libraries | play | information | media | policy | culture


Lexia to Perplexia, and Back Again

According to the scholar N. Katherine Hayles, "Electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast 'digital born,' a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer."

As you can imagine, the genre has existed for decades as a near-monastic pursuit. It has a small but devout following and has attracted the attentions of such powerful thinkers as Hayles, Jay David Bolter, George Landow, and Stuart Molthrop.

However, the mainstream hasn't been ready for it. Electronic literature, which encompasses several forms including hypertext fiction and interactive fiction, rarely provides an easy read. Furthermore, the genre has been technologically hamstrung. In its early days, not many potential readers had ready access to computers. And throughout its history, its chief authors have had to be as facile at coding as they are at creating narrative, despite the development of a rather clunky and expensive program dedicated to creating hypertext narratives.

Now, I think, is electronic literature's time to breakout. The technology has improved and opened and the public's behaviors have been conditioned enough that the vehicles and tastes for such narratives are converging.

As Japan proves, mobile devices are getting good enough to consume—and compose—narratives. And the potential such open and free technologies as Twitter and Facebook to develop an audience around short, connected (even cryptic) hypertext narratives that can spin off in multiple multimedia directions is ripe for the plucking.

Now is the time for the next wave of authors of electronic literature to take the art to its next level.

No comments: