Revision for Electronic Literature on Wikipedia

Capstone 1

Part 1 — Creation

Debates on e-lit

The definitions offered about electronic literature are vague and broad. Katherine Hayles argues in Electronic Literature: What Is It that “electronic literature is ‘digital born.” Even the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) states electronic literature “refers to works that takes advantage of the capabilities of a computer.’ The ELO even offers a list to help define electronic literature, however, it is also broad and open for interpretation. Under the definitions of ‘digitally born’, ‘conversational characters’, ‘interactive stories’, learner programs like Reader Rabbit can then be a argued to be electronic literature.

There is also an important aspect to consider when debating electronic literature: what is it really? There is the literary aspect, hence “literature’, yet with the ability to add so many new features such as photos, videos, and sound, the question emerges: “is it literature or is it art?’ Art is, by definition of Webster-Mariam dictionary as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings’ and “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.’ Art has a definition just as broad and all-encompassing as the definition of literature, which is a stem from art. Electronic literature is a branch from literature, which is a branch from art, yet this sub genre comes back closer to art than literature alone.


Part 2 — Revision


It is difficult to define electronic literature. The phrase itself consists of two words, each with their own meanings. From the Mariam-Webster dictionary we gain the definitions of each part; electronic – operating by means of a computer: involving a computer or a computer system, and literature – printed materials (such as booklets, leaflets, and brochures) that provide information about something. This is where interpretation comes into play and words take on bigger meanings than the simple word formed by letters in a specific order. Because of all the controversy regarding electronic literature and its validity, the definition is a work in progress and open for interpretation.

Arthur Krystal in What Is Literature explains that “lit(t)eratura referred to any writing formed with letters.’ However, Krystal goes on to explore what literature has transformed into: “a record of one human being’s sojourn on earth, proffered in verse or prose that artfully weaves together knowledge of the past with a heightened awareness of the present in ever new verbal configurations.’ Thus electronic literature can be considered a branch from the main tree of literature. Katherine Hayles discusses the topic in the online article Electronic Literature: What Is It. She argues “electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast ‘digital born,’ and (usually) meant to be read on a computer.’ A definition offered by the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) states electronic literature “refers to works with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.’


Genres of Electronic Literature

On its official website, the ELO offers this additional definition of electronic literature as consisting of works which are:

  • E-books, hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
  • Animated poetry presented in graphical forms, for example Flash and other platforms
  • Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
  • Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing.

There is some speculation that performance based variations of Flashmobs that originate online, such as “Improv Everywhere’, also qualify as electronic literature. Video games with high literary interaction have also been speculated to be referred to as electronic literature.


Part 3 — References


  • N. Katherine Hayles. “Electronic Literature: What is it?’ Electronic Literature Organization. 02 Jan. 2007. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.



Part 4 — Reflection

For my revision, I wanted to start with the fact the definition of electronic literature is a broad and unclear. So I started with each word within “electronic literature’ and tried to explain them separately, then together, to show the difference. I also chose to add the definition of literature according to Krystal, to add a more artistic view on literature. I think it was an important addition because electronic literature had to come from plain literature itself. To gain an idea of what something is now, one should know what something was before. With these definitions in mind, it is important to realize that electronic literature though created with words and letters, is its own separate entity with its own definition, debates, and ideas. I wanted it to be obvious for the people who would search electronic literature on Wikipedia that there is no clear definition that is completely accepted. I expect that my choice will demonstrate to Wikipedia surfers the ambiguity of definitions and the importance of interpretation. How open the definitions are and how inclusive instead of exclusive electronic literature is.


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