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 Dependent on outdated platforms, these works are jeopardized by obsolescence; yet their contributions often inhere in the way they interpret and configure their particular technical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.

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