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Digital writing gives new meaning to a good read

Web Posted: 03/30/2008 2:00 AM CDT
What performance art is to painting, digital writing is to the printed page.

Never heard of digital writing? Or electronic writing or hypertext or hyperfiction or hypermedia or whatever you want to call it?

You will.

The relatively young artistic medium is gaining new artists — and audience — every day.

On Friday, novelist Robert Coover, whose works include "The Public Burning," introduced a small crowd at Our Lady of the Lake University's literary festival to the field he has pioneered over the past two decades.

Coover gave an overview of the medium, which, at its most basic, is using computer technology to enhance a narrative.

That can be done with sound, graphics, links to adjacent sites, and most recently, immersing the reader in virtual reality.

Readers can even join in and help the author write the story, or determine which direction the tale will take.

According to the nonprofit Electronic Literature Organization, within the broad category of electronic literature are several forms and threads of practice, including hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web; kinetic poetry presented in Flash and using other platforms; computer art installations, which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects; conversational characters, also known as chatterbots; interactive fiction; novels that take the form of e-mails, SMS messages or blogs; poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning; collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work; and literary performances online that develop new ways of writing.

"It's a new way of working with language," said Coover, who began teaching hyperfiction workshops at Brown University in 1991. "It has the visual power of film and the interactivity of direct contact."

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