#producing digital literature. 2

A threefold quest into digital literature.

What we expect from digital literature is not connected to mere technology.

Recently seen

I will start with a very simple idea, the browser-based „glossarattrappen“ by Ann Cotton (AusnahmeVerlag) to show what digital literature is not supposed to be.

This constantly updated website assembles photos and short texts by the author Ann Cotton which can – by favorizing them – be turned into a personalized collection to be printed on demand. Stating it bluntly, how is it any different from a card record system, its usage only very convenient? Though being not that convenient I could imagine that one could also make the selection at the book store, the cards and photos spread before his eyes.

Should one add that glossarattrapen is actually defined by its contextual environment (that is other tabs, the browser, the window, the computer)? Does it not make a difference if I sit at home on my laptop gazing out of my window maybe or I check my phone while sitting in a train, or if analogue that I have to go to a store? But still that is not part of the artistic production. It does not produce meaning that is relevant for the texts and photos being provided.


This was an offline event taking place in Winter 2015 in Berlin. A WLAN and cloud environment available for this occasion only provided access to a cloud and other tools like a chat. By this every participant was able to take part in a collective writing space. Your smart phone at hand, everyone could participate during the workshops and performances of the evening. The event was curated  by a group of literary professionals.

The data produced this evening was collected in a cloud. These text and image corpus was edited and finally put (in real-time) into a publication downloadable only at the end of the evening. As a collective writing event it of course touches the question of authorship – but that would any other non-digital collective-writing-event, too. Is it then, that the mere possibility to use given formats, rules and parameters of for example a chat (that is dialogic nature, spatial and time frame, other languages like smileys, anonymous writing, easily changeable identities) define it as digital literature?

The chat function provided some insight. It was wild and defragmented. As an improvisation it worked quite well, to be honest. This is a good example for post-digital and digital literature as something different based on its difference in production.


Using another digital means for literature are literature apps that provide stories based on geo-location services. One gets it for example for Tokyo, for London eg. and for New York. Geo-location is one of the new techniques that shape digital experience according to Jason Farman who wrote the book „The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies“. Does that make digital literature?

What about imagining literature in connection to recent technological developments like virtual reality glasses, AI or the Internet of Things (imagine your fridge being more lyrical than yourself in the morning. I would kill it.)

Conceptual & digital poetry

These artworks often focus on the means of production. Taking a look at conceptual (/concrete) works and digital literature/poetry, it is noteworthy that they are dependant on digital technology as much as they use algorithms and coding software insofar as this literature lays bare what the conditions for producing digital literature as such are.

What has become digital? It is sound, text and graphics. Text though is what is used to do all three. Playing with form and revealing inner mechanics and workings by formalistic plays, conceptual digital literature often  to performances, videos, sound pieces, hypertexts and so on that have the ability to readdress themselves, be reflexive. One could summarize it that way: It is not there to read but to watch and think it.

And that is what we actually expect from technology-driven literature. Take for example browser-based websites like “Ah” by K Michel and Dirk Vis or “EVOLUTION” byJohannes Heldén & Håkan Jonson that make text a kinetic installation. That is what we expect from digital means, to unfix literature and make it an open space to experiment with. Of course this is deeply connected to technologies and it is interesting that there is another text, the code, behind the work, but still, we expect digital literature to decontextualize and alienate us from linear text, to an so-called open space.

More to follow.

What is next? #disseminating #networking

Photo credit: kunst.gymszbad.de/zab2006/ts-3/oppenheim/oppenheim-pelztasse-1-xl.jpg

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