Traversals: The Use of Preservation for Early Electronic Writing (Mit Press)
An exercise in reclaiming electronic literary works on inaccessible platforms, examining four works as both artifacts and operations.
Many pioneering works of electronic literature are now largely inaccessible because of changes in hardware, software, and platforms. The virtual disappearance of these works--created on floppy disks, in Apple's defunct HyperCard, and on other early systems and platforms--not only puts important electronic literary work out of reach but also signals the fragility of most works of culture in the digital age. In response, Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop have been working to document and preserve electronic literature, work that has culminated in the Pathfinders project and its series of "Traversals"--video and audio recordings of demonstrations performed on historically appropriate platforms, with participation and commentary by the authors of the works.
In Traversals, Moulthrop and Grigar mine this material to examine four influential early works: Judy Malloy's Uncle Roger (1986), John McDaid's Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse (1993), Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl (1995) and Bill Bly's We Descend (1997), offering "deep readings" that consider the works as both literary artifacts and computational constructs. For each work, Moulthrop and Grigar explore the interplay between the text's material circumstances and the patterns of meaning it engages and creates, paying attention both to specificities of media and purposes of expression.