Aesthetics of Noise in Digital Literary Arts

Document type: Conference Presentations
Peer reviewed: Yes
Author(s): Maria Engberg
Title: Aesthetics of Noise in Digital Literary Arts
Conference name: Electronic Literature in Europe
Year: 2008
City: , Bergen, Norway
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning (*** !Error ***)
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+46 455 38 50 00
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Authors e-mail:
Language: English
Abstract: It is fair to say that much digital literary practice participates in what has been called the visual turn, particularly in digital poetry. Digital works revel in visual-verbal and kinetic constructions that challenge the way we articulate boundaries between genres and media. Visuality in literature is increasingly addressed in academic scholarship and the need for such analysis is particularly evident in digital literary practices. While there are many reasons for visual-verbal and sonic practices, this essay focuses on the aesthetics of noise in digital literary works. By noise I mean sonic as well as visual noise. Some digital works use visual arrangements of excess, density, and layering of letters and words which create “crowded” screens, creating an effect of “visual noise.” Or, sounds form integral parts of the work in ways that disrupt and challenge our experience of it. Often, such practices of noise are closely linked to the reader/user’s movement. How can we understand the impetus to thwart conventional comprehension through visual and auditory media in these works? What are the effects on the experience of the work? Is there as N. Katherine Hayles recently suggested something particularly “digital”—as in pertaining to digital technology as material inscription—at play in such works, even if they are realized in print? Does “noise” reflect a critical commentary on the cultural context of an increasingly media saturated globalized society? Drawing upon the analyses of “a tradition of poetic illegibility” in print poems by Craig Dworkin and discussions by Liz Kootz about words in visual arts after 1960, I bring these questions to bear on works by among others Johannes Heldén, Jason Nelson, Anne Frances Wysocki, and John Cayley in order to articulate what an aesthetics of noise in digital practices conveys and how those digital practices in turn relate to literature and art in other media.
Subject: The Humanities\English
Keywords: digital litteratur, poesi, digitala medier, digital media, literature, poetry, new media