Ain’t they cute togther? We’re going to leave them overnight like this to see if they make a PDA.
Did I mention I took this picture with one of our (new!) LG VX6000 Picturephones?
We’re thinking about getting a cat next.
I’ve drafted the following letter on behalf of the Electronic Literature Organizaton in response to the NEA’s Reading at Risk report (and the subsequent fall-out in the form of op-eds by Harold Bloom, Andrew Soloman, and others). We’ve sent the letter to the NY Times, the LA Times, the Chronicle, and the NEA.
The NEA’s recent “Reading at Risk” report, which concludes that there has been a 10% national decline in what it calls literary reading since 1982, with the drop-off even more precipitous among younger age groups, is surely of concern to anyone who cares about the future of literature and a literate populace. While the report suggests there are potentially a variety of factors responsible for this decline, it especially notes that we live in an era of pervasive electronic media.
We at the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) share the NEA’s concerns, but we see the screen as well as the page as a natural venue for literature and imaginative writing. The ELO is a non-profit group composed of writers, educators, scholars, and technologists dedicated to creating a rich and vibrant literary scene on the Web and in other areas of new media. Many of the projects the ELO supports attempt to take advantage of the unique approaches to writing that computers can enable and encourage, while simultaneously fostering a deep, reflective engagement with words on the screen rather than passive browsing and superficial surfing.
The ELO is less interested in ebooks or simple electronic transpositions of printed texts than in work that can be created and effectively accessed only in a native digital format. Electronic literature of this kind is neither a new nor a niche phenomenon; former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy wrote an interactive novel called Mindwheel as early as 1984; other well-known authors include Michael Joyce (who publishes regularly both in print and on disk) and Shelley Jackson (who is an established children’s book illustrator as well as a leading author of electronic fiction). Prize-winning poet Stephanie Strickland’s latest work, V., exists both in print (published by Penguin in 2002) and online as one single, integrated text. In 2001 the ELO handed out the first major literary awards for original works of electronic fiction and poetry, to Caitlin Fischer and John Cayley respectively. Thus we seek to assist in the transformation of the computer from a utilitarian instrument to a culturally alive catalyst for writing, reading, and thinking.
Electronic media need not put literary reading at risk; in fact once we begin taking screens as well as pages seriously as venues for literature and written expression, organizations such as the NEA may well find that rates of literacy are again on the rise. Visit the ELO at www.eliterature.org, where you will find news, information on readings and other events, and a directory listing over 2000 works of electronic literature.
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
Board of Directors, Electronic Literature Organization
I’ve been working with a very bright student here named Matt Bowen who is exploring the use of wikis as experimental, collaborative writing environments. Below is the text of his announcement. Matt has a background in both computer science and creative writing, and I suspect he may be a real up and coming e-lit talent. Watch (t)his space, and please contribute yourself or encourage others to contribute. Students welcome.
DATELINE JULY 20, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2004 (The INTERNET). The Society of Lies and Stolen Ideas (www.solasi.org) is proud to announce the creation of a new internet community: WriteHere.net. WriteHere is a wiki community for creative writers and fiction readers. Membership and use are unrestricted and open to the public, and content is available under a Creative Commons license.
WriteHere.net is both a writing space and a community. It is a place where anyone can post a story, some poems, a title, a character, or anything else creative, and other people can edit and develop the posting. The community hopes to give others a chance to help one another write and to provide a friendly community to those who only want to read, to those who want to work on their proofing skills, to those who translate, and to literary experimenters. You don’t have to contribute an original work to contribute.
The community is focused on the development and exploration of both existing fictional media (e.g. Short Stories, Narrative Poetry, etc) and experimental avant-garde works (e.g. rhizomic texts, Hypertexts, etc). All submissions are welcome. To submit a work or an idea to the website, simply directly add it yourself, as explained at http://www.writehere.net/moin.cgi/StartHere. The site can be accessed at www.writehere.net. For questions, please contact Matt Bowen <mrbowen AT SPAMFREE umd DOT edu>.
Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. Prepared by the NEA.
This comprehensive survey of American literary reading presents a detailed but bleak assessment of the decline of reading’s role in the nation’s culture. . . . The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture will study the pages of this report in vain.
Literary reading, in case you’re wondering is defined as . . . well, literature. Specifically “novels, short stories, poetry, and plays.” While I haven’t read the report in toto, the circularity implicit in these selection criteria does not promise much in the way of a nuanced assessment of the full spectrum of the nation’s literary activity. In particular, the report creates an artificial but predictable binary between literary production and electronic media—as though words on a screen can’t be “literary.”
In Being Digital Nicholas Negroponte points to the Aspen Project, an early venture of the MIT Media Lab, as the “birth of multimedia.” The 1978 project involved a visual mapping of Aspen, Colorado, using video disk technology to methodically capture and store sequential images of every street (in both directions, one frame every three feet) from a first-person perspective. The resulting video archive allowed its users to recreate the experience of driving a car through the streets of the virtual town, reversing direction, turning at intersections, going around the block, etc.
Recently I came across an account of a strikingly similar experiment, but this time carried out over thirty years earlier. It involved the wartime rehearsals for the British glider landings at Pegasus Bridge, outside of Caen, on the eve of the D-Day invasion. The following is from Stephen E. Ambrose, Pegasus Bridge:
Calling on the British movie industry for help, the Air Ministry had put toghether a film. By flipping through thousands of photographs, each ever so slightly different, the producers made a “moving picture” that depicted the actual flight the pilots would make on D-Day. There was a running commentary.
“The viewer felt as if he were in the cockpit and flying the thing,” Wallwork recalls. The commentary told altitude, airspeed, location. When the glider cast off, “You got the whole sensation of diving a thousand feet and seeing the fields of France coming up toward you.” Level off, turn, turn again, then the bridges were in view. “You come into this fly-in,” as Wallwork describes the film, “and you are still on this bearing and the next thing you saw was the tower of the bridge getting nearer and nearer and then the film cuts out as you crash [landed].” The pilots could see the film whenever they wanted, and they watched it often. “It was absolutely fantastic,” Wallwork declares. “Invaluable.” (80)
Importantly, the training film was not “interactive” in the manner of the Aspen Project. The pilots could not opt to change course or otherwise intervene in the linear progression of the film. Still, I suspect this incident deserves a footnote somehwere in the history of film, simulation, and immersive media, no?