ELO18 Panel: Towards E-Lit’s #1 Hit

This panel was presented at the Electronic Literature Organization 2018 conference in Montreal on August 14, 2018. This post offers both the proposal for the panel and presentations, and video documentation of the presentations themselves. The participants (in order of appearance) are: Dr. Leonardo Flores, Dr. Kathi Inman Berens, and Dr. Lyle Skains.

Leonardo Flores, “Third Generation Electronic Literature”

We are witnessing the emergence of a third generation of electronic literature, one that breaks with the publishing paradigms and e-literary traditions of the past and present.

N. Katherine Hayles first historicized electronic literature by establishing 1995 as the break point between a text heavy and link driven first generation and a multimodal second generation “with a wide variety of navigation schemes and interface metaphors” (“Electronic Literature: What Is It?”). Even though Hayles has since rebranded the first wave of electronic literature as “classical,” generational demarcations are still useful, especially when enriching the first generation with pre-Web genres described by Christopher Funkhouser in ​Prehistoric Digital Poetry​ and others. My paper redefines the second generation as one aligned with Modernist poetics of innovation by creating interfaces and multimodal works in which form is invented to fit content.

Third generation electronic literature emerges with the rise of social media networks, the development of mobile, touchscreen, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms. This generation is less concerned with inventing form and more with remixing and creating work within well established platforms and their interfaces, parallel to a return to recognizable poetic forms, Romantic subjectivity, and pastiche in Postmodern poetry. This includes Instagram poetry, bots, apps, kinetic typography, lyric videos, memes, Twine games, and works that take advantage of smartphone, touchscreen, and VR technologies. This generation leaves behind book and open Web publishing paradigms and embraces new funding models, such as crowdfunding and software distribution platforms.

Even though the first generation of e-lit ended about 20 years ago, the second and third generation currently coexist, much as Modernist and Postmodernist literature do. And while second generation works are currently more sophisticated, complex, and aligned with academia, the third generation will produce the first massively successful works because they operate in platforms with large audiences that need little to no training to reading them. So while second generation works will continue to attract critical acclaim with limited audiences, it is the third generation that will produce the field’s first #1 hit.

Leonardo Flores, “Third Generation Electronic Literature”

Populist Modernism: Printed Instagram Poetry and the Literary Highbrow

“InstaPoets” are a collection of individual Instagrammers who’ve converted their social media capital (hundreds of thousands of followers, millions of “likes” and reposts) into printed book bestseller status. Rupi Kaur alone tallied 1.4 million sales of her first book of Insta Poetry, ​Milk and Honey​, in 2017. Uniquely among books by social media celebrities (​c.f.​ books by YouTube celebrities), fans of InstaPoets buy printed book versions of ​exactly the same content​ that’s available for free in an Instagram feed. Why do these fans buy what they already have for free?

This paper describes the Instagram Poetry phenomenon, then situates it in two contexts: debates about high- and lowbrow digital literary culture; and book industry efforts to understand–and monetize–digital interactivity.

Electronic literature artists emulate the high modernist aesthetic of difficulty. Once a small community of North American and Western European academics, e-lit is now global, and its canonical status is established: e-lit is featured on university syllabi, publishes its own curated and peer-reviewed collections, has launched a branch of digital humanities scholarship, and awards prizes. Bestselling InstaPoetry, in this context, is a populist upstart at odds with “digital literature” as it’s been construed. However, the InstaPoets provide clues about how digital literary interactivity might be financially sustainable outside of university sponsorship—a conversation that transpired at ELO 2017 in my talk: “What Book Publishers can Learn from Electronic Literature Installation,” on a panel chaired by Lyle Skains. Later, Leonardo Flores openly asked Matt Kirschenbaum in the QA after his keynote: what is e-lit’s #1 hit? My paper is one response to that question.

Printed Instagram Poetry’s “warm materiality” (McLuhan) converts the social media capital of algorithmic reinscription (likes, shares, reposts) into book sales and bestseller status. This paper analyzes what the Instagram Poets’ social and economic success tell us about new practices of digital-born authorship and e-literature’s financial sustainability.

Kathi Inman Berens, “Populist Modernism: Printed Instagram Poetry and the Literary Highbrow”

Lyle Skains, “Not Sold in Stores: The Commercialization Potential of Digital Fiction”

Since Will Crowther created the first text-adventure game in 1976 (Jerz 2007), digital media has provided ample opportunity for fictional storytelling to evolve. One evolutionary pathway has led to computer games, now the most dominant form of entertainment media. Digital fiction, however, has developed along a more understated pathway, and has yet to emerge into its mainstream or commercial niche; it is not sold on Amazon, Google Play, or Steam; it is not regularly reviewed in ​The New Yorker ​or ​The Guardian​; it does not get adapted into popular films or television shows. Yet digital fiction persists, and in recent years has expanded beyond its roots as experimental texts created and shared amongst academics and avant garde artists, as demonstrated by trends in book apps, Twine games, and educational tools.

It is possible that digital fiction remains on the fringes not because the mainstream public dislikes it, but simply because they can’t find it. Publishing models for digital fiction have not yet emerged; rather, it is still primarily shared on the “gift economy” (Currah 2007) of the internet. Promising avenues have emerged in the indie games sphere in the form of Twine games and walking sims, but the generally single-authored, narrative-driven digital fiction has yet to find a solid footing in mainstream, commercial publishing spheres.

This presentation summarizes the convergent evolution in different media, from e-lit to indie games to webcomics, and examines each for its successes and failures in terms of commercialization. It offers insight into the future of digital fiction based on these case studies, as well as the author’s own practice-based research into publishing and commercializing digital fiction as both a creator and a publisher (in the form of Wonderbox Publishing).

Lyle Skains, “Not Sold in Stores: The Commercialization Potential of Digital Fiction”


This panel was inspired by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s keynote at ELO 2017 in Porto, titled “ELO and the Electric Light Orchestra: Electronic Literature Lessons from Prog Rock” available here and my follow up question “What do you think will be e-lit’s first #1 hit?” See the video documentation of the keynote below.

Lecture: Third Generation Electronic Literature

I was recently invited to give a lecture at the University of Bergen on January 31, 2018 and the recording is now available. My talk, titled “Third Generation Electronic Literature” offers a historical overview of electronic literature, builds upon genealogies of the field by Hayles and Funkhouser, and describes a third wave of e-literature that emerged circa 2005. I believe this third generation will produce massively popular works and lead to mainstream adoption of electronic literature.

Big thanks to Scott Rettberg, Jill Walker Rettbert, Daniel Apollon, Daniel Jung, Álvaro Seiça, Mia Zamora, and the Digital Culture students, faculty, and staff at UiB for the invitation, warm welcome, great questions, and video production.

Spring 2018 Courses

This Spring 2018 semester I will be offering 3 courses: Modern Poetry, Digital Creative Writing, and Digital Humanities Internship. I have linked to the course blogs, with which I have offered at least two or more iterations of the courses, which should allow you to have a sense of what I’ve covered in the past. For a more immediate synopsis, take a look at the flyer below.

Some fun facts about these courses:

  • Modern poetry is the second in a 3-part series of poetry courses he will be offering. You can jump in anytime, but if you take all three you will have mad poetry analytical skills and knowledge of the past 100+ years in poetic tradition.
  • Digital Creative Writing (same course number as Creative Writing) and Digital Humanities Internship both can be used for the Innovation Tracks in Digital Media certificate.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Workshop: Making Twitter Bots for Digital and Cultural Literacy

On Saturday, July 29 at 1:15 pm, I will be offering a workshop on creating Twitter bots at the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Vancouver.

Here’s a link to a Google document for the workshop that will allow you to read and make comments on the document. Please feel free to use the comment functionality to chime in and ask questions.

Those interested in participating will profit most from the workshop by reading the document and doing the first three steps:

  1. Explore the Twitter bot examples listed in the document for ideas and inspiration to come up with a concept and basic operation of a bot you would like to create.
  2. Think of sentence templates, variables, and datasets that you can use to generate the kind of output you want your bot to generate. Here are some useful resources.
  3. Create a Twitter account for your bot.
  • You will need an e-mail address for that account. You can create one from scratch, or if you have a Gmail account, you can add +botname to your e-mail address before the @ sign (leonardo.flores@upr.eduleonardo.flores+bot@upr.edu).
  • Flesh out the account with a profile picture, header picture, and description. This is where you begin to develop its character and personality.

And if you can’t do it, no worries! Those who don’t have an individual bot project to develop will work collectively to create a bot in the workshop. Here’s a link to our worksheet: bit.ly/digpedbot.

You can download a PDF of the document, visit the live document or read it embedded below.

Olá Portugal!

I am pleased to announce that from July 10-23 I will be visting Porto in a series of scholarly activities and public appearances sponsored by the Fulbright Specialist Program, the Fulbright Commission in Lisbon, and Universidade Fernando Pessoa (UFP).


  • July 13-14: Available for meetings and consultations 9:00 – 12:00, 13:00 – 16:00 UFP CETIC.
  • July 14: Presentation: “Electronic Literature and the Future of Writing” 18:00 – Salao Nobre at UFP.
  • At the Electronic Literature Organization Conference and Festival (July 18-22):
    • July 18: Meeting:  litElat: Latin American E-Literature Network 16:00 – 18:00 at Sala Fernando Pessoa, EEPG.
    • July 19: Panel Presentation: “Mainstreaming Electronic Literature” 10:30 – 12:15at UFP Auditório.
    • July 21: Roundtable Presentation: “Translations and Renderings” 10:30 – 12:15 at UFP Auditório.

Contact Information:

If you are interested in meeting with me in the Porto area, don’t hesitate to contact me via e-mail so we can schedule an appointment, especially on July 13-14.

Additional information:

If you’re interested in knowing more about electronic literature, you can watch my TEDx talk on YouTube or attend the Electronic Literature Organization 2017 Conference and Festival (see poster below), with scholarly presentations, exhibitions, and performances at UFP and around Porto.

And special thanks to Dr. Rui Torres for this generous invitation!

My recent #criticalmemes

This semester has presented me with opportunities to create several critical memes. From teaching how to create memes that present complex ideas and critiques in my Digital Media Criticism course to a fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico that has led to an indefinite student strike at the University of Puerto Rico, I have had plenty of inspiration to explore this popular digital media genre. So here are some of my most recent memes.

My most recent one is inspired by this meme about Republicans planning to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s a link to the GIF version.

This series was inspired by Puerto Rico’s National Strike on May 1, 2017– a massive peaceful protest against austerity measures that was misrepresented by the media and many people when a small group of people engaged in vandalism after the event had concluded.

Finally, when Governor Ricky Rosselló, who repeatedly stated during his campaign that the debt could be paid and that he wouldn’t declare bancruptcy, declared bankruptcy, I created these two memes (click to enlarge).

I don’t know how much of an impact these memes will have, but they’re fun to create and circulate nicely in social media. My most successful one has received of 4,500 shares between Facebook and Twitter since it was launched a week ago. Most importantly, they allow me to express my perspective on current events while I practice my skills on and learn about what makes this such a popular digital genre.

And before anyone corrects me on this, I will clarify that I’m aware that:

Text over image of French presiden Macron: "This is not a meme / It's an image macron"

Share and enjoy!

Support the ELC3 with Your Vote

A publication I co-edited, the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 3 (ELC3) has been nominated for a 2016 Digital Humanities Award in the category of “Best Use of DH for Public Engagement.”

Please support this publication with your vote here. Voting is open until Friday, February 25.

For more information of these awards read on or visit their page:

Digital Humanities Awards are a set of entirely open annual awards run as a DH awareness raising activity. The awards are nominated and voted for entirely by the public. These awards are intended to help put interesting DH resources in the spotlight and engage DH users (and general public) in the work of the community.

I have been nominated twice for DH awards in the past for I ♥︎ E-Poetry, earning the following awards:



New Video & Resource: My Networked Narratives Studio Visit

On Tuesday, January 31, I participated in the first Elements of Networked Narratives Studio Visit. Here’s a description of the course and event, which was hosted by Mia Zamora (@MiaZamoraPhD) and Alan Levine (@cogdog).

Networked Narratives is an open connected course of digital storytelling, world building, civic imagination, and a bit of digital alchemy. Join a group of registered students at Kean University for a journey starting January 16, 2017

The studio visit was recorded via Google Hangouts on Air and is now published on YouTube (see below) and beautifully documented and annotated (via Hypothes.is) in their website.

Thank you, Mia, Alan, and all the participants for the invitation and putting together such a wonderful experience and resource!

My Appointment as Department of English Interim Director

I am pleased to share the good news that I have been chosen to serve as the next Interim Director of the Department of English at UPR: Mayagüez.

I wish to thank all the colleagues who supported my candidacy with their vote, writing, and encouragement. This couldn’t have happened without you.

I also wish to thank my wife Kara and my mother Nelsie for their incredible support. I couldn’t do it without your help. And thanks to my loving children Blake and Olivia for their patience with me as I become busier over the next few years.

I especially want to thank Interim Dean Fernando Gilbes Santaella and Chancellor John Fernandez Van Cleve for placing their trust in me.

I’m looking forward to working with the administration and my colleagues to strengthen and transform our English Department so that it can better serve our students, our University, Puerto Rico, and the world in the challenging times ahead.