Sunday, August 8, 2010

2nd DHQ Review

Mechanisms is extremely fortunate to be the recipient of a 2nd review in Digital Humanities Quarterly. After Johanna Drucker called the book "an exemplary demonstration of scholarly method for the emerging field of digital media studies" in issue 3.2, Manuel Portela now reviews Mechanisms alongside of Kate Hayles's Electronic Literature in a review essay entitled "The Machine in the Text, and the Text in the Machine."

Portela is interested throughout in the overlapping network topologies of digital technologies and online reading environments on the one hand, and the material histories of writing, computing, and inscription that attend textual production across various media. Here is how he concludes:
Hayles’s and Kirschenbaum’s new books offer critically rigorous, intellectually provocative, and highly productive perspectives on new media literary objects. Their technical, sociotextual, and interpretive analyses raise our critical awareness of the specifics of digital materiality and electronic literature to a new theoretical and analytical level. Hayles’s readings of electronic works are exemplary in the way they relate electronic performability to interpretability. Using tropes such as "recursive dynamics," "intelligent machines" and "emergent cognition," she has tried to capture the embodied nature of technology and the distributed nature of subjectivity in human-computer interactions. Kirshenbaum’s approach, in turn, opens up electronic objects to textual criticism, extending the genetic and social text approach of the last two decades to digitally born artifacts. He offers a critically nuanced and technically rigorous description of the multiple layers of formal and forensic materiality, and stresses their interdependence. Taken together, the "electronic" in Electronic Literature and the "mechanism" in Mechanisms clearly resonate in the way they both attempt to link the deep level of machine code to the formal level of textual and metatextual code to the social level of cultural code. The machine in the text and the text in the machine — quintessential expressions of our present postmodern technotextual condition — are now more fully conceptualized in their technical, aesthetic, and social materialities.

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