Productions of Presence: Sensing Electronic Literature
The paper offers descriptive non-hermeneutical readings of two textual installations – Still Standing by Bruno Nadeau and text.curtain (2005) by Daniel Howe. The underlying bet is that the structural malleability of the tutor-texts will help facilitate the highly abstract debate on the distributed ontology of “flickering signifiers” (HAYLES, 2006). My contention is that the haptic qualities of immersive installations offer grounds for “reading” new literary objects in light of non-interpretative, presence-driven aesthetic theories. (GUMBRECHT, 2004). If print allows words to inhabit the immutable surface of the page, digital poiesis is transient, it is code – which, as John Cayley posits, implies that “transactive mediations” occur at the moment of production (CAYLEY, 2010). In this regard, it is not sufficient to claim that ergodic relations require discrete reader interference – reactive interactivity on a pre-semiotic level. One must also account for the manner in which perception presupposes mediation – which, in turn, is never noise-free and invariably demands cognitive reconfigurations based on (inter)medial reentry paradigms. (SCHÄFER, 2010; JÄGER, 2010). Very succinctly, I submit that the true innovation of digital aesthetics lies in the complex intersection of material instantiation (presence) with recursive intermediation (i.e., disembodied informational patterns presumably circulating independently from the medium instantiating them (HAYLES, 1999). Does proprioceptive awareness of the letter not also trigger a concurrent semiotic reaction, which obligatorily leads to what Wolfgang Iser has termed the act of reading? Or is the fictive immediacy of electronic text more intimately related to what H. U. Gumbrecht characterizes as “being in sync” with the things of the world –i.e., with a nod to Heideggerian ontology, Erleben (lived experience) that surpasses Wahrnehmen (perception) and precedes Erfahrung (interpreted knowledge)?
(Source: Author's conference abstract)