The Role of the Electronic Literature Organization
With just over 30 years of development under its belt, electronic literature, the field that the ELO represents, is relatively a new area of investigation when we consider it within the historical context of literary works produced for the oral, written, and print mediums. But if we think of it within the framework of literature expressed in yet another medium, the digital, then it can easily be regarded as the continuation of a very long tradition, one that is exploring the affordances and constraints of this new medium much like we saw the written visual/concrete poetry in the 2nd and 3rd centuries in Alexandria and printed novels like Laurence Stern’s Tristram Shandy in 18th century did in theirs. What makes the work that the ELO does absolutely imperative in this “Digital Information Age,” as scholar Paul Ceruzzi calls it, is its leadership in developing methods for evaluating quality of “digital” creative and critical works and its insights into cataloging its growing body of “digital” fiction, poetry, and other literary forms, for the ELO is the only scholarly body in the U.S. dedicated solely to the investigation of literature produced for the digital medium.
From the start the ELO has made common cause with organizations such as Creative Commons, Archiving the Avant Garde, ArchiveIT.org, and the Library of Congress, to ensure the open circulation, attributed citation, and preservation of works, without which no field can develop.
Equally important is the discovery of talent and common areas of interest among our membership. Our affiliation with numerous organizations attests to the extensive network of people who produce works and the growing audience that reads, discusses, and teaches e-lit. The collection and circulation of works is another way that developments in the field are recorded and made available to our membership – continuously in the Electronic Literature Directory, serially in the Electronic Literature Collection, our archival work, and perennially in the Library of Congress Archive-IT initiative. Through our conference series, we provide a way for artists, writers, and scholars to productively discuss existing work and to further develop the field.