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ELO 2014 Keynote: Life Poetry Told by Sensors


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My opening keynote for ELO2014, the annual conference of the Electronic Literature Organization, held in Milwaukee this year. The presentation connects my current work on quantitative self-representations and surveillance to my earlier work on feral hypertext and other disruptive forms of electronic literature.

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ELO 2014 Keynote: Life Poetry Told by Sensors

  1. 1. Life poetry told by sensors Opening keynote // ELO2014: Hold the light // Milwaukee, June 18, 2014 Jill Walker Rettberg! Professor of Digital Culture, University of Bergen Image by stAllio! (
  2. 2. Life poetry told by sensors Opening keynote // ELO2014: Hold the light // Milwaukee, June 18, 2014 Jill Walker Rettberg! Professor of Digital Culture, University of Bergen Image by stAllio! (
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  25. 25. Sunday at home with the kids. Monday at work. Tuesday - walked to work, used standing desk, more aware of not just sitting still. Fitbit as diary
  26. 26. The Shine Misfit uses badges to represent your activity through the day. (the moment the Shine first detected movement - i.e. was picked up - becomes read as my wakeup time)
  27. 27. Chronos: Find your time. See how you are spending your time without lifting a finger. chronos runs in the background on your phone and automatically captures every moment.
  28. 28. The more automated the better.
  29. 29. Our technologies track us in many ways we don’t even consider.
  30. 30. There are no digital natives but the devices themselves; no digital immigrants but the devices too. They are a diaspora, tentatively reaching out into the world to understand it and themselves, and across the network to find and touch one another. This mapping is a byproduct, part of the process by which any of us, separate and indistinct so long, find a place in the world. James Bridle Machine vision - new aesthetics
  31. 31. And of course, often we can’t see the data about us. But others can.
  32. 32. Action Figures Animated Films Arts & Entertainment Autos & Vehicles Babies & Toddlers Banking Bicycles & Accessories Billiards Building Toys Business & Industrial Cats Celebrities & Entertainment News Computer & Video Games Computers & Electronics Consumer Electronics Consumer Resources Custom & Performance Vehicles Die-cast & Toy Vehicles Dodge Interest Apartments & Residential Rentals Baby Care & Hygiene Baby Food & Formula Chicago Clip Art & Animated GIFs Computers & Electronics Dictionaries & Encyclopedias Education Fitness Games Mobile Phones Movies Music & Audio News Office Supplies Online Video Parenting Photo & Image Sharing based on my searches My interests according to Google, based on websites I visit
  33. 33. “Numerical narratives” — Roberto Simanowski in his keynote to Remediating the Social, Edinburgh 2012.
  34. 34. 709. Hard winter. Duke Gottfried died. 710. Hard winter and deficient in crops. 711. 712. Flood everywhere. 713. 714. Pippin, mayor of the palace, died. 715. 716. 717. 718. Charles devestated the Saxons with great destruction. 719. 720. Charles fought against the Saxons. 721. Theudo drove the Saracens out of Aquitaine. 722. Great crops. 723. 724. The Annals of St Gall
  35. 35. 1976-2001 2003-2007 2008-2013 Our ideas of electronic literature change
  36. 36. Feral Hypertext Hypertext Jill Walker, Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen ACM Hypertext 2005
 Salzburg, 6-9 September escapes When Literature Control
  37. 37. Feral (a): Of an animal: Wild, untamed. Of a plant, also (rarely), of ground: Uncultivated. Now often applied to animals or plants that have lapsed into a wild from a domesticated condition. (Oxford English Dictionary)
  38. 38. “Author announces mortal work of art.” Shelley Jackson: Skin
  39. 39. Flickr
  40. 40. The Impermanence Agent
  41. 41. Michel Foucault, 1969 “How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world?”
  42. 42. Michel Foucault, 1969 “The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s resources and riches, but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning.”
  43. 43. it seems evident that various web/net/code artists are more likely to be accepted into an academic reification circuit/traditional art market if they produce works that reflect a traditional craft-worker positioning.This "craft" orientation [producing skilled/ practically inclined output, rather than placing adequate emphasis on the conceptual or ephemeral aspects of a networked, or code/software-based, medium] is embraced and replicated by artists who create finished, marketable, tangible objects; read: work that slots nicely into a capitalistic framework where products/objects are commodified and hence equated with substantiated worth. (Breeze 2003)
  44. 44. http://
  45. 45. http://
  46. 46. Disciplined.
  47. 47. Scumbag Steve
  48. 48. Grumpy Cat
  49. 49. Seeing Ourselves Through Technology How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves Parmigianino: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1524)
  50. 50. Three modes of self-representation: Written Diary: (CC) Ellen Thompson Selfie: (CC) TempusVolut Nicholas Fultron:The Fultron Annual Report, 2007. Visual Quantitative
  51. 51. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power. Susan Sontag: On Photography (1977) Image (c) Chris Felver
  52. 52. Germaine Krull: 
 Self-Portrait with Cigarette and Camera (1925)
  53. 53. Look at the intimacy of the selfie; the outstretched arm embracing the viewer. ( Katie Warfield
  54. 54. What is a work of art if not the gaze of another person? Not directed above us, nor beneath us, but at the same height as our gaze. Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle
  55. 55. Text jilltxt
 on Twitter Blogging 
 (Polity Press, 2013) Read more: Rettberg, Jill Walker. Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. Forthcoming, Palgrave, October 2014. AND CHECK OUT MY BOOK! (IT’S OPEN ACCESS)