Digital Poetics


Media Study’s digital poetics curriculum, benefiting from the resources of Electronic Poetry Center (EPC) and the activities of the Digital Media Poetics visiting artist and E-Poetry series, is unique to the field. It is particular in scope and methodology, employing an experimental literature-based approach, complementing the activities of UB’s Poetics Program, and its location in the Media Study Department, which gives it a specific practitioner perspective. These programs are one of the strengths of the University at Buffalo.

An integral part of our courses is provided by the Digital Media Poetics series of digital events where, in conjunction with primary and secondary works covered in the classroom, individual digital practitioners and theorists are invited to the Buffalo campus. Examples of these include Jean-Pierre Balpe and the Cybertext Yearbook symposia, the Language and Encoding Symposium and visits by numerous individual practitioners, such as Bill Lavender, Jaap Blonk, Christian Bök, Paul Dutton, and Steve McCaffery, among many others. Our E-Poetry series of digital poetry festivals have also provided key classroom support including, especially for graduate students, opportunities to develop and present research and original works of art at this professional conference. Each E-Poetry festival has brought approximately 50 digital poets from 20 countries, and provides examples of a wide range of digital practice. Videos of the events are being put in the EPC archive to be made available for courses in digital literature.

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The Electronic Poetry Center also plays a key part in our pedagogical approach. At the EPC we regularly maintain resources to supplement courses, such as the recently developed “Sound Poetry” page, the many digital, audio, and video files relevant to digital poetics, and the “E-Poetry” page. The Sound Poetry and E-Poetry pages are examples of the type of resources developed specifically to make such courses possible. Both pages are unique resources, the only curated lists of resources in these areas on the Web. The sound poetry page indexes primary sources, media files of sound poetry performances, and selected secondary sources. These performances are almost all out-of-print, and difficult to obtain recordings that could not be practically accessed otherwise. The resource is created as a single, printable list that gives students an overview of the field. Likewise, the E-Poetry page is the only resource on the Web to present a curated list of practitioners. It offers links to their work, and lists of special projects, sites, journals, secondary sources, and tools relevant to the field. Such a list provides an outline of this new field of study that has emerged from the diverse activities of isolated practitioners.

As Digital Poetics (Loss Peque�o Glazier, Univ. of Alabama Press, 2002) argues, the principle problem in theoretical approaches to digital poetics has been the critical frame for viewing the field. Such a frame is crucial to pedagogical approaches to teaching in the discipline. Our emphasis does not focus on the more utilitarian perspectives put forth by certain critics in the field, whose models are mainly hypertext-focused, prose-based, non-visual, non-interactive, and not concerned with programming. Such approaches likewise fail to focus on the perspective of the practitioner, on the historical avant-garde, nor on materiality of the digital medium. As an alternative approach, as teachers of artists in a media studies department, we prefer to draw on the rich traditions of interdisciplinary avant-garde practice to empower students with both a sense of historical precedent as well as practical examples of innovative multimedia artistic practice in varying cultural contexts.

Our approach looks at twentieth century experimental art movements, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, and Language poetry, among others, as formative to digital media practice. It draws upon the analysis and study of individual works of art as points of deliberation for larger aesthetic issues. Consideration of the social context of such works is central. Supplementing the examination of such primary sources, key critical statements, articles, manifestoes, and other critical works, are studied to illuminate the thought processes behind such works. (For graduate seminars, recently issued publications and articles about to be published are used as much as possible to give students access to current critical conversations in the field.) In our classes, a collaborative approach to the learning process is emphasized. This includes oral presentation of research reports and group consideration of semester-length projects by individual students. Course content is highly interdisciplinary and includes digital media, print texts, film and video screenings, music, and art events. A multimedia approach seems to be effective for students who have been brought up with a consumer multimedia aesthetic. Such an upbringing tends to draw students towards fast and flashy forms of multimedia expression. This is a key reason for the inclusion of historical experimental practices and the emphasis on social contexts of artistic practice.

We invite you to explore digital poetics at Buffalo. These offerings are unique in the field!