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#ELRPUB: Intervista con Antonio Tombolini

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In questa intervista Antonio Tombolini, fondatore della casa editrice StreetLib ci racconta come dalla sua passione per i libri e la lettura è scaturito l’interesse per l’editoria digitale. Un mondo tutto da scoprire, come rivelano le sue parole. Un settore industriale che è saldamente legato alla tradizione della stampa e che solo lentamente riesce a creare un proprio mercato che richiede solide strategie e vedute molto ampie, ma che consente anche di avere la testa “tra le nuvole”.

 

 

ELR: Antonio Tombolini, nel 2006 hai fondato la casa editrice Simplicimus Book Farm che dal 2016 si chiama StreetLib. Come è nato l’interesse per l’editoria digitale?

Antonio Tombolini: Semplicemente dalla mia passione per i libri e la lettura, che mi portò all’epoca a chiedermi se anche il libro non avrebbe dovuto fare i conti, prima o poi, con la transizione al digitale che la musica stava già affrontando.

ELR: Nel 2014 hai fondato un’altra casa editrice, la Antonio Tombolini Editore (ATE), un’editoria digital first che come StreetLib pubblica anche libri cartacei. Sul sito dell’ATE promuovi dei workshop. Come sono strutturati i workshop? Quali sono le prerogative per partecipare ai vostri corsi di formazione?

Antonio Tombolini: L’esperienza dei workshop ATE è stata preliminare alla creazione (a cui stiamo lavorando proprio in questi mesi) di un’offerta di formazione specialistica sul libro in tutti i suoi aspetti, che prenderà entro il 2018 la forma di una vera e propria “Scuola Permanente del Libro”, con una grande molteplicità di corsi e percorsi formativi, sia nell’area delle professionalità tecniche, che in quella dei contenuti e delle professionalità economico-manageriali. Siamo convinti che la transizione al digitale e alla rete comporti anche per l’industria del libro un adeguamento delle competenze e intendiamo offrire gli strumenti migliori per acquisirle.

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

Antonio Tombolini: No, o almeno non in maniera adeguata nei protagonisti attuali dell’editoria. Sì, invece, e in misura crescente, tra gli autori, specie i più giovani, e i lettori.

ELR: Personalmente come hai vissuto il passaggio dalla stampa al digitale dal 2006 a oggi?

Antonio Tombolini: È stato ed è ancora un percorso di scoperte progressive, che sarà ancora lungo, perché siamo ancora ai primi passi di una evoluzione di cui non abbiamo visto che una piccola parte. Quello che ho imparato nel frattempo è che in queste fasi di cambiamenti radicali dei paradigmi di un intero settore, i meno avveduti e i meno adatti a individuare e coltivare il nuovo sono proprio quelli che in teoria si troverebbero nella posizione di maggior vantaggio, ovvero quelli che nel settore ci lavorano già. E più grossi sono, peggio è.

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?

Antonio Tombolini: Riesce sempre difficile, e in fondo neanche troppo utile, rincorrere il primato di questo o di quello nell’avvento di un fenomeno. Il libro in realtà viene scritto e prodotto in digitale da tantissimi anni, da decenni, direi dall’avvento degli antenati dei computer, a fine anni ‘70 del secolo scorso, quando cominciarono a circolare non ancora i computer, ma le macchine per scrittura elettronica, di cui Olivetti era un precursore: da allora il libro viene scritto prevalentemente in digitale, lavorato impaginato corretto ecc. sempre in digitale, attraverso appositi programmi software. Il punto di svolta a mio avviso risiede in realtà nell’avvento dei primi dispositivi di lettura con schermo e-ink, che iniziammo a vendere, primi nel mondo, e non solo in Europa, proprio alla fine del 2006: è solo con questi schermi che leggere elettronicamente un libro diventa un’esperienza finalmente comparabile al comfort della esperienza di lettura su carta.

ELR: Nei StreetLib Stores è possibile acquistare o scaricare gratuitamente ebook nei formati PDF, EPUB e Kindle come anche libri cartacei in tantissime lingue – dallo Zulu al Bokmal. Quali sono i formati e i generi letterari più gettonati? Come si è sviluppato il mercato dei diversi formati?

Antonio Tombolini: Quanto ai formati il mercato si è andato concentrando su Kindle per il mondo Amazon e su EPUB per tutto il resto, con una residuale importanza del PDF per la diffusione gratuita e per la manualistica.

Quanto ai generi letterari invece la parte del leone la fa senz’altro la narrativa, per ora, anche se la saggistica sta già mostrando segnali di crescita, e sarà destinata a crescere molto più della narrativa nei prossimi anni, man mano che miglioreranno i software di lettura digitale.

ELR: Sui siti Simplicissimus.it e StreetLib.com è possibile distribuire gli ebook attraverso le rispettive piattaforme STEALTH e PUBLISH. Da dove nasce l’esigenza di creare delle piattaforme digitali? Quali sono i vantaggi rispetto ai servizi online già esistenti?

Antonio Tombolini: Piattaforme come la nostra consentono anche a piccoli editori e self publishers di raggiungere col proprio libro tutti gli scaffali di tutti gli ebook store del mondo, dai più grandi e globali fino ai più piccoli e locali. E tutto con un clic, senza bisogno di negoziare con una pluralità crescente di store, e senza dover gestire separatamente ciascuno di essi, anche dal punto di vista amministrativo e contabile, che come si può immaginare è particolarmente complesso.

D’altro lato consentiamo ai player più grandi e globali, come Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, di offrire in vendita titoli (distribuiamo ad oggi quasi 250mila titoli, e acquisiamo circa 500 titoli nuovi a settimana) provenienti da piccoli editori e self publishers che loro non sarebbero mai in grado di raggiungere e gestire.

ELR: Da un punto di vista di estetica del medium come cambia il modo di concepire l’impaginazione di un ebook arricchito con effetti interattivi e multimediali rispetto a un libro cartaceo?

Antonio Tombolini: Questo è in realtà un terreno molto delicato e su cui c’è molto da sperimentare. I software di lettura non sono tutti allineati, e inserire troppi “effetti” rischierebbe di far funzionare il libro su una piattaforma e non su un’altra. Non solo: questi “effetti” vanno dosati con grande cautela, perché il passo da “ebook interattivo ben fatto” a “videogame fatto male” è molto breve.

ELR: Come vengono salvate e archiviate opere interattive e multimediali?

Antonio Tombolini: I file delle opere risiedono nei nostri server “on the clouds”, con repliche in varie aree del mondo, così che qualora dovessero aversi interruzioni di connessione in un’area, per esempio nei server USA, possano entrare in funzione i server europei o asiatici.

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?

Antonio Tombolini: Chi vuole dedicarsi al mestiere dell’impaginatore oggi non può certo fare a meno di studiarsi il formato EPUB, che è fondamentale, ma che è anche, in fondo, una sorta di “dialetto” specializzato per i libri del HTML.

Chi invece scrive libri non ne ha affatto bisogno. Noi stessi offriamo un’applicazione gratuita online, StreetLib Write attraverso cui è possibile scrivere il proprio libro, o importare il proprio libro esistente in formato Word e simili, per ottenere automaticamente un formato EPUB, Kindle e PDF validato e pronto per la distribuzione.

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#ELRFEAT: Language’s Uncertainty Principle: An Interview with Eduardo Kac (1999)

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The ELR is happy to feature this interview made by Simone Osthoff to Eduardo Kac, a contemporary artist and professor of art. In this interview Kac talks about his concepts of art, poetry and multimedia which are at the base of his projecects since the early 1980s.

The interview is republished with the permission of Eduardo Kac and it marks the first attempt of the ELR to do a research on art themes in relation to electronic literature.

In 1983, Eduardo Kac invented the word and the concept “holopoetry,” around which he developed a groundbreaking body of work. For this work, a unique word-and-image blend centered on interactive readerly strategies, he received the prestigious Shearwater Foundation award in 1996. Kac’s holographic poetry, with which he pioneered the use of computers in holographic art, has been shown in several countries and has, in recent years, gained increased attention.

A tricultural, multilingual, interdisciplinary writer and artist, Kac (pronounced “Katz”) has centered his work around the investigation of language and communication processes, emphasizing dialogic experiences in a world increasingly dominated by the mass media. In the summer of 1997 he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Art and Technology in the Department of Art and Technology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches a wide range of media and issues, including digital imaging, multimedia, computer-holography, interactivity, telecommunications, critical issues in art and biology, and the history of electronic art.

 

Employing language both as material and subject matter, Kac explores in his holograms, multimedia texts, digital poems, and telepresence events the perplexities of language, culture and consciousness in a new participatory paradigm. Working in the intersection of literature and visual arts, Kac investigates the verbal material in a constant state of flux, engaging the participants in a dialog that is continuously generating new meanings. On the following pages Kac talks about the development of his work since the early 80’s, focusing on his holographic poetry. He addresses both theoretical questions and social concerns, areas that remain inseparable in his work.

 

Simone Osthoff: You seem to move very easily between different languages and cultures. You have at least three strong cultural influences. With which one do you identify the most?

 

Eduardo Kac: I like to think of myself beyond national boundaries, and beyond media boundaries as well. I work between literature and art. I don’t see myself as “Brazilian” or “European” or “American”. I was raised by Europeans in Brazil and became fluent in English at an early age. Neither do I focus on a single medium or material. I find that labels are not very helpful and are often used to marginalize people. I have shown work in holography shows and the same work in shows that address word and image issues, or shows that address experimentation with new media. My name has been included in shows as representing the U.S. I have also shown my work in Brazil, as part of national surveys. I publish often in literary and art journals. I prefer not to be bound by any particular nationality or geography. I work with telecommunications trying to break up these boundaries. Obviously, Brazilian culture is an important part of my identity, but it’s not the only one. I don’t see why I should have to choose only one aspect of my interests or my identity as the predominant one. I am comfortable with them all. I would like them all to be equally present in my experience.

Simone Osthoff: In the early 80’s you worked with performances, visual poetry, graffiti, and other media, before focusing on holography. What was this process like?

Eduardo Kac: In the early 80’s my interest for word and image issues continued to increase as my dedication to oral and versified poetry ended. Between 1982 and 1983 I was very unsatisfied by what I then considered the blind alley of visual poetry. Aware of the multiple directions the genre had taken in the twentieth century, I experimented with different media. I worked with multiple media — billboards, Polaroid cameras, artist’s books, fine graffiti, electronic signboards, video, mail art, photocopiers, videotex, and finally holography.

Simone Osthoff: The show “Como Vai Você, Geração 80?”, (How Are You, ’80s Generation?) which happened in Parque Laje, Rio, in 1984, is still considered one of the most important shows of the decade, in Brazil. It launched many careers and highlighted artistic tendencies. What kind of work did you show there?

Eduardo Kac: I had already made my first holopoem when the Geração 80 show came up. But, I was also working with public installations, billboards. I was making twenty-seven meters square murals based on Cro-Magnon cave paintings that were displayed publicly, both in São Paulo and in Rio. And that’s what I showed in the Geração 80 show. On a personal level, it was very important for me to participate in that show because it defined that generation of artists, presenting the multiplicity, the diversity of media and interests, from those who were mimicking Bonito Oliva’s Italian trans-avant-garde, to those, like myself, who were interested in exploring new technologies and multimedia possibilities.

Simone Osthoff: Could you trace the formal development of your work up to this point?

Eduardo Kac: I was first dealing with traditional language, then the body became the issue. Then the body was performing verbally. Then the body became written language itself. This work is partially documented in my artist’s book ESCRACHO, from 1983. I had moved so far away from the page, from the surface of the page, that I didn’t see any going back. Having moved so far from stable surfaces, such as those of objects and those of the surface of the page, I had to find something else. I started to explore a lot of other media and became interested in holography.

Simone Osthoff: When did holography become reality, so to speak, for you?

Eduardo Kac: I recalled having read in ’69, when I was 7, a comic book, of all things, in which the main character was going to fight this villain. And the villain was this gigantic hologram. As a kid, I used to collect comic books, and I still have this one comic book in Portuguese. The hero, in order to fight this villain, had to become himself a gigantic hologram. In some of the balloons, the villain and the hero explained what holography was in a very indirect way. So that sort of came back to me. I kept reading about the dematerialized image, the multiple points of view, the 3D image contained on a 2D surface. But that seemed to be a pure paradox. I was intrigued but I could not visualize it. An encyclopedia article I read in 1972, when I was 10 years old, described the scientific principles of holography, but that was not enough. In São Paulo in 1983, a little before the Geração 80 show, Otavio Donasci, an artist I had included in ESCRACHO, knew a psychologist called Fernando Catta-Preta who was building a small holographic lab. I called him and came over. It was there that I saw my first hologram and I realized immediately that that was what I wanted to do. So, having no clue exactly how holograms were made, or anything, it became obvious that that was the medium that would allow me to solve the aesthetic problem I had imposed upon myself. I worked with him for a couple of years on my project, which resulted in a show—Holopoesia, realized in 1985 at the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo. A few months later, the show came to Rio. I received excellent press coverage including from many TV stations. Because on top of everything, this was probably one of the first times that art made with holography was seen there. So, there was all that curiosity about it. That was very stimulating.

Simone Osthoff: Did you have any financial or institutional support during 1983-85, in the Rio-São Paulo period?

Eduardo Kac: No. Against all odds, I was able to fund this work out of my pocket, as a college student, basically. You know, I was still in college, working part-time and doing whatever I could. I was buying film that was not available in the country, that had to come from the U.S. I was paying for my own expenses, traveling back and forth between Rio and São Paulo, which represents a distance somewhat equivalent to the distance from Chicago to Detroit, on a very regular basis, either flying, or taking the train, or taking the bus, for two years. I guess I carried the same obsession from the performance period into holography in this first phase, but you have to do that. Because it’s that initial moment where you’re developing, you’re learning, you’re exploring. This initial two-year period resulted in two shows and also some publications, and then later, in a residency at the Museum of Holography in New York in ’86, and a trip to Europe in ’87 to show work. Back in Rio, I presented the work in a second solo show in ’86. I also organized with Flávio Ferraz, a Brazilian artist who also works with computers, the Brazil High Tech show, which was a national survey of Brazilian artists working with new technological media. That was also in 1986.

Simone Osthoff: After you came back from New York, did you continue to make your holograms in São Paulo?

Eduardo Kac: No. I managed to put a simple lab together in Copacabana, two blocks away from the beach. I went to the beach to get sand to build my vibration isolation table. To pay the bills I worked as a journalist for several newspapers in Rio and São Paulo. I worked all day, came back home exhausted, and went to the lab until 2 or 3 in the morning, basically every night. It was extremely difficult, not only because of my daytime schedule, which, I guess a lot of people had to deal with too. The biggest problem was that none of the materials I had to work with were available in the country. I was never able to buy any film there. Optics were very hard to get. Everything that a holographer needs to work with is virtually impossible to get there. But when my laser broke down for the first time, that’s when reality settled in, and I realized that it was impossible to continue to work in Brazil. I sent my laser back to the U.S. once. I got it back. The manufacturer said it was fixed and it just wouldn’t work. Either they fixed it and it broke on the way back, or they didn’t, but the fact was, I couldn’t use it. I sent it back, and got it back and it still didn’t work. After the third attempt to fix it, and having spent a couple years doing that, from ’86-’88, I realized that this was a dead-end. I was never going to be able to actually be productive and experiment and get my work done. In the meantime, I was working on my first computer-generated, fully synthesized holopoem, which resulted in my third solo show entitled Holofractal, in 1988. I realized then that I had to leave, and the country of choice was the U.S.

Simone Osthoff: Would you define your work as visual poetry or language art?

Eduardo Kac: If we consider these two extremes, writers going towards the world of visual arts developing what is known as visual poetry, and visual artists going towards the world of writers developing what is known as language art, I would like to oscillate between these two poles. I hope that my works would engage the viewer or the participant, both at a literary level and a visual level.

Simone Osthoff: You coined the term holopoetry and have been developing holographic poetry since 1983. Could you relate your holopoems to the tradition of visual poetry, and talk about the process of transformation between verbal and visual elements in your work?

Eduardo Kac: Many contemporary artists use language, but most seem to be interested in the way language is used in the media. I’m more interested in the zone of intersection between literature and visual arts. Visual poetry, for example, has a long ancestry, which runs from Simias of Rhodes (circa 325 BC), through the Baroque poets, to Mallarmé, to Marinetti, Apollinaire, Housmann, Kamensky, Cummings, and Beloli, and to the experimental poets from the 40’s to the 70’s, including those associated with French Lettrisme and Poésie Sonore, Brazilian Concretism, NeoConcretism, and Process/Poem, Italian Poesia Visiva, French Spatialism and Oulipo, and many others. The reason I got involved with holography in the first place was again because of language. Each of my holograms addresses a different problem, a different issue. But there is something that underlines them all — my interest in communication processes. I am not interested in holography as a 3D form; we might as well look at sculpture. I am really interested in holography as a 4D medium, as a time-based medium. In many of my holopoems, you have a bi-directional path for time. I just don’t think linearly, in terms of one word after another, as we normally speak and write. I just don’t think in terms of art works that way anymore. In my holopoems, I’m less interested in conveying the result of my thought. I’m more interested in conveying the process of my thought. That’s why the language in my holopoems fluctuates and oscillates and changes, and disappears. I only work with language, I don’t use objects, I don’t use people, I don’t use any form of figure.

By not having a linear sequence, you can explore the word-image in any direction you want. You have a time-reversal possibility. There is no hierarchy, no climax. There is no suspense. It’s almost like if you had a dematerialized strip of film that you suspended in time, and that you can, in your mind’s eye, project that, in any direction that you want, but not only horizontally, also vertically, diagonally, any way in space. You plan, you orchestrate time structures in space. You’re really dealing with a space-time continuum and breaking it into orchestrated discontinuities. I think everything that I have done is a consequence of this fascination for communication processes in multiple forms. Be it communicating with the body on the beach, or through an electronic medium, the fascination is to investigate the communication process itself.

Simone Osthoff: How would you define communication in art?

Eduardo Kac: By communication process I mean a reciprocal space, a shared space, a space in which there is what Baudrillard has referred to as responsibility. There is room for response, interaction, interactivity, change. Interactivity here is not necessarily that of the computer, where you pretty much interact with something that is already pre-encoded, although that is also interesting because it pushes the work beyond the stable object on the wall. I don’t have a definite solution and answer to this. Iif I had I wouldn’t be writing and making art. The point of being involved in this process is an attempt to understand the complexity of these issues, and that’s what fascinates me.

Simone Osthoff: Then, you are defining communication as discovery, is that what you mean?

Eduardo Kac: Discovery is very important. If something is totally predetermined and leaves no room for the reader or viewer there’s no communication. It could be unilateral transmission, or persuasion. Communication must imply openness. Communication must imply bi-directionality or multiple directionality, as in the case of a network. It could be bi-directional as on the phone or it could be multi-party, as on the Net. I think communication implies, as again Baudrillard has said, responsibility. When Baudrillard talks about restoring responsibility to the media, I love the ambiguity of this sentence because it refers to the social responsibility that the media has, but it also opens up the idea for the artist to restore the responsibility of the media, in the sense that the media must allow people to respond. The media must bring people closer, not keep them apart, as television does. The media must allow for people to interact, to share, to discover together, rather than be at the end as consumers. So, this idea of shared spatiotemporal responsibility is what I truly understand by communication. Holography today must be recorded, but in my work I show that it is possible to undermine the stable recording process with unstable syntaxes. In the future holography will be scriptable, and it will be possible to transmit, receive, and transform holographic images in real time.

Simone Osthoff: When you deal with language in your work, are you thinking of language as a universal category? Does it make any difference which specific language you use?

Eduardo Kac: The fact that I am working outside syntax is very important. I remove language from its function as social intercourse and try to get to more fundamental levels. I respond to different contexts. I will either use one of the languages I am comfortable with or do research and work with a particular language, if the concept calls for it. Very often, because I am working outside the syntax of English, some of these pieces can work in multiple languages at the same time. Because once the words are removed from a grammatical continuum, they can be read in multiple ways and in many languages as well, not to mention that certain fragments that float in the holographic space-time can also be read as full words in other languages.

Simone Osthoff: What is the importance of holography as a medium to the way you deal with language?

Eduardo Kac: The reason I was attracted to holography was because with it I can create very complex discontinuous spatiotemporal events that I could not do in any other electronic medium, like LED signboards, which I have used since 1984, in Rio. There is something intrinsic about the holographic medium that allows me to work with language floating in space and time, being discontinuous, breaking down, melting and dissolving, and recombining itself to produce new meanings. That kind of work reveals a distrust, a disbelief in the idea that we can simply use language to communicate a message. We say–” Do you know what I mean?”; ” Do you know what I am talking about?”; these sentences which we use on a regular basis express our attempt, our desire to dominate language, to make language the slave of a meaning. I’m more interested in suggestion and evocation.
I believe that meaning will emerge only through the engagement of those involved in the process. In the case of the holopoem when the viewer comes to see it and starts to look around, bounces his or her head, squats down, orchestrates that whole dance in front of the hologram, meanings will or will not emerge based on the personal experience of the viewer. The work asks that the viewer or reader be active and explore it, and when the viewer explores it, it changes. Not much is seen otherwise from a stationary point of view. The engagement of the viewer with the piece reveals the fact that reality, language, the way we perceive and interact, what we think communication is, all takes place according to our point of view. There is no detachment from the language we use and the reality we observe.

Simone Osthoff: Other contemporary artists, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger for instance, are also situated in this same intersection of word and image. The way I see it, they are using language in a more direct way, conveying straightforward messages that are presented as factual, even when they sound ambivalent. Could you comment on the different approach to language in your work and in theirs?

Eduardo Kac: You can not resolve the problem of meaning. Words are not containers that hold “meaning” like a cup contains coffee. I don’t think one can even “fully” understand anything or anyone. I believe that there will always be a tension between what one tries to communicate and what one tries to understand, and this tension oscillates with the dynamic web of language. In holopoetry I don’t simply allude to this tension, but create the very experience of its oscillation. Static media can allude to the problem, but due to their stable material condition they can’t create the unstable language experience I seek in holopoetry. I don’t really believe in the idea of a message that exists prior to the engagement of those involved in the process. I really distrust the idea of communication when it comes from one end and it goes towards the other end, with no opportunity for the other person to participate, or negotiate the meaning. That’s what happens in television, radio, the mass media, that pretty much define our collective unconscious, the mass media defining what we see, what we hear, what we are exposed to, what we dream of. I really distrust these systems when it comes down to language. If one tries to subvert the content of the message but uses the same mass media logic, we still find ourselves in the same monologic space. I am interested in proposing alternatives to the unidirectionality of the system of art. I think that we have come to realize that language is truly unstable and absolutely turbulent. Language speaks us instead of our speaking the language. We would like to be in control of language, we would like to arrest this flux of events that surrounds us. I believe in negotiation of meaning, not communication of meaning. When I defend a model of language as fluctuating, oscillating, and turbulent, I am not talking about ambiguity in a stable model of language that can be interpreted in one way or another. I am talking about a completely different model of language, a model in which language in a sense escapes us. The realization that language has its own dynamic, and no matter how much one tries to grasp it, how much one tries to arrest it, how much one tries to condense and objectify it, no matter how much one tries to make it concrete, language will resist, it’s going to continue to spill off, and spill out, and blend and merge and dissolve. Even in poetry language is not concrete; it’s fluid, malleable, unpredictable. When we use language in a linear or rigid way, in art and in poetry, we are in danger of bypassing the fundamental problem of our own medium, which is language itself. What about language’s role in shaping our perception of the world? I am trying to deal with a problem that I see as being essentially epistemological. I am trying to reflect on the very nature of language, focusing particularly on written language. How does language shape our reality, define our own identity? How does it engage or not, our thoughts in the process of dialogue?

Written by ELR

March 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

#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;

 

Written by ELR

May 20, 2017 at 10:00 am

Interview with Christine Wilks

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ELR: Christine Wilks as you can read on your website crissxross.net you published your first works of electronic literature in 2004 “Sitting Pretty” and “Social Dis-Ease”. What was your motivation to start creating works for the web and where did your inspiration come from?

Christine Wilks: I started out as a visual artist but I couldn’t bear turning my back on storytelling so I quickly moved into filmmaking (and animation). It was difficult to make indie films in the UK, there was so little funding, and, although I tried, I didn’t feel at home in the TV world. What I really wanted was a multimedia creative practice but it seemed like you had to specialise. Then, when I came across the internet, the world-wide web – wow! Here was a medium that encompassed all other media and there were few, if any, barriers for a hard-up independent multimedia-maker to create and distribute their work – no gatekeepers, nothing stopping me – theoretically.

At first I hadn’t a clue how to create anything for the web, but I came across the trAce Online Writing Centre, set up by Sue Thomas, and lurked around that creative community for a while. Then I took part in their pilot online course, ‘Digital Writing: an Introduction’, led by Tim Wright, and I was absolutely blown away by it. At last, I had found my element! Not only could I work with multimedia but interactivity too. I loved that! I made my first work, ‘Sitting Pretty’, during that course. It was a tongue-in-cheek reflection on my condition at the time, flouting ergonomic advice, forever hunched over my desktop computer, my portal to another world. Way back in my pre-internet days, I got a grant to make a short science-fiction film called ‘Zombie UB40’ in which I depicted aliens whose form had evolved to be perpetually hunched over computers. Oddly prescient, now I think about it. Actually, it’s just occurred to me that the film bore some aesthetic similarities with my animated multimedia poem, ‘Out of Touch’. There’s a network of invisible threads connecting the works I’ve made but I’ll avoid getting tangled up in that for now.

ELR: From 2007-2013 you were as a core member of the collective R3M1XW0RX (Remixworks, 2006-2014), which was conceived as a collaborative space for remixing visual poetry, e-poetry, playable media, animation, art, music, spoken word, texts and more. What were the main challenges in the creation of a network and why did it stop in 2014?

Christine Wilks: Actually, R3MIXW0RX is still active here – remixworx.com – although not in the same way. But I’ll come back to that.

R3MIXW0RX was started by Randy Adams (runran) after the trAce Online Writing Centre closed down. He missed the collaborative creative environment of trAce, as did other people, such as Chris Joseph (babel) and myself (crissxross), who also joined the group. For the first year or two Remixworx was a stunningly productive, fertile environment – new works being created, remixed and posted online every week, almost every day at some points – it was fantastic! A great place to learn and develop. For instance, I learnt to love the random and to really appreciate Dada through collaborating in R3MIXW0RX. I talk about it more fully in my crissxross trail through Remixworx. However, with busy lives to lead and other creative projects to work on, that level of almost feverish productivity couldn’t persist. The initial whirlwind of creativity gradually calmed and new works blew in on the breeze or in occasional gusts. It might have carried on in this manner for some time if Randy hadn’t died (too young, from cancer) in 2014. It took the wind out of our sails. Randy and I collaborated on our last piece for R3MIXW0RX, ‘A Revolution of Words’, while he was undergoing chemotherapy.

Chris, however, is still doing wonderful stuff for R3MIXW0RX . He now maintains and hosts the site. His new remixes are created in HTML5 and JavaScript, whereas, in the past, both he and I worked almost exclusively in Flash. I’d love to start remixing again but until I finish the major interactive digital fiction I’m creating for my practice-based PhD, I haven’t got time. The great thing now is that, with platforms like Codepen.io, the ability to remix using HTML, CSS and JavaScript has become even more accessible. Currently, I’m using my Codepen for tests and research, but I’m really looking forward to having the time to use it for pure creative remixing fun!

ELR: In your works you use a wide range of different media like sound, ambient music, visuals and videos. How important are these audio-visual effects in your works and how does multimedia content effect the reading process of a work literature?

Christine Wilks: Marie-Laure Ryan says, “The ultimate goal of art is to involve the whole of the embodied mind, the intellect as well as the senses” (Ryan 2014). She argues that language most readily engages the intellect, whereas sound and imagery appeal to the senses, so combining them is a way of striving towards that goal, and that’s what I aspire to.

Multimedia content is vital to my work, and I’ve experimented with different forms, but what I’m most interested in is how the multimodal elements operate within the user interface to create an engaging interactive experience. I always think in terms of reading imagery as much as text, indeed, reading the whole interface, including audio – everything is part of the reading process. For my current interactive digital work, I’m aiming for something akin to the experience of having a conversation. In human-to-human interaction, you communicate through language whilst simultaneously reading the signs – facial expressions, body language, what’s happening in the environment, etc. – the context and the subtext, all of which affect the choices you make.

Film and TV are also plurimedial art forms and you ‘read’ those media too but not in the same way. Interaction demands a more attentive reading of the user interface (that is, until you become familiar with it). In a game or interactive narrative, it’s often the case that the player must read the interface rigorously in order to work out how to interact and how to progress. It’s part of the pleasure. This kind of vigilant or scrupulous reading is not a requirement of moving through the narrative of screen drama. Although, in some viewing situations, you can choose to close read film and TV – you can pause a video, study still frames, re-run a scene over and over – screen drama is not usually designed for viewing like that. All the same, with interactive works, it would be too much to ask the reader-player to constantly pay equal attention to every modality within a given work. Some modalities should, by design, affect the reader-player more subliminally (e.g. ambient sound or motion, colour schemes) depending on what effect the author/s want/s to achieve.

ELR: Your works Inkubus (2014), Underbelly (2010), A Revolution of Words (2013) and Rememori (2011) are game-like works in which the reader becomes a player, as you explain in the description, and thus is invited to play a poem or play on words. What strategy lies behind the use of ludic elements in your works and what is, in your opinion, the difference between a work of electronic literature and a videogame?

Christine Wilks: My strategy? Well, it just seemed to me that as soon as I started ‘playing’ with interactive elements – creating interactive works – ludic elements arose, as if naturally, without me consciously trying to include them. In other words, while creating a work, I would become aware that the feature I was developing or thinking about was game-like in some way, so I went with it. Why resist the affordances of the medium? I’m of a generation that didn’t grow up with videogames, so I don’t tend to think in terms of videogame mechanics, but interactivity feels playful to me, and playful interactivity tends towards the ludic. At least, that’s been my experience. When my narrative works include gameplay, I try to meld the two together somehow. I’d rather avoid chunks of narrative interspersed with gameplay or vice versa. However, it all depends on the central idea behind the work. It’s entirely possible that an idea might be best expressed with gameplay and cut-scenes, for example. Never say never…

What’s the difference between a work of electronic literature and a videogame? I’m not a theorist so it’s not something I think about very much – apart from when I struggle to explain or describe what I do or create to someone whose unfamiliar with it. As a maker of works, the distinction is mainly useful in so far as it helps to inform a potential audience – to make the thing being offered understandable in broad terms and therefore potentially attractive to them. One difference is that a videogame has to have some form of gameplay but a work of e-lit need not have. ‘Videogame’ is a more commercial descriptor and is likely to attract more people, but may also repel others – and there’s possibly a sizeable audience among them for e-lit. However, outside academia, I doubt if many people have heard of ‘electronic literature’. Both categories are so broad, we need more focused terms, more genres to emerge.

ELR: In your critical writing “Interactive Narrative and the Art of Steering Through Possible Worlds” (2016) you discuss the disparity between men and women in the field of game development through your latest work “Stitched Up” (in progress). Would you say that there is a similar issue of gender discrimination also in the field of electronic literature?

Christine Wilks: I haven’t specifically studied the issue of gender discrimination in the field of electronic literature and I haven’t experienced any personally. Certainly, there are a lot of great women creative practitioners, researchers and theorists in the field and there seems to be a pretty fair gender balance amongst the artists, writers and editors represented in the various anthologies of electronic literature produced by the E-Lit community. Also, I’m really thrilled to be part of a forthcoming book, #WomenTechLit, a volume of essays by pioneering female creative practitioners, critics, historians and scholars, edited by María Mencía (West Virginia University Press). Look out for it!

Reference: Ryan, M.-L., 2014. Narration in Various Media | the living handbook of narratology. the living handbook of narratology. Available at: http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/article/narration-various-media [Accessed December 2, 2016].

 

 

Written by ELR

January 20, 2017 at 9:00 am

Interview with Alan Bigelow

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Co-edited by Maíra Borges Wiese

ELR: Alan Bigelow on your website you have published your flash works from 1999-2011 and your HTML5 works published from 2011-2015. Could you tell us how you got started in the field of digital literature?

Bigelow: I got started in electronic literature for a very selfish reason: I owned the domain Cinema2.com, and I wanted to protect it from any corporation that might want it for themselves. This was in 1999, and the domain name craze was at its height, with names like Cinema.com selling for US $700,00 (I even called the sellers, Great Domains, during the auction for Cinema.com, and told them I had Cinema2.com and were they interested? A polite “no” was their answer). So I created a story based on the domain name. The story is about a moving company called Cinema2.com. They don’t physically move people from location to location, like a typical moving company does—instead, they emotionally move them to catharsis using unique and innovative practices. They even have special devices to test for emotional states and effect treatment. The piece was part HTML, part Flash, and it was my first introduction to electronic literature. But back then, I didn’t know it was called electronic literature. I thought I was doing something completely original and new to the internet. It was shortly after that I found other people doing the same thing online, and I realized there was already a community of writers doing what I was doing, and we had the whole web to talk to each other about it.

NOTE TO SELF: Hopefully, one day we won’t have to call it “electronic literature” anymore. What we do will be so commonplace as to be simply called “literature.”

ELR: Can you tell us where your inspiration comes from? My source of inspiration has changed over the years. Early on, in addition to the basic elements of traditional fiction like plot and character (which drove, for example, PamelaSmall.com, “Saving the Alphabet,” other earlier works), I was also driven by the thrill of exploration just to see where it would lead me next; the path was just as interesting as the story itself. Then the goal became (or was it always my goal?) to create a thing of beauty. I may have done this already, but I am not sure yet… Now my source of inspiration has come full circle to plot and character again. Despite the innovation of what we do, it seems that people still like a good story with a beginning, middle, and end (despite what order they are in). They also like a character who they recognize as themselves, someone they know, or someone they have never met before. A good character or plot can drive a story and give it enduring value. It also offers the reader what the French sometimes call attention: there may not be any pages to turn on the web, but a page turner can still keep a reader’s attention. Character and plot can move people, and in the attention-deficit world of the web, moving people with fiction is getting harder and harder to do. So it is back to basics for me. Perhaps this approach might help build a better bridge between the old and the new, from print readership to a readership expecting, and appreciating, multimedia stories on the web. Like the movers in Cinema2.com, my goal is to move people to catharsis. I am getting closer to that goal, I hope, with recent works like “Life of FLY” and “Protect the Poet.”

ELR: Is there a particular reason for the change from flash works to HTML5?

Bigelow: My reason for leaving Flash was simple: there was an iPhone in my pocket, and I could not see my own work on it. I resisted, though. I thought an app would come along to display Flash in a seamless and effortless way (there were some apps, but none were good). I emailed Steve Jobs about how Flash was great for creative work and an artistic tool unparalleled in the marketplace, but he never replied. (I understood—he was busy dying and had more important things on his mind). Finally, because it is adapt or die, I switched to HTML5. Thanks to a good coder I know who helps me with the difficult parts… Well, I have not looked back.

Has switching to HTML5 changed the way you write?

Yes. First, not having Flash as a tool has forced me to revise my approaches as to how readers navigate through the pieces. I have simplified the navigational interface in some newer pieces, and often made them more linear in user interaction. This is convenient because with my renewed interest in plot and character, a linear approach to navigation can be useful. Second, adapting to HTML5, and particularly mobile devices, has forced me to renegotiate with a story’s text as it appears on the screen. Only so much text can comfortably fit on the screen of a phone, so where I can condense, I condense. Where I can cut, all the better. Third, in HTML5, since visual effects are not yet as easy and seamless as they were in Flash, I find myself using visuals where they will do the most good to support theme or action. I try not to include any extraneous visual effects or non-essential coding. The story is primary, and every element supports that, and only that. If a visual or audio element does not have a specific reason for being there, it goes in the garbage heap. The final product must have an expressive and efficient synthesis of all its elements to create the overall effect.

ELR: Where do you see the main challenge in such a fast changing and variegated field like electronic literature?

Bigelow: Keeping pace.

ELR: In many of your works the topic is life as in “The Human Mystery” and “Last Words.”

Bigelow: If it’s not life, it’s death. And anything in between. As a writer, I am not unusual in this.

ELR: Is life (or death) one of your favourite topics? What other topics do you write about?  

Bigelow: Death is a preoccupation in my daily thoughts, rather than a major theme in my writing. I also write about (************************************************************* ******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************). NOTE TO SELF: Continue to vary the topics you cover in your work. It will stop you from being typecast and never working in Hollywood again.

ELR: Readers who are used to reading printed books may be surprised or even irritated and challenged by the audio-visual effects of works of electronic literature.

Bigelow: I am certain this is a temporary phenomenon. Children growing up now will have no problem with multimedia stories, because they are already reading them on their handheld devices. They are also reading and interacting with multimedia in virtually every aspect of their online life. I feel sorry for these kids when they get to college and some professor (like me, for instance) asks them to read stories from a print anthology. It is like they are taking one huge step back for humankind.  

ELR: How does multimedia change the aesthetics of literature?

Bigelow: Other writers about electronic literature have already addressed this question better than I can. In addition to the many individual articles that touch on this topic, two recent anthologies address this question in a variety of ways: The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (eds. Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson, and Benjamin J. Robertson) and New Literary Hybrids in the Age of Multimedia Expression (ed. Marcel Cornis-Pope). However, as a writer, one thing I have learned from the aesthetics of digital literature is the importance of conserving words. Saying more with less is a unspoken mantra on the web, where there is so much competition for the reader’s attention. I have always been a spare writer, but elit has forced me to make every word count and to treasure the sentence over the paragraph, the short word over the long, and the period over the comma. One day, I may return to text-based writing just to see how I can apply the lessons about language, graphics, and audio that are at the core of my digital work. Going retro to push print forward might be an interesting game to play.

ELR: Your Ten Predictions about Digital Literature are rather optimistic.

Bigelow: That blog post was published on August 28, 2010. I was too optimistic in some places, but in general, I could probably find up-to-date examples to support each of the ten claims. In fact, I might do a follow-up blog just to make my point… J

ELR: What would you say about the present status of digital literature in academia?

Bigelow: I have mixed emotions about the current status of electronic literature in academia. On the one hand, it is truly great how so many new media and literature classes around the world have incorporated elit into their curricula. It is also terrific how many scholarly articles, books, presentations, panels, and conferences have emerged in the field. This indicates an extremely healthy life for electronic literature within academia, a life I am extremely thankful for both as a writer and a lover of elit. But I have misgivings. Any new artistic movement (and in many ways, elit is still new) needs an expanding culture to incubate in. It needs to grow new readership, encourage new writers, and create an economic platform so it is commercially viable. In other words, the general public must be involved somewhere in the early or middle stages of any artistic movement.

NOTE TO READER: For purposes of definition, I distinguish what we in academia generally understand as electronic literature versus how it is seen in the wider public arena. For us in academia (and of course, I do not speak for everyone!) electronic literature might be described as the more refined fiction and poetry you see in journals, festivals, on and off-line galleries, and in the course readings for many colleges and university classes. In the wider public arena, electronic literature is already a significant presence in social media like Facebook, blogs, and Instagram, although not typically identified by the name “electronic literature.” In these, and many other online venues, images and text—and in the case of Facebook, audio and video and text—are already a common occurrence in the telling of stories and daily events. If our brand of electronic literature remains predominantly in the world of academia, and stays relatively removed from the general public, its academic incarnations, for the most part, will remain alive, but our brand of electronic literature as a viable art form will atrophy. It will atrophy because despite all the great analyses, books, presentations, and conferences (not to mention the dynamic works of elit themselves)—all of this will fade from public memory because they were never in the larger public memory to begin with. The elit movement, as we know it, will have been stillborn into academia. But the risk is really only for writers like myself and others whose work is recognized within academia but not so much outside of it. We (and by “we” I mean all of us within the world of elit) need to have contact with a larger audience because there already is a larger audience for elit—they’re just not reading the same things we are. The larger audience is gaming their stories, tweeting their traumas, and plurking their pathos, all without ever hearing the phrase “electronic literature” or knowing that writers such as myself, and so many others, even exist. And if they do not know about our brand of elit, whose fault is that? For sure, the ELO, I ♥ E-Poetry, and other organizations and individuals have done much to bring our brand of elit to the public eye. Their good work continues, and they have our lasting thanks. We would be so much worse off without their help and hard work. But in the end, it has to be a group effort if we want electronic literature, as we know it, to survive us.

So here is my call to everyone involved in electronic literature: if you are not doing it already, get the word out. Write about and talk about and teach as many different types of elit as you can because the young writers-in-waiting, the ones who are aching to try something new, must have the full panoply of creative works to model from. They must not believe that elit is just randomly generated poems any more than elit is solely stories with traditional plots and characters. We have to share elit in all its iterations and all its platforms, even sharing pieces we do not like. If these students and others see that elit is wide open in terms of form, and has plenty of space for new practitioners… Maybe they, as the next generation of writers, can widen the circle of creative works and engage a larger audience.

NOTE TO SELF: PUT YOUR POETRY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS! Make sure in your next literature class that you demonstrate a wide variety of electronic literature for your students (even the pieces you hate, because some of the students might love them), and give them opportunities to explore more. Encourage the ones with even the slightest interest in elit to come to you if they would like suggestions for further readings, or tips on how they can create and publish their own electronic literature. Make sure they know there is help out there and plenty of publishing, gallery, and festival opportunities.

IMPORTANT! FINAL NOTE TO SELF: Once a month, identify and reach out to at least one writer outside of the known elit community who is writing elit but may not call it by that name. Congratulate them on their work, introduce them to the ELO, and encourage them to get involved with our organization. Do this at least once every month, and more, if possible.

Entrevista a Rui Torres

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ELR: Rui Torres, começou a estudar e a criar obras de literatura digital em 2004. Como se envolveu neste campo e de onde veio a inspiração?

RUI TORRES: Comecei um pouco antes, talvez em 1998, embora sem publicação imediata. Estas coisas levam o seu tempo a maturar e a desenvolver, pois envolvem processos novos, exigem muito tempo de conceptualização, desenho e programação… De qualquer modo, a inspiração foi a obra de Pedro Barbosa (utilização de procedimentos combinatórios e generativos na ciberliteratura), E. M. de Melo e Castro (teoria e prática da poesia experimental) e Herberto Helder (montagem textual), em Portugal, mas também o trabalho de Philippe Bootz em França… De um modo geral, interessa reconhecer que a intermedialidade que encontrei no futurismo, no concretismo, na poesia visual…. foram fundamentais para a dissolução de um conceito rígido de texto. As propostas de John Cage, nesse sentido, estão na base de tudo isto. Envolvi-me neste campo porque fui aluno do Pedro Barbosa, tendo estado presente na altura em que ele fundou o Centro de Estudos sobre Texto Informático e Ciberliteratura na Universidade Fernando Pessoa, no Porto, em 1996, talvez o primeiro Centro de I&D dedicado ao estudo da literatura electrónica… Por fim, reconheço que sempre me interessei pelas expressividades do software, pelo que cedo resolvi experimentar utilizá-lo, não tanto para a programação em hipermédia, mas para a produção literária…

ELR: Numa obra de literatura digital autores/as e leitores/as são ambos confrontados com novas tipologias de criação, publicação e fruição de obras literárias. Entende a literatura digital como uma experimentação literária?

RUI TORRES: Sim, entendo a literatura digital como uma experimentação literária. Mas admito que toda a criação é experimentação, por isso talvez seja melhor clarificar este conceito, já que ele é contestado e criticado por vários poetas de inovação, do concretismo à poesia visual. Não situo o experimentalismo num dado período, mas como uma tendência intemporal para o jogo, a relação lúdica com a linguagem, a ergodicidade textual e os maquinismos semióticos. Mas há que reconhecer que toda a arte é, de certa forma, experimental, já que ela promove, no acto da sua construção, uma relação de deformação do real, de actuação com o espaço e o tempo humanos. O problema da arte e da literatura experimental situa-se no momento em que passam desse estado de performatividade, mutável e líquido, para uma certa literariedade, isto é, quando se transcodifica a acção integradora e actuante da arte num espaço filológico de museu. Por isso, de facto, talvez a literatura digital, a par da performance, constitua o melhor exemplo de experimentação literária, já que depende de procedimentos variáveis e de metamorfose.

ELR: Em alguns dos seus trabalhos, tais como Tema procura-se (2004) e Mar de Sophia (2005), combinou texto escrito com som ambiente e uma voz a recitar texto. Em que medida a multimedialidade determina a fruição e, consequentemente, a estética da obra literária?

RUI TORRES: O meu objectivo era precisamente essa integração, principalmente de som e texto, mas nesses dois exemplos, como aliás em todos os meus trabalhos, o procedimento fundamental é a aleatoriedade da e na geração textual, por isso embora se trate de uma multimedialidade, ela não é linear. Interessa entender a complexidade estrutural que o algoritmo introduz no tratamento da linguagem. Embora o surrealismo, por exemplo, tenha tentado afastar a criação literária da subjectividade autoral, que sempre vem acompanhada de um determinado reportório e de um certo número de convenções, os processos eram processos criativos humanos, portanto derivados, até certo ponto, de uma cultura. A utilização da combinatória maquínica afasta esse aspecto pré-adquirido pela introdução de um nível de complexidade enorme: a maioria dos textos que programo são variáveis e não fixos ou pré-determinados, alguns deles entregando ao leitor a activação de possibilidades textuais que são uma entre vários milhões…

ELR: Na grande maioria dos trabalhos da sua autoria o/a leitor/a tem a possibilidade de criar texto, guardá-lo e publicá-lo no blogue. Qual a importância da interactividade por parte do utilizador nas obras de literatura digital e qual o relevo da criação de uma memória do processo?

RUI TORRES: Esse exemplo apontado é um dos modos de interactividade. Há outros, eventualmente mais ricos, como a possibilidade de alterar a própria obra, conferindo-lhe uma certa mutabilidade ou variabilidade. A indeterminação dos processos poéticos que programo (sempre de uma forma colaborativa) obrigaram-me precisamente a considerar a possibilidade de usar um dos mecanismos retóricos da web 2.0, os blogs, para criar uma espécie de diário de bordo da comunidade de leitores destes poemas.

ELR: Tendo em consideração a rápida evolução das linguagens informáticas, do software e dos dispositivos electrónicos, quais as estratégias disponíveis para arquivar e preservar trabalhos literários nativos do digital?

RUI TORRES: Esse é de facto um aspecto fundamental. Eu julgo que a preservação deve estar acima das nossas preocupações com a obsolescência, embora ambas se articulem. Se quisermos estar sempre a seguir a última tecnologia para não ficarmos com trabalhos obsoletos (isto é, ilegíveis), acabamos reféns da retórica da inovação e da novidade; somos presas fáceis da política do software, que naturalmente interfere na camada cultural. Assim, devem os autores escolher livremente as ferramentas que usam nos seus processos criativos, mesmo sabendo à partida que algumas delas poderão eventualmente tornar-se obsoletas. Neste sentido, as ferramentas de código aberto, baseadas num procedimento associado ao software livre, são mais adequadas para garantir preservação a longo prazo. Mas fundamental é que os autores disponibilizem as fontes dos seus programas, documentando todo o processo e tornando acessíveis ao público esses materiais não encriptados que tornarão possível uma futura arqueologia das plataformas e das aplicações.

Interview with Dene Grigar

with 5 comments

ELR: Dene Grigar, you have been working in the field of media art and electronic literature since the mid-1990s. Could you tell us something about your background and how you became involved with electronic literature?

Dene Grigar:  Actually, it goes further back than that.  In fall 1991 I took a graduate course from the new faculty member, Nancy Kaplan*, who specialized in something called hypertext.  We studied books by George Landow and Jay David Bolter, explored software called Storyspace, and read afternoon: a story by Michael Joyce.  Having owned a Macintosh computer since 1986 for designing, I took to using it quite easily for writing––and reading.  Because of that course and my exposure to electronic literature, I began collecting works from Eastgate Systems’ inventory.  A part of my collection comes from those early purchases.

*Nancy was Stuart Moulthrop’s partner at the time; they have long since married.

ELR: You are a professor, a researcher and you also have successfully directed or curated a number of conferences and exhibits centred on Electronic literature. What can you tell us about your latest project?

Dene Grigar:  “Electronic Literature and Its Emerging Forms,” which was the exhibit hosted by the Library of Congress and part of the Electronic Literature Showcase, posed a large challenge for my co-curator, Kathi Inman Berens, and I.  What I mean by “challenge” is that the Library of Congress is probably one of the most venerable institutions in the U.S., and it had not yet been actively involved in collecting electronic literature.  Our exhibit was the first one of this nature the Library had ever done, so we wanted it to be memorable.  To that end, I rented large iMacs and brought in two of my own vintage Macs for showing older works, shipping all seven of them across the country to Washington D.C.  [Getting them through the Library’s security due to the necessary precautions took close to three hours.]  I hand-carried works of electronic literature from my own collection, from Vancouver, WA to D.C., to show along with the electronic literature works found online and the wonderful books and other media the Library contributed.  I also brought eight undergraduate students and one alumna with me to assist as docents at the exhibit. This was one of the smartest things I did because the students were immensely well-trained, passionate about electronic literature and the field, and exceptionally hard-working.  So, when the exhibit filled up with visitors, there were 11 of us who could answer questions and guide visitors through the electronic literature, instead of only Kathi and me.

Probably the most interesting challenge to surmount, however, was finding the best way to integrate electronic literature with the Library’s collection of books. Originally, when Kathi and I were first invited to curate the exhibit, the discussion centered around remounting the show we had done at the Modern Language Association 2012 convention .  That exhibit was very large, with 160 works and 10 computer stations.  Once she and I conducted a site visit at the Library of Congress and saw the Whittall Pavilion, the space where the show would be held, and gave some thought to the kind of collections the Library has at its disposal, we changed our minds.  I hit upon the “antecedent” idea and developed a set of parameters for the show that would make sense for the time and place with which we would be working (e.g. a three-day run in a gorgeous but small space). Drawing upon my research into the electronic literature and artists like Anna Maria Uribe and thinkers like Ted Nelson, it seemed to make sense to lay out the show so that we could make the argument that electronic literature is not some alien art form that dropped down to Earth some far-out planet but, rather, is part of a long tradition of experimentation with literature that has been going on for ages.  As someone who studied ancient Greek literature for my PhD, I always wondered what the Homeric poet’s contemporaries were saying (not writing, of course) when they saw that he (or she) was writing the story of the Odyssey.  That, in itself, constitutes a literary experiment as strange and exciting as Uribe animating Typoemas.  Dante wrote the Commedia in the vernacular––yet another grand experiment that we living over 700 years later do not even give a thought to.  So, the idea was to demonstrate that the drive to create something new and experiment with form in different ways are what visionary artists do.  With that idea in mind, I came up with five approaches––concrete to kinetic, cut up to broken up, pong to literary games, the Great American Novel to multimodal narratives, and artists’ books to electronic art.  This plan made it possible for Kathi to research the Library catalogs and identify works from the collections that fit well with this vision and, so, made our case.  She also developed the third aspect of our exhibit:  the creation stations.  This was a “maker” area where visitors could create literary art themselves.  For example, visitors could look at ee cummings’ concrete poem, walk across the aisle and see Dan Waber’s kinetic poem,“Strings,” and then walk across the aisle and make their own concrete poem on the typewriter that Susan Garfinkel, our collaborator from the Library, brought from her own collection.

To be honest, a lot was riding on the exhibit.  Obviously, we were promoting electronic literature to a new audience, moving it from academic conferences to a library, where Literature (with a capital L) is generally found.  It wasn’t just any library but the most important one in the country.  So, the show had to be good.

But more than good, the show had to make it clear that curating counts as scholarship.  This was a personal goal that I set for myself for “Electronic Literature and Its Emerging Forms.”  You see, I work in the intersection of media art, digital humanities, and media studies.  While my colleagues in media art are very comfortable with the notion that curating is a scholarly activity, the other two fields are still deliberating about it and trying to figure out how curating counts for tenure and promotion.  Books like Burdick et al’s Digital_Humanities go far in helping to make my case, but I thought that, perhaps, if scholars from these two fields see the intellectual processes, the conceptual thinking, and deep research that go into mounting an exhibit like this one, they would understand that curating is a scholarly activity.

I was very happy to learn that the exhibit was mentioned by scholars in blog posts and articles and was delighted that it was reviewed by Leonardo Flores at I ♥ E-Poetry and by Illya Szilak and Melinda White at The Huffington Post.

ELR: Could you tell us what you consider to be the main distinguishing features of new media literacy, with regard to the shift from traditional reading to multiliteracy or transliteracy?

Dene Grigar:  I used Vince Dziekan’s Virtuality and the Art of Exhibition for a course I taught on curating last fall and was taken by his notion of the multimedial museum.  By multimedial he means interactive, experiential, and participatory.

It seems to me that this idea can be mapped on to other aspects of our lives touches by digital media.  Anyone reading a Facebook post, for example, is reading participatorially, right?  Our posts can receive a “Like” from our Friends almost as quickly as we hit the “send” button.  The interactivity of this environment provides enough feedback to keep us online for hours, whether it is chatting with Friends or playing one of the many games Facebook makes available to its users.  Finally, we see the experiential aspect of Facebook in the way we design our “covers” or in the photo we choose of ourselves to represent us.  These three elements are going to be part and parcel of everything we read in this early age of digital media and perhaps even years beyond.  It is important for publishers to understand these three elements and make use of them in the media they publish.

ELR: On your website you write that “the computer is not a tool but rather the medium in which I work”? Can you please explain this “conceptual shift”?

Dene Grigar:  That is an easy one, thanks 🙂  I think a lot of people who work with computers see the computer as separate from what they do––that the computer is a tool that helps them do whatever it is they do.  This may make sense if someone is an accountant and uses computers to crunch numbers.  But it does not make sense if one is a media artist whose main medium of exploration is a computer and everything she creates takes place on a computer screen.  My own mother was a painter who worked in oils.  She would never say that the canvas and the paints she used were separate from the art of oil painting.  They were her medium.  I feel that the same way about my computer and HTML/CSS or PhotoShop, etc.  The computer does not “help” me––it is what I do.

ELR: In some works of digital literature we find a combination of text with audio-visual effects. What do you believe are the implications of new media technologies in relation to the aesthetics of a work of digital literature?

Dene Grigar:  Obviously, one of the biggest implications is finding a way to talk about it, of reviewing it, and critiquing it in a way that takes into consideration how all of the parts contribute to the whole.  N. Katherine Hayles suggests media specific analysis as a method.  Jessica Pressman, Jeremy Douglass, and Mark Marino suggest close reading.  These are both excellent ways to make sense of multimodal literature.  I also think an approach that brings in the various kinds of critique indigenous to the art form is also helpful.  This would mean that if a work of digital literature has sound, visuals, and words, then someone critiquing that work would need to address all three of these features with some level of expertise and, then, synthesize them into a larger discussion of how the work works.  This depth of knowledge, of course, is difficult since we generally develop strengths in particular art forms.  The bottom line, however, is that we need to find ways to talk about, review, and critique digital literature in order for it to be brought into the traditional academic realm as a scholarly topic of discussion and mainstreamed to the public for enjoyment and consumption.

Machinology

Machines, noise, and some media archaeology by Jussi Parikka

Sonia Lombardo

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Reading Digital Fiction

We aim to introduce more readers to digital fiction and investigate digital fiction reading using cognitive and empirical approaches (funded by the AHRC).

Poesia Ú~ ///// Dia Inú~ ////

o primeiro poema a ser escrito que serve realmente para alguma coisa

Coeva, the novel

by TheCoevas: Musicians of Words / Strumentisti di Parole