Monthly Archives: January 2016

Pathfinders in the Chronicle of Higher Ed

The article written about the Scalar 2 platform by ProfHacker for The Chronicle of Higher Education mentions the Pathfinders project:

“The built-in visualization tools for the text are also a great improvement, as shown below in a screenshot of Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop’s Pathfinders. It’s also much easier to integrate media throughout the book with detailed formatting options which resemble the options WordPress supports when importing media.”

Thank you to Will Luers who worked with Stuart and me to design the template for the book and provided guidance for working with the interface, and to Madeleine Brookman, my research assistant, who helped us so much with the media content.

See the entire article here.

Pathfinder Stats Update

Pathfinders Promotions Statistics, from Launch to Present (June 1, 2015-January 24, 2016
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 12 noon PDT, January 24, 2016

Total Visits: 8258
83.9% are first time visitors
Sites driving traffic: Pathfinders blog, ELO website, WSU online press release, Scalar blog

Countries: 54
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, UAE, UK, the US, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe

Universities, Centers, Libraries and Schools: 220

U.S.: 165
Amherst College, Arkansas State University, Arizona State University, Art Center College of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Augustana College, Austin College, Austin College, Bard College, Bates College, Boston College, Bowling Green State University, Brown University, California College of the Arts, California State University San Marcos, California State University Northridge, City University of New York, Claremont University, Colby College, The College of William and Mary, Colleges of the Fenway, Columbia University, Concordia University, Cornell University, CUNY Graduate Center, Dartmouth College, Davidson College, Dobie Center, Duke University, Emory University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Fayetteville State University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Garner Webb University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Perimeter College, Georgia State University, Georgia Southern, University, Gettysburg College, Hamilton College, Hampshire College, Harvard-Westlake School, Houston Community College, Illinois Wesleyen University, Indiana University, Kansas State University, Kirkwood Community College, James Madison University, Lake Forest College, Lasalle University, Lehigh University, Library of Congress, Longwood Medical and Academic Area, Loyola Marymount, Maine Libraries/Dept. of Education, Marist College, Marshall University, MIT, Miami University, Minnesota University System, Molloy College, Montana State University, Muhlenberg College, NASA Glen Research Center, National Library of Medicine, New York City Public Schools, New York University, Northeastern University, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Occidental College, Oregon State System Of Higher Education, Oregon State University, The Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Reed College, Rice University, Ripon College, Rhode Island Network for Education Technology, Salem State University, Rutgers University, San Diego State University, Seton Hall University, Smith College, Susquehanna University, The New School, St. Catherine University, St. John’s College (Sante Fe), Skidmore College, Smith College, Sonoma State University, Stanford University, State University of New York at Albany, Temple University, Texas A & M Commerce, Texas A & M University—College Station, Texas Christian University, Thomas Edison State College, University of Alabama, University of Alaska, University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley, University of Buffalo, University of California Davis, University of California Irvine, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside, University of California San Diego, University of California Santa Barbara, University of California Santa Cruz, Regents of the University of California President’s Office, University of Chicago, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Connecticut, University of Denver, University of Florida, University of Hawaii, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Springfield, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of La Verne, University of Mary Washington, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Miami, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri Columbia, University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Puget Sound, University of Rochester, University of San Diego, University of South Florida, University of Tennessee, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin Madison, Valparaiso University, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Washington and Lee University, Washington State University Pullman, Washington State University Vancouver, Washington University, Whitworth College, Williams College, Wheaton College, Xavier University, Yale University

Canada: 15
Carleton University, Libraries and Archives Canada, McMaster University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Ryerson University, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of New Brunswick, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, University of Prince Edward Island, University of Toronto, University of Victoria

UK: 12
Goldsmiths University of London, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University, University College Falmouth, University of Bristol, University College London, University of Glasgow, University of Leicester, University of Surrey, University of Wales Aberystwyth, University of Wales Bangor, University of Warwick, York University

Australia: 5
Brisbane Catholic Education, Monash University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, State Library of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology

New Zealand: 2
Auckland University of Technology, University of Canterbury

Singapore: 1
Singapore University of Technology and Design

Korea: 2
Taejon Institute of Education Science, Chungnam National University

Austria: 1
Danube University Krems

Denmark: 1
Danish Network for Research and Education

Germany: 6
Hochschule Fuer Technik, Wirkschaft Und Kultur Lei, Humboldt University Berlin, Techische Hochschule Mittelhessen, Univeristy of Leipzig, University of Siegen, University of Trier

Greece: 1
Greek Research and Technology Network

Finland: 1
Aalto University

Poland: 1
Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy

Romania: 1
Universitatea Babes-bolyai

Sweden: 3
Malmo University, Sunet Swedish University Network, University College of Gavie

Switzerland: 1
Universite de Fribourg,

Chile: 1
Pontificia Universidad Catolica De Chile

Colombia: 1
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Mexico: 1
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

Traversal & Interview Completed


James O’Sullivan Traversing Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story

James O’Sullivan’s Traversal and Interview of Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story––like the others that Stuart and I have done for the other early works of e-lit––provided some treasures. Here are a few from James:

  1. The realization that every word of the narrative was a hyperlink
  2. The awareness of the bread crumbing that Joyce did in order to lead readers from the world of print to the world of the electronic medium
  3. The understanding of the tension that fragmentation of the text creates

My favorite comment, though, was his response to the question, If you had to use a metaphor or analogy to describe this work, what would you choose?. His response was one I had not yet heard used for hypertext literature: a Rubrik’s Cube––the idea that the reader reorganizes many little cubes, puzzling over them, arriving perhaps at a larger concept.

We plan to have rough cuts of both ready next week. They will debut in Barcelona at the end of the month.

Reader Traversal of Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a Story



We love serendipity.  When everything lines up and makes some miraculous event possible, it’s easy to blame the stars for the good fortune.

Our good fortune is that Michael Joyce’s wrote us yesterday asking if Stuart and I had made a video of traversals for afternoon: a story and, if so, could he use it at the upcoming exhibit in Barcelona, curated by Giovanna Di Rosario? The request came at the same time that DH/E-Lit scholar Dr. James O’Sullivan, my co-editor for the book, Electronic Literature: Contexts, Forms, and Practices (University of West Virginia Press, 2016) was visiting me and giving a talk about his research to students and faculty in the CMDC Program. Along with that development, I also happen to have a darn good student videographer, Shane Staub, working with me on another project (Game Changers). And finally, we were just celebrating the re-opening of the Electronic Literature Lab this week after three months of planning and moving equipment.

So, today we are hosting a serendipitous reader traversal featuring James of Joyce’s hypertext novel, an event that will be memorialized on video by Shane. Greg Philbrook, my  tech guru will be on hand to handle any equipment needs, and I will be present taking copious notes and tweeting the experience for everyone else.

Maybe we should not blame the stars, but rather thank them because Stuart and I have now planned for formal traversals with M.D. Coverley and her work Califia in March and Joyce of his work in late spring.

When? 11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m. PST, Friday, January 15, 2016
Where? Electronic Literature Lab, VMMC 211A, WSUV
Who? Dene Grigar & Stuart Moulthrop, PIs; James O’Sullivan, Reader; Shane Staub, Videographer; Greg Philbrook, Tech Support

Reader Mediations in Electronic Literature, #s734

Below is an abridged version of the paper, entitled “Preserving Literary Apps,” I gave at the MLA 2016 on Sunday, January 10, 2016 at the Reader Mediations in Electronic Literature panel with (organizer) Elika Ortega, Kathi Inman Berens, and Rita Raley; Mark Sample, Chair. The original paper is 25oo words in length and the slide show, created in Keynote, contains 29 slides. Much appreciation to Eileen Clancy who created a Storify about it.




For the past four years I have been involved in preserving works of electronic literature through a project called Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature with colleague Stuart Moulthrop from the University of slide2Wisconsin—Milwaukee). Our efforts have focused on pre-web hypertext fiction and poetry, from 1986-1995 produced with programming languages like BASIC or authoring systems like Storyspace and HyperCard and require a degree of interactivity between the reader and the work. These works were also among the first to be sold commercially in the U.S. and, because of their availability through commercial distribution, were influential in shaping literary theory and criticism that, today, are used to discuss born digital writing. They are also literary works in danger of becoming inaccessible to the public because they were produced on and for computer platforms that today are obsolete.

slide4While some very popular works of electronic literature from this period, like Judy Malloy’s ground-breaking database novel, Uncle Roger, have been emulated for use on contemporary computers, or like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, have been migrated from their original floppy disks and CDs to flash drives, the bulk of the works produced during this period are in danger of slide5becoming lost to literary scholars because they literally cannot be read due to the fact that they require software and hardware no longer available.

Stuart and I see this as a serious problem because these works represent an important aspect of our late 20th century-early 21st century cultural experience in that they demonstrate the moment when literary artists began to make the leap from paper to the electronic medium for the purpose of creative expression and experimentation.

slide7Our research led us to document four works––Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger, Version 3.3, John McDaid’s Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse, Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, and Bill Bly’s We Descend, an activity that has culminated to date as a multimedia eBook, entitled Pathfinders published last June and a book of critical commentary called Traversals forthcoming with MIT Press this year. Our work is ongoing. Now as we are planning for the next round of e-lit to document, I am also turning my attention to literary mobile apps, which I see as another body of born digital literature facing comparable challenges as a durable art form.

“What is a literary app?,” you may ask.slide10 These are narratives, works of poetry, or essays produced and distributed to the public as an app for mobile devices. Examples include Erik Loyer’s haunting digital narrative Strange Rain, a work that received much notice in the press when it was first released in 2011. Mark Sample presented a paper on the work at the MLA in 2012 ( Jason Edward Lewis has produced seven poetic works as apps in an award-winning series called The P.O.E.M.M. Project, or “Poetry for Excitable [Mobile] Media” ( Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannazarro’s mobile narrative, Pry, is another award-winning, well-regarded work produced as an app. Abraham Avnisan’s Quantum Collocations. The literary work my colleague Kathi Inman Berens will be discussing,TOC: A Novel by Steve Tomasula, was originally produced on DVD but reworked for the app environment.

slide15Many artists have experimented with apps for some of the same reasons the authors Stuart and I documented for Pathfinders ––that is, the desire to explore a new medium, creative curiosity, the realization of a different—and with the advent of the web—a broader audience. Others recognize that apps provide an opportunity to sell one’s work in a way that has not been heretofore possible when published on the web. Even at $5.99, a literary app offers the possibility of netting more income than a work of web poetry. To put this into perspective, when Judy Malloy sold her boxed set of Uncle Roger on floppy disks in 1988 through the Art Com Catalog, it was for $15, and she sold 20 copies. By comparison, the app market is expected to be a $77 billion industry by 2017, with close to 50% of those apps costing $.99 or more ( Challenges aside, which I am sure Kathi will discuss, literary apps offer a way to generate income from writing.

But there are some very serious drawbacks to publishing one’s work as an app for a mobile device. Let me quickly explain the three types of apps so that the point I will be making later makes sense. The first type of app is a web-based app. This is essentially a website that has been optimized so that it is responsive to all computing devices. These are generally produced with HTML, CSS, and can include javascript, JQuery, and other languages. I’m not worried about this type of literary app because like other hand-coded websites, even those created in the early days of Netscape Navigator (1994-1997) and Communicator (1997-2002), they are readable and accessible. It is the second and third types––the hybrid and native apps––that are optimized for distribution through the proprietary operating systems of Apple, Android, or Windows. Native apps are programmed in more complex languages like Objective C, Java, sometimes C Sharp and, then, prepared for the mobile market with the software development kit, or SDK, indigenous to a specific platform, while Hybrid apps are created with HTML, CSS and Javascript like web apps but are wrapped in software like PhoneGap or even game engines like Unity before they are prepared for the specific mobile market they are aimed at.

slide17So, here are the problems as I see it. The first is obvious: Unless the source code for a literary app is made openly available to scholars, it will not be possible to preserve the work, whether it is to migrate or emulate it. Luckily Jason Edward Lewis does indeed make his source code available off his website, but many others, like the first literary app, The Carrier, published in 2009, do not. And so when the work is no longer supported by the artists, it becomes obsolete. In fact, that particular app––a geo-locative graphic novel that includes 680 panels of story, takes place over a 10 day period, and incorporates many of the phone’s features as storytelling devices, like sending updates to the user via email––is a particularly telling case in that it required such server-side support. If in the past you have downloaded a copy of it to your mobile device, you will find today that though the splash page loads, the app itself does not launch. It is now not possible to document the work. All that is left is the project website, which offers mostly promotional information.

The second problem may not be as obvious, but it is not any less challenging for scholars: We cannot easily study versions of literary apps because once an app is updated, the previous version is wiped out or access to beta versions shared slide19for study expires. My beta version of Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe’s “The Ice-Bound Concordance,” which I was sent to me because I supported their Kickstarter campaign, has expired, and I am no longer able to access it for the purpose of comparing it to the official version once it is released.

[break in text here]

slide28What I am just starting to do to mitigate these problems with literary apps in regards to preserving them, now that I have moved my Electronic Literature Lab to its new space two weeks ago, is to decommission mobile devices with various operating systems, taking them offline, and saving literary apps, different versions of them on the various devices. This is an expensive endeavor, but one that needs to be undertaken in order to preserve this literary form for future study.

My call to action for Digital Humanities scholars is this: Join me in my endeavors to document born digital literature. Here is what you can do if you make literary apps: Make the source code for all versions of your work available to others from a public site. Here is what you can do if you want to study literature apps: Publish scholarship about literary apps and in your work provide information documentation of the work through screen shots, descriptions of the contents, and the kind of interaction that occurs. These are not difficult activities to engage in but are important ones for the purpose of providing present and future scholars to understand the significant experimentation taking place in regards to literary production in the 21st century.