Electronic literature

Electronic literature

Electronic literature is a literary genre consisting of works of literature that originate within digital environments.



N. Katherine Hayles discusses the topic in the online article Electronic Literature: What Is It. She argues in her 2008 text Electronic Literature that, "electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast 'digital born,' and (usually) meant to be read on a computer."[1] Hayles also cites the definition offered by the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) as, "work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer." [1]

On its official website, the ELO offers this additional definition of electronic literature as consisting of works which are:

  • E-books, hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
  • Animated poetry presented in graphical forms, for example Flash and other platforms
  • Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
  • Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing.

There is some speculation that performance based variations of Flashmobs that originate online, such as Improv Everywhere, also qualify as electronic literature.[2]

Preservation and archiving

Electronic literature, according to Hayles, becomes unplayable after a decade or less due to the "fluid nature of media." Therefore, electronic literature risks losing the opportunity to build the "traditions associated with print literature."[3] On the other hand, classics such as Michael Joyce's afternoon, a story (1987) are still read and have been republished on CD, while simple HTML hypertext fictions from the 1990s are still accessible online and can be read in modern browsers.

Several organizations are dedicated to preserving works of electronic literature. The UK-based Digital Preservation Coalition aims to preserve digital resources in general, while the Electronic Literature Organization's PAD (Preservation / Archiving / Dissemination) initiative gave recommendations on how to think ahead when writing and publishing electronic literature, as well as how to migrate works running on defunct platforms to current technologies.[4][5]

The Electronic Literature Collection is a series of anthologies of electronic literature published by the Electronic Literature Organization, both on CD/DVD and online, and this is another strategy in working to make sure that electronic literature is available to future generations.

The Maryland Institute for Technologies in the Humanities also works to archive electronic literature.

Notable people and works

There are a number of notable authors, critics, and works associated with electronic literature.

See also



  1. ^ a b Hayles, N. Katherine (2008). "Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary". University of Notre Dame. http://newhorizons.eliterature.org/index.php. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  2. ^ "About the ELO: What is Electronic Literature?". ELO. 2008. http://eliterature.org/about/. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  3. ^ 4 Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination, Electronic Literature: What is it?
  4. ^ Montfort, Nick and Noah Wardrip-Fruin "Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature". The Electronic Literature Organization, 2004.
  5. ^ Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merrilee Proffitt, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. "2005 “Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature”. Electronic Literature Organization, 2005.
  6. ^ Official website for Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary

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