Virtual Events

These events emerged from a special call for virtual engagements, intended to use this conference as an opportunity to re-imagine how we use online platforms to build and support our community.

Wednesday, July 15

1:00- 2:30 PM – An Afternoon with afternoon – Dene Grigar and Michael Joyce

This event is a live group Traversal celebrating the 30th anniversary of Michael Joyce’s hypertext novel, afternoon: a story.

Demonstrated in 1987 at the ACM Hypertext conference and published by Eastgate Systems, Inc. in 1990, this seminal work is considered by critic Robert Coover to be the “granddaddy of full-length hypertext fictions” and, so, helped to lay the foundation of electronic literature for years to come. It has been published in five languages and is one of two original Eastgate works, along with Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, made available for contemporary computers. It is also one of two works, along with J Yellowlees Douglas’ “I Have Said Nothing” (1994), that was published in a print literary anthology––W. W. Norton & Co.’s Postmodern American Fiction (1997). Archives of the work and Joyce’s papers have been collected by the Harry Ransom Center.

Performing afternoon: a story will be scholars and artists who have impacted the work through reviews, translations, archival activities, and scholarly writing. They include:

N. Katherine Hayles
Jane Yellowlees Douglas
Stuart Moulthrop
John McDaid
Walter Vannini
Mariusz Pisarski
Arnaud Regnauld
Maria Engberg
Matt Kirschenbaum
Heather Malin

Dene Grigar will moderate and Astrid Ensslin will serve as Chat Archivist.

The event will take place over Zoom and will be managed by researchers and technical specialists at the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University Vancouver. Following the performance, Joyce will participate in a conversation with Dene Grigar, Director of ELL, about the work, its development, and its place in literary history.

Thursday, July 16

For details on Thursday’s events, see the Workshops, Plenary, and Performance schedules.

Friday, July 17

10:00 – 11:00 AM – E-Lit Pandemics Roundtable – Søren Bro Pold, Anna Nacher, Scott Rettberg

How is the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting measures, and movement of cultural life online reflected in electronic literature and other digital narrative practices online? With this roundtable we propose an exploration and discussion of electronic literature during this time of COVID.

In the current situation, public libraries, theatres, cultural festivals have been closed across many countries and virtually all cultural life creative practices have moved online. This presents an opportunity for electronic literature and net art, but also necessitates new ways of understanding online media and making sense of current life worlds.

Works of e-lit, such as poetry and narrative generators, collective narratives, and interactive fiction, have already been developed that deal contextually and thematically with the virus, social distancing and isolation, and the absurdities of everyday life as we adjust to an online social sphere. Forms of a collective creativity, such as the popular meme of imitating classical paintings while sheltering place, and other types of online collective creativity, may signal the emergence of new e-lit related practices emerging during the COVID era.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM – un(distance) – Annie Abrahams, Roderick Coover, Deena Larsen, Anna Nacher, Eugenio Tisselli, Kirill Azernyy, Renee Carmichael

We will explore the topic “(un)distance” as a way to practice undistancing, or b(e/r)ing us together to share ideas, potential collaborations, and partnerships over various (di)stances and (di)scourses. Four ELO members will engage online with us in an exchange about their practice, weaving five minute introductions as well as an array of video extracts and demos together in a real-time e-lit fabric that also includes unexpected interruptions, time lapses, and glitches as part of the expected process. The on-site-participants will perform as the studio audience. The online audience will participate via a chat. Comments from the local studio audience will be interwoven with the online discussion. As this discussion will center around long-distance writing practices, and will self-reflexively discuss how effective an on-site and on-line community discussion works, this experimental venue will demonstrate that more in-depth online and in person exchanges are possible. Annie Abrahams will lead the panel online. Roderick Coover will present issues from his new book, Digital Imaginaries, and segments from his new immersive and generative film project Altering Shores, made with Nick Montfort and Adam Vidiksis. Eugenio Tisselli will discuss the non-local role of algorithms in the Capitalocene by presenting ‘Amazon’: a visual poem, as well as a critical code work, from his ‘Algorithmic Politics’ series. Kirill Azernyy will introduce his approach to perceptive interaction with the “materiality” of digital works. Renee Carmichael will explore thinking, representing and embodying the here and now through the tensions and limits between dance (both as beyond all writing/representation and as Dance Writing) and code. Deena Larsen and Anna Nacher will be the facilitators and moderators.

2:00 – 3:00 PM – Pedagogies of E-literary Practice for (Un)continuous Times – Caleb Andrew Milligan, Sarah Whitcomb Laiola, Erin Kathleen Bahl, Élika Ortega

In response to Debbie Chacra’s charge to “celebrate and foster education, maintenance, analysis, critique, and, above all, caregiving” in maker cultures, this roundtable imagines pedagogies of e-literary practice that combine creation and caregiving in ways restorative to the ongoing tradition(s) of e-lit (“Beyond Making”). E-lit regularly confronts theoretical, cultural, and material challenges endemic to the field, as genres of previously accessible work are being lost to technological obsolescence and new developments are moving increasingly off the screen and out of practical reach. One way to counter such challenges of these “(un)continuous” times is through an integrated, applied, practice-based model of e-lit pedagogy. Participants discuss ways of teaching electronic literature that incorporates hands-on work like critical-creative making and procedural performance as pedagogical responses to rapid technological changes that blot out e-literature’s past and blackbox its future.

2:00 – 2:30 PM – Singling and the Earful Yearning – Kedrick James, Rachel Horst, Esteban Morales, Yuya Peco Takeda, Effiam Yung

This is the debut show of Singling, a new text sonification software we have developed to analyze and otherwise perform string data, choosing from a wide variety of linguistic and musical parameters and multilevel parsing of text. Virtual attendees of the performance will be invited to share their thoughts, reactions, poems, and codework with us through the chat function of the video conferencing platform; our program can translate all manner of keyboard symbols, numbers, the English alphabet as well as various classes of words into MIDI code. We will perform the output of this textual data live, using a variety of MIDI-enabled instruments and digital interfaces. Each “song” will take a new portion of text to demonstrate particular settings and parameters for the transmediation of linguistic input to musical output, and feature different combinations of presenter-performers / instruments performing the MIDI code. Through screen sharing, we will show and narrate the choice of text, various settings and combinations of instruments used for each song, and then remotely perform it. Attendees are encouraged to use audio headphones or sound systems to hear the full range of audio frequencies.

3:00 – 4:00 PM – What’s New in Children eLit? – María Goicoechea, Ana Albuquerque, Mark C. Marino, Laura Sánchez

In this examination of the state of children’s electronic literature, we would like to focus on the design of experimentation models for researching children’s reading practices. It would also be an opportunity to share different formulas that have been implemented for the integration of electronic literature in children reading curricula and their impact on the teaching practices of literary education. Discussion will also be oriented to address the challenges faced by children’s electronic literature design. Some of the questions we pose ourselves include:

  • What degree of technological interactivity is desirable?
  • How much free exploration and destructuring of the story is recommendable? How much direction or guide?
  • To what extent is it necessary to introduce the possibility of rereading? Is rereading useful for all ages?
  • Is it good to introduce many different media simultaneously, like in augmented reality? How does this media overload affect children’s ability to concentrate?
  • Is animation and movement the enemy of the type of concentration required to develop reading comprehension, or can it be used to foster it?

4:00 – 4:30 PM – Mischief, Mermaids, and Mismanagement: A Poetry Hotline – Emily Carr and Avni Vyas

In the new age of social distancing, poetics and collaboration don’t get much attention, but we would like to use experimental poetic techniques to facilitate collaborating, creating, and connecting through poems and mischief. This happening takes inspiration from the childhood game Telephone, where a message whispered and passed from player to player morphs in meaning through repetition and revision. In our version, Emily Dickinson poems get passed and morph into thirteen new shapes. Our hope is that participants, regardless of their familiarity with poetry, will engage this happening as an opportunity for like-minded creative miscreants to socialize and share with poetry as a focal point. Participants will leave this happening with two collaboratively revised Emily Dickinson poems, a smattering of poetry dates to share with friends and goes, and sparks for original creative work.

4:00 – 5:00 PM – Serious Play: A Games Studies Livestream – Ryan House

Serious Play is an interdisciplinary collaborative of graduate students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee interested in the study of games and play and dedicated to reaching beyond the walls of the university to engage with a wider audience. Live-streaming our gameplay and discussions via has been instrumental to that goal and allows us an opportunity to model to non-academics in particular ways to think about the games they play. This session will be an exhibition of a typical stream presented live for the ELO audience in which Ryan will play Villa Gorilla’s Yoku’s Island Express while discussing elements of its design, narrative, and gameplay experience through the dual lenses of Chess’ Ready Play Two and Ruberg’s Videogames Have Always Been Queer with Serious Play members and others in chat. In addition, we hope this practice inspires thought and discussion about ways to confront the pay-wall problem of academic publishing through alternative academic research practices.

Saturday, July 18

10am – 11:00 AM – A Labyrinth: Designing and Playing a Collaborative Game During COVID-19 – Patrick Jagoda, Heidi Coleman, Marc Downie, Ashlyn Sparrow, Kristen Schilt

A Labyrinth was an alternate reality game developed at the University of Chicago during the COVID-19 pandemic. The game was created to spur creativity and build community online under the unprecedented and emergent conditions of the pandemic.

On April 6, 2020, A Labyrinth began with an opening puzzle that unlocked the game and attracted approximately 3,500 players. A week later, on April 13, the Fourcasters (the designers) welcomed 73 core teams to compete by completing 140 quests. Alongside the competitive aspect, the game had a parallel collaborative dimension. Via the Twitch live streaming platform, players were invited to explore the alternative space-time known as Labyrinth. Once a week, via a live and collectively adjudicated interactive narrative format, players helped the Taur locate key hubs and hidden objects as they tried to make it back to the center of Labyrinth. They succeeded in this objective and saw the Labyrinth transform in an unprecedented way. On May 13, the game concluded with over 800 quests being submitted by participating teams.

This panel will screen a short documentary that includes footage from gameplay on Twitch, instances of quests, and interviews with players. Following this short screening, the five core designers will discuss the challenges and affordances of designing a transmedia narrative and improvised game during a pandemic. We will begin with the question: What does it mean to grapple with the unfolding historical present through a participatory networked artwork?

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Applied E-Lit as Participatory Research-Creation for Social Change – Astrid Ensslin, Rebecca Lyle Skains, Christine Wilks, Franci Greyling, Gustaf Tempelhoff

This tri-continental panel explores methods of applied electronic literature research (Ensslin et al. forthcoming) that involves participatory research-creation with the intent to facilitate mental well-being, equity, and social change. We critically evaluate key methodological and ethical concerns relating to EDI-oriented participant sampling and digital narrative design by focusing on three social justice informed research projects: (1) The “Writing New Bodies” project, presented by Ensslin and Wilks and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is developing a digital fiction “world of stories” for body image bibliotherapy aimed at young woman-identified and gender non-conforming individuals with body image concerns. (2) The “You and CO2” and “Infectious Storytelling” projects, presented by Skains and supported by the Welsh Crucible, are using creative media to engage secondary schools with the issue of climate change, and to effect positive behaviour change regarding antimicrobial resistance, respectively. (3) The “Byderhand-Pioneer” project, presented by Greyling and Tempelhoff, is a collaboration of the North-West University and a school for visually impaired learners in South Africa. It facilitates the creation and experience of locative literature through accessible interfaces.

12:00 – 1:00 PM – ELO Town Hall

In this gathering lead by members of the ELO Board of Directors, members are invited to provide their thoughts on how the community should move forward. Given the potential need for future virtual conferences, and the urgent challenges facing academics around the world, this year’s conversation will be focused on guiding future actions. All are welcome to attend!

1:00 – 2:00 PM – Fantasy Spoils: After the Quest, a Netprov – Mark Marino and Rob Wittig

Having just completed the glorious epic saga, Ultimate Final Victory!, you have now returned home to deal with the aftermath. Gone are the orcs, hobgoblins, and dragons. In their place, you must contend with your wounds, property damages, and ensuing lawsuits. How will you deal with life here in Muddled Earth after the glorious quest? Are you hero enough to face your most daunting enemy: your own irritation? Because at the end of every epic quest, you will find fantasy spoils!

Fantasy Spoils is a new netprov set in a playful take on the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. However, rather than focusing on glorious bloody battles, this netprov focuses on the not-so-glorious. 

2:00 – 3:00 PM – Electronic Literature in the Age of Autocomplete – Sarah Ciston, Katy Ilonka Gero, Annette Vee, Kyle Booten, Brian Kim Stefans

From the “predictive text” keyboards of our mobile devices to the phrases and sentences proffered by Google’s “autocomplete,” algorithmic media are insinuating themselves as “co-authors” into the flow of human writing in ever more ambitious ways. That such technologies may seem commonplace, even mundane, should not distract from their dramatic political stakes; if writing is a particularly powerful technology of the mind (Ong, Orality and Literacy), we should be wary of the ways that subtly invasive corporate algorithms could either encourage and foreclose certain forms of thought. Practitioners of electronic literature–from Charles O. Hartman’s experiments in Virtual Muse to James Meehan’s 1976 Tale-Spin to Janelle Shane’s hilarious AI-generated Halloween costumes and pickup lines–have long imagined ways of integrating human- and algorithmically-generated text that go far beyond the logics of text prediction and correction. The goal of this panel is to imagine what role electronic literature can play in the context of the widespread human/algorithm co-writing.

3:00 – 4:00 PM – Uncontinuous Adventuring: A geographically disruptive collaborative IF jam – Judith Pintar

It is an IF convention that if you “GO EAST” and then “GO WEST” you will end up back where you began. This is this geographic binary that this session will be disrupting! Participants will collaborate on a game map in which moving forward transforms the world behind. The synchronous session will be held in a password protected Zoom room, where the presenter will be screensharing the Inform development environment and adding participant code to the collaborative game After a brief explanation of the jam rules, participants will write like the wind in a Google doc. They will be prompted to craft a room description and multiple object descriptions which together tell a story. (A template will be provided – no prior knowledge of Inform required). In the spirit of classic “one room” IF the stories should go deep instead of wide (think — there’s a frog on the bump on the log in the hole at the bottom of the sea). When players have finished exploring the room and type GO WEST, they end up ~ not where they began. It might be an entirely different place, or it might be the original place subtly transformed. Participants can make their transformative geographical disruption mean whatever they want it to mean. Players of the game will then GO EAST for the next uncontinuous adventure. A meta-story that links individual adventures may or may not collaboratively emerge, but it doesn’t matter because the journey is the destination!

3:00 – 3:30 PM – Epic Hand Washing for Synchronous Participation – xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman

Epic Hand Washing for Synchronous Participation is a real-time, online performance that restages burrough and Starnaman’s browser-based poetic remix, Epic Hand Washing in a Time of Lost Narratives. In this 20-minute performance, participants will simultaneously wash their hands for twenty seconds while the hosts take turns reading quotes from novels, plays, poetry, and essays written during or about life during pandemics from the bubonic plague to the global influenza pandemic of 1918-19.

Our set of texts includes works written by English-language authors such as William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus, Katherine Anne Porter, William Maxwell, and Giovanni Boccacio, who experienced outbreaks of yersinia pestis (bubonic plague) and the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 1918-19. These quotes address the horror of being sick, the fear of becoming infected, the grief of loss, as well as the mundane life of quarantine.

3:30 – 4:00 PM – Virtual Concretism Continued: Poetry Concrete in Second Life – Patrick Lichty

Virtual Concretism Continued: Poetry Concrete in Second Life extends Patrick Lichty’s research in virtual concretism from Joseph Frank’s theories of Spatial Literary Theory (1943), through Fluxus, performance art group Second Front, and the work of Canadian concretist BP Nichol. It expands from a earlier works such as 2019’s Letters for Negin, which explored multilingual concrete poetry and gravity as a narrative device. But, given the context of the COVID viral pandemic, Virtual Concretism Continued takes place in the shared virtual world of Second Life. Hosted by the Odyssey Art and Performance Space, the work will be concretist installation continuing from that maze in Farsi from Letters for Negin, but also new works by Lichty that will be “performed” live in a 15-minute Happening inside the larger installation that will remain for the month of the conference. Visitors will be given the ability to interact and add components to the Installation. The context of the work relates to the global virtual turn under COVID, as well as the late 2010’s renaissance of Second Life, as a mature virtual space.

4:00 – 4:30 PM – Breathe the Machine – Matt S. Roberts, Terri Witek, Teresa Carmody, Dengke Chen

The FaaS were future-oriented. Every day, they contemplated the question: what kind of ancestor will you be?

A collaborative group composed of a prose writer, new media artist, 3-D animator, and poet enter your personal computers and suggest that in this particularly viral moment, individual breaths + machines may be the closest we get to community touch. An animated video conference offers the project’s conceptual framework, including questions about invasive species and intimacy in this new world where we stand masked and apart, not quite meeting another’s onscreen eyes. Participants in Breathe the Machine will each breathe into their own computer mics to both create onscreen reactions and change an animated world. Each transformation will become part of a larger story built from the computers’ individual data. At a designated moment in the conference, we’ll combine breaths in a synched group Blow-In.

Their conceiving mind quit avoiding their body; their body, they realized, had already FaaD.

Donna Haraway is just one theorist who argues that as we acquire more mechanical parts, and as technology takes on increasingly human functions, we are already participants in interspecies interactions; a fact made disturbingly clear and re-capitalized by the unseen transmissions of a global pandemic. Breathe the Machine challenges us to think of screens as partners in new, combinatory narratives that converge technology and the human into uneasy, resilient allies. Each breath, then, can become a cross-species touch, an interactive installation, an archive, a fiction, a world and a landscape. A prompt.

This is how we morph.

4:30 – 5:30 PM – Quarantine Quatrains – Scott Rettberg and Talan Memmott

At the 2019 ELO Conference, Talan Memmott and Scott Rettberg performed “The Limerick Diet,” a project which merged generative poetics with culinary arts. Using a bespoke poetry generator that produced Limericks for a three-course meal (preceded by an interactively generated cocktail and an amuse bouche), Memmott and Rettberg then prepared the menus for eight lucky guests in the opulent surrounds of the Brocade Lime. The event was performed in cooking show format, and hosted and commented upon by Mark Marino, Maria Mencia, and Michael Maguire, and streamed live online via multiple cameras on Facebook.

Because of the long-distance travel crisis resulting from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Gastropoetics Emergency Response Team proposes a follow-up event to solve one of the seemingly-insurmountable challenges resulting from the fact that the ELO 2020 Conference can now be held only virtually, and only online: it is very difficult to gather for a conference banquet when all of the conference participants are marooned in various countries around the world. We therefore propose Quarantine Quatrains: a Globally Networked Gastropoetics Event.

The central hub for all the events, menus, and meals of Quarantine Quatrains will be

The event will proceed as follows: Memmott and Rettberg will produce a new poetry generator which produces Quatrains. The program will produce three quatrains for an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, along with amuse bouche in the form of a couplet, as well as a shopping list. Variants will be made available for omnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians. Due to varying situations of food availability, the program will also provide a list of substitutes should certain ingredients not be available in any given location (e.g. Filet Mignon > Ground Beef > Kidney Beans or Heirloom Tomatoes > Canned Tomatoes > Stolen McDonald’s Ketchup Packets). We will provide the generated poetry menus to ELO conference attendees at least two weeks in advance of the conference, in order to provide time for diners to prepare. For obvious reasons, the food preparation will take place on a DIY basis: each diner will have the same menu but will prepare their own variant and interpretation of the dish.

The banquet will be a moveable feast in the sense that it will take place on a rolling basis throughout the Conference Banquet day, so that diners in Europe, the United States, Australia, etc. will be able to eat the dinner at an appropriate time for their own schedule, movement restrictions, and cultural situation. We will take advantage of the discourse platform Dischord, video streaming platform Zoom, Facebook, Twitter, and photo sharing sites such as Instagram, Google Photos, and Amazon Prime (Rib) to share our experiences in the kitchen and at the dining table as we all cook and eat together. An interactive online version of the popular Limerick Diet cocktail game will also be made available online so that we can all share together in a synchronous toast of unusual cocktails before the announcement of the ELO Awards and the President’s Speech, thanking of conference organizers, delivery of virtual bottles and bouquets, and so forth.

If the Limerick Diet was notoriously, and by necessity, a highly selective event, allowing only eight elite diners to indulge in the full Gastropoetic experience, Quarantine Quatrains represents a massively multiplayer democratization of generative cuisine: Gastropoetics for the People! Together we will prepare the same food, celebrate the human condition, and break the chains imposed upon us by the contingencies of this worldwide catastrophe. We are all in the same kitchen, so let’s get out of the frying pan and into the fire! And, as Chef Gordon Ramsay once famously screamed: “You can do your own damn dishes!”

5:30 – 6:30 PM – ELO Closing Awards Ceremony