Electronic Literature: What Is It?
This essay surveys the development and current state of electronic literature, from the popularity of hypertext fiction in the 1980's to the present, focusing primarily on hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, "codework," generative art and the Flash poem. It also discusses the central critical issues raised by electronic literature, pointing out that there is significant overlap with the print tradition. At the same time, the essay argues that the practices, texts, procedures, and processual nature of electronic literature require new critical models and new ways of playing and interpreting the works. A final section discusses the Preservation, Archiving and Dissemination (PAD) initiative of the Electronic Literature Organization, including the Electronic Literature Collection Volume I and the two white papers that are companion pieces to this essay, "Acid Free Bits" and "Born Again Bits." Intended audiences include scholars, administrators, librarians, and funding administrators, respectively, who are new to electronic literature and for whom it is hoped this essay will serve as a useful introduction. Because this essay is the first systematic attempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders may find it useful as an overview, with emphasis on recent creative and critical works.
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