The Ed Report: An Electronic Epic

William Gillespie
Independent Artist, USA
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Nick Montfort
Independent Artist, USA
[Home Page]

Abstract: The Ed Report is a hypertextual US government document describing the covert military exploits of a technical writer named Ed. Ed happens to have the same name as the chairman of the Ed Commission, which produced this once top-secret report. The epic hero Ed leaves off his ordinary life - in which he writes software documentation, takes care of his autistic younger brother, and pursues early Near Eastern scholarship - when he is pressed into service as an Akkadian code-talker during an undercover operation in Colombia.

Of course, The Ed Report is also fiction, constructed collaboratively by Montfort and Gillespie. Written for the Web, The Ed Report will be revealed serially over four weeks in the middle of the year. One narrative segment and several supporting texts will appear each day.

The Ed Report exploits the novelty of the Web by presenting itself, in deadpan fashion, as a genuine text. On the Web, because of the gullibility of readers and the difficulty in verifying textual authenticity, parodies are frequently mistaken for reportage. We hope that The Ed Report will be received like Orson Welles's historic radio play based on the H.G. Wells novel "War of the Worlds." That work caused a panic in America as many people mistook it for an authentic news broadcast. It would be difficult to play such a splendid prank on the radio today - but the Web is a different story.

Our performance will blend elements of theater, press conferences, the oral epic tradition, and emerging ways of reading aloud from digital texts. The rehearsed performance will allow the audience to choose links and direct the reading. We will pose as investigative journalists presenting a text uncovered by our persistent Freedom of Information Act requests. We also will play upon the traditions of oral and written epic poetry, as if we were bards as well as reporters.

About the Presenters:

William Gillespie presented The Unknown (winner, 1998 trAce/Alt-X hypertext contest) at DAC '99. He founded Newspoetry, an electronic poetry daily online since 01 January 1999. His extensive research on Oulipian writing is summarized in the Table of Forms. This year Gillespie will perform at Hypertext 2000 and at Incubation.

Nick Montfort exhibited Winchester's Nightmare (the first electronic literary work available in computer "hardback" binding) and The Help File at DAC '99. He writes for Wired, Technology Review, and parodical pioneer He recently wrote and produced a short film, Pullover. Montfort is presenting at Computers and Writing 2000.