Hold the Light:
The 2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference,
Milwaukee, WI, June 2014

W ith panels on "Models of Narrative", "Troubadours of Information", "Writing and Riding the Net", "Philosophical Approaches", and "Literary Games"; a "Developing for New Platforms" Roundtable; fifty new works responding to the question: "What distinguishes Electronic Literature?"; and much more, the 2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference will convene in Milwaukee from June 19-21. ELO2014, Hold the Light: Identity, Change, Commitment, is hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by electronic literature pioneer and Professor in the UWM Department of English, Stuart Moulthrop. Featured works of electronic literature will be exhibited at the Digital Humanities Lab and the Conference Room, both in the UWM Golda Meir Library.

"In addition to the conference's continuing concern with particular arts and ideas, Hold the Light invites thinking about what electronic literature can mean at a moment when all communications are touched by computation and digital networks," Moulthrop notes.

"It is a watershed moment in that the organization is giving out the first of two annual prizes, The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature and The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature", ELO President Dene Grigar writes in a statement that accompanies Authoring Software's coverage of ELO2014. "Hayles will be present to give a keynote address and announce the recipient of Hayles award."

Keynote talks will also be given by Jill Walker Rettberg, University of Bergen, writer Illya Szilak, and Lane Hall, and co-founder of the Overpass Light Brigade. . "...Neither preserving nor directly opposing the conventions of print-lit, e-lit functions as a reflecting apparatus that unmasks language and meaning-making as machines through the revelation of its own machine-works," Illya Selzki notes in an abstract for her keynote. "Using multifarious examples from the work of Alan Bigelow, Mez Breeze, Emily Short, Jason Nelson, and others, I will show how these re-inscribe obstruction, glitch, error, randomness and obsolescence as potentiality... "

The Conference name "Hold the Light," was also inspired by the Milwaukee-based collective Overpass Light Brigade, who use LED signboards to convey activist/community messages. such as the message PRACTICE PEACE at a vigil for Sikhs killed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Presenters in sessions that range from "A Feel for Algorithms" to "Children's Elit" include Sandy Baldwin, Kathi Inman Berens, Serge Bouchardon, Giovanna di Rosario, Carolyn Guertin, Lori Emerson, Dene Grigar, Leonardo Flores, D. Fox Harrell, Dominic Kao and Chong-U Lim, Marjorie Luesebrink, Mark Marino and Rob Wittig, Talan Memmott, Nick Montfort, Judd Morrissey, Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, Jessica Pressman, Mariusz Pisarski, Aaron Reed, Scott Rettberg, and Anastasia Salter among many others.

Curated by Kathi Inman Berens, the exhibition Hold the Light includes artists from France, Poland, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Ireland, Slovakia, Hong Kong, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition to evenings of performance, artists will also present their work in demo sessions, where they'll talk informally with guests who traverse their works. "It's a rare convergence for so many elit artists to be in one place at one time", Kathi Inman Berens notes in her statement about the exhibition. "The point of gathering live when often we can access each other's work online is to curate not just works but also conditions for artistic and intellectual surprises."

"...what makes the work that the ELO does absolutely imperative in this 'Digital Information Age', as scholar Paul Ceruzzi calls it, is its leadership in developing methods for evaluating quality of 'digital' creative and critical works and its insights into cataloging a growing body of 'digital' fiction, poetry, and other literary forms..., President Dene Grigar writes in a statement for Authoring Software's coverage of ELO2014. "ELO 2014 Hold the Light provides us the opportunity to continue this important work together for three magical days. I hope to see you there."

EL02014 Media Arts Show
John Barber:
"The radioELO project archives and curates aural information associated with works of electronic literature. This might include author traversals of their work(s) during which they discuss their inspirations and problem solving, or the state of electronic literature at the time of their creation(s). Reevaluations and retrospectives, commentary and reviews, even testimonials, memoirs, and oral histories may also be included. Beyond spoken voice, radioELO also archives soundtracks, soundscapes, and sound collages associated with or considered as individual works of electronic literature. With such information available for on demand, online listening, radioELO is a laboratory in which to examine and discuss the changing nature(s) of electronic literature." ( radioELO)

EL02014 Media Arts Show - Tully Hansen: Writing, Overland Literary Journal

"Explore what can we mean by electronic literature now, and in years to come" - Deena Larsen

Focusing on computational creation of narrative and creation and preservation of electronic literature, pre-conference workshops are an "Intelligent Narrative Technologies" (INT)7 workshop; (Organizing Committee: Jichen Zhu, Ian Horswill, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin) a "Reading, Writing, and Programming" workshop, hosted by Deena Larsen and Joshua Fisher; an "Introduction to Animation with Processing" workshop, with Frances Van Scoy; and "Curating, Archiving and Preserving", hosted by Dene Grigar.

In a closing event, Stephanie Strickland, Amaranth Borsuk, and Ian Hatcher will read at Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee.

Paper Sessions, Roundtables and Creative Works

A sampling of Paper Sessions and Roundtables appears below, interspersed with images and descriptions of works in the exhibition.

Collaborative Creativity in New Media: : Roundtable Discussion

Joellyn Rock, Scott Rettberg, Jill Walker Rettberg, Roderick Coover, Sandy Baldwin, Rob Wittig

Models of Narrative

Natalie Funk: "Examining the Role of Micronarrative"
Serge Bouchardon: "The Tensions of Digital Literature"
Aaron Reed: "Towards an Aesthetics of Sculptural Fiction"
Daniela Cortes Maduro: "Shapeshifting Texts: Following the Traces of Narrative in Digital Fiction"

Bookishness, Past and Futures

Anna Gibbs and Maria Angel: "Digitizing Ariadne's Thread: Feminism, Encryption, and the Unfolding of Memory in Digital Spaces"
Alexandra Saemmer: "Back to Narrative Coherence
Jessica Pressman: "Bookish Electronic Literature"

Developing for New Platforms: Roundtable Discussion

Marjorie Luesebrink, Stephanie Strickland, Nick Montfort, Ian Hatcher, David Clark, Anastasia Salter, and Steve Tomasula

EL02014 Media Arts Show:
Anastasia Salter and John Murray
View from Within
"...The project was inspired by Scott McCloud's vision for the future of webcomics as an infinite canvas, with the browser as a portal to an experience unbounded by the printed page. The work is constructed from layers of hand-drawn illustrations. A new version, built in collaboration with John Murray in Unity and designed for an augmented reality platform, will be on display at the ELO 2014 Media Arts Show." Anastasia Salter

ELO2014 Media Arts Show
Mez Breeeze:
"'Wish4[0]' is set of 40 code poems based on a poetic interpretation of the maxim 'Be Careful What You Wish For'. The title of the work, 'Wish4[0]' is a truncation -- and linguistic reworking – of the idea of wish fulfilment in the digital age. The project examines how willing users and audience members are subjected to an 'always-on' news cycle, where social media and content streaming are now a primary method of information sourcing, and privacy is an elastic concept."

Collections in an International Context

Natalia Federova: "Postcommunist Elit"
Piotr Marecki: "The Formation of the Field of Electronic Literature in Poland"
Alvaro Seica: "A Beam of Light: Reading the Portuguese Electronic Literature Collection"
Eduardo Ledesma: "Emerging Latin American Digital Literature(s): From Located-ness to Locative-ness"

Children’s E-Lit

Leo Flores: "Discovering E-Literature for Children"
Lucas Ramada Prieto: Disguised tales: A Masqueraded Complexity in Children's Electronic Literature"
Jill Walker Rettberg: "What Do Children Want: Enhanced Books or Innovative E-lit for Kids?"
Clara Fernandez-Vara: "Detective Stories in Digital Games"

Writing and Riding the Net

Kyle Bickoff: "Mapping the Convergence of Networked Digital Literature and Net Art onto the Modes of Production"
Michael Maguire: "Digitalvitalism.com and John Pat McNamara"
Lori Emerson: "Beyond the Googlization of Literature: Writing Other Networks"
Davin Heckman: "The Riderly Text: The Joy of Networked Improv"

ELO2014 Media Arts Show
Carolyn Guertin and Katherine Jin:
Wandering Meimei
Wandering Meimei is a bilingual interactive narrative app about a migrant factory worker in contemporary China. In their words: "One of 200 million girls and young women who toil impossibly long hours on assembly lines in Asia, Meimei's connection to her world is maintained through her mobile phone and it is not without irony that she spends her days helping to build them..."

ELO2014 Media Arts Show
Jim Rosenberg:
The Inframergence
"The outer interface of this work is a spiral of buttons, each of which leads to an interactive screen. Beginning at the outside, the screens consist of overlaid polylinear skeins. Each skein has an 'obverse,' which goes in the opposite direction. As the reader proceeds through the spiral to the center, nonlinearity emerges. The skeins become more concentrated and are then replaced by clusters; the clusters then clump together into structures, in which some elements are dominant over others; and eventually a full diagrammatic syntax appears, in which any element can be connected to any other using the full complexity available to networks." (Grantmakers in the Arts)

Literary Games

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux: "Echo Chambers: The Colossal Cave within House of Leaves"
Anastasia Salter: "Unraveling Twine"
Alex Mitchell: "Rereading and the SimCity Effect in Electronic Literature"
D. Fox Harrell, Dominic Kao, Chong U Lim, Jason Lipshin, Ainsley Sutherland: "Stories of Stigma and Acceptance Using the 'Chimeria' Platform"

Preservation and Publishing

Dene Grigar: "Preserving Literature through Documenting Readers' Experience: The Pathfinders Project"
Jim Rosenberg: "Intergrams in My Pocket. Reflections on Digital Literature Description Portation, and Preservation"
Sandy Baldwin and Celeste Lantz: "CELL: The Consortium for Electronic Literature"
Rob Wittig: "Archiving Ephemera -- The Case of Netprov; Graphic Design in Re-Presenting Electronic LIterature"

Narrative, Computation, Network

Steven Wingate: "Writing Synaptically: Using SCALAR as a Creative Platform"
Eric Stayton: "Computational Editions, Ports, and Remakes of 'First Screening' and 'Karateka'"
Nick Montfort: New Novel Machines: Nanowatt and World Clock
Chris Rodley: "Swimming Against the Data Stream: Plot, Polyphony and Heteroglossia in Data-driven Writing"

ELO2014 Media Arts Show
Judy Malloy:
And Speak of Long_ago Times
"Electronic Literature has come of age in many ways. For me it is a continued focus on the distinction of screen-based story set in motion; the hunting, gathering and remixing of ancient and contemporary narrative; the thrill of inventing a way to score words like music; honing the craft of telling a story in the public square of the Internet; and the interactivity of allowing the reader the choice to click rather than wait for the word music to progress. ...fiddlers_passage, the authoring system for And Speak of Long Ago Times, uses the text-based musical composition system that I began in 1991..." ( About And Speak of Long Ago Times)

A mong many other featured works in the ELO 2014 Media Arts Show are:

Joel Beeson and Dana Coester: War Poems: Critical Race Theory and Database Narrative in Digital Public Histories

Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher: Abra,
an exploration of the potentials of the artists book and the illuminated manuscript in the 21st century

Serge Bouchardon and iTrace Collective: La Séparation/Separation

Andy Campbell and Christine Wilks: INKUBUS

M.D. Coverley: Fukushima Pin Up Girl


Caitlin Fisher: Cardamom of the Dead
"a novel in fragments built using tabletop augmented reality storytelling machines"

Christopher Funkhouser: #4ArtForFreedom

Jacob Garbe and Aaron Reed: Ice Bound
In their words "a narrative experience combining a printed book with an iPad app. Telling a multi-layered story about a polar base sinking into the ice, a famous author's unfinished final novel, and a doubt-riddled artificial intelligence given an impossible task, the project uses procedural generation and augmented reality to help create a truly unique experience where story and gameplay melt into one another."

Will Luers, Hazel Smith, and Roger Dean: Motions

Piotr Marecki and Aleksandra Malecku:The Postulate to Hyperdescribe the World

Mark C. Marino & Rob Wittig plus many participants: Speidishow

Stacey Mason, Stop & Smell
"Stop & Smell was inspired by stretchtext literature, stories in which clicking on links expands a passage to include new text that potentially changes the meaning of the original. By incorporating classic features of literary hypertext -- fragmented, combinatory narrative; ambiguous point of view; discursive agency -- Stop & Smell hopes to challenge the perceived limitations of the page by introducing the affordances of the screen into an analog setting" - from the ELO2014 ELO2014 Media Arts documentation.

Nick Montfort: Round

Judd Morrissey: The Operature

Scott Rettberg and Roderick Coover: Toxi City

Complete information about ELO2014 is available in the resources listed below.

ELO2014 Hold the Light Home Page

Final Program

Kathi Inman Berens, "Disperse the Light"

Media Gallery 2014

1st: Gallery of E-Literature 1st Encounters

The Electronic Literature Organization

Judy Malloy

Hold the Light: Celebrating 15 Years of Electronic Literature

By Dene Grigar,
President, The Electronic Literature Organization

It is hard to imagine that it has been 15 years since the founding of the Electronic Literature Organization by Scott Rettberg, Jeff Ballowe, and Robert Coover following the Technology Platforms for 21st Century Literature, hosted at Brown University. In the ensuing years the ELO has grown beyond the United States and to the continents of Europe, South America, and Australia. Its mission to promote electronic literature has seen much success, measured by its annual conferences, highly visible exhibits and readings, publication of its collections, activity on its social media, and recognition in national publications, both mainstream and academic.

Its first official formal gathering, State of the Arts, was a symposium and media art show, hosted by scholar and ELO benefactor N. Katherine Hayles and held at UCLA in 2002, featuring major figures in the field, including Judy Malloy, John Cayley, Caitlin Fisher, MD Coverley, Stephanie Strickland, Stuart Moulthrop, Talan Memmott, and Loss Pequeño Glazier, to name a few.

A second symposium and evening of performances, The Future of Electronic Literature, was held in 2007 at the University of Maryland, College Park and was organized by highly respect scholar, Matthew Kirschenbaum, with close to 75 people attending.

The first conference with an open call for papers and art was Visionary Landscapes, held in 2008 at Washington State University Vancouver, hosted by my partner John Barber and me.

I had been present at the two symposia and knew from the growing number of participants at both that the ELO could easily sustain a full-fledged conference. The prediction held true, and 119 scholars and artists from 19 different countries participated in the three-day event in Vancouver, WA.

Following Visionary Landscapes, the ELO Board of Directors decided to host conferences every two years. Subsequent conferences took place at Brown University in 2010 ( Archive & Innovate), hosted by John Cayley, and the University of West Virginia in 2012 ( Electrifying Literature), hosted by Sandy Baldwin. Both saw strong attendance and resulted in many new members for the organization.

logo created by Talan Memmott for Chercher le texte

A proposal by Philippe Bootz at University Paris8 and co-founder of the digital poetry group L.A.I.R.E. resulted in the first international ELO conference. Cherchez le texte was held at such prestigious locations as the Centre Pompidou and BnF François-Mitterand. Alternating the conference’s location between the US and Europe meant that the organization could better serve many of its international members. Discussions are now underway for the next international ELO conference in 2015.

We arrive now in 2014, with close to 120 scholars and artists about to arrive in Milwaukee, WI for Hold the Light, hosted by e-lit pioneer Stuart Moulthrop.

It is a watershed moment in that the organization is giving out the first of two annual prizes, "The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature" and "The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature". Hayles will be present to give a keynote address and announce the recipient of Hayles award. The media art show, curated by Kathi Inman Berens, features art by 50 artists from 13 countries. And, of course, we are celebrating the organization’s success in "facilitat[ing] and promot[ing] the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media" for 15 years.

It is an exciting time for electronic literature. To quote scholar Cathy Davidson, who spoke last week in Vancouver, WA, "the Internet is not going away". For those of us devoted to the art and scholarship of electronic literature, this simple fact means that the work we are doing is needed and is, itself, not going away.

As I have written elsewhere, what makes the work that the ELO does absolutely imperative in this "Digital Information Age", as scholar Paul Ceruzzi calls it, is its leadership in developing methods for evaluating quality of "digital" creative and critical works and its insights into cataloging a growing body of "digital" fiction, poetry, and other literary forms, for the ELO is the only organized, scholarly body in the U.S. dedicated solely to the investigation of literature produced for the digital medium.

ELO 2014 Hold the Light provides us the opportunity to continue this important work together for three magical days. I hope to see you there.

Authoring Software