Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pathfinders at ELO 2014

Stuart and I gave a presentation about Pathfinders on Friday, June 20, 2014 at the Electronic Literature Organization 2014 conference, held at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  In the audience were one of our Pathfinders authors, Bill Bly, as well as other pioneers of early digital literature whom Stuart and I have identified as the next ones we wish to preserve with our project.  Questions raised by the audience are worth noting and commenting on here:

1.  Gatekeeping
Jim Rosenberg expressed concerns about the way preservation tends toward “gatekeeping”––that is, privileging some works over others in choices of preservation.  My response to Jim was that I would like to avoid what I call the “Sappho Syndrome” [1] and preserve everyone of the authors in my media library that I possibly can in my lifetime, but that Stuart and I had to begin somewhere.  So, we worked hard to develop criteria that would help us select among the early authors in a reasonable way.  One criteria, for example, involved gender equity.  Stuart and I chose to preserve two women (Malloy, Jackson) and two men (Moulthrop, McDaid).

2. Focus
Stuart and I had to reiterate to the audience that we are not preserving works but rather the experience readers have with works of early digital literature.  This approach distinguishes our project from the many that focus on emulation and migration and makes our project decidedly humanist since the focus is on people experiencing the work and not the object of their experience.

3.  The Multimedia Book
As I mentioned to the audience, Stuart and I are making a multimedia book that will contain all of the data we collected, including, in some cases, the binary code of works; polished videos of the traversals and interviews by the authors and readers; and critical commentary about the works we preserved.  While we promised in the grant that the book would be produced in Scalar, I stressed to the audience that I was making a second copy in HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript outside of Scalar in order to preserve a copy on our own server sooner than later.

4.  Next Steps
With all of the data collected, videos in the process of being polished, and the book underway, my mind naturally turns to next steps.  At the conference I spoke to Deena Larsen about preserving Marble Springs, to Jim Rosenberg about preserving Intergrams.  Stuart and I have already spoken to MD Coverley about Califia and Stephanie Strickland about True North. Stuart and I will finalize plans in the coming months.  In the meantime I am already setting the stage for preserving mobile electronic literature, or what I call “literary apps,” by decommissioning an early iPad that held many copies of e-lit works I have purchased or downloaded for free when they were first made available.  The iPad has been disconnected from the internet and, so, will contain these early versions. I will continue to decommission other iPads that contain later versions of these works so that in some future time scholars can use this data to study these works on topics relating to platform studies, comparative literature, literary history, and literary biography.

[1] By “Sappho Syndrome” I mean the consequences of political, religious, and cultural forces upon the longevity and future accessibility of a work of art. I use Sappho, the ancient Greek poet from the 7th century AD, as a model because  up until recently, only one extant poem by Sappho, “Hymn to Aphrodite,” has been available to us, despite the fact that we know that many more existed.  We may never know why a larger body of complete work by Sappho did not survive when much more produced by other ancient Greek poets has. Some scholars theorize that political, religious, and cultural forces may have impacted the perceived value of her work, resulting in its loss.  Certainly, Stuart and I seek to avoid selecting works based on political, religious and cultural criteria, which we see akin to censorship.

Madeleine Brookman To Join Pathfinders in the Fall

CMDC student Madeleine Brookman was awarded a 2014 Auvil Fellowship by WSU to work with me in ELL and on the Pathfinders project.  Specifically, Madeleine will work with me with the ongoing archival and preservation work for the  electronic literature in my media library and those collected from the recent acquisition of the online journal, Poems That Go.  We will be using the methods created for Pathfinders to our work in ELL. She will also assist in developing methods and best practices for preserving works of electronic literature created for the mobile environment, an area that is yet to be addressed by e-lit preservationists––we have just de-commissioned an early iPad for this purpose and plan to experiment with best practices for keeping versions of e-lit apps for future study. Finally, Madeleine will  serve as the Media Librarian, continuing the work of Amalia Vacca to document and organize the works in my library.