Electronic Literature and Prehistoric Digital Poetry

January 28, 2010 at 3:50 am (Digital Lit)

One of the things that I was interested that was mentioned in the Hayles is the issue of what you call someone who is interacting with digital poetry. Hayles uses the word player in some cases and reader in some cases. This brings up the issue of how people interact with digital literature. Especially in today’s culture, where video games are pervasive in our culture, how does one define the difference between a game and a piece of literature? Hayles gives some of the characteristics of print novels that demonstrate digital characteristics, but this definition can be used in a pinch as a working definition for digitial literature. Hayles’ characteristics are: 1.Digital texts are layered 2. Digital text is multi-modal 3. Storage is separate from performance 4. These texts manifest fractured temporality

A closer look at these characteristics shows that this is also true for most video games, especially more contemporary games that have a complex story line, many of which have multiple options for game play and even variable endings. So when is a reader a reader and when is the reader a player? Most of the dictionary definitions of the word “player” imply some sort of skill or performance, so my thought about a digital text is that it is one that does not require any sort of skill to play, for example “twelve blue” is a text that Hayles refers to the reader as a “player,” but there doesn’t seem to be any particular skill in playing, beyond the ability to follow basic directions. However, many rpg type games also require this same basic skill set. However, many, even most games need the ability to read. Can a game have literary merit? How and where do we draw the line?

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