Flash points: Reading electronic literature as a metaphor for creativity
In her groundbreaking volume Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), N. Katherine Hayles describes the concept of a ‘flash point’ as a moment within pedagogy or teaching practice when a student grasps the complex potential of a digital work. As a form of pedagogical breakthrough moment, the concept of the flash point also alludes to a mode of creativity that acknowledges the possibility that neurological processes can be replicated, if only metaphorically, in creative works. In this article, we explore the possibilities suggested by the idea of the flash point as a teaching model and as a metaphor for creativity beyond the teaching of digital literature. We build upon our experiences as teachers within a digital literary and creative writing context, respectively. What the two different writing and teaching contexts have in common is the fostering of writing in a digital age as a central practice. The article examines how digital media and writing come together in pedagogical practices. If creativity can be prompted in such intimately felt moments by an interface or digital media experience, can the creation of electronic or digital literature also act as a model for learning within the humanities and the arts more generally, as the use of digital tools spreads?
In the end, while teachers will always need the ability to identify and interpret flash points in their own experiences of teaching, their ability to also defer to their students’ innovations and knowledge may well determine the extent to which they are able to successfully and creatively navigate the potential of new media learning experiences.