Other Codes: Digital Literature in Context

The first Galway Digital Cultures Initiative conference at the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, 11 – 12 May 2017.

Attended by Dr Jeneen Naji and Dr Gareth W. Young.

The Other Codes: Digital Literatures in Context conference was a two-day event that took place in Galway on the 11-12 May 2017. It was the first ever Digital Cultures Initiative conference and was hosted by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies at NUI Galway. The conference was funded through the Irish Research Council and the European Commission via the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions grant. The keynotes were delivered by: Sandy Baldwin (Rochester Institute of Technology), MaríMencía (Kingston University London), Jessica Pressman (San Diego State University), and Scott Rettberg (University of Bergen).


The conference themes were structured as an exploration of the creation, dissemination, and reception of digital literature across multiple applications. The presented works focused on the cultural significance of artistic and institutional environments; specifically, those within which Digital Literary and Digital Arts & Humanities practices are consumed. To address these issues, the conference committee challenged the delegates to think about:

  • The transnational, technological, and aesthetic aspects of digital literature and how they manifest themselves in specific works at particular historical moments.
  • How global networks adapt to local circumstances.
  • How new and experimental forms of literary and artistic expression challenge or accommodate national traditions and canons.
  • The relationship between individual talents, literary communities, and institutional frameworks in the new media environments of the twenty-first century.

Given this broad and varied foundation, presentations at the conference ranged from digital activism and social media poetics to experimental digital aesthetics and related genres. Furthermore, topics relating to the overall conference theme of digital cultures were also presented as reflective performances and presentations of creative digital works.


During the conference, new media and emergent digital technologies were discussed as a significant contributor to the deconstruction of geographical and cultural borders; boundaries that have previously been seen to impeded artistic collaborations around the world. For example, how new technology empowers smaller groups, within a specific cultural and geographical context, and enables them to communicate with other like-minded groups across a myriad of technological platforms around the world. Further discussions were engaged with how the current technological epoch also enables private, virtual communities to be formed in and around the concept of shared experiences and interests. In this context, consideration was given to the present-day consumption of digital literature, specifically to explore and evaluate how elements of electronic literature have had to adapt in response to the ever-changing communication platforms that are presented to the public on local, national, and international markets. In this way, the marketing freedoms that neoliberalism provides local communities can be seen having a profound effect upon both authors and scholars alike, challenging them to redefine their understanding of literary aesthetics within this new global, technological, and sociocultural environment that is both vast and in a constant state of flux. Furthermore, digital projects were presented to support this subversion of geographical and cultural borders, highlighting again how practices in digital literature can be influenced by the free exchange of ideas and goods on the world-wide web; enforcing important national and regional identities in the process. In response to this, digital literature was presented as an inclusive and all engaging medium that is diverse in terms of the content a community can consume and then put into operation in a multitude of diverse digital environments.


Of particular interest to the Building City Dashboards project was the keynote delivered by María MencíaGateway to the World: Ireland (Dublin, Cork, and Galway). Mencía’s talk focussed upon the second stage of her practice based, iterative research project titled “Gateway to the World: Data Visualisation Poetics.” This project was first conceived specifically for the SILT Exhibition at the Mytoro Gallery, Hamburg, in 2014. According to the SILT website, the exhibition was created to explore the details (and tangential experiments) hidden in elemental residues, using water and flow as a principal starting position to connect the audience to both the work and to the outside port lands. From this experience, Mencía created the “Gateway to the World” web application. The Gateway to the World (GttW) project shares its name with the world’s largest port in Hamburg. In the project, the port itself acts as a metaphor to express the sheer enormity of the Internet, the flow of information, openness, and connectivity. Mencía also discussed her recently completed “The Poem that Crossed the Atlantic,” which followed a similar stylisation of data visualisation as the previous project, but was applied in a different context.