Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"I'm deeply suspicious of panels that announce the death of anything but people..'

I have been catching up with the latest framed interview ( "interviews with new media artists and writers") over at The latest offering from Simon Mills is an interesting series of insights from Scott Rettberg ( author of 'Kind of Blue' and 'Implementation').

I was very taken with SR thoughts about the state of electronic literature/new media writing. Like both the interviewer and interviewee I have been bumping into all kinds in the corridor recently gleefully declaring the 'death of hypertext'. This seems to me to be odd because it seems to motivated by the same 'geewhizz it's so new' mindset that drew so much attention to hypertext lit. in the first place. SR speaks of the "theory-driven halo" that illuminated works in the 90s. I agree with him that this halo has slipped and hypertext as a practice no longer eclipses all the other interesting practices ( such as aleatoric poetry, Interactive Fiction etc.) that have been going on in the less fashionable ends of the digital muse. I think that this change in awareness is a good thing...but I don't think that it marks the death of hypertext or the artistic exhaustion of hypertextuality as an interesting trope. In my own work I tend not to think in a link and node structure as I am happier working at smaller levels of granularity (the phrase, the word, the letter). Similarly, I relish the opportunity to use code, sound and animation but this does not mean that I don't value hypertext or indeed fiction. It occurs to me that I too might write/right an old skool link/node hypertext simply to piss off the punters. I really can not countenance the idea that we (as a culture) have mined all the exciting possibilities of linking. However, before I embark on any large scale projects I guess I thought might consider how I am going to find the time to create such a work.

SR notes that "the gift economy is an important aspect of the identity of the new media writer". I would agree that my construction as 'new media writer' (in so far as I am one) has come through a number of gifts - including the valuable work of the Electronic Literature Organisation and the trAce Online Writing Centre. I hope that I have recognized this aspect of my practice by placing most of my work on the web with a Creative Commons Licence ('free as in free') and by acknowledging the contribution made to my thinking by a number of key practitioners. However, I believe that the non-gift economies are also present in that construction. More as dark shadow or absence, which can be best quantified by all those blog postings I do not post...all those ideas that have stayed ideas etc. I would say that the no-time economy constructs me most, as I find my brain takes longer to code nowadays. Similary, I don't learn new programming languages as often as I would like for mudane reasons of time and age. A constaint that I share to some degree with everyone else on this small ball of ours.

So maybe that old skool hypertext will have to sit as an idea for awhile longer until I just can't stop myself from putting pad to keys. However, I don't expect that I will be alone in still being interested in the link and I look forward to the mellow middle age of hypertext fiction.


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