Announcing the 2017 ELO Prize Winners

 Announcing International Awards in Electronic Literature: 

The 2017 ELO Prize

— Porto Portugal

Literature is changing right in front of our eyes, and this year’s awards from the Electronic Literature Organization celebrate artists and scholars who are at the vanguard.

At the annual conference of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), held this year in Porto, Portugal, President Dene Grigar announced the 2017 ELO Prize winners: Alan Bigelow, John Cayley, and David Jhave Johnston for transformative work in the field of digital literature.   Second place winners include María Mencía, Mez Breeze and Andy Campbell, and shortlisted authors include Serge Bouchardon, JR Carpenter, Judy Malloy, Anastasia Salter.

The ELO Prize consists of two international awards, one for creative work and one for critical scholarship in the area of electronic literature, and a third award celebrating lifetime achievement in the field of digital literature.  All three prizes come with a $1000 purse.

The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature

1st Place: “How to Rob a Bank” by Alan Bigelow

2nd Place:  “All the Delicate Duplicates” by Mez Breeze and Andy Campbell

Shortlist: “DO IT” by Serge Bouchardon

“The Gathering Cloud” by JR Carpenter

The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature is given for the best creative work of electronic literature of any length or genre.  This year, Alan Bigelow (US) won for “How to Rob a Bank.” Second Place went to Mez Breeze (Australia) and Andy Campbell’s (UK) “All the Delicate Duplicates.”  Serge Bouchardon’s (France) “DO IT” and JR Carpenter’s (UK) “The Gathering Cloud” were shortlisted.

“How to Rob a Bank” is a contemporary story about a bank robbery gone bad told through screenshots and animations from the protagonist’s iPhone as he uses Google searches, Wikipedia pages, social networks, apps, and websites to achieve his goal. Built in HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, it is playable on desktops, laptops, and portable devices.

One judge wrote, “Alan Bigelow’s “How to Rob a Bank” is formally interesting [with] its use of Google searches, app screenshots, net radio, etc. Particularly enjoyed the gameplay interludes, as they change the register of the whole thing and communicate the combination of boredom and panic. Characters build up over time and take on weight in the imagination.”

Another said that it is a “very clever work taps into a Bonnie and Clyde mythos to tell a work that is very American in its structure, technologies, and conception. Just as Bonnie and Clyde captured the American zeitgeist and landscape in 1967, “How to Rob a Bank” captures our contemporary digital landscape of apps, social networks, GIS, and their reflection of analog reality. It is Bigelow’s most successful work to date.”

The Coover prize second place went to Mez Breeze and Andy Campbell for “All the Delicate Duplicates.” A game created for the PC platform, it unfolds as a haunting narrative about a single father, John, who inherits a collection of arcane objects from his mysterious relative named Mo. Over time, John and his daughter Charlotte begin to realize that these objects have unusual properties: the more they are exposed to them, the more their reality and memories appear to change.

One judge commented, “Exquisitely produced immersive atmosphere, environment, tone, and narrative. It is an excellent example of how the poetic line is still one of the best ways to deploy language in digital environments.” Another said that “[The w]riting [is b]eautiful and evocative. The [v]isuals are rich and immersive. Use of ‘physical’ text particularly engaging, whether forming objects, sculptures, or streaming across the landscape.”

Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation from supporters and members of the ELO, this annual prize aims to recognize creative excellence.


The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature

1st place: Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry’s Ontological Implications by David Jhave Johnston

2nd Place: #WomenTechLit edited by María Mencía



“Towards an Tension-Based Definition of Digital Literature” by Serge Bouchardon 

Social Media Archeology and Poetics ed. by Judy Malloy

Alice in Dataland by Anastasia Salter

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. This year, the N. Katherine Hayles Award went to David Jhave Johnston for Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry’s Ontological Implications (MIT Press, 2016).

“This book offers a decoder for some of the new forms of poetry enabled by digital technology. Examining many of the strange technological vectors converging on language, it proposes a poetics appropriate to the digital era while connecting digital poetry to traditional poetry’s concerns with being (a.k.a. ontological implications). Digital poetry, in this context, is not simply a descendent of the book. Digital poems are not necessarily “poems” or written by “poets”; they are found in ads, conceptual art, interactive displays, performative projects, games, or apps. Poetic tools include algorithms, browsers, social media, and data. Code blossoms into poetic objects and poetic proto-organisms.” –The MIT Press

In discussing the merits of this book, one judge said that “Jhave understands . . . that “the literary” may no longer be primarily textual or even verbal/linguistic. Hence a knowledgeable (and actively trans-disciplinary) engagement is called for among artists, scholars and curators who are capable of sharing some basic knowledge with scientists, technologists, programmers and (not least) administrators of Open Access, not for profit institutions. Aesthetically, literary scholars no less than makers need to engage with visual, sonic and computational media. Jhave achieves such widespread fluency, yet his starting point and sustained concern is with the aesthetic and there’s a sustained argumentative focus throughout the volume, from its early announcement of its aim.”

Another judge wrote, “Jhave argues persuasively that it is in the convergence of literature and computation that language truly comes alive, proliferates, “rolls over” and wriggles through data space. [His] expressive prose matches his bold ideas. At the same time, the book’s structure provides a clear, scholarly, always informative account and analysis of the theories of animism in language arts and its practice in computer-based arts.”

The Hayles Prize Second Place went to #WomenTechLit edited by María Mencía (Center for Literary Computing Press, 2017).  The book is introduced by N. Katherine Hayles. Contributors include: Maria Angel, Kate Armstrong, Kathi Inman Berens, Amaranth Borsuk, Mez Breeze, J.R. Carpenter, Odile Farge, Natalia Fedorova, Anna Gibbs, María Goicoechea, Dene Grigar, Angelica J. Huizar, Zuzana Husárová, Claudia Kozak, Deena Larsen, Dolores Romero López, Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink, Judy Malloy, María Mencía, Jeneen Naji, Maya Zalbidea Paniagua, Giovanna di Rosario, Laura Sánchez, Laura Shackelford, Hazel Smith, Stephanie Strickland, and Christine Wilks.

“This book of electronic literature (e-lit) brings together pioneering and emerging women whose work has earned international impact and scholarly recognition. It extends a historical critical overview of the state of the field from the diverse perspectives of twenty-eight worldwide contributors. It illustrates the authors’ scholarly interests through discussion of creative practice as research, historical accounts documenting collections of women’s new media art and literary works, and art collectives. It also covers theoretical approaches and critical overviews, from feminist discourses to close readings and “close-distant-located readings” of pertinent works in the field. #WomenTechLit includes authors from Latin America, Russia, Austria, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the US.  This volume addresses electronic literature but also in the adjacent areas of language art, new media art practices, digital humanities, and feminist studies.”—Center for Literary Computing Press

One judge stated that “#WomenTechLit is a celebration of the contributions of multiple generations of women to the field of electronic literature. Rather than a schematic history, it presents a polyphony of voices from the women who have helped form the core thinking and techniques in hypertext, multimedia, computational arts, augmented reality, VR , social media, flash animation and sound arts.” A second judge said that “David Foster Wallace once made a helpful observation about a certain kind of essay, which he called a “service essay,” both in terms of the work it does (a public service) and in terms of its virtue (to serve others). . . . The collection edited by . . . María Mencía,  [is] laudable for the coverage and depth that they provide to the field of electronic literature, indeed, to helping establish it as a field.”


The Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award

Winner: John Cayley

Scholar: Luciana Gattas


The Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award was given to poet/practitioner, professor, scholar, critic, and translator, John Cayley. A Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, Cayley investigates ambient poetics in programmable media and writing for immersive stereo 3D audiovisual environments (the ‘Cave’ and now also the ‘YURT’). He is working with the Brown University Library (Center for Digital Scholarship) and CIS staff to produce a ‘Distributed Gallery’ driven by arts-project and other documentary material in the Brown Digital Repository and has organized several conferences (‘Interrupt’s I, II, III and IV; ‘Visuality and Creativity in Immersive 3D Environments — from Cave to YURT’; and ‘ELO_AI: Archive and Innovate.’)

In his long career Cayley has produced a stunning series of works. In 2001, his windsound was the winner of the Electronic Literature Organization’s Award for Poetry. Other remarkable works include: riverIsland (1999- ) a navigable text movie, overboard (2003- ) an example of ambient poetics in digital (multi)media, The Readers Project (2009- ) with Daniel Howe, a collaboration for the development of quasi-autonomous software readers for a multi-faceted literary installation and performance work. Most recently, his piece, The Listeners, using Alexa, a domestic, data-gathering robot, moves the field forward in terms of technical experimentation.  Details of his internationally recognized writing in networked and programmable media may be found on his personal website*

Cayley is also well known as a literary scholar and theorist in the field of digital practice. He has, over the years, delivered dozens of papers, written chapters for books, contributed to journals and book reviews, and written books.  His essays include among many others: ‘Literal Art: Neither Lines nor Pixels but Letters.’First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. 208-17;  ‘Beyond Codexspace: Potentialities of Literary Cybertext’ (Media Poetry: An International Anthology. Ed. Eduardo Kac. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2007), ‘Screen Writing: A Practice-based, EuroRelative Introduction to Digital Literature and Poetics’ (Literary Art in Digital Performance: Case Studies in New Media Art and Criticism. Ed. Francisco J. Ricardo. New York: Continuum, 2009);  ‘The Code Is Not the Text (Unless It Is the Text)’ (electronic book review 2002-10-09); and ‘The Advent of Aurature and the End of (Electronic) Literature’ (The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature. Ed. Joseph Tabbi. New York, 2017).  Image Generation:  a reader, was published by Veer Books, London in 2015. This book brings together original ‘supply’ texts and works composed from generated poetic language.

ELO awards these prizes at its annual conference.  The next conference will be held in Montrèal.  The call for next year’s awards will be issued months before via ELO’s Website.

The Electronic Literature Organization, or ELO, is A 501(c)(3) non­profit organization composed of an international community that includes writers, artists, teachers, scholars, and developers. The Organization’s focus is new literary forms that are made to be read on digital systems, including smartphones, Web browsers, and networked computers. ELO is an international organization of artists and scholars, currently based at Washington State University, Vancouver.

For more information about the ELO Prizes, contact Nicholas Schiller, ELO Coordinator at, or Mark Marino at  markcmarino at