derived from the Arabic culture specificities.

In September, 2015, we launched arabicelit website with many goals in mind: Firstly, uploading the data of Arabic e-lit writers and their works upon the world databases of ELMCIP to be available for researchers. To do that, we created connections and networks with all the Arabs interested in e-lit. The first stage was completed by uploading the personal data of Arabic e-lit writers. The second stage will include uploading data about their creative works. Secondly, considering holding a conference on Arabic e-lit at RIT Dubai in Feb. 2018. There might be a follow-up conference that will take place a year later at the RIT-Rochester campus. Thirdly, creating academic programs and workshops, publishing research papers on Arabic e-lit works and making comparisons with the world e-lit works to define the place of Arabic e-lit on the world map of e-lit. We will deliver the first of these workshops in the Dubai conference. Moreover, some research papers in English have come out recently addressing Arabic e-lit aesthetics.

Our efforts in the field have already started paying off. For the first time, the Arabic e-lit community was represented on a world interactive map designed by Scott Rettberg depending on the data that we uploaded on ELMCIP. The Arabic e-lit is more recognized now in the world e-lit community than before.

ELR: You participated in the ELO Conference 2017 which took place last July in Portugal with a paper entitled “Roots and Shoots: History and Development of Arabic Electronic Literature”. The Arabic culture has an important influence in the electronic literature. The word algorithm, for instance, derives from its inventor Al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician and also the literary work “1001 Nights” is often quoted as an early example of hypertextual work of literature. What is your point of view on this matter?

Reham Hosny: The Arabic culture is one of the richest cultures that has its effect on different literary and scientific fields. The Arabic language is the official language of 22 countries and one of the most spoken languages around the world. The Arabic calligraphy undergone many changes to arrive at its present shape with three components: The plain unpointed letters, a pointing system above or under some letters to differentiate them from other similar letters which is called “i’jam”, and supplementary diacritics that control pronunciation which are called “tashkil”. These three components of the Arabic calligraphy along with its writing from right to left in a cursive way make it a visual language that can be used in decoration and artistic works.  

In “Roots and Shoots: History and Development of Arabic Electronic Literature”, I addressed the printed genealogies of Arabic e-lit. The reason behind my interest in following these precursors is the fact that “innovative e-poetry will continue to exist in relation to innovative print poetry” as Glazier believes.  

“Alf  Layla wa-Layla” (“One Thousand and One Nights”) which is considered a canonical text in the Arabic cultural heritage since the heydays of the Islamic civilization represents, with its succession of linked stories, a hypertextual precursor to e-lit. The concrete and visual poetry of the Andalusian age in the Twelfth century and the Mamluk and Ottoman ages after that represent rich precursors of e-lit. Moreover, the experimental modern Arabic poetry has many examples that could be considered precursors to Arabic e-lit.

ELR: The Manifesto of Arabic Electronic Literature reads that the community intends to look beyond the hegemony of English language. One interesting development in this respect concerns the creation of a programming language in Arabic as we can see in the code work of Ramsey Nasser and also in the work of the Quwaiti company Sakhr Computers that arabised the programming languages BASIC and LOGO back in the 1980s. What is your opinion about the development of an Arabic code language?

Reham Hosny: Unlike the languages that change every century, the Arabic language is consistent and rich language to the extent that texts from 1400 years back are still readable and understandable. The English language is the dominant language of programming; however, there are some infamous Arabic programming languages. One of the objects of AEL is to create a network and connections among Arab e-lit writers and programmers for future joint collaboration.

Qlb by Ramsey Nasser is an artistic piece that mocks the hegemony of English language in programming to show how biased the field of computer science is. This ambitious work is a good step upon the way of developing programming in languages other than English.

Sakhr is the first leading software company in the Middle East that depends on the Arabic language as its main medium. It has played a great role since 1980s in Arabizing some programming languages, manufacturing computers, and providing different kinds of Arabic language-based software.

I believe that one day, an Arabic code language will be developed to provide many potentials and privileges to the computer science field.

ELR: Another point of the Manifesto is that the community of the Arabic Electronic Literature wishes to expand its field of work and influence. In 2018 the city of Dubai hosts the first conference dedicated to Arabic Electronic Literature. Could you tell us more about the event?

Reham Hosny: As I stated before, holding an international conference on Arabic e-lit is one of the AEL project goals. The conference will be hold on Feb. 25-27, 2018. We already launched a CFP and received many submissions from all over the world in Arabic and English on the topic of Arabic e-lit. The prominent digital critic Kate Hayles will be the keynote speaker of the conference as well as the Moroccan critic Zohor Gouram. We also organized a meeting with many Arab and international scholars in March, 2017, at RIT Dubai to figure out the details and logistics of the conference.

The first workshop of its kind in the Arab World will be delivered at the conference to highlight the digital tools used in creating e-lit and featuring new e-lit genres that are not famous in the Arab World. Additionally, a digital cultural project focusing on the theme of Dubai and Arabic heritage will be coincided with the conference in collaboration with RIT New York and RIT-Dubai. It is supposed that a model of the project will be presented at the conference and Expo 2020 after that. The scientific and organizing committees of the conference include renowned international and Arab scholars. The conference is organized by RIT, New York, hosted by RIT, Dubai, and sponsored by many great foundations like ELO.

ELR: What do you foresee or wish for the future of Arabic literature?

Reham Hosny: The field of Arabic e-lit still needs many sincere efforts to explore its potentials and specificities. We need much collaboration with the world e-lit community to get more experiences on the ways of employing digital media in literature. We also need to close the digital divide in the Arabic e-lit community to compete internationally by training young writers how to use advanced software in writing. A lot of attention should be paid to the Arabic e-lit pedagogy because teaching e-lit in Arabic universities will guarantee its development and circulation. Most Significantly, we are in a bad need of adopting an archiving project because software like Flash is no longer in use that is why some Arabic e-lit pieces were lost.

I dream of Arabic electronic literature that helps rediscover the potentials of the Arabic culture and to be represented and appreciated internationally . AEL is a leading initiative in this vein and our future hope is to get more support to complete achieving its message and join the great project CELL as a partner.

#ELRFEAT: Entrevista a Joesér Alvarez (2017)

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O ELR – Electronic Literature Review (Revista de Literatura Eletrônica) tem a felicidade de publicar esta entrevista realizada por Maíra Borges Wiese, doutoranda do programa “Materialidades da Literatura“, da Universidade de Coimbra. A entrevista com o multiartista brasileiro Joesér Alvarez inicia a nova série deste blog, a divulgação de entrevistas escritas por outros.  #ELRFEAT

 

Maíra Borges Wiese: Poderia nos contar como chegou a se interessar em criar poemas, no começo do anos 2000, com os recursos multimídia do computador?

 

Joesér Alvarez: Depois de um flerte com alguns poemas concretos e outros visuais, bem como, ao abrirem-se as possibilidades de novas experimentações com animação em flash e vídeo, ou seja, quando os recursos necessários (hardwre & software) começaram a chegar em minhas mãos é que comecei a fazer os primeiro experimentos em poesia digital.

 

Maíra Borges Wiese: O seu manifesto «Escalpoético» (2002) tem um caráter notadamente antropofágico, mas poderíamos dizer também “digital” (por ser algumas das principais características presentes na produção de objetos digitais a remediação, o aproveitamento, a colagem, etc): “interferência e apropriação”/ “ponte entre o tipográfico e o eletrônico”/ “sincronia-diálogo com o estabelecido”/ “o passado presente”/ “autoria contrautoria diautoria transautoria”/ “palimpsesto virtual”/ “take it new!”. Como você vê esse aspecto em suas experimentações digitais?

 

Joesér Alvarez: Principalmente com os olhos. Mas, brincadeiras à parte, a antropofagia, depois de 22 é uma regra sem excessões para quem quer criar algo dentro de uma cultura tão diversificada como a brasileira. O digital é antropófago por sua própria natureza: saber utilizar um sampler talvez, seja o espírito da coisa.

 

Maíra Borges Wiese: Para você, qual o grande diferencial dos recursos digitais na produção de poesia? Em outras palavras, por que criar poemas multimídia, e não os “tradicionais”, impressos? (poderia comentar tomando como referência alguns de seus trabalhos, como “Oraculum” (2004) e “Scalpoema” (2001)?)

 

Joesér Alvarez: O grande diferencial é  a variação de mídias, efeitos estéticos e sonoros que encorpam uma proposta aparentemente simples, complexificando sua recepção. Por que criar poemas multimídias? Por que a possibilidade está posta – é um desafio. Por que ir aonde todos já foram? Por que não conhecer outras possibilidades? E, se vc pode abrir novos caminhos ou tecer novas tramas, eis um desafio interessante, melhor que trilhar os já consolidados caminhos. Oraculum e Scalpoema, por exemplo, são possibilidades poéticas e estéticas que não se dizem da maneira tradicional, impressa, e são mais ricos em sua forma digital, plástica e sonora. Penso que uma das  missões do poeta, se é que essas existem, seria criar um cardápio variado, inusitado, que provoque não só a reflexão, mas também um estranhamento crítico. E esse tipo de reação tem que começar com o próprio criador em seu fiat lux.

 

Maíra Borges Wiese: Seus últimos poemas digitais foram feitos ainda na primeira década dos anos 2000. Alguma razão por não ter desenvolvido mais trabalhos desse gênero? Considera ainda restrito o interesse por obras literárias digitais?

 

Joesér Alvarez: Não. Meus últimos poemas digitais estão sendo realizados desde 2013, e são hiperlinkados através de um vocabulário semântico em construção – chamando-se provisoriamente de “Haikunins”, ou “haikais bakhunianos” – versos com pretenções anarco-políticas. Um processo, projeto, enfim, uma experimentação. Outras experimentações tem se dado com a utilização do unicode, na própria página do projeto e em outras plataformas, mas sem pretensão alguma a não ser a experimentação pessoal, uma escolha estética, também em processo.

Razões para não desenvolver mais trabalhos nesse gênero não faltam – o que falta muitas vezes são razões para desenvolver novos poemas digitais, novas abordagens. Então, como essas razões tem mais a ver com intuição, deixo que aterrisem no devido tempo, quando surgem, sem me impor qualquer rtitmo de produção que não seja o do desejo. Sem dúvida penso  que o interesse por obras literárias digitais é restrito, que há um reduzido público, e que esse panorama pode mudar futuramente. Mas, como meu foco não tem sido o público, e sim a obra, não perco muito tempo pensando a respeito, pois para mim, essa seria uma questão secundária – em 1º a criação.

 

Maíra Borges Wiese: Mantém algum interesse pela literatura/poesia digital? Se sim, quais autores, no Brasil e no mundo, mais lhe chamam atenção?

 

Joesér Alvarez: Sim, sem dúvida. Gosto muito dos trabalhos de Jorge Luiz Antônio, Regina Pinto, Mello e Castro, Jim Andrews, Clemente Padín, bem como de muitos outros autores ligados à poesia visual e concreta.

 

Alguns trabalhos de Joesér Alvarez:

«Scalpoema» (2001)

«Agora» (2001)

«Oraculum» (2004)

«Cuba» (2004)

Participação em «Ovelhas de Quixotes» (2006)

 

Resumo biográfico

Natural do Rio de Janeiro/RJ, 1962. Vive e trabalha na Amazônia (Rondônia) desde 1982. Criador e Coordenador do Coletivo Madeirista, e Coordenador do Ponto de Cultura ACME, atua principalmente nas seguintes temáticas: net.art, network, cinema e vídeo digital, intervenções urbanas, site specific, performance, fotografia, literatura, gravura, design gráfico, cerâmica, artivismo, patrimônio imaterial e produção cultural.

 

Formação:

Bacharel em História pela UNIR – Universidade Federal de Rondônia, Porto Velho/Brasil, 2002;

Pós-Graduação em Jornalismo e Mídia pela UNINTES – Porto Velho/Brasil, 2003;

Pós-Graduação em Artes Visuais, Cultura e Criação – SENAC, Pólo Cuiabá, 2013;

Pós-Graduando em Cinema – Estácio de Sá/RJ, 2017;

 

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May 20, 2017 at 10:00 am

Interview with Judy Malloy

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ELR: Judy Malloy, you have engaged in three decades of creative work in the field of electronic literature, beginning with the publication of “Uncle Roger” in 1986. What in your opinion are the most significant moments in the history of electronic literature thus far?

Judy Malloy: This is a welcome question. The long and rich history of electronic literature in toto is what is most significant. But there are so many significant moments that I can only mention a few — and even then, it is perhaps a longer answer than expected. Another day the list might be somewhat different. Today this is what I am recollecting:

To begin with: significant computational processes in word structures can be traced from Wibold, Archdeacon of Noyon’s 10th century dice-mediated Ludus Regularis, to the circa 15th century dice-generated collaborative narrative of vice and virtue, Chaunce of the Dyse, to formative computer-mediated work in the 1950’s –- including the generative love letters that Lytton Strachey’s nephew, Bloomsbury-bred computer programmer Christopher Strachey, created using Alan Turing’s hardwired random number generator, as well as the work of Stuttgart computer scientist student, Theo Lutz, who entered words from The Castle into a program that generated politically-charged remixes of Kafka’s vocabulary.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a map of significant moments, in France would probably pinpoint the founding of Oulipo, Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes, and George Perec’s Die Maschine, among many others. Pierre Boulez’ Troisième sonate pour piano Formant 3: “Constellation — Miroir” would surely appear on this map, as would – experiments with the cutup method in the work of Bryan Gysin, Williams Burroughs and Burroughs’ partner, computer programmer Ian Sommerville.

Meanwhile in New York City, after composer James Tenney gave a workshop on FORTRAN to Fluxus artists in 1967, Alison Knowles wrote the brilliant generative poem A House of Dust (realized by Tenney), and Dick Higgins created and programmed the edgy Hank and Mary, a Love Story, a Chorale.  Additionally, the lists of words that Fluxus poet Emmett Williams chose for IBM, first created without a computer in 1956, were computerized in this time.

And in Massachusetts BBN (ARPANET contractor Bolt, Beranek and Newman) computer programmer Will Crowther wrote the pioneering Interactive Fiction, Adventure, and then at MIT Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling created Zork and went on to found Infocom, the primary source of classic Interactive Fiction — while in Connecticut, at Yale, Joseph Meehan created Tale-Spin.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, based in Canada with strong roots also in Austria, IPSA (I. P. Sharp Associates) and IPSA’s ARTEX made node-to-node communication possible — we called it “telematics” in those days — hosting collaborative works such as Bill Bartlett’s Interplay and Roy Ascott’s La Plissure du Texte.

Beginning in 1986 in Berkeley, CA my own Uncle Roger, the first realized hyperfiction, was significant in that rather than a game-centered or communications approach, I wrote and programmed it as a work of computer-mediated literature, and it was the first realized work of electronic fiction that was both written and programmed by a woman.

There followed — beginning with Michael Joyce’s classic afternoon, a story and the work of the StorySpace team — a flowering of hypertext. The writers came from many different places; the center was the Massachusetts-based Eastgate Systems, headed by Mark Bernstein. Hypertext literature was central in what Robert Coover called the “golden age”. The four works Coover singled out are Joyce’s afternoon, my its name was Penelope, Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden, and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl.  It should also be noted that in the field of digital poetry, Jim Rosenberg’s spatial hypertext was primary in the pre-web era.

In the period of widening development (1995–2010), places on the map are clustered all over the world, as works of potential significance were created in generative poetry (the work of John-Pierre Balpe and Nick Montfort, Fox Harrell’s GRIOT System, Nanette Wylde’s Storyland, for instance); in Interactive Fiction: (Emily Short’s Bronze, Andrew Plotkins’ Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home);  in hypertext (my The Roar of Destiny, Mark Marino’s a show of hands, Sharif Ezzat’s Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky, Deena Larsen’s Marble Springs Wiki); in electronic manuscripts: (Noah Wardrip Fruin et al’s Screen; J. R. Carpenter’s Entre Ville); in concrete and digital poetry (William Harris’ Armistice, Maria Mencia’s Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs); and in performative, filmic, and collaborative works. (Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar’s Cruising; Judd Morrissey’s The Last Performance). There were many others.

I am disinclined to mention works from 2011-  because the dust has not yet settled, but for my own work I like From Ireland with Letters and my generative “the whole room like a picture in a dream”: Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf Writing“.

ELR: In another interview you name four authors of print literature as influences on your works of electronic literature: Italo Calvino, Marcel Proust, Dorothy Richardson, and Laurence Sterne. Can you comment on analogies and differences between electronic and print literature?

Judy Malloy: This is a difficult question, and the answer can be framed in many different ways. Primarily electronic literature is work that utilizes computer-mediation to create literature that is only possible to read on a computer. But the boundaries are becoming somewhat blurred. Many of the strategies developed by writers of electronic literature can influence print literature and even in some cases have been utilized in print, while at the same time we see writers of electronic literature incorporating print components in their work.

I have always believed that print literature is such a powerful interface that it will continue, but that electronic literature is equally powerful and will flourish and run side by side with print literature, so to speak. In the 21st century, the fact that electronic literature and print literature are each influencing each other is greatly enriching both fields!

ELR: In August 2016 you edited “Social Media Archeology and Poetics” a book featuring essays of 28 artists, scholars, and curators who describe computer networks and online platforms. What are your current opinions/thoughts about archiving works of electronic literature and digital art?

Judy Malloy: Social Media Archeology and Poetics is media archeology about how social media platforms with cultural components were developed and flourished in the days before the World Wide Web.

To create Social Media Archeology and Poetics, which was three years in the making, I primarily asked pioneers in the field to write about their work. This is different from archiving works of electronic literature and digital art. However, it does dovetail with my vision, which is that in addition to the work of critics and curators, it is important to make early works themselves accessible and also to encourage creators of electronic literature to document their own work. In this respect, we are in the tradition of conceptual art and performance art, and — in this field that lies between computer science and literature —  we also document electronic literature in the tradition of sci/tech researchers. It is vitally important to publish peer-reviewed first person documentation from the creators or researchers themselves. Thus, the primary source for Strachey’s love letters is Christopher Strachey, “The Thinking Machines,” Encounter, 3 (1954): 25-31. The primary source for Lutz’ work is Theo Lutz, “Stochastische Texte,” augenblick 4 (1959):3-9.  And the primary source for Uncle Roger is Judy Malloy, “Uncle Roger, an Online Narrabase”, in eds. Ascott, Roy and Carl Eugene Loeffler, Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, Leonardo 24:2, (1991): 195-202. This does not mean that criticism and theory are not very important.

Contingently, as regards archiving works of electronic literature themselves, when the original platforms are not available, I prefer to translate my own works to contemporary platforms. But I also highly respect and appreciate the curators and archivists in our field, such as Dene Grigar, who have approached this in many creative ways.

ELR: In the year 2003 you edited the book “Women, Art & Technology” a compendium of the work of women artists who have played a central role in the development of new media practice. How do you consider the role of women in new media today?

Judy Malloy: As Jaishree Odin’s Hypertext and the Female Imaginary and Maria Mencia’s forthcoming #WomenTechLit clearly demonstrate, contemporary women artists and writers are equally as important and influential as male artists and writers.

ELR: Have you any thoughts about the future of Electronic Literature?

Judy Malloy: As the rich history of electronic literature begins to be acknowledged, and the field comes of age, it has been a pleasure to both work with students in the creation of electronic literature and to continue to develop my own work.

I look forward to new work from the field as a whole and to a more central place for electronic literature in the literary world.

 

Written by ELR

February 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm

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