Site Unscene: Medial Ideology and the Literary Interface


Who speaks in an interface? How do we understand the work done by the graphical, tactile, audio and spatial features of on-screen and ambient works of literary production? The many aspects of language – subject positions and performative dimensions – do not map neatly onto the structuring features of literary work in on-screen and networked media. This paper explores some of the ways the conventions in a literary interface produce a range of subject positions that pass as neutral user experience – and how these participate in the larger phenomenon of what Matthew Kirschenbaum calls ‘medial ideology’. In addition, it asks how the contemporary category of ‘the literary’ is identified and produced within its own ideological conceptions and their longer traditions.

If a literary interface exists, then what identifies it as distinct from other sites? To what extent does it serve a function in the workings of literature understood as the staging and presentation of literary activity within a networked environment? The answer to these questions requires several theoretical frameworks that describe the performative staging of literary work within a scene of production and reception that is continuous from analogue to networked environments All of these participate in a ‘medial ideology’ that tends to efface the circumstances of enunciation in order to produce an experience of immediacy and apparency. I will elaborate on these issues with a particular emphasis on the contrast between works that are self-identified as literary and those that are either emphatically outside that tradition and domain or blur its boundaries.

This paper sprang initially from a fascination with the interface of early ‘e-literature’ created in a…

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Published 19 December 2019 in Volume 34 No. 2. Subjects: Digital humanities, e-literature, Digital literature/s, Literary interface/s.

Cite as: Drucker, Johanna. ‘Site Unscene: Medial Ideology and the Literary Interface.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 34, no. 2, 2019, doi: 10.20314/als.1d07532095.