The Electronic Literature Lab specializes in born-digital archiving, experimenting with
methodologies for preserving and presenting digital materials alongside their physical
archives. Innovations include creating a metadata schema that extends MODS that better
describes participatory, interactive, and experiential works; developing approaches for
versioning born-digital works; making archives accessible to people with disability and
sensory sensitivities; and providing digital visualizations of physical media.
Envisioned as a combination museum, library, and preservation space, The NEXT
maintains and makes its archives accessible for the next generation and responds
to the growing need for open-access, travel-free cultural and research
experiences for today's public and scholars. Awarded a 2022 Open Scholarship
Award by the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute, it currently hosts and make
available local files for 41 collections of net art, interactive fiction,
hypertext poetry and fiction, games, and many other genres and is organized
around six collection types. It was seeded in 2018 by a grant from the Andrew W.
Mellon Foundation, and, since its opening in May 2020, has welcomed over 63,000
visitors to experience its growing archives. Built in open Web languages and
ARIA to accommodate assistive technologies, The NEXT makes its works available
to the public for free.
Since 2005 Grigar has curated 24 exhibitions and performances for venues, such as the
Hertziana Bibliotheca—Max Planck Institute for Art History, British Computer
Society, the Library of Congress, and The NEXT; for organizations, including the ACM
Hypertext, the International Symposium on Electronic Art, Modern Language Association, and
the Electronic Literature Organization; and events like the Digital Humanities Summer
Hypertext & Art
“Hypertext & Art: A Retrospective of Forms” was exhibited during the Association
of Computing Machinery's (ACM) Hypertext and Social Media 2023 Conference took
place in Rome at the Bibliotheca Hertziana—Max Planck Institute for Art History
from 5-8 September. It continued to run at The NEXT as a virtual exhibition
until 1 March 2024. The exhibition featured a wide array of hypertext art
produced from the mid-1980s to the present by artists and scientists working in
and creating a variety of platforms and approaches and offers an exploration
into the forms of hypertext that have emerged over the last 35 years,
influencing, as media theorist Jay David Bolter claims, "the way we think"
(Writing Space 2). 
One of the lab's first major activities, documenting born-digital media, continues to
figure as the foundation of our work. Grigar began experimenting with methods for
documentation when she joined Stuart Moulthrop in the "Pathfinders" project in 2013 funded
by a grant from the National Foundation of the Humanities. Their multimedia book built on
the Scalar platform, Pathfinders, resulted in the process called a Traversal and a
scholarly print book by the same name (The MIT Press 2017). The lab has followed up with
annual volumes offered as OERs, called Rebooting Born-Digital Literature: Documenting
Pre-Web Born-Digital Media. To date they have documented over 30 hypertext
novels, poems, and essays, and other forms of interactive media.
Traversals, a process part of the Pathfinders methodology developed by Stuart Moulthrop and Grigar, involves documenting both authors and readers playing through a work of born-digital media via video and the hardware and software on which the work was originally accessed upon its release. To date the lab has documented 29 works of pre-Web born-digital literature.
With the demise of the floppy disk and CD-ROM drives, the upgrades of computer operating
systems, and loss of software programs like HyperCard, the need to reconstruct classic
work became apparent to the lab. Beginning 2019, the lab began pioneering methods for
reconstructing born-digital works and thinking about the concept of media translation.
Grigar's forthcoming book with Affiliate Lab Member, Mariusz Pisarski, entitled The
Challenges of Born-Digital Fiction: Editions, Translations, and Emulations
(Cambridge UP 2024) links the reconstruction work they have led with their theories.
We Descend, The Complete Edition
The reconstruction of Bill Bly's beloved hypertext novel from Storyspace to open
Web languages and updated for contemporary audiences.
Many works of born-digital media rendered inaccessible due to technological changes to
software can be restored. The lab has been at the forefront of conserving works originally
built with Flash or those whose video and sound files need to be updated to mp4 and mp3
format, respectively. In other cases, we have rebuilt works created with Java Applets.
Using Ruffle or Rhizome's Conifer, the lab has, since 2019, restored and made
accessible over 700 works of Flash-based net art works. The exhibition, entitled
"afterflash," features some of our early efforts.
As a research lab, scholarly publications constitute a major output of its members. Along
with the open-source, multimedia books, we also publish print-based books and essays in
both electronic and print formats.
The Challenges of Born-Digital Fiction
Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press on March 22, 2024 and co-authored with Mariusz Pisarski,
this scholarly text addresses the growing concern about how best to
maintain and extend the accessibility of early interactive novels and
hypertext fiction or narratives. It centers on three
key challenges facing such efforts: (1) precision of references:
identifying correct editions and versions of migrated works in
scholarship; (2) enhanced media translation: approaching translation
informed by the changing media context in a collaborative
environment; and (3) media integrity: relying on emulation as the prime
mode for long-term preservation of born-digital novels.
The lab also focuses much attention on creating, reconstructing, adapting, and conserving
video games, viewing them as a dominant cultural media form. It has collected game
consoles, such as Atari and the Commodore 64, and maintains a robust game library used for
research and teaching.
The lab support the innovation of games through its association with CMDC Studios.
This team of multi-talented game developers comprised of students, alums, and
friends of Creative Media & Digital Culture at WSU Vancouver are passionate
about creating narrative-rich games through immersive gameplay and thoughtful
Long interested in virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality spaces, Grigar
has experimented with MOOs and MUDs in the mid-1990s, motion-tracking virtual environments
in the early 2000s, and simulations for installations and performances.
"The Future of Text in XR"
A collaboration with Frode Hegland (University of Southampton), the project
entails: 1) Open weekly ‘Future of Text Lab' Meetings as well as the Annual
Symposium, which we have co-hosted with Internet Co-Inventor Vint Cerf, for over
a decade, with an increasingly wide community of stakeholders; recorded in The
Future of Text Vols. 4 & 5 that, with funding, can be promoted to a wider
audience, 2) Software for WebXR, free and open-source, 3) Visual-Meta
Infrastructure implemented across more domains.