I have spent the last week inventorying Riding the Meridian, an important journal founded by Jennifer Ley that published five issues, from 1999-2003, comprising 262 works produced by some of the world’s most notable artists and writers. In the coming weeks the ELL Team will move the information I created into an Excel spreadsheet into fields specified by the library standard, MODS; track down missing metadata; produce a thumbnail image for each work; refine the data in OpenRefine; and then upload the data to the ELO Repository where it will join the 11 other collections we have developed since June 1.
Riding the Meridian is notable for many reasons. First, it recognized early on the power of the internet and web for both generating new forms of and approaches to creative expression and making works readily available to the public. Among the published works we find such genres as blended media, collaborative web work, hypermedia literary nonfiction, among others. A collection of 39 works by women authors––an “assemblage” devised by Carolyn Guertin and co-curated by Marjorie C. Luesebrink––was modeled after Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party and called instead The Progressive Dinner Party with interactive table of place settings for each author and work and commentary by N. Katherine Hayles and Talan Memmott.
Second, it brought together both print and digital writers and artists seamlessly in a unique mission to “build bridges between the print and online poetry communities.” Deena Larsen’s hypertext kanjis reside in the same issue as Claire Dinsmore’s text poetry and Tony Kemplen’s spoken word poetry with ease. For the journal, art is art, no matter what medium is used to express it.
Whole issues were devoted to topics like “Women and Technology” and “Nationality or Not,” or were dedicated wholly to artists like Alaric Sumner. The issue featuring a reprint of The Progressive Dinner Party also presented an anthology of 40 men writers, called Jumpin’ at the Diner. We also find treasures like an early collaboration between M. D. Coverley and Stephanie Strickland, entitled “To Be Here as Stone Is,” gorgeous flash fiction by Reiner Strasser, an excerpt from Sue Thomas’s novel Correspondence, several works by the late Randy Adams, examples of Mez’s codework, and the re-publication of Mark Amerika’s Grammatron, Bobby Allelano’s Sunshine ’69, Stuart Moulthrop’s Reagan Library, Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia, and Strickland’s The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot––and so many more.
It also speaks to a time when people experimented with the presentation of materials on the web. We find frames used extensively, for example. The browser navigation served as an important method for moving through the various issues and works. The growing use of metadata relating to dates, team roles, and previous publication information all speak to the awareness that the electronic medium required the same bibliographic treatment as print.
In short, Riding the Meridian provides scholars with insights into approaches to early digital publishing; the emerging fields of media art, media studies, and digital writing; ways early writers were envisioning the web as a medium of expression.
Once we complete the Excel spreadsheet, we will make it readily available to the public. We will make the formal announcement of the journal’s entry to the ELO Repository when the work is completed.