[-empyre-] Towards [no] theory of digital poetics
Juan B. Gutierrez
jgutierrez at caviiar.org
Sun Mar 15 17:09:29 EST 2009
Just putting sequentially some fragments of Alan's intervention:
«I don't think there are experts - I don't think there is a field.I
think there are collocations of usages, that's all, and that what you
call a field, experts, poetics, etc. is much more anarchic than you give
credit for...[...] More recently, e-lit has been defined as requiring a
computer and/or requiring interaction and/or requiring software or
programming and/or requiring protocols, whatever - again I think these
things must be resisted. I hate the academicism that these sorts of
things imply - drawing with a scalpel what should be a welcome
invitation to wonder...[...] I think there's no class at all. I'm not
even sure we have to "try to understand what digital poetics is"? - Does
that help us appreciate e-literature or literature in any way? If, as I
believe, digital poetics is a collocations, there's no "is" involved at
all - and given the enormous variety of cultures, protocols, media,
energies, histories, languages, instantiations, networks, inscriptions,
interactions, etc. existing - I doubt there ever will be.»
It is hard to argue that there no field of electronic literature...
specially after I checked that the Electronic Literature Organization
web site is still active :)
The answer to the question "what is digital poetics?" is unimportant.
What matters is the processes originated in the search for an answer.
The quest is really for trying to understand what makes the thing work
when it does and what are the common factors of different instances.
Alan, is the idea you have presented that we should *not* engage in the
'futile' exercise of searching for commonalities? Is your perception
based in the rich variety in what is commonly called electronic
literature (I am trying to avoid the use of "field")?
Trying to formalize digital poetics is not an exercise that helps the
reader appreciate electronic literature at all, as you very well
expressed; it has a totally different purpose. We could argue then that
all literary studies are superfluous since leisure readers are not
enriched in any way by, let say, Vladimir Propp... (it would be soooo
easy to start a rant in that direction). But there will be a
formalization in the field of electronic literature, we can be certain
that it will happen at the very least for historical purposes. It is
already happening with undergoing archiving initiatives. Categories are
de facto being created. That academicism is needed is we want to
preserve the collective memory.
Juan B. Gutierrez
Alan Sondheim wrote:
>> Message: 6
>> Date: Sat, 14 Mar 2009 09:45:06 -0400
>> From: Juan Gutierrez <jgutierrez at caviiar.org>
>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Towards a theory of digital poetics [Re:
>> empyre Digest, Vol 52, Issue 10 (fwd)]
>> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> <e571c28c0903140645u2deb0250x9b986da6631f29c6 at mail.gmail.com>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
>> Alan says: ?poetics need not have any essence whatsoever?
>> The essence of poetics exists; even if can only reduce it to existence, i.e.
>> presence and absence. It is easier to use negative definitions, but it is
>> clear that at some point a construct is poetic and at some point it is not.
>> For instance, a stone randomly found in a riverbed is not poetic; however,
>> the speech of a person about the stone could be. If we plug the stone to an
>> electric outlet, so that electrons flow (albeit slowly) and we write the
>> letters "STONE" on it, this does not make of it a piece of electronic
>> literature even though electrons and letters are involved (unless it is
>> accompanied by an author's statement, in which case the statement, not the
>> object would be the piece of interest).
> Alan: Only if essence itself exists and is applicable to poetics - which I
> doubt. Even your stone example has to be qualified (i.e. "unless it is" -
> and this "unless" can be indefinitely extended - what if the stone is
> virtual, what if it's illuminated by a lamp, what if it is a lamp, etc.
> etc.) Your saying the essence exists doesn't make it so; look at Wittgen-
> stein on games as a counterexample - the word is used conventionally in
> numerous ways/occasions without essence but with conceivably overlapping
> families of usages...
>> The quest for a theory of digital poetics is well founded and much needed.
> Alan: The quest is well-founded? What makes it so? Why is it needed?
>> We see at every event of electronic literature that the experts of the field
>> are still asking what the object of study is.
> Alan: Who is an expert? I've published extensively on electronic
> literature - does that make me an expert? (I can send you a bibliography
> here.) I don't think there are experts - I don't think there is a field.I
> think there are collocations of usages, that's all, and that what you call
> a field, experts, poetics, etc. is much more anarchic than you give credit
> for. (For that matter, there is no "is" re: "is" much more anarchic.)
> Looking into the past,
>> categories of human craftsmanship (including literature and art) are social
>> constructs that reveal themselves though tradition and history. The
>> underlying question becomes: Can we gain perspective about ourselves ahead
>> of our demise?
> Alan: One can say this of course about economics as well.
>> This is not trivial, and even the best minds have been
> Alan: What is a "best mind" and howso "tricked"?
>> Look what happened with the early development of hypertext and the
>> constellation of unfulfilled promises. There were prospective attempts
>> --mostly failed-- to grasp the poetics of electronic literature and dictate
>> the future of the field. Do you remember in the recent past when there were
>> more critique pieces than creative works? We can look back now and decide
>> what was overstretched and what was right on target.
> Alan: No, I don't remember that, but then I read newsgroups, say, as
> digital literature, and that far outweighted quantitively the critique of
> the same. And I don't see "unfulfilled promises" for that matter - people
> use hypertext when they want for whatever literary or other purpose, and
> that's about it. I don't see any notion of "dictating the future of the
> field" anywhere except maybe in someone's misguided attempt to turn hyper-
> text or whatever into a necessary steering mechanism for future e-lit or
> whatever. I think this must be resisted. More recently, e-lit has been
> defined as requiring a computer and/or requiring interaction and/or
> requiring software or programming and/or requiring protocols, whatever -
> again I think these things must be resisted. I hate the academicism that
> these sorts of things imply - drawing with a scalpel what should be a
> welcome invitation to wonder.
>> The point is that heavy theoretical apparatuses developed for traditional
>> forms are insufficient to grasp all dimensions of digital media. Therefore,
>> we need to develop new concepts to try to understand what digital poetics is
>> (or at the very least what is not). The most evident present dangers are
>> absolute relativism and the natural inclination to take the instance for the
> Alan: Why are these dangers? I think there's no class at all. I'm not even
> sure we have to "try to understand what digital poetics is"? - Does that
> help us appreciate e-literature or literature in any way? If, as I
> believe, digital poetics is a collocations, there's no "is" involved at
> all - and given the enormous variety of cultures, protocols, media,
> energies, histories, languages, instantiations, networks, inscriptions,
> interactions, etc. existing - I doubt there ever will be.
> Thanks for the discussion -
>> Juan B. Gutierrez
>> Research Fellow
>> CAVIIAR, Inc.
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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