I have to admit that the below 0 temperatures and the black ice on the ground colluded to keep MLA conference goers from the usual moving between conference sites, resulting in light foot traffic for the Pathfinders exhibit at the MLA 2014. The amazing work of electronic literature that we shipped or hand-carried, some of which were so new that they were still in beta, did not get seen as much as I had hoped. And of course all four of the vintage computers I brought with me to show early digital work were destroyed in shipment to Chicago. It was, in a word, a tough show.
So, it is extremely gratifying to find, today, the mention of the exhibit by Anastasia Salter for ProfHacker––an essay entitled “Making Things at the MLA 2014,––in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I have cited the section from the larger article. Please read the entire essay because she does a great job highlighting the “maker” movement evident in this year’s sessions. The image used for the essay is actually one of the two broken LCs. A pitiful site, indeed.
Electronic Literature Exhibits. As a scholar of electronic literature, or literature that plays with technologies and mediation as a fundamental part of its structures and poetics, I’ve been very excited to see an increased presence of electronic literature at MLA through recent years. Aside from several panels this year, there was an exhibition that highlighted an important history of digital making. Organized by Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop, the Pathfinders exhibit offered a living history of 25 years of electronic literature, pointing out the importance of preservation while highlighting just how difficult it is to truly keep anything digital alive. The exhibit highlighted this painfully thanks to the destruction of several archival computers during transport. (This further dovetails with important work on Preserving Virtual Worlds Kari Kraus shared during the Evaluating Digital Scholarship panel.)