jc00 posted 23 Nov 2003

This dialogue springs from an invitation to contribute to a critical tenth-anniversary celebration of hypermediated cultural production and social engagement sponsored by Mute. The resulting publication will be forthcoming as a book, white cube blue sky in 2004, and a precis for the project can be found here.

Rita Raley (rr) and myself (jc) have been asked to contribute in the form of a dialogue/intervention which will be both art critical and critical art, revolving around work that is made of language. We will address the properties and methods of textual art that is composed from meaning-generating, signifying objects - letters, words and larger linguistic structures. As such, we may be seen simply to be discussing poetry and poetics. (jc still sometimes self-identifies as a poet.) However, both of us address ourselves to writing in networked and programmable media. Poetic language art embraces symbolic exchange more broadly, especially code in its many senses. Inscribed linguistic objects may themselves be programmable, performative, and time-based. [See below 'note on form.'] These properties cannot be deferred if language art is to be properly interpreted and understood.

In preparation for the dialogue, we directed one another to recent writings. rr pointed me to the following references of hers:

Raley, Rita. 'Statistical Material: Globalization and the Digital Art of John Klima.' CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 2 (Summer 2003): [pdf accessed November 2003 at http://msupress.msu.edu/cr/klima.pdf].

_____. 'Of Dolls and Monsters: an interview with Shelley Jackson.' Iowa Review Web (2002): [Website accessed November 2003 at http://www.uiowa.edu/~iareview/tirweb/feature/jackson/jackson.htm].

_____. 'Chat interview with Ted Warnell.' trAce Showcase (2002): [Included in a profile by Randy Adams, Website accessed November 2003 at http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/showcase/index.cfm?article=24].

_____. 'Reveal Codes: Hypertext and Performance.' Postmodern Culture 12, no. 1 (2001): [Website with plain text version accessed November 2003 at http://www.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/text-only/issue.901/12.1raley.txt].

_____. 'Interferences: [Net.Writing] and the Practice of Codework.' Electronic Book Review (2002): [Article in Web-based journal accessed November 2003 at http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/net.writing].

_____. 'The Digital Loop: Feedback and Recurrence.' Leonardo Electronic Almanac 10, no. 7 (July 2002): [Website for the LEA quasi-accessible November 2003 at http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/LEA/, or see: text of the article only].

In turn I suggested that she take a look at the 'bibliography' on my reluctantly updated website www.shadoof.net/in. In particular, I was keen to refer to three recent essays on codework, one of them as yet unpublished (although I may shortly put a version up on my site):

Cayley, John. 'The Code Is Not the Text (Unless It Is the Text).' Electronic Book Review (2002): [Website accessed September 2003 at http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/literal].

_____. 'Time Code Language: New Media Poetics and Programmed Signification.' In New Media Poetry: Aesthetics, Institutions, Audiences, edited by Dee Morris and Thomas Swiss. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004 forthcoming.

_____. 'Inner Workings: Code and Representations of Interiority in New Media Poetics.' dictung-digital 29 (2003): [Website accessed September 2003 at http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2003/3-cayley.htm] based on a presentation at the Language and Encoding Conference, Buffalo, Nov. 02, proceedings edited by Loss Pequeño Glazier.

In addition for more general background, readers of this dialogue might like to look at:

_____. 'From Byte to Inscription: An Interview with John Cayley by Brian Kim Stefans.' Iowa Review Web 5, no. 1 (2003): [Website accessed March 2003 at http://www.uiowa.edu/~iareview/tirweb/feature/cayley/index.html].

Glazier, Loss Pequeño, and John Cayley. 'Diaductory Intrologue,' in Glazier, Loss Pequeño, and John Cayley, eds. Ergodic Poetry: A Special Section of the Cybertext Yearbook 2002. Edited by Markku Eskelinen and Raine Koskimaa, Publications of the Research Centre for Contemporary Culture: Cybertext Yearbook. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, 2003.

For an early essay on digital poetics written and produced for a conference in 1997 (!) but only just published:

_____. 'Hypertext/Cybertext/Poetext.' In Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, edited by Romana Huk, 310-26. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.

And on transcultural and transliteral issues:

_____. 'Digital Wen: On the Digitization of Letter- and Character-Based Systems of Inscription.' In Reading East Asian Writing: The Limits of Literary Theory, edited by Michel Hockx and Ivo Smits, 277-94. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.


NOTES ON THE FORM OF THIS DIALOGUE (by jc 23 Nov 2003). This dialogue is itself an example of how systems of inscription that are programmable may still* give rise to one-off, bespoke forms having distinct characteristics, distinct, that is, from forms which are already understood and inscribed as traditional, common, or popular cultural practices.

*I say 'still' because one of the features of recent digital and internet culture is the emergence/resurgence of standardized, often proprietary forms that, arguably, constrain or (over)determine cultural practices in digital media, media that are, by definition, indeterminate and manipulable.

This isn't an exchange of papers, letters or even emails. It is not extracted from a listserve exchange; nor it is a transcribed internet chat or moo session. It isn't a blog, although it can perhaps be seen as a hybrid of simple blog and written dialogue (you may construct the mildly nauseating portmanteau for this yourselves).

Using 'frames' and the simplest possible HTML, rr and jc are able to separately compose a sequence of files containing their contributions to the collaborative text. Uploading the files to the same internet location allows them to be read within a simple dialogic framework. The separately composed texts - rr's in the left-hand column (except for this one) and jc's in the right - are revealed in both their sequential and proposition-response relationships.

This form also allows the dialogue to be read as it is composed over a period of weeks. It will not be 'live.' It unfolds asynchronously but, like a blog, contributions can be viewed on the web as soon as they are posted. In this instance, after the present introductory posts are written and uploaded, we will have invited a small group of colleagues and friends to read the dialogue as it is written and to send us comments and suggestions by regular email. This gives the form, in this rendition, a constrained but genuine performative aspect, and allows us to incorporate the live readers' material as we see fit. Finally, of course, HTML allows us to freely embed links to other web-based content.