Language and Encoding Lab
Judd Morrissey
Wednesday, 1-4
SC 1227

Course Description

This is a workshop for writing and textual experimentation within networked and programmable media. Writers are asked to consider computer code both as language and as a medium for programmatically sculpting language through the capability of machines to "read," "write," reconfigure, parse and proliferate textual material. We explore a variety of established and emerging forms of electronic writing including interactive hypertexts, hypermedia works combining text with sound and/or image, computer-generated poems and narratives, sited and installed digital texts, and viral and distributed narratives. The workshop is structured to accommodate readings/screenings and discussions of electronic work, technical tutorials, lab time for experimentation, and presentations of student projects for response and critique.

Course Requirements

assignments: In addition to exercises and readings, students will be present at least one work in progress for workshopping as well as a mid-term and a final presentation. Works in progress may be derived from in-class exercises or independently, but should consider the experiments and techniques introduced in the class lab sessions.

individual meetings: I will provide the opportunity for individual meetings for feedback, discussion, and tutorials at mid-term and towards the end of the semester.

Attendance: It is very important to attend every class. Most topics build on previous lessons and discussions, and missing a session will reduce your ability to successfully complete assigned projects. We will begin promptly at 1pm, as we will have a lot to cover each week. If you arrive later than 1:30 without having provided a reasonable explanation in advance, you will be marked as absent. If you accumulate three absences, an automatic No-Credit will be given. Please also keep in mind that it is expected that no absences will be unexcused, that is, if you cannot make a session, it is your basic responsibility to contact the instructor in advance.

Course Structure

Our weekly sessions will typically be divided into three activities:
1) workshop: presentations of works-in-progress and responses
1) lab: instructor-led writing exercises, group activities, time for writing and making.
3) discussion of readings and screenings

Technically, we will be examining and writing within three types of web-based coding languages and using them in combination: a)mark-up language(xhtml / xml) b)[client-side] scripting language (javascript) c)[server-side] programming language (php).
web languages

To enable server-side scripting, we will be using MAMP.
explanation of client-server architecture

Weekly presentations:

Each week, beginning week 3, two students will present works-in-progress to the class in the form of a reading, performance, or distributed url. Students may wish to send links to the rest of the group in advance of the presentation in order to receive more substantial feedback. If you intend for us to spend time with your piece beforehand, please let us know in class on the previous week and then send the file within 2-3 days (by Saturday).

Syllabus note: Please note that the syllabus is updated weekly and, while it provides an overall framework, it is by no means a static document and should be referred to often.


Sites / Collections
Electronic Poetry Center
Electronic Book Review
Electronic Literature Organization Collection, vol.1
Iowa Review Web
OPENPORT Festival and Symposium

xhtml / css / javascript


Weekly Schedule

week 01

course introduction with screening of various works
Language and Encoding: A Generative Exercise
reading (code & language): Glazier, from Digital Poetics
web-work: Glazier EPC page

hypertext links:
Vanevar Bush: As We May Think
How the Internet Works
Robert Coover, The End of Books

html resources:
web: w3schools tutorials
book (recommended): any book that covers both xhtml & css (shop around)

week 02

Mark-up languages, taxonomies, and compositional space
reading: from Perec, Species of Spaces
from Mallarme, Un Coup De Des
assignment: html as compositional space.

week 03

electronic text & visuality
Selected works from UBU
handout: historical and contemporary visual composition examples
assignment: Deliberate, architectural, defined, graded: encoded visual composition

week 04

language reprocessed: composing with code
Readings (virtuality/embodiment): Hayles, from How We Became Posthuman

week 05

procedural and performative poetics
additional readings: Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bok, Nathan Brown
exercise: processed/recombinatory composition

lab resources:
Table of Forms

week 06

(machine-)reading as (machine-)writing
Readings: Jackson Mac Low
John Cage, Writing For the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake
web-work: Noah Wardrop Fruin,
Regime Change

lab resources:
Joyce reads from Wake
Wake full text

week 07

lab with individual meetings
Readings: Florian Cramer, Words Made Flesh

week 08

readings / presentations of mid-term work

week 09

Spring Break

week 10

electronic text & temporality
critique/discussion of works presented weeks 3,4, & 5
web-work: Cayley, Translation

week 11

electronic text and networks
community, semantics, textual trends

week 12

compositional systems: half-finished heavens

week 13

lab with individual meetings

week 14

Final Presentations

week 15

Final Critiques