This summer Mira Zimet of USC’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences asked me to explain electronic literature in 60 seconds. Here was my answer (in a minute and a half).

Featured in the video (in order):
Jason Nelson’s Sydney’s Siberia, Kate Pullinger’s Inanimate Alice, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Nippon, and Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s Façade.

Of course, the Electronic Literature Collection (volume 1) and the early entries in the Electronic Literature Directory demonstrate without a doubt that e-lit cannot be and should not be so narrowly defined. And others, Kate Hayles included, have suggested that the question “What isn’t e-lit?” is rather fruitless, too.

That said, plenty of folks here the words “electronic” and “literature” and assume that we mean eBooks and eReaders.

Folks on this side of that conversation, recognize those projects as primarily engaged in re-mediation, in many ways failing to imagine the possibility of digital-born literature that might sit just an app away on their iPad.

I usually find that the question, “What is e-lit?” is better answered with a host of examples. It helps to have a web browser around (not that e-lit is confined to browsers). Highly visual works with hypnotic interfaces are easy. Works with a lot of video or sound, too. But of course, works with even less can produce quite a bit more. And here I think of Nick Montfort’s 256-Character Perl Poetry Generator. (You can see some of what I think about that in an article in Loss Pequeño Glazier’s cool new Journal Emerging Language Practices). (update: Loss tells me the official launch of the journal is forthcoming!)

I’m wondering how you all would define e-lit in 60-seconds, 140 characters, or a handful of examples? How do you all explain it to people? What works most epitomize the potential and possibility to you?

I suppose I should also ask what questions you have about it? Answering them has been part of my work as the Director of Communications of the Electronic Literature Organization, which just held a mind-blowing conference at what might be called its birthplace at Brown this past summer.

If anyone makes a video answer their own, please post a link here so we can feature it.

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