Friday, November 7, 2014

Could a Podcast Be Considered E-Lit?

My friend Nico asked me an interesting thing this morning that made my brain hurt:

On Nov 7, 2014, at 7:46 AM, Nicoletta -- <> wrote:

when the other day you explained what you consider digital literature, would you consider audiobooks a form of digital literature? if they have to be listened from digital media (especially now, that they don’t get published in tapes, but only as files or CDs, and people mostly use ipods or their computers to listen to them)?


So I replied:

Begin forwarded message:

From: Alex Saum-Pascual <>
Subject: Re: question
Date: November 7, 2014 at 8:05:10 AM PST
To: Nicoletta -- <>

Not generally, but it depends. If the work is a performance (something that was written to be read out loud like a play or a spoken word performance) I would consider them just that, a play or a performance in the traditional sense. Not electronic, but maybe literary. The fact that they are distributed or recorded as a digital file rather than magnetic tape is irrelevant, the product and the experience are the same. The question here is if you consider the listening to a reading of a book the same thing as the reading of a book—which I don’t since they imply different semiotic channels, skills, and means of constructing meaning.

Now then, if you think that listening is also a way of experiencing literature that builds upon a genre of “audio literature," and if there is something about that audio performance that points towards its digital conception (let’s say, a way of interacting with it via voice or movement or if the sound uses poetically some digital features that would not be possible other way) then maybe.

However (and this is why I would not generally think an audio book to be a form of electronic literature), the fact that a piece of literature is read out loud and then recorded affects the acts of reading, speaking and recording but not the piece of literature (the text) in itself, so I would not particularly consider that original piece electronic—unless, as I said, you define the work of literature as a larger system (beyond the text) that takes into consideration the act of reading as part of the literary  experience, and (in the case of e-lit) enhances the reading in some way beyond the text with the aid of digital technologies.

In this case, nonetheless, when considering a work of literature that encompasses the performative acts of reading and speaking as complimentary to the text but part of a larger experience, I think I would favor talking about digital performance, media art installation, or something like that, rather than literature.

I hope this helps! xoxo


And now I wonder then about the limits of reading as an experience, as all reading essentially happens in the combination of the visual interpretation of the sings and within the realm of sound (even if mental) but of the self, rather than listening to some other voice interpreting the symbols for you. But what if that interpreting mechanism is a machine? in the sense that all electronic text is interpreted by a graphical interface for us to see recognizable graphemes that we then read as letters and sound that lead to meaning. And what happens when we make our computers read to us? What happens to the text? where is the text? where is it? and what's up with the literariness of it all?

As I said, my morning brain hurts. This type of questions should wait to be posed till after 9am at least.