Electronic literature, despite such promotional successes as we saw at the MLA exhibition, in our two elit anthologies, the New Media Writing Prize, ELMCIP, and the ongoing efforts by a number of people within the elit community who tirelessly promote what we do, is at a tipping point in its career. Its visibility is fairly high in the academic community and, although it was not called elit, an elit piece won a Webby last year in the Net Art category. And whether people call it elit or not, elit is alive and well on Facebook, blogs, apps, and wherever else we see multimedia used in the presentation of a story, memoir, or a recounted daily event. So our situation could be worse….
But maybe that is part of the “problem.” Elit is well-known and practiced every place we look, but we can lay little claim to it. It is well beyond its adolescence, and within a few years (if not already), except for its stand-out practitioners, it will be so common as to not be worthy of any special note.
That is our tipping point, and the moment is now. We can lay claim to electronic literature, but we need to do it (as some of us have pointed out) in an all-inclusive and democratic way. It must be presented in our classrooms in all its forms, not just random-generated poetry or game narrative, but in every way we see it appearing online or off. Our students must know that elit is not all poetry but fiction, too, and drama, and every genre in between. They must know it is not just in the classroom, it is in front of them every day on the web, although they may not recognize it. We can show them where to look, and what to look for. We can tell them how the current elit community offers an aesthetic core around which the rest can adhere.
If we have any hope of encouraging our students to read electronic literature outside the classroom, or our young creative writers to try their hand at this kind of “writing,” they must see it has a broader audience, with both an aesthetic future and (for the writers) at least some potential for financial gain, either outright or through jobs in related industries. They can not see it primarily as an art practiced, and favored, by those of us in academia: for a new form struggling to gain its larger identity, readership, and practitioners, the academic world, while a necessary part of the overall strategy, is too small.
For the original source of this post, and the previous (and ongoing) conversation, visit http://www.newmediawritingforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=156