Electronic Literary Journals At The Limits And Beyond: The Possibilities Of The Digital (TH, 10/13 10 AM)

Electronic Literary Journals At The Limits And Beyond: The Possibilities Of The Digital (TH, 10/13 10 AM)

Kiki Benzon, Joe Milazzo, Jason Snyder, Mathew Timmons

This panel will bring together representatives of several electronic literary journals, all of which acknowledge both the limits and possibilities of working within a digital environment, and all of which share a common aesthetic concern: how to incorporate, exploit or otherwise make use of Internet form(s) in connecting readers to innovative literature. Topics to be covered include (but shall not be limited to): digital literature in the context of print culture; literature’s relationship to information; the curation of immaterial objects; code and other forms of digital text (legible, illegible) as media; the Internet as a navigable space; online culture, online subcultures and their intersections with notions of online community; economies of scale and the proliferation of electronic literary journals; beauty, usability and perceived seriousness of intent.

While it is exceedingly difficult and even a bit foolhardy to single out any given moment with respect to a phenomenon as turbulent in its evolution as this one, we very well may now be entering a critical phase in the history of the Internet. For one thing, we now reside in a era in which the Internet has become a historical entity. Moreover, electronic literary, possessed of it own traditions and theories of production, is being subjected to increased scrutiny. Traditional publishing houses, acting as much out of financial desperation as creative bankruptcy, are scanning the Internet for “solutions” and “ideas” with a keenness unimaginable just half a decade ago. In the process, those traditional purveyors of literature are less adapting to the Internet than they are attempting to re-engineer the Internet for the purposes of monetization, market growth, and brand extension. An official history of Internet literature is shortly to be written, and there is every risk that it will be as narrow as these established interests, and that much of what has been vital and truly exploratory about digital experiments in publishing will be written out of that chronicle. (And this in spite of the fact that the Internet is itself the chief repository of its own history.) Simultaneously, and as nearly all technologies have in the past, the Internet is miniaturizing and becoming much more oriented towards personalization. (Are we or re we not in the age of a new common-place “book?”) In other words, the Internet is no longer bound to the computer. And while some electronic journals have made efforts to creatively address this trend, many remain tied to original conceptions primarily concerned with and oriented towards the desktop “box.” Our hope, via this conversation, is both to document how electronic literary journals have contributed to our understanding of what it means both to speak and to be online, and to propose new strategies of truly aesthetic engagement with what the Internet, language and reading are becoming.

Please feel free to extend the scope and content of this conversation in this forum.