Eugenio Tisselli at Netartery explains why he has stopped creating e-Lit.

“What the hell am I doing?” Do I even know?
These are my thoughts: I refuse to go on creating works of e-Lit only for the sake of exploring new formats and supports, and I strongly disagree with studying e-Lit exclusively from within the academic field of Literature. By its own definition, electronic literature “lives” within electronic media. But have we, as an academic community, realized what electronic devices are doing to the environment? Do we know where the minerals that are necessary to manufacture computers come from, and under what conditions they are extracted? What about the slave labor involved in the manufacturing process? Have we deeply studied the economic implications of using computers as literary tools, in a time in which all our economic systems are collapsing? In one word, are we being responsible? I have seriously asked these questions to myself.
As of today, I have decided to temporarily stop creating new works of e-Lit. I feel that the issues involved in creating artworks with computers are too important to be ignored. So I call for a truly trans-disciplinary, cross-sector research on electronic literature: one that also involves a profound understanding of its environmental and economic effects. One that doesn’t ignore the social and cultural contexts which are being effectively destroyed for the sake of our technology

Tisselli’s moral considerations raise interesting points about the morality of creating art. All creation comes at a cost; what point does the moral cost outweigh the benefit?

Tisselli makes a connection between the production of eLit and the oppressive living and working conditions that make mobile technologies possible. The correlation might hold more weight if more people were supporting these technologies specifically to enjoy digital art. I suspect that is not the case. As a field, we are only a very small fraction of a much larger problem, while as an artistic medium, we are an excellent platform to raise awareness and make a statement. Silencing ourselves will not help as much as speaking out.

Of course, the decision to make art is deeply personal , but if the choice to abstain from creating art is political. Perhaps that energy could instead be channeled into the art itself. New media can reach staggering audiences, and the offending media can sometimes be the best platform for awareness campaigns. Phone Story is a good example: a phone game that comments on the morality of mobile phone production and gives creators a direct line of communication with the targeted audience.

What if, instead of creating art, Virginia Woolfe had refused to create anything? Or the Harlem Renaissance? The Dadaists? We should channel our political energy into creating moving pieces, and eLit could use more serious political works.

Dame Wendy Hall worries that the shortage of female computer scientists is due to the perception of computers as “geeky.”

Hall, who invented a forerunner to the world wide web, said the problem of a scarcity of girls studying computer science was "getting worse" despite huge efforts from the scientific community to address the issue.
Hall, the dean of the faculty of physical and applied sciences at the University of Southampton, told the Guardian that girls still perceive computing to be "for geeks" and that this has proved to be a "cultural" obstacle, so far impossible to overcome.

Hall is right to worry about the lack of women, and to look toward cultural factors that might be contributing. But the perception of nerd culture is a real problem, and it’s more nuanced than “women don’t want to be geeks.”

Sometime in the last couple of decades, it became cool to be a nerd (which is different from a geek though the two are related). When I was young, my favorite caper films involved some kind of “hacking into a mainframe” that I found fascinating. Young Lex Murphy, the girl in Jurassic Park (who was roughly my age at the time) could hack into things. And then there were video games, which were also really cool. I knew that programmers made those, and I wanted to make them too. So if tech is cool, and women are using just as many gadgets as men (if not more), where is the disconnect?

If you look at the young men in the average computer science department, you will find that most of them self-identify somewhere on the “nerd” spectrum. Keep in mind that they do not see “nerd” as a derogatory point, simply as a cultural identifier and useful shorthand for people with similar interests and personality traits. That said, I would guess that many young people come to computer science with an interest in making computer games, or from a more deeply-entrenched identity within nerd culture, so examining these cultures is a good first step toward understanding the lack of women in computer science.

Neither gaming culture nor nerd culture are particularly welcoming towards women, and many women looking in from the outside—even those that share the same interests as nerd guys—do not want to enter an environment in which (they think) mouth-breathing basement dwellers will view them as a sex object. This stereotype, though not representative of everyone in the culture, is accurate enough that it will probably be confirmed as the woman enters the culture, whether she’s told “there are no girls on the internet” or sexually harassed on a web forum or video game. Many women within the culture have found that men (and even other women) assume they don’t belong or are feigning interest to be more attractive to men (or sell to them). And then there’s the problem of many girls not wanting to be in such a small minority, which in turn compounds and perpetuates the previous assumptions about the environment. The more women there are in the club, the more women looking in feel that it’s safe to be a woman in this environment. It’s not that girls are scared of being unpopular, many just don’t want to interact with what they see as a hostile culture.

So the culture that feeds into computer science classrooms isn’t particularly female-friendly, but surely the atmosphere in the classroom is better? Unfortunately, the lack of female role models means that girls often feel out of place or avoid asking questions for fear of confirming stereotypes.

We need to create an environment where girls feel safe and comfortable, an environment where it’s okay to ask questions, where girls won’t feel judged for their sex. And when we’ve done a reasonable job of that, we need to make sure the larger community knows that computer science is welcoming to women. Hopefully once women see that they won’t be alone to fend for themselves in a classroom full of troglodytes, more women will be willing to join the club.

Michael Breidenbruecker of RJDJ, the studio behind the sound-based augmented reality game Dimensions explains how augmented reality uses real life to create a different immersive gaming experience that he calls “personal gaming.”

This should totally be a companion to your real life," he adds. "Most games are designed so that they need your full attention -- you either interact or you don't, but when you interact, you're in that world. What we tried to do is make it work in parallel to whatever you do, to your life, really. You just put it in your pocket, and everything around you is enhanced.

Games that don’t require the player’s “full attention” aren’t new; interruptibility is the bread and butter of the casual game market. However, the idea that this might actually make the experience more immersive is interesting.

Historically, two schools of gaming (and really, digital narrative as a whole) have emerged: one which embraces immersion (console gaming, board games, CAVE installations, the novel), and one which embraces interruptibility and integration (Words With Friends, Angry Birds, serial fiction, blogs). In the past, the two have seemed to be at odds. Even ARGs, which require real-world interaction, are played through the lens of the game environment, and the very idea of “alternate reality” suggests escapism. They require one’s “full attention” to achieve their immersive effect.

What, then, does it mean to be immersive if the aim is not to be carried into a trance? Is the future of gaming—without venturing into gamification—that I might be immersed in a game while buying milk and stopping by the post office?


In light of a recent MIT experiment on how the brain distinguishes real faces from face-like structures, Yannick LeJacq wonders, “Why do our brains resist the charms of 3D modeling?

What is it, exactly, that stops us from being completely seduced by the increasingly impressive modeling of virtual faces in videogames? […] The left side, as one researcher put is, “does the initial heavy lifting,” while the right side ultimately makes the call. But with recent improvements in facial modeling (such as L.A. Noire), will game developers ultimately be able to trick the right side of the brain entirely?

Perhaps this kind of research may be the key to traversing the uncanny valley.

Responding to Lori Emerson’s comments on the introduction of the term “electronic literature” by the ELO, Jill Walker Rettberg begins a history of the term’s use, as well as an analysis of how the terms of the field have changed over time.

We’re arguing semantics, but it’s important to recognize the continuity of a field, even if we’re now calling that field something new. A rose by any other name.

Susan Arendt would like to thank L.A. Noire and Rise of Nightmares for failing:

As the year comes to a close, we tend to look back with affection on all the great gaming experiences we had - but I don't want to do that right now. Instead, I'd rather take a look at two big, fat failures: one that will be remembered more for the meltdown of its development team than for its actual gameplay, and one that likely won't be remembered at all. Though neither game did gangbuster sales, they were important for a very specific reason. Any game can fail by simply being boring, or poorly made, or uninspired, but these two games failed trying to be spectacular, fresh, and new.

Anne Mangen explores how haptic responses shape our understanding of text. She’s interested in what we gain from physically touching a book.

Haptic perception is of vital importance to reading, and should be duly acknowledged. The reading process and experience of a digital text are greatly affected by the fact that we click and scroll, in contrast to tactilely richer experience when flipping through the pages of a print book. When reading digital texts, our haptic interaction with the text is experienced as taking place at an indeterminate distance from the actual text, whereas when reading print text we are physically and phenomenologically (and literally) in touch with the material substrate of the text itself.

The problem with this argument is that it makes assumptions about the virtues of haptic feedback, positing that some subconscious phenomenon occurs that shapes the reading experience when we physically touch a book. The physicality of the book does not bring us any “closer” to the materiality of the signified. We can’t rely on the assumption that the ability to touch or feel our content enriches it without an argument for why it does, and many of the current arguments can be explained by bad interfaces or other outside factors. Superficial arguments, like that haptic feedback signals to the reader where she is in a book, ignore the fact that much of this information can be easily mimicked by other technologies: completion percentage or a scrollbar with a “page x of y” display are now familiar substitutes for assessing how far one is in a story. How many of us really physically feel where we are in a story beyond the first and last few pages anyway?

Mangen isn’t just interested in ebooks; she writes of hypertext fiction:

In Narrative as Virtual Reality [Marie-Laure Ryan] concludes that ‘the hypertext format could provide the type of immersivity of the detective novel, as do some computer games, if it were based on a determinate and fully motivated plot’ […] I will argue, however, that when it comes to the (in)compatibility of digital technology with phenomenological immersion, plot is not the whole story. In my view, the incompatibility has at least as much, if not more, to do with the sensory-motor affordances of distinctly different materialities of technology than with plot.

(This explains why early stories like Esther and Ruth, which were designed for the sensory-motor affordances of the scroll, worked so poorly in the form of the codex book that they were soon forgotten. – MB)

I’m skeptical that haptic feedback is really at issue here. One can imagine a work in which tactile sensation is important (“words that yield” takes on a new meaning) but surely haptic feedback is not the only—or even most important—component. Do touch or—more broadly—mimetic sensations encourage more immersive experiences, or are other factors at play? How does agency contribute? It seems plausible that certain physical actions illicit Pavlovian conditioned emotional responses, but is there research to support such claims? Is touching an object, alone, enough to trigger such a response?


Kat Austen asks "What gives scientists—and writers—credibility?"

It’s intuitive, but being told it by a chap at Microsoft Research added the gravitas needed to move it from “common sense” to “information”. His position there gave him credibility.

It's obvious for scientists and researchers but writers? (I believe this attitude is antithetical to the spirit of science. Nobody cares where you’re from if you’re right. If your sums don’t add up, nobody cares that you have a job at Harvard. – MB) Austen means science writers, but is this true for novelist and eLit writers as well?

How important do you think institution is for credibility? Tweet replies to @HTLit hashtag #eLitCred