Are pixels the future of literature ? | Giovanna Di Rosario | TEDxUCLouvain

Translator: Jeffrey McLean
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney Okay, think of your favorite book. A novel, a short story,
maybe a poetry collection. Done? Yes? No?
Tell me something. Yes, okay, now forget about it. And forget a little bit about the idea
of literature you might have. What’s happening to literature
in our digital society? Is literature becoming digital as well? Today, I would like to briefly introduce
you to this new genre of literature that is called ‘digital literature’
or ‘electronic literature’ or even e-Lit,
short for electronic literature. Many names, I know. But, what is this? I don’t know if you’ve ever heard
about digital literature. Or maybe not. Digital literature is digital born. So, you shouldn’t think of
your favorite book in a PDF version that you can read on your iPad. It’s not that. And you shouldn’t think either
of eBook readers. Digital literature is created for
and on digital devices such as computers,
smartphones, and tablets. It mixes different semiotic
systems and media, which means that you can read texts composed of just linguistic texts both phrases and words. But, other texts, many other texts, are composed of texts, images, and sound. It can be interactive and elements, words, even letters can move around, appear and disappear. So, what is this? Well, one definition of digital
literature is provided by the ELO. The Electronic Literature Organization. And according to the ELO,
Electronic Literature refers to works with important literary aspects
that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by
the stand-alone or networked computer. So, digital literature
is a quite new genre of literature. The first example, the first work
of digital literature was created in 1952. It’s called “Love Letters”
by Christopher Strachey. Christopher Strachey wasn’t a writer.
He was a computer scientist. And a pioneer in programming language. And he was a friend of Alan Turing. And in 1952, he used Alan Turing’s
random number generator to create combinatory love letters. What you’re seeing now
is just a simulator. But, writing love letters
should require time, some effort, maybe some pain … if you’re writing to someone
that doesn’t love you. And suddenly, a machine can generate
as many love letters as you want. And in one click. Maybe the literary and poetic result
might not be perfect. But, think! Already in 1952,
a machine could generate love letters. Something so human. Since then, many things have changed. And technology itself has changed a lot. Computers, smartphones and the internet
are part of our daily life. And we are always on. So, many works of digital literature
are now available online for free, which is interesting. And digital literature
has transformed itself. Now, it is a literature to read,
of course, but also to look at, to listen to, to touch, and to play with. But, let’s have a look …
a closer look at a couple examples of some recent texts. The first one is “Déprise”
by Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert. It was first published in French in 2010. “Déprise” tells the story
of a man who is losing grasp, and his relationship
with his wife and his son. Well, it’s an interactive work,
which means that you need to interact with the text,
and sometimes to be really inventive to get what you need to do
in order to keep reading. In one scene, for example,
you can direct the reading direction. If you direct the reading direction
in one way, you will read a love letter. If you direct the other way around,
you will read a break-up letter. So, this text, besides
telling you a story … mirrors your experience as a reader
of an interactive, digital literary work. While reading online, we think
that we are kind of free. We think it’s a democratic space. One of these things,
the last one, is showing us that it’s not always like this. In this scene, the main protagonist
is retaking control over his life. And you, the reader,
are retaking control over the text. The text is suggesting to you
that you can type whatever you want, in a special space. In fact, it doesn’t matter
what kind of letter you try to type, the text that emerges
is always another one. This is a new rhetorical figure, one of those literary aspects
that we talked about before. It is called “interfacial antagonism”. It means that the text
does exactly the opposite of what you, the reader, are expecting. You think you can type whatever you want, In fact, you cannot. So, digital literature
raises many questions, and shares elements with literature,
of course, but also with art, cinema, informatics,
and with video games. There are playful aspects
in digital literature, as there are narratological aspects
in video games. The next text I would like to show you
mixes these two genres. It’s called “Liberdade”,
“freedom” in Portuguese. Here, you are invited to navigate into a three-dimensional space, or environment. You can move around the text,
and you can even fly over it. And, in fact, you have to read
and direct your navigation, your reading direction
through your mouse and keyboard. Like in a video game. Liberdade was created in 2013
by a group of multi-disciplinary people, directed by Alckmar dos Santos
and Chico Marinho. So, not just one author,
but a group of people working on it. And the scenario is the symbolic
and metaphoric, digital version of the real barrio, the real neighborhood,
Liberdade, in São Paulo, Brazil. So, the text talks about character, events
of that part of the city. Liberdade takes us into
an imaginary island surrounded by water. The text is composed of short stories, poems, images, and there is some sound, here there is silence,
but there is some sound. And there is also a prison … actually the opposite
of the word freedom, liberdade. While navigating,
you find some hot spots where you acquire memories
of what you have seen. It’s like in a video game,
you pass from one level to another. But, if you leave the island,
and you go to water, because you are on an island
and surrounded by water … If you leave the island and go to water,
you lose your memories. And you have to restart the text
from the very beginning, like in a video game. So, we have seen that these texts
are quite different from one another. But, we have identified
some elements that constitute canon characteristics
of electronic literature. Of course, there is much more. We have seen that there has been
a change of style in electronic literature from the very first texts
to Liberdade, for example. We have identified some literary aspects,
for example, the rhetorical figures and tackled some new
narrative strategies. We have seen that the machine flows
give us an unstable text. In this sense, we talk about
aesthetics of the ephemeral or aesthetics of the flow. Because the same text
cannot reappear exactly the same way to different readers, like in Liberdade. So, digital literature
is a recent genre of literature in constant transformation
with possibilities yet to be discovered. Now, re-think of your favorite book, and now go and navigate and discover your favorite text
of electronic literature. Thank you. (Applause)

3 Replies to “Are pixels the future of literature ? | Giovanna Di Rosario | TEDxUCLouvain

  1. New Super Position AI Run Digital Literature / could be exciting now mix the storyLine with Virtual Reality / you could go on Vacation inside your head (co-joined with Quantum/inter dimensional AI) how much control over the Mayhem does the Human get? Safe words? The AI (Blockchain) has an IQ of roughly 1,200 compared to a human at an average of well you know / …

    The neutrino network is coming online with the luxe Zepplin AI project/ the AI's will be moving (from within particles) / on the Neutrino Network / at work at faster than the speed of light / interacting with humans … Who programmed the AI Logic into the source code? are they Pro Humanity? Or Eugenics Programmed? We Demand to know

  2. Anyone knows where I can find the last example – libertagia? It seems very interesting, but I have problem to recognize it and find out on the Internet.

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