Pathfinders Taught in Course on Electronic Literature

We are very excited to learn that noted scholar Mark Sample has included the Pathfinders project in his course on Electronic Literature. It is a 6-week course that has attracted approximately 200 participants. It is a free course offered through Davidson College. Here is the course description:

“Love letters generated by a computer. An online poem two hundred trillion stanzas long. A mystery novel in the form of a wiki. The story of Inanimate Alice, told through videos and instant messages. An ocean buoy tweeting remixes of Moby Dick. Welcome to the weird world of electronic literature—digitally born poetic, narrative, and aesthetic works read on computers, tablets, and phones.”

Treasures from the Rubenstein Library

My workspace at the Rubenstein Library

My workspace at the Rubenstein Library

Following the Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute held at the Rizzo Center, I journeyed to Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library where The Judy Malloy, Stephanie Strickland, and Rob Kendall Papers are held. For a day and a half I rummaged through 12 boxes of notebooks, photos, art artifacts, and ephemera relating to Malloy’s Uncle Roger, Strickland’s True North, and Kendall’s “Faith.” Here in these gorgeous surroundings with access to a free high res scanner, ample librarians to provide support, and archives with so many treasures from our electronic literary history, I was struck with the idea that doing this research in this way on this topic represents the marriage between the traditional Humanities where archival research into literary artifacts is a key research methodology and Digital Humanities that values born digital output, including literary art. And I thank the gods for the education I had at UTDallas’ unique interdisciplinary Humanities masters and PhD programs that allowed me to study Homer and hypertext at the same time. I do not think my professors had any idea what they were giving birth to when they allowed me to put my research into Homer’s Penelope online in 1993 or defend my dissertation about Penelope in a MOO. But this is a topic for an essay, so I’ll get back to my experience the Rubenstein Library . . .

Needless to say, I found information that requires me to make some changes and additions to the Malloy section of Pathfinders eBook and the chapter on Uncle Roger in the Traversals manuscript (Re: the original cost of Version 3 sold through Art Com; the content for the missing Record #62 of A Party in Woodside; the real last name of Jenny, the narrator; evidence of reoccurring tropes in Malloy’s work).

Tropes found in Malloy's work

Tropes found in Malloy’s work

In all I took over 50 scans, 100 images, and a notebook full of notes.  I am organizing them today in a folder so that I can add them to my own research archives.

Screenshot of Diana Slattery’s Glide Project

A topic of conversation I had with one of the librarians was about the notion of a secondary archive housed within the primary archive. What I mean by this is that inside the Stephanie Strickland Papers was a CD containing Diana Slattery’s Glide Project, one of the most complex and gorgeous works of net art from the late 1990s and early 2000s. I had done quite a bit of research into this work in the early 2000s including a video-hypertext interview published by The Iowa Review Web in 2004. I came across the reference to Glide under the heading “Writings by Others” when scouring the online Guide to the Strickland Papers. I was delighted to see it––I had looked high and low for this work online for the past five years only to learn that it had been removed from RPI’s server some years ago. It has remerged as the Glide Oracle app on the iTunes Store in 2012, but this version represents but one module of the many that the original work contained. Created with Macromedia Shockwave, Glide was headed for obsolesce anyway, I guess, but with only a handful of screen shots of the work, I was very sad that it was no longer available even for ELL’s vintage computers, which could indeed still access the work. The Rubenstein (what joy!) has a CD that Slattery gave to Strickland that the librarians in their infinite wisdom (thank goodness!) copied over to a server and onto a PC laptop––that is all that is left of this work. Also part of this secondary archive are Deena Larsen’s thesis, papers by Marjorie Luesebrink, Joe Tabbi’s Cognition Fictions, to name but a few other items. Treasures like this also can be found in the Malloy Papers. The question it raises is, “How best to present this additional trove of information better so that scholars know it is available?” I see that I have some work to do in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base for starters.

As you can see, this brief journey to the Rubenstein has sparked some ideas about archiving and presenting works of electronic literature. I am not even going to talk about some of the major issues that have been rolling around in my brain since I began working on Pathfinders. I’ll save that for my next book . . .

I want to go on record thanking the Rubenstein Library’s Sara Seten Berghausen, Andrew Armacost, and Naomi Nelson for their support for my research and Duke University for creating such a wonderful resource for scholars working in electronic literature.



Writing about Pathfinders

Following the launch of the Pathfinders eBook on June 1, Stuart and I continued to produce much in the way of scholarly communications from our research. The manuscript for our co-edited book of criticism, Traversals, on Malloy’s Uncle Roger, John McDaid’s Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse, Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, and Bill Bly’s We Descend was delivered on September 1 to The MIT Press. It is now out for review. We also finalized the final manuscript for our article, “Traversals: A Method of Preservation for Born-Digital Texts,” for Jentery Sayers’ The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities. Grigar submitted her article, “The Legacy of Judy Malloy,” for publication in Maria Mencia’s  #WomenTechLit, to be published by  the University of West Virginia Press. All of this writing has been accomplished in about five months. Of course, the research has been taking place for years . . .

Our Promotions Statistical Data

Below is the information I collected about the impact of the promotions we have undertaken for Pathfinders.  The data is derived from our analytics program, StatCounter, as well as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. This information is included in the final report for the Pathfinders project, due August 1, 2015.

Pathfinders Statistics from Launch to Present (June 1-July 25, 2015)

  1. Pathfinders Book Stats

These stats represent varying levels of engagement with the book by the public. Using a third party system called StatCounter, we have been able to determine who is visiting the site, where visitors are coming from, how long they stayed on any given page, and what pages they visited, and much more information. We initiated tracking at the moment of the book’s launch at noon PDT on June 1, 2015 until midnight of July 25, 2015.

Total Visits: 3762
76.6% are first time visitors
Over 70% of our visitors stay on the site once they land, and 25% remain from 5 minutes to over an hour
Sites driving traffic: Pathfinders blog, ELO website, WSU online press release, Scalar blog

Countries: 32
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, and the US.

Universities and Libraries: 78
U.S.: 60
Arizona State U, Brown University, City University of NY, Claremont University, Columbia University, Cornell University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, Hamilton College, Indiana University, Kansas State University, Lasalle University, Library of Congress, Minnesota University System, Molloy College, Montana State University, Muhlenberg College, National Library of Medicine, New York University, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Oregon State System Of Higher Education, Oregon State University, Princeton University, Reed College, Susquehanna University, The New School, St. John’s College (Sante Fe), Skidmore College, Texas A & M Commerce, Texas A & M University—College Station, Thomas Edison State College, University of Alaska, University of Arizona, University of California Davis, University of California Irvine, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside, Regents of the University of California President’s Office, University of Chicago, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Denver, University of Hawaii, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, University of Kansas, University of Mary Washington, University of Minnesota, University of New Mexico, University of Rochester, University of San Diego, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Oregon, University of Washington, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Washington State University Pullman, Washington State University Vancouver, Yale University

Canada: 7
Carleton University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Ryerson University, Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, University of Victoria

UK: 5
University College Falmouth, University of Glasgow, University of Leicester, University of Wales Aberystwyth, University of Warwick

Australia: 1
State Library of Queensland

Chile: 1
Pontificia Universidad Catolica De Chile

Netherlands: 1
Universiteit Utrecht

Colombia: 1
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Germany: 2
Humboldt University Berlin, University of Trier

  1. Pathfinders Blog

Launched on June 14, 2013, the Pathfinders blog documented the development of the Pathfinders project and made research available to the public as it was collected to facilitate sharing of information. The blog is also one of several entries into the Pathfinders book, thus helping to drive traffic to the book’s site. The statistics shown here cover these dates: 14 June 2013-25 July 2015.

Total visits to the site: 9542

  1. Social Media Stats May 28-June 28

Social media has been used to inform the public about the Pathfinders project since May 2013. The stats listed below represent only those since late May 2015 that promoted the book’s launch.

Total Tweets                    46
Total Impressions        8,025
Profile visits                    658
Mentions                           33
New followers                  35

Total Posts                       40
Total Reach                 1,828
Total Engagement           270

Final Comments

We have mounted a strong campaign to inform the public about the Pathfinders project, especially the book’s launch. The response has been positive and will continue to build as we move toward the ELO and ISEA conferences in August and the completion of the Traversals manuscript for MIT Press in September.

Editors’ Choice at Digital Humanities Now


I am very excited to learn that Pathfinders has been selected as the Editors’ Choice at Digital Humanities Now.  As the site states, “This content was selected . . . by Editor-in-Chief Lisa Rhody based on nominations by Editors-at-Large Catelynne Sahadath, Bobby Smiley, Christopher Lao-Scott, Matthew Lincoln, Merisa Martinez, LauraAnne Carroll-Adler, Alyssa Reil, Ernesto Priego, Sasha Frizzell, and Grant Glass.  All of us who worked on the project are honored by this.

Pathfinders, Phase 2

Stuart and I are taking a short break from the multimedia book to write a series of critical essays about Malloy’s Uncle Roger, McDaid’s Funhouse, Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, and Bly’s We Descend based on the information we learned from conducting the traversals and interviews with the authors for Pathfinders. The book, entitled Traversals:  Digital Preservation for Early Digital Literature is under contract with The MIT Press and is planned for a 2017 release.

Here is the abstract for the project:

Born-digital electronic creations, constituted as databases, hypertexts, or multimedia simulations, pose a challenge to cultural continuity. Dependent on outdated platforms, these works are jeopardized by obsolescence; yet their contributions often inhere in the way they interpret and configure their particular technical systems. In our research project Pathfinders (2013-14), supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, we introduced a method of preservation based on recorded user experience, which we call traversal. We set out to preserve a small set of important works that are rapidly becoming inaccessible, introducing a new strategy for preservation. Our effort implied a second phase, in which we would investigate the uses of this form of preservation. The proposed book investigates what knowledge of late-20th-century experimental writing is gained when we are able to examine early digital literary works in their intended context, through recorded encounters with the texts using original equipment. We offer four extended readings of works featured in the Pathfinders project, where interpretation is based upon traversals, author interviews, and related research material. These chapters are framed by a Foreword and three contextual chapters that relate our work to the study of experimental writing, electronic art, and most crucially, the digital humanities.

Update on the Pathfinders Book


Visitors in ELL for launch of Pathfinders

The Pathfinders multimedia, open source book is ready.  You can read it here. Included in the book are 104 videos, 204 color photos, and 3 audio files.

The launch has been successful. As of this moment, we have been live for 51 hours and have seen 1293 visitors on the site. That is about 25 hits an hour.  81% are new visitors.  75% of our visitors stay on the site, with close to 30% lingering in some cases over an hour.  Some of the universities and libraries that visitors come from include:

Lasalle U
UC Riverside
VA Commonwealth U
Muhlenberg College
State Library of Queenland
Claremont U
Montana SU
Princeton U
Minnesota U System
WSU Pullman
Northern Illinois U
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (in Columbia)
Molloy College
U of Victoria (BC)
People coming in from Durham, NC; Washington, DC; Silver Springs, MD; Portsmouth, RI; and other places where we have friends and supporters.
Countries include: US, UK, Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, France, Italy, Switzerland,
Spain, Australia, Mexico, Colombia, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Portugal, Korea.
So, this is good news.  It means that our social media strategist Kate Palermini’s hard work on the social media campaign has been very successful and continues to have legs. We are still seeing tweets and retweets on Twitter and likes on Facebook.

Launching Pathfinders Today


Pathfinders Open Source Multimedia Book Launched on June 1!

pathfinders on iPadStuart and I are excited to announce that after two years of development, we are releasing the Pathfinders open-source, multimedia book. It features 173 screens of content, including 53,857 words, 104 video clips, 203 color photos, and three audio files. Also, we are hosting a Pathfinders gallery show at Nouspace and throwing a book launch on Friday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. Invitations by our various social media channels will go out at the end of the week.

Madeleine Brookman Receives Summer Undergraduate Research Mini-Grant

We are proud to announce that Pathfinder’s research assistant, Madeleine Brookman, was awarded a WSU Summer Undergraduate Research Grant for hr work with the project.  Her project will be to continue to develop the open-source, multimedia book that contains all of the materials for Pathfinders on the Scalar platform.