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ENTER | Digital Anthology

Atualizado em 30 de abril | 10:39 AM



ENTER – Digital Anthology brings together poets, prose writers, musicians, cartoonists and cordelistas who maintain the relation with the word in the web.

ENTER — Digital Anthology

By Heloisa Buarque de Hollanda (august 2009)

On computer keyboards, the ENTER key carries a command, or a line of commands, performing its default function.  In other words, ENTER initiates a process, like that of an OK.  In the design of some keyboards, the ENTER key appears as RETURN, with an arrow pointing down and to the left, and generally fulfills the same function as ENTER.  In some programs, it works like a cursor command, serving to change lines or to start a new paragraph.  Despite small variations, depending on the configuration of different operating systems, programs and commands, ENTER invariably has the function of taking its user to a new logic/ language/ space, or even simply a new paragraph.  It is a key also used on calculators, ATMs, credit card readers, and games.  As an expression, ENTER has been used as the title of CDs (as in the albums Within Temptation from 1997 and 2006’s Russian Circles) and as the name of innumerable computer science magazines in the USA, Finland, Poland, Croatia and Macedonia. It was also used as the title of an exceptional choreography created by Carmen Luz for the “Cia Étnica de Dança” that brings to the language of the body all the possible inaugural meanings of ENTER.

The title of this anthology was suggested by the adventure that the ENTER key offers, but first and foremost it is a citation of and an homage to Carmen.

Today I’m convinced that to think about literature hosted on the internet, it is absolutely essential that one presses the ENTER key, meaning that one accepts the rite of passage that is to enter into another logic of perception, to experience new relations with the word, with the community of authors, with the idea of literature and of literary criticism, with the idiosyncrasies and passions of literary life on the web.

A first scare one experiences when diving into the digital universe, and into the environment of the internet, is the evidence of the explosion of the word, in all its forms, dictions, grammars, syntaxes.  Facing the siege of the flows of information and of the popularization of digital technologies, the response is the current unfolding of the word that advances secure in this new public space and its geopolitical dissemination.  It comes discretely, like the first blogs – personal and literary – and soon expands without prior warning into literary practices that innovate by remixing languages, genres, and formats.  It is the rhymed word, poetry in prose, in everyday diction, the prose in music, the indisputable quality of graphic novels, the word streamlined in the dialect of blogs, Facebook pages, emails.  The pirated, hacked word, exploiting the new technological possibilities of iPods, and podcasts, looking for visual expression, dramatized forms, working fuzzy borders, expanding its public art potential.  Umberto Eco certainly doesn’t exaggerate when he announces the arrival of the century of the word, bringing to a close once and for all the dominion of the image that marked the 20th century.

First of all, lets try to resolve a problem so we can move forward.  The dissemination of the use of the internet, including its use by writers, brought with it a polemic with respect to the (not so new) fear that the days of literature and of the book were numbered.  The book would become an obsolete format, losing its magical and almost sacred effects, and literature its place of excellence in the face of a probable contamination by current “corrupt” practices of writing and by the impact of the damaging effects of electronic media.  That problem is very interesting, not exactly for its critical importance, but for the clarity of the symptoms of an ancestral fear of possible catastrophes that can follow the arrival of new technologies.  Again, I cite Umberto Eco, who, thinking in an already classic lecture on the future of the book, observes the historical recurrence of this fear and traces, with archeological rigor, its long and painful history.  I choose, by way of example, only one of these moments: the invention of writing.  Eco recalls that, in the face of the news of the development of that unknown technology, discussion was inflamed.  Motive: the use of writing would directly compromise the capacity for memorization, vital for the human being.  The untrained memory, now becoming dependent on an external resource, would end up directly affecting the power and even the creative capacity of the human mind.  Unforeseen result: the proliferation of books became a powerful stimulus for thought and, consequently, for the development of memory.

This is only one of the examples of that repetitive and nearly immutable story.  As such, I won’t linger on that subject here.  As for the other question that refuses to go silent in the panorama of literary criticism, the one about the decadence of the literary forms on the internet, I won’t develop that here either for more or less the same reason.  To simplify and to not face that question which, in itself, has undeniable critical and theoretical interest, I propose that we call deliteratura [of-literature] the textual production known for its canonical standards, and literary practices those other forms of verbal or written expression that are spreading today on the web and outside the web with great force and creativity.  It’s easier this way.

I go calmly, beginning with the supposed beginning, the blog.  The blog is a relatively recent form of writing practice.  According to the unreliable source, Wikipedia, the blog — which it was not yet technically called — emerged in 1993, created by Glen Barry as a tool in the environmental protection and education campaign titled “Forest Protection Blog.”  It went quickly.  Four years later, in 1997, the blog becomes identified as a commonly-used publishing tool, and by 1999, it has already invaded the web in journalistic, political, and medical uses, as online diaries, or even as a simple space for personal posting.  That little history, perhaps not quite exact, carries an important piece of information: the blog emerges as a campaign instrument, used as a tool that allows for tracing paths of connection with other blogs, facilitating and stimulating action on the web.  Today, the popularity of blogs is indisputable and it’s not uncommon to find in the academy lines of research on the blog in courses in design, the cognitive sciences, the visual arts, literature, authorial rights, gender relations and so many others.  Words like blogosphere, frog (blogs with fake names) or moblog (using cell phones) are already commonly used.  As such, the blog has come to stay (if this can be said of web topics) and writers and sympathizers realized this early on.

I’m not in any way delimiting the literature found on the internet as being affiliated with or even connected to the blog.  The dynamic of the web is fascinating precisely because it manages to enfold and give potential to innumerable diversified literary practices, including among them literature, as it is traditionally defined with its criteria of value, quality, permanence and founded on the legitimacy of the author function.  That literature also circulates readily on the web and benefits, without doubt, from a visibility and a facility of access only permitted by the relatively open and decentralized nature of the internet.

But I also want to call attention to the other forms of expression and uses of the word developed specifically out of that environment or marked by the experience of new cognitive and perceptive processes that characterize, in large part, the generation of authors that begins to produce in the mid-90s.

I return to the blog, the foundational practice that, together with email and the social networks such as Orkut, My Space, Facebook and others, defined new dynamics of behavior and relationship through use of the word.  The sense of campaign that inaugurated the blog permits and stimulates the invention of new strategies for the intensive spread of writing and, above all, of the creation of reading publics.

All indications are that the era of the desk drawer is definitely buried.   The writer who had a text without publishing prospects, and who went to battle in search of a critic or a well-known author who would legitimate the work and, who knows, would even steer it toward a publisher, is already long gone.  The new author, now with the great www window at his or her disposal, frequently posts a text that is still a draft and makes it available to a wide and diverse public including here, with some luck, the much-dreamed-of editor.

On that point, I move to the second suggestion of the blog format that is the feeling of the network.  The potential for acting in network, the great secret of the internet, carries, in the field of letters, the new forms of production, consumption, exchange, and interlocution among writers or users of the word and their readers.  It’s in this sense that Giselle Beiguelman, in O livro depois do livro [The Book After the Book], insists on the idea that the computer screen cannot be seen merely as a new prop for literature, but that that screen, above all, is an interface where each reader becomes a potential editor.

It is in this new panorama that the forms of collaborative creation and of shared authorship are developed, the phenomenon with the greatest impact in the cultural scenario of the present day.  Further, it is in this scene that new formats of non-professional criticism begin to emerge, becoming progressively more evident on the internet.  This criticism is opinionated, collaborative, irritated criticism that before all else expresses in clear and direct form the reaction and the predilections of the reader, a category that had not yet gained voice and visibility.  The responses of the reader, until very recently, were only legible as a quantitative evaluation (the number of sales) of the reception of a text, rarely as a qualitative evaluation, now openly available on the web.  A careful study of the word of this reader/critic has yet to be made and presents itself as highly necessary.

On the other hand, on and off the net, the proliferation of communities at the beginning of the century seems to be an imperative.  Zygmunt Bauman, in the book Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World, understands the intensification of communitarian dynamics today as a strategy of quasi-survival in the face of the contemporary tension between security and liberty.  In the case of network and blog communities, the collateral effects are no less important, stimulating exchange and interlocution between pairs, defining new meanings of belonging and new politics of creation.

The traits we can perceive in the literary production connected to blogs, whether in the case of the writer-blogger or of the blogger-writer, are various and they confirm the hypothesis that neither the blog nor the social networks are simply a medium.

In the first place, the environment where this writing appears is substantially diverse from that of literary creation or even from the writing of letters and personal diaries.  The concentration and the situation of privacy, or even the intimacy that is in principle the environment of writing outside the web, comes to be substituted by a liquid, decentralized scenario that receives multiple inputs simultaneously, is crossed by flows of information and communication at high speed, and is experienced as a public space of self exposure, interlocution, and confrontation.

In online writing, some curious factors immediately attract attention.  In the first place, the effects of pluri-dimensionality resulting from novel forms of reception and attention generated by the simultaneous impulses and flows that characterize experience on the internet.  In this direction, one can perceive yet another not insignificant trait.  It is the slipping of the internet environment outside itself, without the solution of continuity, a phenomenon of nearly simultaneous living in distinct environments that Beiguelman calls cibridismo [cybridism].  That is, the interpenetration of online and offline networks that incorporates and recycles the already instituted mechanisms of writing and reading.

In the second place, awareness of the virtual presence of a reader that influences the creative act in a significant way, accompanied by the clear limits between literary work and personal writing.  Such awareness can be easily perceived, especially in blogs (but also in paper texts), denouncing a quite specific link between the organic and private experience of the author and his or her properly textual work.  In the language of scholars of the blog, those authors who experience writing in an openly public space and get properly literary effects from it are scriptobitionists.

The consciousness of this exposition holds perhaps the greatest responsibility for one of the most attractive traits of this new generation of writers.  I speak of the obvious and constant self-irony that enfolds these extremely original works with critical and acid diction.  It is as if it were the fictionalization of the persona of the writer, a common exercise in the writing of blogs, chat rooms, and virtual communities.

Another important characteristic of the new textual practices is the novel facility for passing from one genre to another, from a textuality to a diction of intense visuality or sonority, for the ever more frequent experimentation in the fertile terrain of the convergence of media that make digitially-based creations.  Marcelino Freire, with his characteristic propriety, says that he threads his text with gambiarras [improvisations], seeking to define the comfortable naturalness of the present slippage between textual form and formats.  The gambiarra, for those unfamiliar with it, is originally a type of improvised artifice for linking wires and electric currents.  A quick and easy trick.  That slippage in Marecelino’s work, and in that of so many others, is particularly beautiful and quite frequent in the writing of young authors today.  The slipping or surfing (the opposite of confronting and adhering) between genres, languages, props, and media can also be defined as a textual expression of the most fluid or expansive forms of subjectivity that the present creative context permits and stimulates.

It was in this way, full of surprises and hypotheses, that I began my work to create ENTER.  Some decisions of conceptual and affective character were necessary to format the project.  Even so, I didn’t feel sufficiently comfortable faced with such an extensive and provocative production.  I took two initial previsions.  The first was to assume a reasonably assured flexibility in relation to the idea of literature.  Though respecting and admiring literature in its more traditional sense, I couldn’t remain immune to the evident expansion of the word and of the multiplicity of uses and experimentation with the word that grow today in geometric proportion.  I will consider them as material for examination, all the forms of literature practiced on the web, oftentimes excessive and unequal, but always the expression of a generation committed to shared creation, with the velocity of posts and with the expansion of the frontiers of the word.  I will consider the written word, the contemplated word, the heard word, the sung word.

The second prevision was to establish a form of shared curator-ship, as my incursions into the web suggested to me. As such, I worked in conjunction with Ramon Mello (in reality my partner on this voyage), Cecilia Giannetti, Bruna Beber and Omar Salomão.  Together, we discussed what would be fitting to consider, thinking about the innumerable forms and uses of the word on the web.  Together, we thought of names for this selection.  Together, we resolved to explore in the work the possibilities the web offers such as the animation of texts, the use of sound, video, remixes.  We proposed to authors that they not only create texts, but also rework their texts in graphics, podcasts, videocasts.  We sought together to create an environment that permits the reader to navigate in the letters and the talent of the new creators of the digital.  We sought, above all, to offer an opportunity to discover the pleasure of the www environment.

I assume the onus of having made alone the final selections of the participants and of having made the decision on the final concept for this project, a soft-book that can be amplified, reduced, rectified, or rewritten at any moment.  I also assume the certainty that there is no such thing as a literature of the internet.  But that there does exist a new environment, with an unprecedented horizon of possibilities of expression, though with fragile governing limits, that irreversibly affect our form of thinking, creating, seeing, signifying.