&NOW 7: Off the Road in Boulder, CO, September 26-28th
This panel features digital writers and critics from the US and Canada who wish to discuss writing in relation to the field of media archaeology via pieces of hardware and/or software housed in the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) located at CU Boulder. Ideally, the MAL will bring in to the panel, for audience members to interact with, the piece of hardware/software that each panelist will discuss.
The MAL is headed by Lori Emerson and its focus is on defining moments in the history of computing and digital literature/art. The MAL is a research space, classroom, game lab, hangout, living archive, and repository, that speaks to the concept of undead media, where “the past must be lived so that the present can be seen.” Drawing on Jussi Parikka’s notion of media archaeology as an active archive, the lab has become an opportunity to counter the memory-loss of computer cultures, much of it pre internet and pre new media; “the insistence of the relevance of the old and obsolete is the necessary double of the celebration of the new we have been living.” Mél Hogan will, then, open the roundtable by outlining the conceptual trajectory of the lab itself, as an archive, site of inquiry, and platform for artistic intervention. With the intention of contextualizing and anchoring the work of the MAL, she will situate the lab in relation to other initiatives, such as the Media Archaeological Fundus (MAF) in Berlin, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH).
Next, Joel Swanson will discuss his Spring/Summer 2013 residency at the Media Archeology Lab where he has been developing an artwork over the course of the Spring 2013 semester. His piece explores the archeology of computer keyboards as the primary physical interface between humanity and language.
Moving further back in time, Mark Amerika will then discuss a particular, crucial turning point in digital writing and net-art: 1995 and the moment at which the GUI-version of the World Wide Web, especially via Netscape, is only two years old. He will describe how, on the one hand, this moment not only marked the tail end of the long boom in critical theory studies but it also marked the tail end of a relatively new mode of writerly production, hypertext, which had enjoyed its own mini-boom, but had been sequestered away on floppy disks and CD-ROMs. On the other hand, 1995 also marked the beginning of web-based conceptual writing, remixology, theory-fiction and what he calls “Hypertextual Consciousness 1.0.”
Moving back to the mid-1980s, Lori Emerson will discuss the second volume of Paul Zelevansky’s by-now rare artist book trilogy THE CASE FOR THE BURIAL OF ANCESTORS: Book Two, Genealogy published in 1986 and housed in the MAL. Enclosed in an envelope on the inside of the back cover, the book also comes with “SWALLOWS,” a 5.25″ floppy disk that is a videogame forming the first of three parts in the book. Emerson will discuss this game in terms of the broader field of early digital literature and how it openly plays with and tentatively tests the parameters of the personal computer as a still-new writing technology. Finally, Emerson will discuss the challenges to maintaining access to this work in the MAL either through the original hardware/software or through emulation.
Also discussing a work from the mid-1980s, Aaron Angello will discuss how one of the great strengths of born-digital literature is in fact what many claim is one of its greatest weaknesses – its ephemerality. Writers of digital literature are in a unique position to embrace the passing of their own work as a positive act of resistance in itself, as a reminder that the static and unitary subject is an illusion that, when accepted as “fact,” will only serve to reinforce existing, often non-productive relationships of power. bp Nichol’s “First Screening,” also housed in the MAL and an early work of kinetic digital literature, is a piece that was composed in basic to be read on an Apple IIe. It is no longer playable in its original form on current, readily available hardware, but has been re-imagined and remade so that it is viewable across a spectrum of current media. Angello will use this piece as backdrop to discuss the roles of both the poet and the archivist.
Moving back to the 1960s and 1970s, Julie Carr will discuss the work of Larry Eigner and its dependence upon and exploration of the typewriter. Larry Eigner was one of the main figures of the Black Mountain School. He had sever physical disabilities and so typed using only two fingers of one hand. When Robert Grenier and Curtis Faville edited his collected for Stanford UP they insisted on typesetting it themselves in courier in order to exactly replicate the page and the typewriter font. Carr’s exploration of the impact of particular typewriters on Eigner’s writing will, again, be supplemented with typewriters currently housed in the MAL
Finally, Derek Beaulieu will then talk about the pedagogical work he undertakes at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary, Alberta. He will discuss how manual typewriters can be used in the contemporary creative writing classroom, the pedagogical outcomes in students and the poetics models on which students can explore — in other words, he will finish our roundtable with a brief tour of the typewriter as a studio tool in the contemporary creative writing classroom.