April 11, 2013 by Amanda Visconti

"Electronic Literature after Flash": Weirding Credible Digital Platforms to Tell Stories

"The slow death of Flash also leaves a host of [e-lit] authors who can no longer create in their chosen medium. It’s as if a novelist were told that she could no longer use a word processor—indeed, no longer even use words. Or is it?"

I'm pleased to be part of Mark Sample's MLA '14 roundtable proposal, "Electronic Literature after Flash". You can read the whole proposal over on Mark's blog (which, incidentally, has just a lot of great writing about DH and about teaching as scholarship)--I'll be joining a group of both e-lit scholars and authors: Mark, Leo Flores, Chris Funkhouser, Dene Grigar, Mark Marino, Stuart Moulthrop, and Zach Whalen.

Here's the chunk on my part of the roundtable:

Amanda Visconti surveys the way e-lit can appropriate digital platforms that were never designed for poetics or narrative. Visconti argues that such platform poaching combines the veneer of credibility associated with a digital archive or a wiki with a narrative license that is simultaneously ethically dangerous and rich with possibilities for counterfactual knowledge.

I want to discuss the ethics and possibilities of e-lit’s distorting occupation of platforms intended for other uses—more specifically, to start a conversation about the mindful misuse of academic or similarly  “credible” platforms. E-lit built off social media frameworks (e.g. The Urban 30, the LA Flood project), while not always immediately recognizable as fictional, at least carries with it our awareness of the biases and misinformation of news and gossip. Combining the veneer of credibility associated with a digital archive or wiki framework with narrative license is a tactic both ethically dangerous and rich with possibilities for ‘patacritical and counterfactual knowledges. I’ll briefly outline a few such e-lit appropriations and warpings of credible platforms, such as the speculative but factually grounded Anglish Moot constructed language wiki and the counterfactually half-true eduARG The Arcane Gallery of Gadgetry’s historical wiki, as well as mention a few platforms ripe for creative misuse. This lightning talk should provoke discussion about the ethics of e-lit, weirding existing platforms, and the role of e-lit in communicating factual knowledge.