Reading The Code – Literary Approaches To Cybertext

Organized by Søren Pold
University of Aarhus, Denmark
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Abstract: The code is normally hidden by the interface from the user or reader of a digital text. Especially in "user-friendly" software design, it is mandatory to use the interface as a screen, which is keeping the computer code out of sight and hidden behind a metaphoric, visual interface, which models the well-known world of the user. In this way the user is potentially prohibited from reading and understanding the code.

This aporia is paralleled in the methodological and pragmatic problems of reading digital literature. How can one read a text that does not behave similarly on subsequent readings, that is e.g. dynamic, multicursal, cybernetic and opaque? Is the reader liberated by hypertext or rather trapped in the hypertextual web and its cybernetic feedback mechanisms e.g. as on the WWW?

This panel aims to discuss these issues in relation to particular hypertexts, to the reading of cybertext in general, to the design of authoring software, and a cybertextual poetics will be presented that calls for including the code in the literary field – in the literary writing and reading.

Reading Hyperfiction - Mission Impossible?
Rasmus Blok. University of Aarhus, Denmark

During readings of hyperfiction studies I have noticed a peculiar tendency in relation to the study of literature. Most of them focus exclusively on form: complex web-textuality, multilinearity and architecture as well as navigation, inderterminancy and the role of the reader and author. One has to ask: Why do very few of these studies of hyperfiction deal with the content, i.e. the story, the plot? But rather employ these aspects only in relation to form?

Reading Cybertexts - An Empirical Approach
Raine Koskimaa. University of Jyväskylä, Finland

I am currently planning an empirical research on how people actually read digital texts (plain texts in digital format, hypertexts, cybertexts). I will discuss the preconditions of such study - how the reading platform (computer screen, ebook) affects the act of reading, and what are the interpretive frameworks people employ when confronting unfamiliar cybertexts. Preliminary findings from a pilot research possibly available.

Writing with the Code - a Cybertextual Poetics
Søren Pold. University of Aarhus, Denmark

I propose a digital poetics, which focuses on the possible digital transformations of writing and reading with examples from current cybertextual literature. The paper discusses how programming structures (algorithms, cybernetics, object oriented programming, hypertext) can be interpreted as literary forms. The outcome is a literary way to read programming structures and a discussion of a digital literary poetics.

About the Presenters:

Rasmus Blok works as a researcher/teacher at the Dept. of Comparative Literature, Aarhus Universitet, Denmark. His research/teaching has previously evolved around Modern American fiction, American Culture and literature involving new media. He is now mainly working on the reading and the aesthetics of hypertext and hyperfictions.

Raine Koskimaa works as a researcher in the Research Unit for Contemporary Culture, University of Jyväskylä. He will defend his doctoral dissertation "Digital Literature - from text to hypertext and beyond" this Spring. He has written two monographs and several articles dealing with digital literature, hypertext, cyberpunk science fiction, reader response studies, media use, and narratology.

Søren Pold is currently finishing his ph.d. dissertation on literature in a media age (from Balzac's panorama, cinematographic Los Angeles literature to the scripted spaces of the digital) at the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Aarhus. In addition, he has published several articles dealing with literature and media and multimedia aesthetics.