Today we follow some forerunners of Electronic Literature up to the present day – and think about some key words and key concepts for producers of EL.

  • Immersive Simulations
  • Hypertext

Immersive Simulations

  • The Veldt short story by Ray Bradbury in 1950/51
  • Star Trek’s “Holodeck” – 1980s


  • Immersion – support for all senses?
  • AI
  • Interaction
  • Presence
  • Agency

1990s CAVE VR

  • Immersive, 3D display, 1st person perspective
  • Interaction ->input (what kinds, how processed?)
  • Question of affordance (what the environment provides for you to do)
  • Presence
  • Other VR using systems from 90s PLACEHOLDER

Dream/Debate synthesis of games and film

  • problem identified and debated for years, Games and Narrative don’t mix
  • apart from aesthetic issues, issue of intelligence/responsiveness of system
  • Mission Rehearsal Exercise (immersive VR plus AI), Institute for Creative Technologies
  • Firewatch as current state of the art?


  • Games & Race to Cinematic levels of realism -> lighting, physics simulations (real time)
  • Resistance to, different choices


  • Eliza natural language processing computer program created, 1964 to 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum.
  • Spatial awareness (great strides)
  • Language use (this seems vital for Electronic Literature but still a problem) – intense and ongoing investigation into intelligent agents, conversational characters, story engines, drama engines etc.
  • Facade, made in 2005, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern
  • ICIDS computer science flavored conference, for current debates
  • Woebot – state of art of conversational agents

The Holodeck and work proceeding in this direction: experimental technology but quite a traditional idea of story telling.


Hypertext – an alternative dream

Thinking of hypertext as a forerunner of EL, brings us much closer to experiments interested in interrogating, expanding and breaking what literature is or could be – and what the computer brings to that picture.


  • playing with form/making it (and the meaning it contains) visible
  • non-linearity
  • indeterminacy
  • what is the reading/interactive subject?
  • death of the author – barthes

Tristram Shandy, Laurence Stern (1759)

  • “focus on the problems of language”

Limits of Realism (early 20C)

  • to “represent,” mirror, capture complexity and uncertainty
  • Freud, Theory of Relativity – war – atomic bomb
  • cubism in art, in literature? – e.g. stream of consciousness (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner)
  • art and literature that focuses on association, metaphor, sliding signification
  • also on dangers of propaganda – how does it work?
  • Brecht – anti Aristotelian drama¬† and catharsis

50s and 60s and 70s

  • Dissatisfaction with linear arguments, closure
  • Voice of authority/God
  • Death of Author
  • Focus on problems of the subject: Lacan etc. Subject/self acquired through language which encodes power relations (father, mother, child)
  • “Always already”
  • Rise of Random Work: e.g. (indeterminacy, chance operations)

80s and 90s – the LINK (answer to all prayers)

  • EastGate Systems – hypertext writing – later the WWW was used
  • Add images – end of dominance of word
  • Read by association not logic – choose your own path
  • Alternative reading methods
  • Patchwork Girl¬†by Shelley Jackson (1995)

Conventions/Affordances of Book v Computer (and interactive moment)

Post Euphoria of Link

  • clicking on link – limited way of acting/choosing


  • How does Janet Murray define it?
  • Who has it?
  • How is it formed/constrained?
  • Agency and diff media (book, film, poem, game, e-lit?)
  • What (as maker) should you be thinking of?