Maria Engberg reviews Funkhouser and Drucker

Maria Engberg wrote an interesting review of two books relevant to digital poetry: Chris Funkhouser’s Prehistoric Digital Poetry–An Archeology of Forms (1959-1995) and Johanna Drucker’s Speclab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Engberg says:

“A challenging notion for both scholars and artists to take up, then, is that social media seems to speak against the strong authoritative force and artistic drive behind the works that both Drucker (artists’ books) and Funkhouser (digital poetry) discuss. The modernist poetics of digital poetry that Funkhouser describes, not incorrectly, is perhaps inherently incompatible with the contemporary social creativity (for lack of a better term) of YouTube mashup videos, Facebook status update string narratives, Twitter feeds, and locative mobile “app-experiences” with their motley aesthetic and political pedigrees and agendas, unclear sender and reader positions (endlessly multiple) and transient status as objects.”

I have a different take on this subject, I think, than Engberg’s. Digital/literary work that deals with Twitter, say, is not simply somebody tweeting. Instead, we see work like The Longest Poem in the World. This is a programmerly work that creates rhyming couplets out of a Twitter feed of thousands of people tweeting. When I just visited, it had written 1,353,298 verses. It’s constantly adding more verses.

Similarly, digital/literary art that deals with Facebook won’t simply be someone writing status updates or links or notes or whatever other functionality Facebook provides.  It will, like The Longest Poem in the World, operate not simply within the social media app’s system, but will take it and its contents as ‘feed’.

3 Responses to “Maria Engberg reviews Funkhouser and Drucker”

  • Say, thanks for mentioning this, it reminded me to pick up “Speclab…” at the local research library.

    Interesting book so far. I think of a counterexample or objection for pretty much every paragraph, (Drucker seems to be unaware of AI research in user modeling and agent-centered theories of communication, to begin with) but I agree with its basic points about the importance of “partial, situated, and subjective knowledge.”

  • Maria Engberg:

    Thanks for your comments on my review. I was not aware of the Twitter example “The Longest Poem in the World” so that was really useful for my continued thinking about the relationship of literature and social media. I hope that we can continue the discussion somehow.

  • Hi Maria. You say “The modernist poetics of digital poetry that Funkhouser describes…”

    Why “modernist”? I would have thought that the digital poetry that Chris Funkhouser writes about is usually better described as ‘postmodern’ or whatever is past that.

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