The INTRE:FACE Digital Conference (06.02.2016-07.02.2016), organized by Katharina Deloglu and Tom Bresemann, hosted by Andreas Bülhoff, tackled many important questions regarding digital literature. In a series of articles we bring you the speeches and discussions held at the INTRE:FACE Digital Conference, dealing with problems regarding digital literature and different tools used to construct it, for example how can digital tools be used to offer new approaches to production, what digital tools already exist and how are they structured, to more applied problems, such as how can literary activists use digital means to connect with one another, how we can make most of digital material and many other interesting topics.
Mark Marino joined us digitally to tell us something about his projects involving electronic literature:
Andreas Bülhoff: Florian Cramer made a statement some years ago about digital literature, he said that there is no more interesting digital literature, because it doesn’t reflect the technical ways by which it is produced, do you agree? Is there still interesting digital literature?
Mark Marino: It’s important to note he made the comment at an Electronic Literature Organization conference, so he was maybe only being provocative, which is, I find, a German thing to do. My experience is that there has been an explosion of electronic literature. I started studying it in 1993, when it was primarily being researched as hypertext and you had to explain all the time what you meant with electronic literature, but in the last 10 or 7 years, people started to equate it with e-books. After the advent of apps, there is a change in what the user expects, they are used to [instinctively] interacting with the apps in ways they don’t interact with books, there is now also always the expectancy of multimedia content. Even more so with the advent of the iPhone, once people could access the apps not only on computers, but also on portable devices. There are also a lot of apps that use literature in gaming experiences. We should also talk about how as more and more folks in the literary world move into programming, the form of publishing and reading moves in the digital sphere and also the programming literacy is growing, so people are able to do more and more experimental things.
Max Höfler: Which topics does the Buzzademia call for papers cover?
Mark Marino: It depends on how you look at it, any scholarly idea in the humanities area is the starting point, anything from a theory to a concept, the forms are as varied as anything popular on the internet, memes, Tweets, casual games, Instagram photos, info-graphics… It’s not so much about the field of research, we don’t really want to focus on the sciences for now, but we try to include as much variety of form as possible. Also vines, innovative gifs… It’s not people writing about these forms, but a communication of scholarly ideas through these forms.
Andreas Bülhoff: What about the “netprov” projects? Are they always based on social media?
Mark Marino: It’s hard to say how it began, at the beginning probably from the idea of a highly democratic way of writing. At the beginning Rob Witting had the project called Invisible Seattle, the first novel written by a city, in 1982, by a collective of authors. They were in construction outfits and were asking people in Seattle, from their answers they constructed a database and programmed it in a novel. Back in 2009 I tweeted on my social media account that I hired a social media manager, after 3 weeks he went on spring break, threw his electronic devices in the Grand Canyon… but that was all fiction. So the projects grow out of theatrical improve, RPGs… The idea is to adopt any forms people are using for communication, so probably the next project will use the app Periscope, were you let people sublet each other’s’ beings for a while, in a project called “AirbnMe”. Again, no matter which platform, a strong idea is to set up playgrounds, where everybody has an opportunity to be an author. To be honest, we’re just following a lot of Internet venues and what they do. It’s a lot about collaboration and a democratic art form. Twitter has been a fairly reliable platform, but it just announced that it would be implementing an algorithm for the news feed based on supposed interests. We also did a project called Occupy MLA, where we were part of a fictional occupy movement, protesting against the Modern Language Association. We were able to enter a new space just by using a hash-tag.