[-empyre-] Laura Borràs

Lori Emerson lori.emerson at gmail.com
Sun Mar 8 02:24:01 EST 2009

Dear all, I just wanted to chime in to say that - while I have not yet met
Laura myself - I too find her firing really very disturbing and saddening.
And I must confess that part of why I find it's disturbing is because it
fits in with a pattern I've been noticing in which universities are
scrambling to make themselves the most "digital," the most "e" they
can...and so e-literature becomes an easy target for those who perceive it
as a way to grow cultural capital. Or, e-literature practitioners and
critics are seen as threatening to take over! Or threatening to take
precious few resources from the arts and humanities...because we do
something that's "digital" or "e." Without a doubt the firing of Laura is
about as extreme as it gets, but I've already seen - and unfortunately been
dragged into - things of this nature at the US public institution I've been
at for only six months.

So it does worry me - WE know that we not exactly rich and powerful, and
probably THEY know that too, which makes us vulnerable.

Any thoughts? Am I over-reacting do you think?


On Sat, Mar 7, 2009 at 7:27 AM, Juan Gutierrez <jgutierrez at caviiar.org>wrote:

> 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?
> Thanks,
> Juan
> --
> Juan B. Gutierrez
> Biomathematics
> 208 Love Building
> Florida State University
> Tallahassee, FL  32306-4510
> Phone: +1 (850) 459-4274
> http://www.math.fsu.edu/~jgutierr <http://www.math.fsu.edu/%7Ejgutierr>
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Lori Emerson
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Colorado at Boulder
Hellems 101, 226 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0226

"Certain kinds of information are like smoke: they work their way into
people's eyes and minds whether sought out or not, and with no regard to
personal preference."
--Haruki Murakami
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