ELO is proud to announce the first winners of the “The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature” and “The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature,” two new annual awards in the field. Designed to draw attention to the rising tide in this area, these awards awards mark a significant new initiative in ELO’s support of scholarship and art in the world of digital literature.
The winner of the Coover award is Jason Edward Lewis for his work, “Vital to the General Public Welfare” (The PoEMM Cycle), and the winner of the Hayles Award is Johannes Heldén & Håkan Jonson for their work, Evolution. Honorary Mention for the Coover Award goes to Aaron Reed for “18 Cadence.” Honorary Mention for the Hayles Award goes Calum Rodger for “Reading the Drones: Working Towards a Critical Tradition of Interactive Poetry Generation.” Below is the official announcement of the awards.
“The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature”
“The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature” saw 18 submissions from Spain, the US, Australia, Peru, the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Brazil. The Criteria Workgroup that developed the Submission Guidelines for the Award included Judy Malloy, Jennifer Ley, Laura Zaylea, and Brian Kim Stefans. The Jury consisted of Bobby Arellano, Christine Wilks, Patrick LeMieux, and Luciana Gattass.
The winner of this award is Jason Edward Lewis for his work, “Vital to the General Public Welfare” (The PoEMM Cycle).
This work is, according to one Jurist, “[i]n its entirety . . . very impressive and most enjoyable to read. There’s a marvellous range of different modalities combined with touch interaction, used to great poetic, narrative and thematic effect. . . . These works are at the cutting edge of electronic literature and stand out in the way they thoroughly embrace interactive reading in the multi-touch, multi-screen present and future.” Another wrote, “This is serious poetry and beautifully designed in an ambitious project cycle.”
Honorary Mention goes to Aaron Reed for “18 Cadence.”
One Jurist remarked that “’18 Cadence” “combines interactive fiction with a memetic, cut-and-paste interface that allows reader and player to become the maker of their own microstories. ‘18 Cadence’ is a beautifully designed, complex reading experience not only of a hundred years of one house, but of those fictions produced by other readers.” Another wrote, “Engaging story, intentionally minimalist, encouraged discovery as well as play in a multi-modal synchronous interface.”
“The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature” is an award given for the best work of electronic literature of any length or genre. Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation from supporters and members of the ELO, this $1000 annual prize aims to recognize creative excellence. The prize comes with a plaque showing the name of the winner and an acknowledgement of the achievement, and a one-year membership in the Electronic Literature Organization at the Associate Level.
“The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature”
“The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature” saw 9 submissions, consisting of four books and five articles by scholars from the UK, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, and Scotland. The Criteria Workgroup that created the Submission Guidelines for the award included Matt Kirschenbaum, Chris Funkhouser, and Rita Raley. The Jury consisted of Jill Walker, Anastasia Salter, Pat Jagoda, and Stephanie Boluk.
The Winner of this award is Johannes Heldén & Håkan Jonson for their work, Evolution.
“Evolution” by Johannes Heldén & Håkan Jonson, wrote one Jurist, “an interesting critical-creative experiment. . . . [that] captures the boundary crossing spirit of the ELO.” Another wrote that “Evolution” “is both a work of literature and multi-voiced, multi-modal criticism.” Another wrote that “this collection of seven short critical responses to the generative poem Evolution by Johannes Heldén and Håkan Jonson plays with the genre of criticism by enclosing the essays within over 200 pages of code. . . . Each of the essays in this collection is poetic and thought-provoking in its own way. . . . The rest of the book is left to the code itself, and to logs of its output. Perhaps the book was written, compiled, designed by Evolution itself. Even the table of contents looks like computer code, laid out the way that a piece of software might prefer. I’m ranking this book first on my list because of its challenges to the form of criticism – there is a creativity and unexpectedness in the way that these responses to the text are presented that is very engaging and that contributes to the work and to the field in general.”
Honorary Mention goes to Calum Rodger for “Reading the Drones: Working Towards a Critical Tradition of Interactive Poetry Generation.”
One Jurist wrote that “this essay offers an extremely clear and useful intervention into why we should study Interactive Poetry Generation in literary criticism.” Another said that it “combines a wide-ranging knowledge of conceptual poetry with computation” and “offers many lucid insights in an under-examined field of literary and media practice.”
“The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature” is an award given for the best work of criticism, of any length, on the topic of electronic literature. Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation from N. Katherine Hayles and others, this $1000 annual prize aims to recognize excellence in the field. The prize comes with a plaque showing the name of the winner and an acknowledgement of the achievement, and a one-year membership in the Electronic Literature Organization at the Associate Level.
More on the winning works:
Vital to the General Public Welfare (The PoEMM Cycle) is a series of interactive multi-touch text-works about making sense of crazy talk & kid talk, the meanings of different shades of purple, the conundrums of being a Cherokee boy adopted by Anglos and raised in northern California mountain country, and the importance of calling a sundae a sundae. The cycle consists of eight multi-model, multi-platform works, each in four versions: large-scale wall, tablet and phone touch surfaces, plus printed text-images.
The conceptual genesis of this series lies in documents filed in a 1964 Louisiana court case seeking to ascertain an adopted child’s racial classification. The judge claimed that the proper identification of the child’s race was vital to the general public welfare; in other words, whichever way the child’s race was classified, a wrong classification would endanger the fundamental fabric of the majority culture. I was adopted only three years afterwards, in 1967, a Cherokee/Hawaiian/Samoan boy given a home by a white family from rural northern California. I have since come to see the judge’s claim as a powerful metaphor for conversations we have not only about racial classification but also about any number of exclusionary principals that are deemed central to a well-functioning society. The series thus engages the question of how we talk to one another, how we locate ourselves in wider cultural geographies, how we authenticate ourselves against our own expectations and that of others, and how matters that are once seen as so important—so ‘vital’—can later be regarded as contingent. (Regarding the directive to provide an “explanation of the work’s impact on the field”… is that not for critics and historians to do? It is impossible, or, at least, suspicious to assess one’s own impact.)
Publication Date: 2014
Vital to the General Public Welfare (The PoEMM Cycle) was completed in January 2014, with the publication of the eighth and final app.
Materials: Objective-C for iOS.
• The Great Migration: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
• Smooth Second Bastard: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
• No Choice About the Terminology: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
• The Summer the Rattlesnakes Came: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
• The World Was White: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
• The World That Surrounds You Wants Your Death: http://itunes.apple.com/app/
As mentioned above, each P.o.E.M.M. also exists in an exhibition format for large-scale touchscreen; these version can be seen in the video documentation. Materials: Java for Windows OS.
• streaming: http://vimeo.com/61716204.
• download: http://bit.ly/1jsMjV9
Five of the exhibition versions also incorporate large-scale text-images. These images can best be seen in P.o.E.M.M. The Album, a book made for documenting the project. A .pdf version can be found at http://bit.ly/1mKtujq. I also believe Dene Grigar has a hard copy of the book.
Jason Edward Lewis is a digital media artist, poet and software designer. He founded Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media, where he directs research/creation projects devising new means of creating and reading digital texts, developing systems for creative use of mobile technology, designing alternative interfaces for live performance, and using virtual environments to assist Aboriginal communities in preserving, interpreting and communicating cultural histories. Lewis is committed to developing intriguing new forms of expression by working on conceptual, creative and technical levels simultaneously. His creative work has been featured at the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), Ars Electronica Center, ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Urban Screens, and Mobilefest, among other venues, his writing about new media has been presented at conferences, festivals and exhibitions on four continents, and his work has won awards at the ELO, Ars Electronica, and imagineNative events. He is currently an Associate Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montreal.
15. Aaron Reed
18 Cadence is a storymaking platform that lets participants explore the history of a fictional house from 1900 to the year 2000. The text the reader encounters is malleable: fragments can be dragged and recombined on a workbench to create new stories. Like magnetic fridge poetry for narrative, fingers push around sentences and shape individual events into meaningful progressions. Stories can be shared and remixed with others online, and the several hundred stories created so far include works reminiscent of cut-up poetry, exhaustive character portraits, minimalist object studies, and word collage vignettes. By turning words and phrases into procedural pieces, 18 Cadence invites readers to play with the atoms of a story, and consider the malleability of a history.
18 Cadence is notable for successfully positioning itself at the intersection between traditional literature, e-lit, and indie game communities. The project was selected by Kirkus as a “Best Book App” of 2013, while also receiving an Honorable Mention at the 2014 Independent Games Festival awards in the Nuovo category (recognizing innovation). It has also appeared in the Rio Grande Review, and was exhibited at the chercher le texte festival in Paris, France in 2013. By connecting disparate audiences through its story-sharing mechanic, 18 Cadence opens a dialogue between different communities interested in narrative and interactivity.
4. Johannes Heldén & Håkan Jonson. Evolution (print version)
OEI editör, 2014. Edition of 600. 240 pp. ISBN: 978-91-85905-66-9.
Note that the digital version of this work was submitted to the Coover award as well — this is the print version, which includes essays on the work, by John Cayley, Maria Engberg, Jesper Olsson, Cecilia Lindhé, Jonas Ingvarsson and Jakob Lien – as well as writings by the authors of the work. The text contributions (white pages) are distributed into the code of the actual work (black pages) throughout the book.
Evolution is an online artwork-in-progress designed to emulate the texts and music of poet and artist Johannes Heldén, with the ultimate goal of passing “The Imitation Game Test” as proposed by Alan Turing in 1951. With Evolution we aim to examine and dissect the role of the author; when new poetry that resembles the work of the original author is created or presented through an algorithm, is it possible to make the distinction between “author” and “programmer”? And is it even relevant? When the work of the algorithm is extrapolated to the point where the original author becomes redundant, how does this affect copyright, legacy, future writings, etc? The purpose of the work is not to deromanticize or deconstruct the role of the author, but is rather the ongoing exploration itself. Where will it take us, and perhaps more importantly, what will happen along the way? The release of Evolution will mark the end of Johannes Heldén writing poetry books. He has, in a sense, been replaced.
The application analyzes a database of all the published text- and soundworks by the artist and generates a continuously evolving poem that simulates Heldén’s style: in vocabulary, the spacing in-between words, syntax. The audio track is generated by an algorithm that layers the source material of the artist’s compositions in differing randomized lengths, fades and pitch; creating an evolving ambient drone.
The source material for the work consists of all published poetry and music by Heldén: ten print poetry books (2002-2013) and four digital works (2006-2013), and three full-length music albums (2002-2013).
During 2013 Evolution has been exhibited at Chercher le texte, Centre Pompidou; ICIDS 2013, Istanbul; HASTAC 2013; Oslo Poetry Film Festival; MacDowell Downtown in Peterborough, NH, USA; Bergen Library in Norway and more. In May 2014 it is exhibited at the OEI Color Project Gallery in Stockholm. Evolution was partly financed by a grant from the Swedish Artists Fund. When presented live in a performance setting, Johannes Heldén reads live from the work as it is continuously generating new text and audio.
“Textual caves. Expanding the literary writing space,” which I’m submitting for consideration for The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature. I believe that it sheds a new light on the predigital writing and may be of interest to the research community.
8. Calum Rodger. “Reading the Drones: Working Towards a Critical Tradition of Interactive Poetry Generation.” Forthcoming in ‘Formules 18: Littérature et Numérique: quand, comment, pourquoi?’, as one of the papers proceeding from Chercher le texte/Locating the Text: ELO Conference 2013 (due for publication in June 2014).
Reading the Drones: Working Towards a Critical Tradition of Interactive Poetry Generation
While much contemporary criticism of electronic literature focuses on intermedial texts, which emphasise visual, aural and kinaesthetic interaction as much as they do textual, the combinatorial text generators which characterised the early days of electronic literature have never really gone away. Indeed, as with later electronic forms, the advent of the web has made these programs accessible to a much wider audience. Text generators such as JanusNode and Gnoetry – here defined as interactive poetry generators – give the user a degree of control of generative possibilities that places the distinction between poet and reader in jeopardy to an unprecedented degree. Recent developments such as the Facebook app ‘What Would I Say?’ and Oscar Schwarz’s project ‘bot or not?’ further suggest that generative emphases still have much to teach us about contemporary poetics and our relationship to language in new media. As such, this article works towards naturalising programs such as JanusNode as objects of literary study in the belief that the theoretical and critical attitudes developing henceforth will give fresh insight into the contemporary literary, linguistic and technological landscape, whilst reminding us of their literary – indeed, poetic – pedigree.
This research was originally presented at the ‘Forms of Innovation: Literature and Technology’ symposium at the University of Durham, September 2012. It was then developed and expanded at the ELO Conference 2013 in Paris where it was met with enthusiasm; it is hoped its imminent publication in Formules 18 will reach a wider audience and stimulate further discussion.