The Material Trace in Electronic Technotext (with Astrid Ensslin)

Material Meanings Conference
University of Kent
September 2012

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Technotexts, according to N.K. Hayles (2002: 24, cf. Aarseth 1997), are self-reflexive, ergodic artifacts that thematise their own operational and phenomenological materiality. In electronic media, literary-ludic technotexts such as digital literature and art games make reader-players reflect upon and critique the formal conventions, experiences and expectations associated with material and materialist culture (Ensslin 2012). Our talk will focus on one specific creative technique employed by electronic writers and art game designers to evoke a critical, reflective attitude in their audience: the material trace as an indexical and narratological device. We shall discuss aspects of writerly production and multimodal analysis, illustrated by passages from of day, of night (Heyward 2001), ‘Inside Out Empty’ (Skains 2009), TOC: A New Media Novel (Tomasula 2009) and The Path (Tale of Tales 2009). The ways in which the material trace is used in these texts reflects another trend within digital art: the foregrounding of conscious and subconscious cognitive processes such as memory, premonition, omphaloskepsis, dream and trauma.

Cite as: Skains, R. Lyle, and Astrid Ensslin. 2012. “The Material Trace in Electronic Technotext.” In Material Meanings, University of Kent, Sept 2012. Canterbury, UK.

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