|State of the Archive panel at ELO/AI|
Scores of practitioners and theorists of electronic text assembled at Brown University this weekend for the fourth annual conference of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO). The conference, whose theme was "Archive and Innovate" was a four-day round of papers, installations, readings, and a Saturday night banquet celebrating the contributions of Rhode Island's own star of American letters, Robert Coover.
During the conference, ELO announced the release of their new electronic literature directory, in keeping with one of the main themes, the problem of archiving electronic texts.
One highlight was a panel on archiving featuring Deena Larsen, Stephanie Strickland, Will Hansen, and Marjorie Luesebrink, talking about the challenges of determining just what constitutes an archive for a digital fiction, and the very real issues with operating systems and software changing out from under efforts at preservation. Respondant Elli Mylonas of Brown showed a very promising start, the Brown Digital Repository, and Hansen talked about efforts underway at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities.
I missed the panel by Jessica Pressman, Mark Marino, and Jeremy Douglass which comprised three approaches to reading a digital text, but had a chance to talk with them later. Jeremy's use of ImageJ, a tool for manipulating 3D medical images like CAT scans and MRIs, as a way of slicing a time-based image stream was just mind-bendingly innovative. Imagine taking a feature film and treating the entire two hours of frames as a three-d object, then taking slices through it. Amazing.
Okay, to be truthful, the real highlight for me was the "unconference" area that Denna Larsen had set up outside the main presentation room. People could just hang out there and talk in between — and, okay, sometimes during — the official panels, and it was an amazing primordial soup of people just dropping in: gearheads, poets, filmmakers, and literary theorists, all in the mix. Got a chance to see folks that I haven't since the digital lit conference I went to, which we all realized was about ten years ago.
When we were invited to the wedding of sf writer Cory Doctorow and Alice Taylor, I immediately wanted to write them a story as a wedding present. I know, I know, it takes big brass ones to think of doing such a thing, but I did. And they seem to have liked it.
Cory has posted a very kind link to the story — which I just released under CC license — on BoingBoing.
The story lives over on the Fiction tab. Some adult themes; not for the kiddies.
Full disclosure: I've had the privilege of workshopping with Cory in addition to having an awesome time at their wedding.
This story first appeared in ReVisions, 2004.
The Ashbazu Effect
by John G. McDaid
"In the course of its growth and development, the school came to be the center of culture and learning in Sumer. Moreover, unlike present-day institutions of learning, the Sumerian school was also the center of what might be termed creative writing."
-Samuel Noah Kramer
History Begins at Sumer
(The Symbolic Revelation of the Apocalypse)
Asimov's, November-December, 1995.
This small room, so commonplace and so compressed… contains them all: space, time, cause, motion, magnitude, class. Left to our own devices, we would probably discover them.
— Robert Coover, The Elevator
I haven't always been an elevator.