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.