ENG 394: Junior Honors Seminar: Digital Literature Theory + Practice: Guides

Semester: Spring 2006     Time: T 3:00 - 5:30 pm     Place: Kuy 411

Instructor: John Zuern
Office: Kuykendall 219     Office Hours: TR 1:30 - 3:00 (and by appointment)
Email (the best way to contact me): zuern@hawaii.edu     Telephone: 956-3019

Reading Guide for First Person 207-235 (Cayley, Utterback, Seaman)

Questions for Cayley

  1. Consider the question Cayley poses in the opening of his chapter: "do constraints that are imposed on the manipulations of pixels in order that they produce the outlines of letters tell us anything about those letters or the words which they, in turn, compose?" (208).
  2. What does Cayley mean by "literal art" (210)?
  3. How does Cayley define "digital" (212) what do you think of his definition?
  4. What is the relationship between "pixel" and "line" in Cayley's argument?
  5. Does Johanna Drucker's perspective on digital literature (in her response to Cayley) differ from Cayley's? If so, how?
  6. What do you make of Nick Monfort's claim (in his response to Cayley) that "it is 'true' and 'false,' not 0 and 1, that are the fundamental abstractions of computing" (211).

Questions for Utterback

Check out Alex Frank's Don't Click It project and think about Utterback's (and Seaman's) comments about our embodiment as a factor in "human-computer interaction."

  1. What's missing, for Utterback, in many digital forms of text-based art?
  2. How do installation-based digital literary works like Text Rain work against the solitary individualism of traditional paper-based reading practices? Are paper-based practices always solitary?
  3. What do you think Utterback means in her last sentence by "re-embodying" our relationship between our physical selves and our machines? (226).
  4. How does Matt Gorbet (in his response) critique Utterback's poetic/practical distinction?
  5. Do you understand the reference to the "narrative arc" in Gorbet's response? (222).
  6. How important is it for you that texts present themselves in "familiar" ways? (Think about your reaction to Lexia to Perplexia.)
  7. Can you imagine ways to include the reader's body more in digital artworks, given what you know about available technologies?
  8. How would you start to answer Gorbet's compelling question, "If these pieces are the haiku of the genre, how might we go about creating the Homer?" (222). Note, however, the slippage around the term "genre."
  9. Check out the documentation of Tilty Table, which Gorbet discusses.

Questions for Seaman

  1. How has your relationship with your own body changed as you have acquired and (acquired expertise with) technological devices such as cell phones, PDAs, digital scales, build-in navigational systems in cars, etc.?
  2. How would you describe what Seaman is calling "recombinant poetics?" (233).
  3. What ethical questions arise alongside some of the artworks Seaman describes involving humans and animals?
  4. You might want to hunt around on the Web for glosses for some of the theoretical terms Seaman invokes. Particulary important for his argument are Derrida's ideas of différance and Deleuze's ideas of rhizome and flow. Gromala's response is helpful in clarifying some of these usages.
  5. How does Seaman's attitude about verbal text--for example in his assertation that "[t]he ‘word’ is not valued in a hierarchy over other media elements or processes in such a space" (231) --compare with Cayley's positions on the position of text in digital artworks?
  6. What do you think of the neologism vuser? (233).
  7. Do you understand the idea of "proprioception" in Gromala's response (228)?

last updated 01/27/06 by jz