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2017, July 19 to 22: Electronic Literature Organization Conference 2017
LF = side note by Lai-Tze Fan
Electronic Literature Organization conference
July 19: DAY 1
PANEL: Lightning Talks: Digital Poesis, Digital Poetics
Jhave Johnston - "CURVED: Literature for Bilingual Immersive Multi-Screen Environments"
presents CURVED, which explores the affordances of curved interactive 3D text--onto 3D objects and spaces
- uses Unity engine
projection through a cylinder (3D spaces)
example of one experiment featuring an incantation of calmness and organicism, but still "structurally wondrous" in projections in public spaces
translation problem as they cannot represent Chinese in the code
Susana Sulic - "Mar Muerto"
- Cyvers poem: configuration of words from French and English
- cyber, vers, verse, verset, poetry, and so forth
- was able at the time of Cyvers to be free of copyright ("copyleft") in connection with scientific interests
- presents Dead Sea poem as a discussion of her motivations; partly meant to be a performance
Franci Greyling, Bernard Odendaal, Gustaf Tempelhoff -- "Byderhand Tuinverse (At Hand: Garden Poetry)"
- locative experiment with a botanical garden in South Africa called Byderhand Tuinverse
- integrates garden poems through QR codes throughout green space, benches, etc.
- can read or look at the poem, watch an animation, listen to a musical piece
- a reading experience that is multi-sensory
- very collaborative project that led to more than 120 versions of the poems
- interests: research, diversity knowledge/education, multi-sensory immersive experiences, aspects of performativity and embodiment, and tech/design aspects
Joshua Enslen and Alaina Enslen -- "'As Aves que Aqui Twittam': Visualizing the Influence of 'Canção do Exílio' in New Media"
- hundreds of pastiches as well as parodies from an old poem about Brazil
- discusses a visualization of how many of these interactions with this poem came from projects with at least one female author
- exhibition that visualized these poems in thread; Joshua describes this installation as "Brazilian history as text in motion"
Joshua Unikel and Zachary Kaiser -- "As // If: Visual Poetry and Machine Translations"
in conversation with previous projects:
- The Reader's Project (John Cayley) exhibits a lot of iterations
- from Abraham Avnisan, roll of the dice as thinking about role of readers
- Caplan and Swanson's 80 of a 1000 -- medium of posters and represented in Google
drawing from these: getting Google to translate different forms of visual poems, from Mallarmé to Brathwaite
questions of translation from language to language to sound, for instance
Unikel and Kaiser are negotiating translation as well as hermeneutic issues: the question of users thinking of Google "sonifying" language, when this kind of attention doesn't occur in the types of machine-translation that happen everywhere and on an everyday basis, "from the finance sector to your Fitbit"
argue that differentiations are what make the text
see more info: as-if.site
Gustaf Tempelhoff -- "Platform Design for Site-specific Digital Literature"
- in connection to Byderhand Tuinverse project (discussed earlier in this same panel), Tempelhoff further explores questions of site-specific literature
- currently in early stages of development of an app that allows people to write site-specific lit and see what others have written
- searches most popular area based on site/GPS coordinates (so, famous bridges, etc.)
- then people can read and write literature or poetry tagged to these spaces
Jody Zellen -- "News Wheel and Other News Art Projects"
- scans copies of newspapers and uses them in large-scale installations
- while Zellen has been working on news-consumption (and art) for a while, she has been adapting her approach to think about current ways in which we receive the news
- offers examples of her new app: News Wheel, 2015
- recently presented as an interactive installation
- ex. Without a Trace (2009, updated 2016)
- current headline from NY Times juxtaposed with featured international news image
- ex. News Wheels
- explores the poetics of ever-changing news headlines
- everyday brings in 9 pie shapes from 9 diff newspapers; spin the wheel and brings one of nine headlines; overlaps them to make them look like linear, coherent poetry
- can click and drag words like refrigerator magnets
- exs. Four Square, Time Jitters
Andy Simionato and Karen Ann Donnachie -- "The Trumpet of the Swan, 2017"
- custom-coded drawing robot that captures Tweets by Trump on a continuous scrolling sheet of paper
- a "single-serve drawing machine" that is build around Trump
- feeds this paper into a paper shredder and a fan blows up the shreds to look like confetti (hahaha)
- based on EB White's 1970 children's book, The Trumpet of the Swan
- a boy gets a trumpet for a mute swan so it can find love
- the machine only works when Trump tweets from his @realdonaldtrump account, so he has the launch codes to this device
- hubris-filled Tweets, when filtered through their Trumpet, at least offers some hidden digital poesis
PANEL: "E-lit World: S[outh]-N[orth]-E[ast]-W[est]"
Shanmugapriya T and Nirmala Menon -- "Locating Literary Practices/Expressions in Indian Digital Spaces"
e-lit in India: digital culture includes textual practices, updating statuses, texting, digital photos, videos, etc.
new ways of practicing literature: SMS novels, social media network narratives, poetry, flash fiction
Q: are these cultural practices considered electronic literature?
considers Souvik Mukherjee's article "No Country for E-Lit: India and Electronic Literature"
- analyzes non-literarity and oral storytelling in India
embedded images and musical modes with text in literature
considers how we can consider types of lit in India in terms of e-lit
pattachitra (cloth + picture), monograph poem
- reader has to interact with both text and image in order to understand poem
ragamala paintings -- series of paintings comprising of classical music, poetry, art
chitra kavi -- renowned poetical form of Tamil literature
- word play with spatial exploration and structure of the poem is rendered in the form of an image
narratives of these works will affect several senses of the reader through its interfaces, images, audio, and videos
new literary expressions are re-imagining the e-lit in more pluralistic way in India
Susie Cronin -- "Can we (still) Speak of a 'French' Digital Literature?"
looking at Oulipo writing group, considered latest and longest running experimental literary group
offers a brief history of their development through French writers
compares with initial definitions of what e-lit is and supposed to do: "works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer"
categorical formulation of French digital literature suggests nationality more than practice
- but such lit is equally concerned with relationship with e-lit for creativity, as well as languages of creations
Serge Bouchardon's "Digital Literature in France" notes that Oulipan "poetry generated exclusively by the computer remains a European phenomenon, and more specifically French"
since Internet has made content more accessible, e-lit has only become more and more international, as seen in ELC Volume 3
Roberta Iadevaia -- "(Ghosts of the) Generative Literature in Italy Between Past, Present and Future"
art created with the use of an autonomous system, generally not human system, by virtue of processes created by the artist
computer-generated work that is programmed by algorithms
looking at Nanni Balestrini's work, including series of works on Tristano
- including recycled 139 single-minute clips to generate 10 minute "chapters"
- but in a talk with Balestrini, he tells Iadevaia that he is deeply skeptical of notions of "electronic literature"
Iadevaia considers a "classical period" of e-lit between 1985 and 1995
at the same time in Italy, there were other social hacking experiments, video and VR installations, generative works
also Italian automatic text generators, with more than 80,000 results
identifies main features of Italian automatic text generators:
- ludic approach, satirical intent, underground culture, prejudice against the possibility of using digital devices for literary purposes
July 20: DAY 2
Workshop: "Reading Infinity in 5 Minutes"
workshop leader Hannah Ackerman asks:
- how do you read texts that are potentially infinite?
- knowing there's a generative writing algorithm towards infinity, how does this influence your reading?
round of introductions, with descriptions of interests in e-lit and specific texts
- Hannah: struggling between the system and the text
- Chris: working on creative poetry and generative text
- Ekaterina: artist therapy, interested by potential of the accident
- Scott Rettberg: history and conception of generative texts as being "infinite" re: machine-learning
- recommends reading Sunshine 69
- Lai-Tze Fan: ideas of finality and closure in reading text versus "infinite" texts, issues of finality and the finite: finite materiality, finite resources, etc.
- Priya: digital culture in Indian literature, social media forms of writing
- Rico (?): questions of preservation and memory in libraries, thinking of online communities of preservation and relaying information for the future in a way that stays readable
- Oscar: history of computation poetics, looking mostly at generative stuff and thinking about process- and output-oriented reading; questions of value that come from excess vs. bits that only you have read so it has a lot of singular value (reading something that no one else has read)
- Deena Larson: finite/infinite storytelling vs. how people read these kinds of output, input; Dena tends to read the algorithm
Hannah: argument that if it is infinity, readers may make the decision to stop that much earlier
- when can you say "I have read it"?
- Or do you stop when you realize you've figured it out enough?
Deena: many different types of infinity; here has to be a taxonomy of infinity: ex. finite set of lines combined in infinite ways, etc.
Chris: it might be more correct to say that the text is unbounded than infinite
Scott: how do you read a text that can suggest infinitude, or has structures that we're just not accustomed to
- what's the role of the reader, what's a professional reading?
- should you also be reading the code, which is indeed a finite experience?
Oscar: Jonathan Basile has a project online on Borges' library called Library of Babel
Oscar: gives example of infinite text of Twitter that's continous feed by humans (and bots, Scott adds)
Deena: is looking at generative work looking at a black box of output?
- Scott: difference with an artwork that Jhave Johnston has done is that the code is retraining itself continuously
- becomes more like formal poetry with aesthetic decisions of how things go together
PANEL: "E-Lit &/as Memory"
Jessica Pressman -- "Remembering Books in Electronic Literature: Ice-Bound Compendium as Archive and Aesthetics of Bookishness"
- covers e-lit game piece Ice-Bound Compendium and thinks about its potential for deep, close-reading in the vein of an aesthetic of bookishness
- ice-bound is about archival: literally freezing a thing in ice
- reading this provokes questions of how previous readers have read the text
- the memory of books haunts the novel, book becomes a fetish symbol
- year of 2034 where someone has a leather-bound book, an arresting anachronism
- in thinking about the book as an artifact, we're prompted to think about literary production
- the ways the text uses books is as familiar (distantly), almost uncanny
Alex Saum-Pascual -- "Memory Traces: Printed E-Lit as a Site for Remembrance"
- discussing Spanish text (eek, I didn't get the name! Does anyone have it??)
- thinking about digital objects in terms of embodiment, and, in reference to German Sierra's argument that digital objects are performances
- read new digital techniques for writing as building on decomposition of "novelistic" form
- close-reads a page of text as an image of writing over writing--describes it as a palimpsest
- printed page of code as "useless code"
- tension between the depth of code and the flatness of print
- illegible to the human as text, legible to the human eye, and illegible to the machine
- Walter Benjamin: memory is the medium of experience
- his argument invites excavation and constant looping that separates ideas of memory and history
- memory depicted as a current, running like a river
- she earlier made a reference to Steven Hall's Raw Shark Texts, which represents information as water as well
- Wolfgang Ernst on memory of objects that create their own time (writing their own narratives?)
- machines constantly dealing with human information in a non-human way
- machines writing a memory of the past
Lendl Barcelos -- "CMPRSSNST CNTRFCTS; or, Listening Away from Algorithmic Artifacts"
- looking at Glenn McDonald's Every Noise at Once, an algorithmic website that organizes genres based on predicted listener interest
- considering how sound files additionally exist as a textual condition mediated by its codes, markings, and markings that we give to it semantically
- discusses xenopoetics (reference to Christian Bök?) as reading/writing in different points of view that are not only about the human experience or reading
- LF: the way Barcelos addresses it, sounds like a mediation of omission, erasure: what is lost
- LF: I quite like this as a form of rebellion or Oulipian writing
- sound file of the mp3: behind the sound, the ghost in the mp3 is an inverse reading
- towards creating genre-specific listening habits, every noise is read by the machine first and then fed back to the reader
Q & A
Jessica: in this cultural moment, we do not mean one thing by "book"; wants us to read for bookish content
- artists are already doing this, including artists that work in print/books
Q to Jessica: do bookish objects fall into specific genres or disciplines?
A: trying to categorize different objects according to genre or aesthetic or how they represent "book" is a larger intellectual question/problem
July 21: DAY 3
Rita Raley -- "Machine Writing: Translation, Generation, Automation"
two parts to talk: general reflections in the field, then give encapsulation of some of her research on machine writing
affiliations implies an imaginary community in terms of networks
- and infrastructure is latent in issues of electricity, anthropocene, and so forth
we need to do more to bridge the gap between production and consumption--the gap between coding/articulation and reading practices
what happens in the visualized "here", in the connections between computers, is a question to be answered in terms of art
infrastructuralism and media archaeology still positioned outside of conversation of electronic literature
is this because of illusion of immateriality that M. Kirschenbaum has written about?
on machines: "we only notice them when we break down"
Ansh Patel - A Perfect World (2015), mediating upon delay to bring tools to our conscious attention
besides cultural analytics and distant reading, what would macro reading look like to capture the complexities of infrastructure?
we could perhaps use systems model in the style of Bourdieu
Shelley Jackson's Instagram account on snow: @snowshelleyjackson
Eduardo Kac's Inner Telescope/Telescope Interieur
- words and space become a literal formation
- in what sense does space poetic materialize the fatigue and plant exhaustion of Patel's A Perfect World
Raley explores contemporariness in terms of Agamben: having a singularity with one's time, adhering to it, being stuck to but not tied to the epic, "to be of a time but anachronistically"
- his essay on contemporariness comes alongside essay on the apparatus
- language compels attention
what can e-lit or language art teach us about the contemporary? How has it fixed its gaze on linguistic capitalism, and what we might call the soft power of technolinguistic consensus?
our writing is both visibly and invisibly adjusted: autocorrect in particular, intervention by machine
- a language that is no longer properly ours
- can no longer tell the difference between our writing, or an algorithmically intervened or independent text
Autocorrect, autocomplete, autocompose
to autocorrect, add phenomena of autocompose or Google reply (automatic e-mail responses based on e-mail content, like RSVPing in various ways)
"Nonsense paper" by someone who has no knowledge of physics allowed him to write an accepted conference paper just through autocomplete with words like "nuclear"
Raley did the same thing about e-lit for the audience here (wish I had a photo of this slide, haha)
considers automated reporting bots, or machine generated political speeches
where we have single people putting the word "I" to collaborative (with machine) writing, non-human agents cannot be named in individualism: cannot be capital-N named
- in this sense, text generators are the last step in non-authorship
Modes of production
- ex. embracing Google as a control mechanism, like Google poetics
- but see project: 10 Poems ruthlessly mangled by Google Translate
- Google Translate Beatbox
- How it is by John Cayley and Daniel C. Howe
- The Apostrophe Engine by Bill Kenney and Darren Wershler
- not acceleration, but a kind of tunnelling in to the conditions of language in the contemporary moment
- spam poetry, "flarf"
- ex. Stewart Home's Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie
- Hito Steyrl: "In a few hundred thousand years extraterrestrial forms of intelligence incredulously sift through our wireless communications"
- translation of technolinguistic doxa that undergirds
- ex. artists and writers that work with text generators, Twitter bots, MashBOT
- Johannes Helden and Hakan Jonson's Evolution--proper origins are unknown, so radical that it can only be representational
- Andreas Jacob' works, including Semantic Disturbances
- word chosen so not to suggest humans and machines working harmoniously together
- ex. John Cayley - The Listeners
Otso Huopaniemi's love.abz
- human performers lie on the floor with their eyes closed and collective improvise love story for machines
- machines capturing voices in database out of which next performance will emerge
- demonstrates NK Hayles' latest book Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious
- argument: consciousness is a broader faculty shared by more than just humans
- this art project becomes example of symbolic production without signification or understanding
- deskilling of labour, reduction to rote procedures, recast procedures to something like a script--i.e. following an algorithm
- again, reflective of condition today: machines impersonating people, and people impersonating machines
Q & A
Q: Oscar Schwartz: autonomous driving isn't really autonomous, still relies on our data; people say the same of Google translate
- how much of the imminent critique we can do relies on making the human behind the algorithms visible?
A: one could imagine the detection/identification of difference or origins of utterances, esp important in political contexts
- who said this, who wrote this
- for media studies, this might be the less interesting route to pursue
- as critics, free to explore other ways of approaching the problem
- as artists, expands what types or modes of production become available to us, but while necessitating letting go of the category of authorship
Q: Manuel: very active writing is creation of external recognizer that gives him his own subjectivity after the fact; when escalating the process with machine-learning neural network agents that produce automated writing, there's a sense in which subjectivity is being dispersed, delegated, capitalized. How do you see this in terms of the self, the human self, what's happening to the human self?
A: concrete example: Mind Virus performance from the other night--actors functioning as automaton; lag between input and output compressed as if no process occurs
- simulating the robotic, while it's of course improvisation
- invites us to think about shift between the two: moment of reflection claimed for the human vs. the dumb, stupid, immediate real time that gets claimed for the machine
- Facebotlish = non-human language for machines to speak among themselves; this will be used to re-write what we mean by self in itself; the interior vs. the exterior that the machine usually claims
- we have to rethink the heuristics to distinguish between human and machine, and this exercise of distinction might not even be a productive one
- ascemic as a strategy?
- re: Hayles, must accept that meaning-making is no longer the exclusive province of the human
- interior/exterior, automated/reflexive as necessary heuristics to approach problems, but they quickly become complicated and we will need a new heuristic
Q: how would you find the unconscious, where would you look for it, and would you?
A: moving away from automatic writing whereby automation in writing becomes a result of the unconscious
- What's happening now is slightly different
- not sure that the unconscious the primary term any longer; artists Raley has been working with are much more interested in the machine symbolic
Q: Kathi Berens: how do we have so many self-published authors. Can you contrast some of this writing with genre and constraints of genre as we understood it before machine writing? If one characteristic of genre is constraint, how do millions of self-pub authors correspond to older generic-based pleasures?
A: a certain pleasure in constraint, the formula, the restraint, that we imagine gives us the space for deviance
- also, removal of choice as experience of pleasure bc one doesn't have to confront oneself
- Calvino's early piece of cybernetics and ghosts: he has nice schema in terms of order vs. disorder, with latent sense of pleasure imagined for readers, perception of that distinction in perceiving a structure and then breaking it
PANEL: "Translations and Renderings"
Nick Montfort (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
Leonardo Flores (U. Puerto Rico Mayagüez, USA)
Aleksandra Małecka (Jagiellonian U., Poland)
Ariane Savoie (U. Québec Montréal, Canada)
Natalia Fedorova (Smolny Institute, Russia)
- introduces Renderings project with two examples from curamag.com
- ex. Commodore 64 emulator in the website called Amílcar Romero
- trying to replicate the experience for the user
- ex. Andrew Campana's Seika No Kosho
- Japanese/English phrases translated--whereas oral text "seika no kosho" sounds the same in Japanese, means different things in English
- when works are translated, consider accessibility across languages when certain projects aren't available online or in English
- Montford offers examples of some of these poems: Memory Slam
- looking to find more linguistic diversity
- he's looking to do work like this in Creole at MIT, post-renderings to share across borders in different ways and in different languages
- looks at Enigma n, 1998, by Jim Andrews
- in seeking to translate this work, project started to grow in size: one word, "meaning," expands more and more
- minimalist poem that presents "meaning" with options to prod, stir, tame, spell
- different options appear across the menu
- questions the poem asks: what is the meaning of language in these kinds of circumstances, how is meaning an enigma?
- looking at the surface of a poem is not this simple: also considered the source code, which led him into code reading
- looking at translating a poetry generator based on the Russian poet Kouryokhin, from the Russian Silver Age of Poetry
- translating a metasimulator is translating the context (historical, philosophical, and anthropological)
- looking at Leszek Onak’s computational conceptual work Cierniste diody [Thorny diodes], in Polish, a comical remix of a Bruno Schulz story
- see the work Thorny Diodes
- offers history of Bruno Schulz, including by talking about the quality of his writing and discussing his untimely death, the loss of his ouevre, etc.
- LF: I write about Bruno Schulz, loss and erasure of text, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes in a forthcoming article in Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal
- discusses serious difficulty in trying to translate Schulz's complexity
- translated three works, one of which was a text generator, creating challenges in sentence structure, choice of words, semantics, etc.
- "translation" in Latin: passing from one light to another
- "translation" old French: passing from one place to another
- because of the challenge of finding French works in dominant English e-lit collections, for Savoie, Rendering project as a translation challenge became a task of finding artifacts--including through physical archives
PANEL: "Forms of Translation: Experimental Texts Rewritten as Migrations to Digital Media"
Marjorie Luesebrink and Stephanie Strickland -- "Axolotls and Perfume Bottles"
Strickland describes art work of Regina Célia Pinto’s Axolotls, walking through paths of Cortaza's story in various choices
migrated work transformed by idiosyncratic website
glass barrier becomes a portal in the idea of deep diving into the screen
1999-2004 webbooks by Pinto that are influenced by magic realism, and especially by Vilem Flusser
- esp. Flusser's treatment of technological apparatuses, where new affordances precede human use (the medium shapes its use to a degree)
fourth option: Ax-box, a mediation of changing perceptions
readers invited to participate by creating their own animations and are prompted to send them to author
fifth choice: reader asked to participate by playing a game
considers earlier text by MD Coverley and Stephanie Strickland, To Be Here as Stone Is
- traces a path that breaks out of the interior of a perfume bottle
- "no worlds but us, in chains of glass"
digital text that is technically reworked compensates for unwanted translation
Donna Leishman -- "Cautionary Tale: Stories Made and Distributed through the Internet"
- plays slides of early print productions about Little Red Riding Hood in relation to her project Red Riding Hood (2000)
- explores how the Internet "as locus influences/d [her] creative work"
- representations of the wolf in LRRH stories as especially grotesque really affected her: especially a wolf on two legs with a hat and cane
- considerations of printing Red Riding Hood
Angelica Huizar -- "Poetic Transliteration, Metaphysical Transpositions in Brazilian Digital Poetries"
Sorry to have missed this; I had to run off to set up tech in my own roundtable!!
John Cayley and Daniel C. Howe -- "Reading Language Art"
The Readers Project is designed to explore culture of human reading, also to think about how reading is changing face of new economic and technological systems
how might reading be appreciated as art by the everyday art goer?
Jeremie Benquin (sp?) erased all volumes of Proust and kept the eraser bits
in project, space is organized via 2d cellular autonoma
word you're reading stays in one place, but the "neighbours" move around
the readers are often blocked from search engines bc of their terms of service
- but Daniel has his own browser with terms of service so what you surf and create belongs to him
question of ownership of data--these should be things we should be able to negotiate without regards to commercial values
Perigram reader uses frequency information to examine its broader neighbourhood, only looks at n-grams from a particular neighbourhood
- doesn't know its immediate text, but it knows its context
- "within its own world, within the world of reading"
if you look at it without the context of the page, just a generator; but on the page, indicates distracted, disrupted, perturbed reading patterns that are plausible
perigrammic 3-gram words can be thought of as natural language
- compares spawning perigrammic reading to distracted reading when you are looking all over the place while you are reading
- text is red (central), black (neighbours), and grey (background text), and text is highlighted based on whether it can "spawn" from the central red