[-empyre-] Laura Borràs

Juan Gutierrez jgutierrez at caviiar.org
Sun Mar 8 01:27:55 EST 2009

Continuing Giovanna's intervention, I can add a few things.

My name is Juan B. Gutierrez. I am currently located at Florida State
University, finishing my dissertation in biomathematics, and about to start
a post-doc in mathematical ecology. I have been involved in the field of
electronic since the mid 90s, when I started writing experimental electronic
literature in Spanish. I was an instructor of electronic creative narrative
in three Universities in Colombia, while I was a philosophy grad student
(quite a shift for an engineer). Much of my work has never left the lab;
only a few pieces of fiction and systems are published. I have done some
work in mathematical modeling of narrative spaces.  So, it is fair to say
that I perform in the field of electronic literature as an author, a system
designer, an instructor, and a mathematical modeler.

Laura and her team had learned about my work years ago simply because she is
one of the very few researchers in the field of electronic literature able
to follow its development in many languages (she speaks fluently 5
languages). I met her in person at a conference in Madrid in 2006. At the
moment we had a brief exchange; nevertheless, I was very impressed by her
versatility, her deep knowledge of the field, her charisma, her beauty, and
her enthusiasm. A year later we coincided in a panel about international
electronic literature at MITH. In that opportunity, we literally
(literarily?) got lost in Baltimore and found the idea for the Global Poetic
System (GPS), which was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Industry with
€200K, making of it one of the projects with the largest funding in the
field. At that time, Laura invited me to teach a module in the masters
programs she directs.

I have been involved with the UOC since late 2007, as a researcher through
the GPS project, and as an instructor at a master's level. In my limited
experience along 19 years as a student and instructor in three continents,
it is in the UOC where I have found that dirty politics interfere the most
with academics. Laura is under fire by incompetent people; I can attest the
incompetence of UOC officials by the difficulties to start a funded research
project; for example, the UOC requested that CAVIIAR, the non-profit
organization I work for, transferred to them ownership of all its previous
work (an artificial intelligence engine known as Literatronica, used also in
biomedical research). It took nearly four months of bitter negotiation for
them to “agree” to let CAVIIAR preserve its assets, and share ownership of
the new product. It seems like the people whom has Laura under fire
perceived a project of electronic literature as the opportunity to make
billions in 2009 (I know, I know… stop laughing, this is serious… see what I
mean by incompetent?)

Laura is a remarkable person. Some people follow a path in life. Some
others, very few, make these paths. Laura is a trailblazer. She devoted her
energy to grow the UOC, she founded one of the most active research groups
in the field, she has been funded, she has been a facilitator, a
communicator, a catalyst, she has produced technical articles, books. She is
the will and wheel behind the only literary prize for electronic literature
there is: the Ciutat de Vinaros Prize. She has reached with her work, either
by referencing or interacting, all the corners of the world. And even
something else that many people in the field do not know: she is also an
author. She wrote in 2006 “Diary of an absence”, a noteworthy piece of
electronic literature; she is too modest to let others know about it or
impose it in the field.

It is thus painful that one of our very best is subject to unfairness,
injustice, perfidy, and all despicable circumstances and emotions, victim of
those who are lesser and want her brightness out of the way. It is hard to
speculate the undercurrents at the UOC, but it is easy to know that it is
very difficult in Europe, and especially in Spain, to find an academic
position. This whole business sounds like someone with decision power but no
academic brain wants Laura’s space to put there an incompetent friend. The
UOC is a public institution with private stakeholders. A university is an
asset of the society it serves, but in this case the UOC is dilapidating it
most valuable asset: its human talent. What type of service is then the UOC
providing? The words of John Donne become prophetic: “never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. What is being done to Laura is a
threat against all of us. Who among us will feel safe in the future, if our
talent alone is not enough to secure a place in society?


Juan B. Gutierrez
208 Love Building
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL  32306-4510
Phone: +1 (850) 459-4274
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