Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 395–396
Global Dimensions Dene Grigar Texas Woman’s University, P.O. Box 425829, Denton, TX 76204, USA
The current media art project I am working on involves a motion tracking system, several computers, two robotic lights, and a couple of projectors and screens installed in a fairly large, darkened space. My collaborators and I perform in the space, moving across it holding trackers in our hands and evoking light, sound, music, video, images, and words in the form of lines from a narrative poem—words both spoken and written. Sometimes the words show up on one of the screens; sometimes they hover in midair, highlighted by the smoke emitted from the smoke machine. When we were preparing the web site for the project, we struggled with what to call the genre of our work. To be sure, submission to media arts shows and funding agencies requires us to call it something. In the end, we settled on “narrative performance-installation.” That way, we argued to one other, the work fits two disciplines: literature and fine arts. But the term we chose bothers us still. The issue of what to call what we do—that web project that cannot neatly be designated hypertext despite the many links because video also functions as a predominant component or that web-based argumentative text that function as a computer game—challenges many of us who work with emergent systems. Go online to the Electronic Literature Organization’s (ELO) Directory and take a look at the difficulty its editors had in organizing the 2000+ works into various genres of so-called literature. The two essays included in this edition’s “Global Dimensions” address hybrid forms of writing. The first, by Randy Adams (Canada), entitled “It Only Needs A Name If You’re Writing About It,” tries to make sense of digital writing. The second, entitled “The Challenges of Hybrid Forms of Electronic Writing,” picks up Adams argument and analyzes the way in which the works found at the ELO’s Directory are named and organized. Taken together, the two pieces offer a debate about the language underlying definitions and descriptions of the writing we all do. A few words about Randy Adams. . .
I came across his name several years ago when I became involved with trAce Online Writing Centre, located online, of course, but hosted by the Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England. Like many of trAce’s denizens, Adams hails from somewhere else—British Columbia Email address: [email protected]
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D. Grigar / Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 395–396
to be exact. His name, listed as associate editor, sat cooly on the trAce masthead. It was not until I began researching the ELO Directory for articles and teaching sites, however, that I actually read anything he had written. His first piece collected by the ELO, “Block Piece,” dates back to 1998 and represents some of his earliest work. Many others have followed. “Contact,” his collaborative project that incorporates both music and images, produced with fellow Canadians Steve Gibson and Jim Andrews, defies easy description. The DVD, in fact, lists none, but it does identify Adams as the contributor of the piece’s images. Like many who create for the World Wide Web, Adams is a multifaceted artist, a photographer, who came to digital writing the way many of us have arrived—circuitously through other art forms, analog forms that required a shift in thinking. The essay he shares with us chronicles his evolution from a successful photographer to digital writer, a much sought after one, as much as it talks about the problem with naming the form he has chosen to express himself with. Accompanying his written essay are links found at C&C Online for those of you who wish to see, firsthand, his notion of digital writing—or whatever we call it.