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Full description of the theme

While international travel has become virtually impossible due to widespread restrictions, the pandemic has pointed to our global connectedness: this is an aspect of platformed culture we will embrace in this conference. For the first time, the ELO conference will not be constrained by orientation to a particular location or time frame, but will unfold over three days and be hosted by institutions in Scandinavia, India, and the United States in synchronous and asynchronous events taking place online around the clock, including presentations, exhibitions, performances, workshops, and social events.

Globalized platforms present new opportunities for writers and readers both because of their large audiences and the fact that new forms of electronic literary cultures are emerging around them. The current rise of global platforms and platform culture however challenge Electronic Literature’s history of developing independent, purpose-specific platforms, since commercial platforms are often closed formats with largely rigid templates for ‘content’. In this sense, forms of criticality are challenged by the fact that the platforms are typically owned, maintained and often quickly updated (and sometimes made obsolete) by global corporations.

Digital platforms are not new: gaming consoles operating systems, programming languages and the web itself were discussed as platforms before the current platformization. The integration of hardware and software in many platforms has been seen in gaming consoles, PCs, phones and tablets, and can be seen as a result of initiatives from the fields of ubiquitous computing, Internet of Things and business strategies leading to the design of walled gardens. With the combination of social media, apps, search engines and targeted advertisement, platformization has become increasingly dominant in digital media. The platformization of culture is highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic as physical platforms for art, culture and the public have become difficult to access at times where physical meetings, travel, public institutions and life in general have been challenged. Digital platforms have entered into our most private and intimate spaces, raising questions about surveillance, capture, and who’s reading our reading and writing. Connecting, meeting, working and reading on platforms have been defining moments for our contemporary life during the pandemic comparable to the way the clock defined industrialized life. What do digital and digitization mean now, and what is left out and missing when culture is streamed?

Globalization has become less seamless, as global trade and collaboration is affected, but we are more connected in our individual lives and worries. Furthermore, the big, rapid changes of culture and society during the pandemic have raised fundamental questions about other urgent challenges: the climate crisis, equality in relation to race and ethnicity, the social, and the liberation and equality of gender and sexuality. The pandemic situation has led to both hope and despair in relation to new and old political struggles such as the #metoo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, which have also been fought on and off platforms.

With this conference we aim to investigate how the future will be platformed: what will come after the pandemic and how can we explore this from the pandemic? The pandemic will not be over when we meet on the conference platforms, rather it is a condition from which to rethink and explore the future, and learn from how life has changed during this period: What has the pandemic crisis made us see that was not before apparent to us, and how do we build upon the lessons we have learned to develop a more sustainable and equitable future? We seek explorations and research into electronic literature that examines how we are platforming the future. What are the practices and poetics of contemporary electronic literature? How to thrive as electronic readers and writers within the constraints of platform culture? How to be critical on and of platforms? How to develop alternative literary platforms? What are the global dimensions? How do we connect and disconnect on platforms? What could and should platform e-lit be? How does platform culture relate to the traditions and history of electronic literature?

The conference theme can be addressed in several ways including the following:

  • Platform electronic literature: How does data and literary production, writing and reading practices converge in platforms? How does electronic literature inhabit platforms? How are new forms and audiences developed? How is electronic literature hosted, exhibited, archived, disseminated and cared for with and in platforms?
  • Platform history: Historical platforms and electronic literature, platform obsolesence, and the constant upgrade.
  • Platform determinism, dependence and criticism: To what extent does platform determine literary practice and genre? To what extent are the forms and genres of electronic literature limited by our dependence on particular platforms? And how can we best archive and preserve platform-dependent e-lit? To what extent do literary practices work against the grain of platforms or reshape them? How is electronic literature critical on and of platforms?
  • Pandemic platforms: How have the specific circumstances of the pandemic affected the production of electronic literature and the cultural practices surrounding it? What are our post-pandemic cultural platforms going to be?
  • Platform politics: Hashtag movements and platforms for change. Platforms as ways of organising political activity.
  • Platform utopia: speculative futures, alternative platforms, writing for difference.
  • Platformed globalisation and colonialism: How are new global and local forms of electronic literature emerging? How does electronic literature deal with globalisation and new forms of (post-)colonialism? E-lit in different continents, countries and languages.
  • Platform identities: Identification, profiling, identity politics, race & ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
  • Platform culture: (Dis-)connection: (anti-)sociality, (not)meeting, (un)care.
  • Platform performance: Literary programming, live-coding, algorave, and other forms of performance that take place within platforms.
  • Platform literacy: multisensory reading, mobile and spatial reading, reading contexts and voices, reading of generated, profiled and dynamic/streaming text, platform and narrative.
  • Digital literary audio platform: audio walks, ambient literature, site specific audio stories, voice assistants and other audio interfaces.
  • Platforms for digital literacy: What sorts of platforms and creative works best serve the needs of young digital readers? Platforms for children’s E-lit.

The following exhibitions will be part of the festival:

  1. Posthuman Electronic Literature. An online exhibition with a projection exhibition component focused on electronic literature and media art that addresses posthumanism. To be featured during European SLSA conference at the University of Bergen. Curated by Joseph Tabbi, Scott Rettberg, Jason Nelson, Eamon O’Kane. MARCH 4-7, 2021.
  2. COVID E-Lit. An online exhibition of works that respond thematically to the pandemic and/or are produced within the specific context of platform culture during the pandemic. A library exhibition version of the exhibition will also be produced. Curated by Anna Nacher, Søren Pold, and Scott Rettberg. APRIL 2021.
  3. Flashback: A special celebration of Flash and Shockwave e-lit held in the Electronic Literature Repository with artists on hand to talk about their work. Curated by Dene Grigar at Washington State University Vancouver’s Electronic Literature Lab. MAY 24-28, 2021.
  4. Platforming Utopias (and Platformed Dystopias): This will be the largest open submission exhibition, responding to the conference theme. MAY 24-28 2021.
  5. Platform as a place of study – E-lit as already decolonised: A series of exhibitions, workshops and activities focused on Indian and Asian E-Lit that will unfold through Spring 2021. MARCH-MAY 2021. Call will be announced separately. Curated by dra.ft
  6. Kid E-Lit: An online exhibition of electronic literature for young audiences, and work work by young authors. Curated by Mark Marino and Maria Goicoechea. MAY 24-28, 2021.