Üksildus küberruumis: autori individuaalsus ja teksti autonoomia. Solitude in Cyberspace: the Individuality of an Author and the Autonomy of a Text

Virve Sarapik, Piret Viires

Abstract


The keywords in analyses of digital literature and cybertexts (literature that has been created by and is read on a computer) mostly derive from the vocabulary of increasing collectivism: shared authorship, readerviewer interaction, their active participation in creating text etc. However, this article focuses on the opposite phenomenon: the essence of individualism in the process of digital text creation, that is, solitude. At the same time, the paradoxes related to collectivism and solitude are also addressed. In this article, solitude is regarded as a technical term, indicating the number of different agents in a creative process. This primarily means: whether the text can be associated with one author and his intention, or whether authorship is distributed between several people who have participated in the creation of the text, as well as if and how much texts presume activity on the part of the reader. We can claim that when writers write their texts they are usually on their own. A text is born in the writer’s head and he or she needs some kind of form to present it. When the form of literature was mostly what was recorded on paper, we could say that the author formalised his text in solitude – writing alone on pieces of paper. Only after the manuscript was handed in were other participants added, such as the editor, designer and printer, who took part in the completion process of the literary work. However, when the end result of production is not a printed book, but a cyber- or hypertext, we can assume that these relationships change significantly in the case of digital literature. In addition to the author of the text, cybertexts and hypertexts need active co-authors: programmers, designers etc. Creating a cybertext is, therefore, basically a collective act (although there are of course exceptions). The author of a cybertext is no longer the only and unique creator. At the same time, the solitude of a creative work in cyberspace disappears. After publishing a book in print, the text is left alone; it begins living its own life. In cyberspace, on the contrary, connections in various forms between the author, the work and the reader are retained. Alan Kirby has launched the concept of digimodernism, which marks the cultural stage connected with the spread of Web 2.0. The “digimodernist turn”, in the form of blogs, Facebook and Twitter, has also brought about a change for authors of digital literature. The technological simplicity of the new software means that authors no longer need any urgent technical assistance. This again raises the problem of the author’s solitude: he formalises his work in his blog on his own, alone. It might thus seem paradoxical that in the printed world both the author and his work are solitary, whereas in the cyberworld the solitude of creative work vanishes, because it requires interaction between authors and readers. At the same time, the author’s solitude in cyberspace is twofold – creating cybertexts mostly requires assistance, whereas digimodernist blog literature can be produced in solitude, independently. Very few cybertexts in Estonia have been produced as teamwork, with technical assistance. In this article, two showcases have been studied: the hypertextual poem “Trepp” (“Staircase”, 1996) by Hasso Krull and the grand team project Sonetimasin (Sonnet Machine, 2000) by Märt Väljataga, which consists of a book, an Internet text generator and an enormous electromechanical sonnet machine, which was displayed in an art gallery. Considering the technological experimentation of Estonian writers, these two examples are exceptional rather than normal. Estonian authors have traditionally been reluctant to try out computer-technological experiments. However, the digimodernist turn has altered this situation. Many Estonian writers are active bloggers and Facebook users. Estonian writers who were earlier afraid of technology have become very keen on it in the digimodernist world. We think that the reason for this significant change is that Estonian writers wish to be independent. We can claim that Estonian writers want to be solitary in cyberspace, to avoid participating in technological teamwork, and the new and easy technological platforms make it possible. Literature in Estonia therefore, in a way, continues the tradition of the modernist author who does not wish to give up the position of being an individual author. Digimodernist technological simplicity has indeed made possible the organic transfer from printed text to digital literature, which does not endanger the authorial position.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v6i8.552

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