Last fall, Al Filreis, one of my former professors, invited me back to the University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater, for a public conversation on postcolonial digital humanities. While we were catching up before the event, I found myself agreeing to a three-month stint as a commentator for Jacket2, a magazine on contemporary poetry and poetics. Al suggested this would be an opportunity to stretch and think more about form, poetry, and poetics in relation to the work I have already been doing at the intersections of the postcolonial and the digital.
In general, questions of form have figured less prominently in my work than those of politics. This is likely a casualty of the hyper-specialization that’s an inevitable part of academic life. Yet, from a number of conversations I have had over the last year or so, it has become clear to me that form and materiality themselves need to be more central to my work—they are where the possibilities of political transformation for digital platforms, cultures, and media lie.
Taking up Al’s challenge, yesterday I published my first commentary at Jacket2 for my series, “Postcolonial Digital Poetics.” As I wrote for the commentary side matter:
Over the last 20 years or so, digital media has offered a new site for the production, dissemination, and consumption of texts. A proliferation of platforms has led to new forms through which writers share their ideas and create art. Since the earliest ventures into electronic literature, like hypertext stories shared on webpages, the development of Web 2.0 technologies and social media has turned all users into potential creators of content. Texts that emerge often blur the lines between the mundane and the extraordinary.
This commentary considers the poetics of contemporary digital texts, objects, and cultures. Influenced by the questions of power, representation, and globalization central to postcolonial studies, posts consider poetics of platform, found poetry online, materiality of electronic literature, and the cultural logic of viral textuality.
My first commentary, “Finding Poetry on Twitter,” asks, “Are tweets simply expressions of the Internet’s id or might we find among them some of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’— poets?” Planned topics for commentaries over the next few months include online poetry generators; an interview with poet Alexandria Peary on her award-winning collection Control Bird Alt Delete (University of Iowa Press, 2014); code poetry; and the relationship between hypertext poetics and Web 2.0.