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The Impact of the Digital




In 2002, Katherine Hayles wrote a small book called ‘Writing Machines’ that was published by MIT Press. It is not a strictly academic type of text, more autobiographical in tone, and Hayles describes it as an experiment. The text weaves a narrative of the developing academic career of ‘Kaye’ as she progresses in research that leans on a love and knowledge of Literature to explore the emerging world of Multimedia work.

Exploring the worlds created by Michael Joyce and Talan Memmott, Hayles examines how a text, its content and the materiality of a media work is integrated into the processes through which multimedia textual art is read. She relates this to examples of Art books of Tom Philips, where the materiality of the text is clearly an integral aspect of the narrative. Finally, she explores how novels such as House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski rely on digital techniques to create “technotexts” that stetch at the perception of what a book can be, and play with the contemporary subjectivity. To illustrate the concepts of the text, the book is illustrated using different fonts, page edge decoration and a ‘lexicon linkmap’ of key words from the text.

Following in 2008, ‘Electronic Literature’ expanded and deepened this analysis. A scholarly tome, this volume retraces some of the works discussed in the first volume, but the reference points are now expanded. Encompassing the work of Friedrich Kittler, Mark B.N. Hansen and Walter Benjamin and, and introducing the concept of Intermediation to explain how the text of a multimedia text carries forward the components and figurative tropes of the media text has existed in earlier epochs (oral tradition, manuscript, print). In place of the decorated form the of the first volume, here examples of the texts discussed by Hayles are collated, included on a DVD with the book, and collected together as a webpage called Here the early experiments of ‘Twelve Blue’ and ‘Lexia to Perplexia’ can be explored and their texts read/interpreted/appropriated.

All very interesting, but why am I using 400 words to pass this on to you? Well, Volume 2 of eliterature has recently been released. Both volumes have been published by The Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), who intention is to enable the widest possible readership for the emerging media of electronic literature. The new collection includes work from Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer (Public Secrets), Ton Ferret (The Fugue Book), and Daniel C. Howe and Bebe Molina (Roulette). The sixty-three pieces form a full overview of the possibilities of multimedia texts. Created using Flash and JavaScript, hypertext links and generative algorithms, shockwave video and word play to form texts that explore how materiality in virtual forms represents the remediation of older text forms, and creates new opportunities for a viewer to read new narratives and read new textual worlds formed through the aesthetics of the emerging visual form. I invite you to come in and play…







The first reviews of the Kindle Fire have started to appear on line. These early opinions are often reflections on the new reader as soon as the box has been opened, as the first shipment to Amazon customers began at the start of this week. The look of the product and the performance of the software on the Android operating device are among the issues raised and examined by bloggers, tweeters and journalists alike, ever since the Amazon Kindle Team (@AmazonKindle) tweeted that the wait is over and that shipping had begun. 

The launch of any new device is a spectacle for modern media to judge and participate in. The opportunity for a blogger to be there early and find their blog linked to and quoted by a multitude of other internet outlets is such, that the time required for reflection is removed. The technological review are then aggregated to form meta-reviews, with further media outlets reviewing the relative temperature of the reviews thus far, taking a view on the relative idealogical bias of the news outlet involved and the relative proximity to the internet leviathan responsible for the hardware/software/user experience being dissected. Somer tech writers will be privileged and see the device early enough to form their opinions and polish their prose in advance of the first few hours of internet traffic. For the humble blogger, this is a race, entered into as a privateer, dependent on the performance of the local logistics agent. 

While internet news fails to keep ones chips out of ones lap, it does provide with speed and colour information that once would have taken weeks to disseminate. Twitter is currently receiving tweets that include the words "Kindle Fire" at a rate of 160 per minute, covering all the topic areas mentioned above and far more I have neither the guile to imagine nor the patience to document here. This flash flood of information, in some cases, be reviewed later, with inaccuracies challenged possibly and more likely exposed with other blogs and later postings. Monthly updates of sales achieved and anticipated will be discussed. Advertising for the product and press releases placed to influence its social shaping will be deconstructed and further analysed. How the product is adopted and appropriated by the user becomes an activity that is directed by the socialisation of the product. Its success is in some senses given by its ability to acquire meaning and relevance for those beyond the realms of people who already own the product. The technical or software object gains significance for the wider public, achieves recognition and acquires a myth. Whereas once this process was one fuelled by word of mouth, and then by the different forms of media created to spread this word further and faster, this is a process enabled and documented on text based web enabled communications. The discourse created can be measured and examined, reread and appropriated, questioned and further written about. So while the bloggers are opening boxes to find that the kindle has been set up with their name as part of the Fire welcome page, an opportunity to examine the processes through which the products appropriation are contested is presented to the ever vigilant digital academic.