Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres

International conference at the Cultural Studies Research Center “Media Upheavals”: University of Siegen, Germany, November 20-21, 2008. Organized by Professor Dr. Peter Gendolla and Dr. Jörgen Schäfer.


"Using electronic and networked media has resulted in such serious changes in the relationship between “author”, “work,” and “reader” that it seems necessary to make revisions in the traditional models analyzing literary communication. The Siegen conference on The Aesthetics of Net Literature: Writing, Reading and Playing in Programmable Media (Nov 25-27, 2004) had already made clear that this triad has to be extended into the technical aspects of media: Literary processes emerge from techno-social networks, i.e. they materialize in the interplay between human and electronic “actants.” If in the past discussions centered mostly on those projects that were perceived by looking at the computer screen or that were controlled via keyboard and mouse, now man-machine interactions are organized by considerably more complex interfaces. The specific attention of this follow-up conference therefore will be focusing on the aesthetic processes of AI-controlled environments that occur in the physical realm between the interfaces of technical sensors or effectors and the human body. Electronic media take “body language” to a new level as well since more and more the whole body is involved in the media activity. Increasingly complex sensors (integrated into vehicles, clothes and environments) “realize”—hear, see, feel, in other words: measure—the movements of the body, its mimics and gestures. This “multimodal” body itself then also exchanges information with the “products” of this kind of technology. Such medial couplings and framings enable the co-operation of non-symbolic activities, symbolic language activities and algorithmic processes of computer systems. If it is true that semantics is always the result of intermedial transcriptions between media then this development affects all human behavior concerning linguistic signs and therefore also the aesthetic processes of perception and self-perception. In this context the contributions to this conference will refer to literary communication and strategies thereby interrogating how literary structures, interfaces and genres change regarding:

    * Locative Narratives, i.e. environmental, neighborhood and city projects with GPS-based media following literary patterns (e.g. travel- and adventure-narratives or detective stories like J.-P. Balpe’s Fictions d'Issy; S. Schemat’s Augmented Reality Fictions; Inter Urban by 34 North 118 West or S. Berkenheger/G. Müller’s Worldwatchers).

    * Immersive Environments (Cave or interactive camera-projection systems) in which reception does not only take place through the eyes alone but rather in which the whole body is “reading” and thereby recomposing already saved meanings or those that still have to be constructed (e.g. N. Wardrip-Fruin’s Screen; J. Cayley’s Lens; C. Utterback’s Text Rain or D.Small/T. White’s Stream of Consciousness).

    * Stagings of inner realms and environments in which real characters (from simple users to trained actors) and artificial ones (from avatars, software agents etc. to complex AI-programs) following quite classical dramatic patterns of activity are involved in dialogues (e.g. M. Mateas/A. Stern AR Façade).

Regarding the aesthetics of net literature therefore the question has to be asked whether we can continue talking of a specific migration of traditional literary forms into computer-based and networked media. Can we continue analyzing such examples as “literature”? In what way can the semantics of literary terminology, concepts and systems be retained or does it have to be revised? Can we still correlate the examples mentioned above with the three traditional genres?

Apart from this the performative projects mentioned above intensify the already difficult problem of the documentation/archiving of as well as the access to processes of electronic literature. Lastly, the conference also will address the problem of archiving and editing the rather transitory electronic literature, thereby attempting to advance the co-operation of current and planned databases, archives and editions."


Posted: Mittwoch - Oktober 22, 2008 at 02:39 nachm.