"Of course, having a vision and making real-life implementations that create the results are very different, but the potential for these media is only just beginning to be explored."
-- Johanna Drucker
Lit [art] ure, con't
6. What roles are being played by other entities, such as SUNY-Buffalo's Electronic Poetry Center, Arts Wire, the AltX Network, independent online publishers?
Glazier: Such organizations offer the greatest hope for the distribution of New Media writing. It is important to be able to see such work without being buried in advertisements and pop-up windows, to browse without being stalked by consumer monitoring programs, to be able to see the work as classified by those with an interest in its intrinsic merit. This means being able to see work within a context. Such a curatorial function is crucial! The EPC, for example, centers the work it presents around innovative practices from print through digital media. From its inception, it was up front about being an edited site, providing access to an immense amount of material in a systematic, organized, and consistent manner. As a repository of a large volume of texts, the goal was and is simple: to get the reader to the work as simply and effectively as possible, and to make these resources available to the widest number of users possible. This includes our users in the ninety or so countries that regularly access the EPC. As to the works themselves, texts housed at the Electronic Poetry Center are "definitive" texts inasmuch as, prior to posting, they have been approved by their producers. These are not excerpts or teasers but complete versions of works; many complete books also are available. In addition, selected EPC texts have been catalogued and made available nationally and internationally through major bibliographic databases.
Malloy: Very well said, Loss. Bravo! NYFA/Arts Wire has been investigating the possibility of expanding our web hosting for artists and artists-centered organizations for these very reasons.
Another reason that our portals and safe harbors are needed is that search engines now suffer either from uninformed editing and/or advertiser-driven editing; or, in some cases, they are still very open but have become more difficult to negotiate due to the sheer volume of material available. * It is important that there be places like NYFA/Arts Wire where people can go to find art that is not featured on large commercial sites, that is not easily unearthed by browsers -- to find innovative and experimental art.
Drucker: Collectively produced work and active student participation in web production have been features of the XRoads site hosted by Alan Howard. The transformation of students into researchers whose work has a real-life application and mission has been gratifying to them -- they are part of an American Studies program and their work is academic, not creative. But the model is exportable and repurposable. The other feature of this environment that continues to be useful, when it doesn't overwhelm, is the list-serv. I've found that lurking in ubuweb has been a treat. I feel like there are a host of scouts out there coming back with reports on what's interesting. Given the demands on my time and energy, I'm grateful to have the benefit of so many other folks whose interests are close to my own and whose expertise in many ways exceeds my own. So the repository role, the archive/access commitment, the collective production model, and the shared expertise experience are all important.
Amerika: Well, we're expanding the concept of what it means to be an institution. I feel comfortable saying that Alt-X has become an institution. We are an official non-profit organization that prides itself on pushing these boundaries we keep referring to. Whether it's through our constant support of R&D in network narrative production or in reinventing critical theory via our design and database experiments at our ebr site, we promise to do everything we can to change the way critical and artistic communities collaborate in ongoing-ungoing writerly production.
7. What role/s do you see for yourself?
Glazier: I see my role as being a literary editor managing a diverse range of resources and making them available to the public. The EPC has a tremendous readership base, one comprised of thoughtful readers from all over the world who have an interest in the kinds of innovative work we make available. I look forward to consistently building the material that is available, expanding our offerings in text, audio, and video. I look forward to the special EPC features that we sponsor, such as the Philadelpho Menezes Tribute, due late in 2000. I look forward to developing and building the E-Poetry section of the EPC, a site that intends to make available organized and editorially consistent access to New Media works. I also look forward to E-Poetry 2001, the digital poetry festival sponsored by the EPC and the Just Buffalo Literary Center that will occur April 19-21, 2001 in Buffalo, New York. This will be the largest social event to date extending from the EPC, a first-time ever festival dedicated to celebrating digital poetry. It will be an occasion for people who have worked together for years, in many cases, to meet in person for the first time. I am very much looking forward to seeing live presentations of these vital artworks, to the panels, and to feeling the combined energy of these pioneers of New Media writing.
Malloy: Once in a while in an artist/writer's life a concept or character takes possession of one's output, driving so completely the narrative stream that it is difficult for the creator to step aside. DOROTHY ABRONA MCCRAE, the 81 year painter who narrates my current hypernarrative Dorothy Abrona McCrae has so coopted my mind that it is hard to step outside of writing her words/shaping her narrative on the Web and look at the future as an infojournalist, a documenter/educator of new media art and Internet culture. Everything now seems filtered through Dorothy's rough voice and the engrossing details of her life.
In fabricating THE ROAR OF DESTINY because the reader was now skilled in the concept of following hypertextual paths, it was possible to utilize a complex information dense structure in order to stimulate information overload and resultant mental breakdown. Thus, in a way which would not have been possible in the old Internet environment, I emulated the state of mind induced either by ten to twelve hours on the net a day and/or by a vulnerability to "flesh time".
The Roar of Destiny was/is a difficult work. (for both writer and reader) Thus it is a joy to return to the clear visual artist's viewpoint which I used over 10 years ago in ITS NAME IS PENELOPE.
I am very happy with the Dorothy interface which is hopefully elegant yet non-obtrusive. It is such a pleasure to continue spinning Dorothy's narrative! I hope to be writing hypernarratives for many years.
Drucker: Since my arrival at University of Virginia my exploration of the potential of web environments and digital media has exploded. I've been involved in a project to re-envision the University through maximizing the potential of new technology, and the result of this has been to envision a Center for Computing, Cognition, and Culture. Because humanities computing has such a strong track-record here, and the projects that have established UVa in a position of prominence in this field were constructed on very solid technical and humanistic grounds, it is now possible to begin to envision imaginative extensions of these projects into highly synthetic, creative environments for learning acquisition. These concepts have about as much relation to on-line learning models of distance education as high-end computing has to the abacus. Which is to say, they're related, but at different orders of magnitude. Of course, having a vision and making real-life implementations that create the results are very different, but the potential for these media is only just beginning to be explored. I look forward to highly integrated visual/verbal systems with cognitive processing, some degree of "intelligence" in the interactivity of the system, a simulacrum of awareness and self-reflexion, and an inexhaustible platform for the collective production of knowledge in a ludic real-time performance. Part of the inspiration for this is a desire to save the humanities by reinventing a broad-based and popular relation to the rich history of imaginative creative and scholarly work. This all sounds a bit sci-fi, I know, but as an inventor friend told me, if you can imagine it, then it can be built, because the parameters of the imagination come from the same cultural / historical field as the technical capabilities for realization. My "own" work in this context is creative as well as institutional -- the lines keep blurring. Jerome McGann and I invented a project we call "The Ivanhoe Game" -- a new way to do critical and literary studies through creative and bibliographically-researched writing. I can't put that project on either side of a line that has creative attached to territory on one side and critical lying as a label on the other. The project made the distinction inoperative, and that's great. We didn't need an electronic environment for the first iteration of this game, but increasingly, the potential for creating an interpretation engine that makes the computer into a simulacral self-reflexive player who pushes human awareness has given us an insight into how information science and engineering could extend this game.
Amerika: As Johanna was saying, my "own" work in this context is creative as well as institutional -- and yes, the lines keep blurring. For example, next semester, I'll be teaching a seminar called "Histories of Internet Art: Fictions and Factions." Besides focusing on the early historical relevance of this emerging art form, the seminar group will also help produce an online art show entitled "Histories of Internet Art: Fictions & Factions" which will be made in conjunction with Alt-X (Boulder) and The Alternative Museum (New York City).
The exhibition will include a unique web interface that showcases the online art work of internationally-reknowned and emerging Internet artists, interviews with these artists, significant keynote essays that address the early history of Internet art written by prominent new media theorists and commentators, a cluster of artist statements reflecting on the last six years of practice, an automated "People's History of Internet Art" in which visitors to the site will be able to give their own version of I-Art history (100 words or less) and, ideally, a few works of newly commissioned I-art centered around the exhibition's theme.
Perhaps the most exciting thing happening with this project is that the exhibition's theme will focus on the pluralistic approaches to inventing art history and will attempt to create an alternative perspective on how emergent art work generated specifically for the Internet medium is essentially "making history" and/or "making history up," another unique characteristic that one could possibly attach an aesthetic value to.
8. How does new media work relate to new publishing technologies like E-books and on-demand publishing?
Glazier: I see that these technologies play an important role in an expanded conception of the permutations of the traditional edited book. The relevance of New Media work to these technologies may be dependent on what kind of reading device, if any, becomes the market standard. (A lower-end device might not support certain computer technologies, e.g.) I think New Media work will have a role to play but I somehow feel that E-books and on-demand publishing may be dominated by an emphasis on text, since they basically stand in the lineage of the book.
Malloy: The content which these vehicles are currently promoting is on the whole, depressingly hackneyed, and relentlessly sequential.
We need to be developing small press alternatives -- not only for Internet work but also for other e-publication venues.
Drucker: The Electronic Text Center here has the single largest repository of titles available for E-book reading/viewing. They and Barnes and Noble are the two entities approached by Microsoft to partner in the distribution and promotion of their latest product. I'd recommend you check out this list -- it will enhearten those of you who've only had Judy's commercially-based (and grim, I agree) experience. Of course the obstacle remains the labor-intensive investment in encoding of works that migrate into this environment, and thus the profit motive in producing drek for E-book consumption. This can be countered only if, as Judy suggests, there are small-press alternatives. Another potential option will emerge if automated encoding protocols can be successfully engineered.
Amerika: At the risk of repeating myself here, I want to emphasize that Internet art work is already effecting these new publishing technologies and that what we see happening in the music scene, via peer-to-peer networking programs like Napster, will also happen in the expanded E-book scene as well. E-book is an elastic term that we can manipulate as artists and, better yet, successfully use to locate widely-distributed, influential, audiences of co-conspirators who will want to expand the discourse further.
[the work] [diner] [dialogue] [theory & practice] [opportunities] [archives] Volume Two, # Two ©1999 - 2000