Michael's Reviews > Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary

Electronic Literature by N. Katherine Hayles
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Jan 25, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: tech-studies-comps

In Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), N. Katherine Hayles argues that we cannot understand electronic literature through the lens of print (3); instead, we need to attend to the materiality of the text and moves it makes specific to its own materials and modes. She questions the notion of privileging the hyperlink as the distinguishing characteristic of digital literature because print media has analogous technologies, such as the footnote, references, etc. Additionally, we should question the supposed "user power" that many attribute to the hyperlink, because hyperlinks are already limited selections made by creators (31).

In Chapter 2, she describes the "feedback loops" in which "the human and the digital computer [are:] partners in a dynamic heterarchy bound together by intermediating dynamics" (83, 47) — that is, the human and the computer are increasingly bound together in complex ways. She builds on this in Chapter 3, where she argues that both "People and machines are embodied, and the specificities of their embodiments can best be understood in the recursive dynamics whereby they coevolve with one another" (129). Our bodies' relationships with technologies are one of "open-ended recursivity" (130).

Hayles notes the important aspect that all print material is already digital in its production process. In Chapter 5, Hayles argues that print should actually be understood as an output of digital files, not simply a separate medium from the digital. She writes that "The digital leaves its mark on print in new capabilities for innovative typography, new aesthetics for book design, and in the near future new modes of marketing" (159).
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