e-Lit Resource
Digital Literature and the Three Levels of the Digital

In “Digital Literature and the Three Levels of the Digital,” Serge Bouchardon elaborates on the concept of “unveiling” in Electronic Literature. In the paper, based on his 2010 presentation at the ELO_AI Conference at Brown University, Bouchardon explains, “Digital literature can reveal the tensions between the different levels of the Digital.” In Bouchardon’s terms, these are: 1) Technical: “the technical possibilities of the Digital;” 2) Applicative: “the potential of the applications;” and 3) Interpretive: “the expressive potential of contents.” Each level has its own “logic of development and constraints”: 1) “the purely formal construction of computing as a combinatory space,” 2) “the applicative construction regarding the tasks targeted,” and 3) “the interpretative construction which depends on the content’s own coherence and on its context.” The article includes examples of work which illustrate these tensions. Thethingasitis (2000), by Michael Atavar, is used to illustrate the tension between levels one and two. Grafik Dynamo (2005), by Kate Armstrong and Michael Tippett and Moments de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2000), by Jean-Louis Boissier, illustrate the tension between levels one and three. And Auto-Illustrator (2001), by Adrian Ward, and Anonymes v.1.0 (2001) are held up as examples of the tension between levels two and three. Bouchardon continues, “These logics are desynchronized and incompatible a priori.” The key, Bouchardon explains, is the tension that is produced when each of these levels interact, describing how classroom teachers can use electronic literature to reveal the tensions between the three levels of the digital, making the case is made that electronic literature explores these tensions as the mode of its work.