If the Future Is Digital, Why Print a Book?

Last week I attended the international symposium “Reading Wide, Writing Wide in the Digital Age: Perspectives on Transliteratures” organized by the LEETHI group from the Complutense University of Madrid. It was a fantastic event where I had the opportunity to listen to very interesting work engaging electronic literature from very different perspectives, such as Vilashini Cooppan’s reading of e-lit as world literature, or Germán Sierra’s selection of digital objects that show how digital technologies have reshaped our conceptualization of reality [Here is a link to the complete program].

In my talk, “If the Future Is Digital, Why Print a Book?” I looked at how, while e-lit is a global phenomenon, in Spain it takes on additional importance as it allows writers to bypass the hierarchies that characterize Spanish cultural institutions. These institutions have been heavily supported by the State, and along with it have suffered a loss of legitimacy that is a consequence of 21st century financial crises. My talk explored several manifestations of computational writing practices emerging at the intersection of digital media technologies, electronic literature and traditional print. As I proposed, the digital-inspired work done by Jordi Carrión, Vicente Mora or Javier Fernández could, at a first glance, be framed as a rejection to the contemporary cultural canon, participating within some free culture movement ideas that manifest as digital remix or mashed-up creative practices. However, their paradoxical return-to-the-book, creating what I call “printed technotexts” (i.e. paper e-lit) highlights both the desire to escape the institutionalized canon, but also the necessity of being recognized by it and its “bookish” forms of authorship and power. In opposition to these, I proposed we look at born-digital works (e.g. Doménico Chiappe’s Hotel Minotauro) that have remained electronic and are accessed online. I wonder if these type of texts should be read as a form of liberation from the Author as creative agent, the book as platform, the current literary canon, and the Spanish publishing industry altogether. It seems, although I am still scared to affirm, that only born-digital literature will finally escape Spain’s literary paradigm (beyond the market) that has been in force for the past four decades.

Here are the slides for the talk (in Spanish)

And the works cited:

Becerra Mayor, David. La novela de la no-ideología: Introducción a la producción literaria del capitalismo avanzado en España. Madrid: Tierradenadie Ediciones, 2013.

Bunz, Mercedes. The Silent Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Castells, Manuel. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet age. Cambridge: Polity, 2012.

Carrión, Jordi. Crónica de viaje. Córdoba: Aristas Martínez, 2014.

Chiappe, Doménico. Hotel Minotauro. 2013. Web. 16 Jul.2015.

Cramer, Florian. Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts. Rotterdam: nai010 publishers, 2013.

Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York: Granary Books, 1994.

Emerson, Lori. Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive. Minneápolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013

Hayles, N. Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What is it?” Electronic Literature Organization. 1.2 (2007): n.p. Web 15 Nov. 2013.
________Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.

Fernández, Javier. Cero absoluto. Córdoba: Berenice, 2005

Martínez, Guillem. “El concepto CT,” CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.

Minchinela, Raúl. “La CT y la cultura digital: cómo dar la espalda a internet,” CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.

Mora, Vicente Luis. Alba Cromm. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2010.

Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel. La literatura en la construcción de la ciudad democrática. Barcelona: Grijalbo-Mondadori, 1998.