Electronic literature

Electronic literature

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Electronic literature is a literary genre
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

 consisting of works of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 that originate within digital environments.

Definitions


N. Katherine Hayles
N. Katherine Hayles
N. Katherine Hayles is a postmodern literary critic, most notable for her contribution to the fields of literature and science, electronic literature, and American literature. She is professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Program in Literature at Duke University. -Background:Hayles was...

 discusses the topic in the online article Electronic Literature: What Is It. She argues in her 2008 text Electronic Literature that, "electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast 'digital born,' and (usually) meant to be read on a computer." Hayles also cites the definition offered by the Electronic Literature Organization
Electronic Literature Organization
The Electronic Literature Organisation is a nonprofit organization "established in 1999 to promote and facilitate the writing, publishing, and reading of electronic literature." -History:...

 (ELO) as, "work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer."

On its official website, the ELO offers this additional definition of electronic literature as consisting of works which are:
  • E-book
    E-book
    An electronic book is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital...

    s, hypertext fiction
    Hypertext fiction
    Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a...

     and poetry
    Digital poetry
    Digital poetry is a form of electronic literature, displaying a wide range of approaches to poetry, with a prominent and crucial use of computers...

    , on and off the Web
  • Animated poetry presented in graphical forms, for example Flash
    Adobe Flash
    Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements, games and flash animations for broadcast...

     and other platforms
  • Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
    Interactive fiction
    Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, describes software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives and as video games. In common usage, the term refers to text...

  • Novels that take the form of email
    Email
    Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

    s, SMS
    SMS
    SMS is a form of text messaging communication on phones and mobile phones. The terms SMS or sms may also refer to:- Computer hardware :...

     messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing.


There is some speculation that performance based variations of Flashmobs that originate online, such as Improv Everywhere
Improv Everywhere
Improv Everywhere is a comedic performance art group based in New York City, formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd. Its slogan is "We Cause Scenes."The group carries out pranks, which they call "missions", in public places...

, also qualify as electronic literature.

Preservation and archiving


Electronic literature, according to Hayles
Hayles
Hayles is a surname, and may refer to:* Barry Hayles, English born Jamaican football player* Brian Hayles, English television and film writer* John Hayles, Tudor agrarian reformer...

, becomes unplayable after a decade or less due to the "fluid nature of media." Therefore, electronic literature risks losing the opportunity to build the "traditions associated with print literature." On the other hand, classics such as Michael Joyce
Michael Joyce
Michael Joyce is a professor of English at Vassar College, NY, USA. He is also an important author and critic of electronic literature....

's afternoon, a story
Afternoon, a story
Afternoon, a story is a work of electronic literature written in 1987 by American author Michael Joyce. It was published by Eastgate Systems in 1990 and is known as the first hypertext fiction....

 (1987) are still read and have been republished on CD, while simple HTML hypertext fictions from the 1990s are still accessible online and can be read in modern browsers.

Several organizations are dedicated to preserving works of electronic literature. The UK-based Digital Preservation Coalition
Digital Preservation Coalition
The Digital Preservation Coalition is a UK-based non-profit limited company which seeks to secure the preservation of digital resources in the UK and internationally to secure the global digital memory and knowledge base.-History:...

 aims to preserve digital resources in general, while the Electronic Literature Organization's PAD (Preservation / Archiving / Dissemination) initiative gave recommendations on how to think ahead when writing and publishing electronic literature, as well as how to migrate works running on defunct platforms to current technologies.

The Electronic Literature Collection is a series of anthologies of electronic literature published by the Electronic Literature Organization
Electronic Literature Organization
The Electronic Literature Organisation is a nonprofit organization "established in 1999 to promote and facilitate the writing, publishing, and reading of electronic literature." -History:...

, both on CD/DVD and online, and this is another strategy in working to make sure that electronic literature is available to future generations.

The Maryland Institute for Technologies in the Humanities also works to archive electronic literature.

Notable people and works


There are a number of notable authors, critics, and works associated with electronic literature.

See also

  • Cybertext
    Cybertext
    Cybertext is the organization of text in order to analyze the influence of the medium as an integral part of the literary dynamic, as defined by Espen Aarseth in 1997...

  • Digital humanities
  • Hypermedia
    Hypermedia
    Hypermedia is a computer-based information retrieval system that enables a user to gain or provide access to texts, audio and video recordings, photographs and computer graphics related to a particular subject.Hypermedia is a term created by Ted Nelson....

  • Hypertext fiction
    Hypertext fiction
    Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a...

  • Web fiction