This paper will explore subversive practices of electronic literature as contexts for the experience of agency within various systems of control. Through close readings of covert communication practices in prison narratives alongside the works like Rob Wittig’s Netprovs, Richard Holeton’s slideshow narratives, Nick Montfort’s !#, and Darius Kazemi’s “Tiny Subversions,” this essay will consider poetic interventions against media culture, professionalization, and cybernetic systems in relation to the codes, mnemonic devices, and flights of fancy used by political prisoners and POWs to maintain identity against isolation, torture, and manipulation. In particular, this paper will touch down on the question of “the ends of electronic literature” by exploring the interrelational aspect of writing as a process that is primarily concerned with the creator imagining an other (an “author” reaching out to a “reader,” in the conventional literary sense) and the user finding meaning in the text (the reader having an encounter with the work of literature).
In addition to the mediation of relationships via the text, this paper will also consider various boundaries constructed to restrict communication (imposed by social, technical, and penal systems that attempt to discipline subjects and restrict communication to official channels and approved topics). Further, this paper will consider the micro-practices of resistance, the absurd logics of creativity, eccentricity, and interpretation that generate pleasure for the individual reader while guarding subjective practices from what Lyotard has called “the inhuman.” The goal of this paper is to consider (via electronic literature) “the human” as that which is not only essentially without essence (to paraphrase Stiegler), but which actively strives to maintain individuation against control.
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