Archive, Innovate, Wrap Fish
Back in June, the ELO threw a conference and party for Robert Coover, who has done tremendously important work for literary hypertext . I attended, hoping for a reconciliation with some of the ELO crowd. That did not happen, unfortunately. Shortly afterward, I wrote some notes about that conference (which was called “Archive and Innovate”) and put those notes in a special bin where I leave volatile notes to cool.
This conference is now forgotten. But, sorting out the dustheaps to prepare for some new weblog projects, I couldn’t quite see my way to burying these notes.
- It was great to see Bob Coover once more in full demo mode, leading us through the Hypertext Hotel again. It’s a fascinating work, and nowadays many of those students are themselves famous writers.
- It was fun, too, to see the Hotel in Storyspace I for Windows. In principle, it might have been safer to use a more recent Storyspace -- or Tinderbox! – for the demo, but everything went well. This particular copy probably left Eastgate World Headquarters in the fall of 1997. Astonishing that it works as well as it does.
- For twenty years, if you’ve had a problem with Storyspace or wanted to read a good hypertext or needed help to find a reference to a hypertext paper you couldn’t quite remember, we’ve been a phone call away. Try doing that with Intermedia, or Guide, or NoteCards, or Xanadu, or Director.
- That Châteauneuf-du-Pape was memorable.
- Parties and readings and book tours matter a lot in ELO circles. I've never understood this. I think the Postmodern Dinner and the Black & White Ball mattered, and the rest of these literary parties are froth. And I’m not completely sure about Capote’s Party.
- These English professors have remarkable faith in the wisdom of crowds for refining critical categories. This faith seems strangely placed. If crowd-sourced categories are so good, who needs English Professors? What we want from a critic is exceptional insight: we want to see why the work that everyone adores is really dross, and things that nobody pays any attention to are really important. (As it happened, those crowds that were going to crowd-source haven’t materialized, anyway.)
- These are people who discuss replication of hegemonic relations over breakfast and who can toss off a pint of Said and and a sidecar of Foucault while juggling Lacan, Sontag and Cixous . Yet they assume that crowd-sourcing won’t repeat the categorical delusions of, say, 1930’s Europe.
- To say this is to invite derision, and worse.
- The English professors also have a charming faith in open source as a repository of virtue, and some still think that universal standardization — everyone writing with the Official Approved Standard Tool — would make the art world richer. They’re advocates of beaux-arts new media – or would be if such a thing existed – while pretending to despise the salon and its masters. These are revolutionaries who long for state-subsidized art based on state-subsidized and state-approved software.
- At one point, I was rushing downstairs to the loo alongside the most promising of young European new media critics. She knew I was deeply upset about the paper that had just been presented. “It’s not personal!” she reassured me. But that’s precisely the point: it’s not personal at all, it’s about doing the work and getting the facts right.
- It seems to be deeply unfashionable to care about doing the work and getting the facts right.
That unfashionability upset me deeply, until Readercon reminded me that, in other circles, scholarship can still find a home, and that some scholars do understake difficult work without much hope of grants, tenure, an audience or a job, simply because the work needs to be done.