Electronic Literature – Where is it Taking Us?

We are living in an age where most of the reading we do is from a screen as opposed to from a book. While a lot of this is involved with the idea of ‘moving with the times’, we must ask ourselves are we loosing any precious values involved with reading literature as the world becomes more digitized. Electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast “digital born,” a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer (E-literature).

The advantage of e-literature -guided from the definition above- is that anyone who has internet access can now sit down at a computer screen and simply start writing something for the world to see. Before e-literature came about it was relatively difficult to publish a piece of writing. One would have to write it first, then show it to various editors for a second opinion only to be sent back to their writing desk to change the various mistakes spotted by the editor. Now the editor is sidestepped completely and the world has gotten to a point where anyone can publish what they want on various media outlets. This begs the question, will the dissemination mechanisms of the Internet and World Wide Web, by opening publication to everyone, result in a flood of worthless drivel? (E-literature) Will the sanctity of being able to call yourself an author now apply to everyone who publishes something online, spanning from blog posts to academic journal articles. If that were to be the accepted case would the great authors of our age such as the likes of J.K Rowling and Dan Brown be considered to be in the same category of occupation as the likes of Zoella or Troye Sivan.

Another side of e-literature today is its embrace of the concept of gamification. The definition of gamification is the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation (Merriam-Webster Definition). The fact online literature has to embrace these ideas in the first place to entice people to read is a worrying prospect in itself. It beckons the question, does reading a piece of work have to have some gamification element to it in order to make it in demand in the world today? Paraphrasing Markku Eskelinen’s elegant formulation, we may say that with games the user interprets in order to configure, whereas in works whose primary interest is narrative, the user configures in order to interpret (E-literature). However today’s society seems to be embracing the idea of interpreting in order to configure far more than the latter idea. However, this modern concept attached to e-literature with gamification may allow for a more open mind-set in humanity to come to the fore as this concept essentially invites us to decipher and depict before building an opinion on it using the facts available to us. It opens a very exciting door for creativity as with this new mind-set will come more acceptance of new possibilities and understandings.