What follows is a formula that I used for a symposium last summer called epoetica < http://www.hyperrhiz.net/symposium>. This semester (Winter 2008), I will be using this formula to kick off a course in Electronic Literature (ENG 360). My hope is that I will be able to get my students thinking about Hayles’ “media-specific analysis” by starting with texts they know already and moving into unfamiliar territory.
The first run of the formula brought mixed results. I felt that the timing for the exercise (in the summer, when people were traveling) interfered a bit with the success of the overall exercise. In addition, the exercise would have been improved with a greater sense of community among participants.
This time around, we will have a larger group (all undergraduate students, none of them very familiar with electronic literature). We will have regular -face-to-face contact time, lectures, and supplemental reading assignments. And, students will be graded for their work, so there is an added incentive for participation. Rather than using a WordPress interface, we will be using the university’s Blackboard system, and reading/participation will be restricted to registered members of the class and invited guests.
Electronic poetry is one of the many culturally appropriate tools for generating knowledge about the human self. Its unique character can only be understood, obviously, through an understanding of its media specific strengths and weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses tend to spin on the same axes. The most stunning unique quality circulates around the question of technics (referring both to “technique” and “technology,” as a particular way of responding to human life as a series of “problems” with “solutions” that can be known, improved, and transferred through empirical means.)
Electronic Literature, as a form that was born quite consciously as a response to emergent technics (both hardware and software), opens up the door for literatures that can reveal something to us about the nature of the technical system. It can force us to think critically about technics and it can offer the possibility of more efficient technics.