May 28, 2008

E-Lit in a Northwest Landscape

by Andrew Stern · , 12:01 am

I feel fortunate that so many electronic literature practitioners will be converging tomorrow through Sunday in Vancouver, Washington, only minutes from my home city of Portland, Oregon. It’s the ELO Visionary Landscapes conference, featuring several who are regularly discussed on and/or contribute to this blog, including Jeremy Douglass, Mark Marino, Fox Harrell, Rita Raley, Jason Nelson, Jimmy Maher, Stuart Moulthrop, Rob Wittig, Talan Memmott, and GTxA’s own Scott, Noah, Nick, and me.

Scott “Daddy-O” Rettberg is traveling all the way from Norway to present “The Communitization of Electronic Literature”, in the Electronic Literature Revisioned session. In Machine Dreams, Noah is presenting “Eliza Revisited”. Rounding out the Elizaphile contingent, as part of Code, Programs, and Interactive Environments, Nick and I will be co-presenting “Provocation by Program: Imagining a Next-Revolution Eliza” — Nick and my first joint work, besides this blog. Abstracts follow after the jump.

I hope to lure some adventurous souls to explore a bit of Portland’s nightlife as well; a drink at the Low Brow Lounge seems somehow apropos. Please join us!

“The Communitization of Electronic Literature”
Scott Rettberg
Sunday, 1 June 2008, 11:45-1:00 PM

While other fields of artistic practice and conventional literary culture commoditize artifacts, the production and distribution of electronic literature largely takes place outside of a convential market economy. The fact that electronic literature is based on a gift economy and developing an entirely new, network-based literary culture is something that we should embrace and celebrate. The focus of the ELO and affiliated organizations should be on “communitizing” electronic literature, developing the strengths and serving as a hub for the existing and developing community of writers, artists, critics, and readers of electronic literature. This essay will detail how ELO projects the author has been involved in developing, including the Electronic Literature Collection, Archive-It, and currently, the Electronic Literature Directory 2.0, are all fundamentally based on the idea of communitizing electronic literature.

“Eliza Revisited”
Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Sunday, 1 June 2008, 2:15-3:30 PM

This presentation reconsiders one of the most famous works of electronic literature: Joseph Weizenbaum’s Eliza/Doctor. Created in the mid-1960s, this conversational character’s success led Janet Murray to name Weizenbaum “perhaps the premier” literary artist in the computer medium. Such evaluations, however, don’t take into account what happens during the playful engagement that the system’s freeform textual interaction encourages: a breakdown that reveals the shape of the underlying processes. An alternative to this is extremely constrained interaction, which can help maintain the illusion. But a more exciting direction is to design processes that reward readers as they are revealed.

“Provocation by Program: Imagining a Next-Revolution Eliza”
Nick Montfort and Andrew Stern
Saturday, 31 May 2008, 10:15-11:30 AM

What program could have the effect on today’s popular consciousness that Joseph Weizenbaum’s Eliza had in the mid-1960s? Eliza ignited numerous productive controversies about language, intelligence, and people’s relationships to computers. The system has been hailed as the first and most important work of electronic literature. While other, more complex works have been innovative, challenging, and literary in ways that are perhaps more sophisticated, Eliza was an incisive program of great impact. We consider the provocative program within the contexts of computing from the 1960s to the present. Then, we identify several qualities, some of them not very obvious, that a similarly provocative literary program would need today.

3 Responses to “E-Lit in a Northwest Landscape”

  1. Jay B. Says:

    Looking forward to the conference – I’m presenting in tomorrow night’s Media Arts Show, with my twitter-novella The Good Captain. Please come by and say hi. And I haven’t been to Portland in years – looking forward to getting out and seeing some of it again.

  2. Ouroboros Says:

    That sounds like a great weekend!
    I’ll have to track down any conference bloggers and follow-along from home.

  3. Grand Text Auto » An Opertoon Moment Says:

    […] met Erik last may at the ELO conference, and he mentioned he was working on a piece like this, originally for the Wii, now for […]

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