ELC3 Companion

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ARCHIVERSE Tractatus: A Provisionality

A theory of digitally mediated reading and looking follows from three points:

1. To engage (select) language objects (letterforms) in a compositional field is to read (apprehend) them.

2. The proof is in the erase command, which returns us to a fuller sense of what THE ARCHIVERSE is, until we forget the letterforms that once held our place in THE ARCHIVERSE.

3. Looking takes longer than reading.


AutoCAD is not THE ARCHIVERSE. Rather it is the best tool we have found so far to explore THE ARCHIVERSE, bringing to screen compositions like LETTERS FROM THE ARCHIVERSE.

Letterforms propose a provisional surface.

The ARCHIVERSE app now in development will provide a more effective way to encounter and explore THE ARCHIVERSE, as it will be designed to explore limits discovered in AutoCAD, but it too will be provisional.

The goal is not to move beyond all limits, but to move further into the limits of THE ARCHIVERSE: Its event horizon.

THE ARCHIVERSE POETICS—one set of attempts to explore THE ARCHIVERSE through performative language—is also THE ARCHIVERSE, relative to provisional gestures within AutoCAD, an app, or other media representations (or anti-representations).

ARCHIVERSOLOGY, a visualization of THE ARCHIVERSE POETICS provisionally composed in AutoCAD, is also THE ARCHIVERSE.

Documentation of THE ARCHIVERSE is not THE ARCHIVERSE. But it has a relation to THE ARCHIVERSE.

The archinaut is an explorer of THE ARCHIVERSE.

To compose and comprise THE ARCHIVERSE, and to explore THE ARCHIVERSE, is to be in relation. This is THE ARCHIVERSE in Relation, a provisionality.

An approximation of the archinaut’s goal with reference to ideas from Erín Moure’s “THE ANTI-ANÆSTHETIC”: Discover a way to reduce anxiety about what we cannot know or control without succumbing to centralization (appeal to authority and a particular coordinated sitedness) and reliance on false notions of origin, authenticity, verifiability, and semantic or signal purity.

Strategies for provisionally mapping THE ARCHIVERSE rely on the possibility that disorientation leads to exploration.

Provisionality: Not an aesthetic, but an epistemological approach (based on what we think we know and what we know we cannot know) to the ontology of THE ARCHIVERSE (which fundamentally includes its unknowability as a total and totalizing system of semantic and non-semantic forms or potential forms).

THE ARCHIVERSE is a theory of the provisional archive whose contents are forms, gestures, the presence and absence of forms and gestures, and the dynamic and fluctuating relations between all of these.

THE ARCHIVERSE is neither here nor there, so a networked app would be provisionally ideal for exploring THE ARCHIVERSE, but only if it is understood as a provisional device rather than a tool or utility with a particular purpose or design.

THE ARCHIVERSE (in provisional forms via AutoCAD or the ARCHIVERSE app) is not a tool for reading or composing an open-field concrete digital poem, though it allows for reading and composition in novel ways.

Its purpose is to explore (and therefore develop) THE ARCHIVERSE itself.

Letterforms are are useful reference points for THE ARCHIVERSE. They are provisional and limiting. They help reveal what THE ARCHIVERSE is not.

Erase every letterform and THE ARCHIVERSE is simultaneously revealed and obscured.

Archinauts seek to activate and reveal this paradox of archiversal space and poetics.

THE ARCHIVERSE includes every mark made in its space, and every move (gesture) within that limitless planar space.

Moving through THE ARCHIVERSE is a compositional act.

THE ARCHIVERSE includes such gestures of exploration, whether or not they are marked by letterforms.

The ARCHIVERSE app is a theoretical device that may be provisionally realized, though its design is not limited by practical concerns like buildability or functionality.

THE ARCHIVERSE is now and will be provisional.


This is a selection of findings from archinautical exploration, to accompany the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3 ARCHIVERSE documentation. These materials do not wholly comprise THE ARCHIVERSE but they may provisionally approach it. They will in fact fail to definitively capture THE ARCHIVERSE. So much the better to pursue the archinaut’s goal.

At the top of this page, an audio capture incorporates a performative excerpt from THE ARCHIVERSE POETICS and improvisatory readings of archiversal letterforms as found in LETTERS FROM THE ARCHIVERSE, with musical backdrop as a provisional surface for exploration. This is a gesture toward THE ARCHIVERSE as live collaborative performance.

Below that, a gallery of semi-extents or “central” excerpts from punctuated versions of LETTERS FROM THE ARCHIVERSE and its predecessor, live from the void. This may provide a sense of morphological relational letterforms in archiversal space in a highly limited interface.

Then, ARCHIVERSE Tractatus: A Provisionality.

Followed by an image from LETTERS FROM THE ARCHIVERSE, which links to a series of screen captures that provide a closer look at relational letterforms in archiversal space.

Next, a brief statement, VERS ARCHIVERSE, by media theorist and archinaut Andrew Klobucar on digital materiality and the implications for paginal and post-paginal paradigms via THE ARCHIVERSE.

Below that, a video exploration of archiversal letterform textures: A limited view which reveals more of what is not THE ARCHIVERSE, but provides a matrix for gestural reference and a sense of movement through archiversal space. Music and textural synthetic voice for further reference.

Finally, a sentence concluding with a link to current archiversal findings at archiverse.net.

semi-extents 072215

VERS ARCHIVERSE

In her history of documents, Paper Knowledge (2014), Lisa Gitelman emphasizes the materiality of all documentation, describing its multiple forms and methods as “objects intended as evidence and processed or framed—if not caged—as such” (2). Paper, accordingly, remains the necessary medium at play here—accompanied every so often by at least one pair of scissors, a single rock and when things get out of hand, a bit of fire. What happens when we move online, demanding that digital networks show us the same type of evidence, the same sites, the same material textures we’ve associated with documented knowledge for many millennia? What happens when the archive spills into the ARCHIVERSE? Certainly THE ARCHIVERSE, as a digital network—and therefore both a formal database and a medium of communication, both structure and flow—remains at a primary level purely conjectural. It imagines language anew for us, and yet simultaneously promises no singular trace of it, either as voice or text, encouraging its population of worthy archinauts to expect everything and nothing. Its mercurial presence is thus consistent with all language online, representing a third distinct category of discourse, independent of the traditional binary of verbal and written modes we’ve come to accept as standard.

The ARCHIVERSE as a language technology intends to explore this distinction more fully than other writing tools typically employed within digital media, including the foundational word processors of conglomerates like Microsoft, Apple and Google. Such brands, despite current efforts to add a network or cloud service to their products, tend to emphasize still the imitation of paper onscreen, carefully framing images of 8.5×11 sheets to guide left-to-right, top-down discourse from desktop to desktop. By contrast, THE ARCHIVERSE, as both a site and application in process, offers a radically different view of how language itself functions online, according to the unique set of temporal and spatial junctures (disjunctures) that form a digital medium. Initiated, in part, out of a series of aesthetic questions posed around various computer aided design tools for architecture like AutoCAD and Rhino3D, this project conceives digital writing first and foremost as interrogation, if not a full cross-examination. Archinauts will find a virtually endless space in which to explore, shape, interweave, signify multiple letters, lines and literacies in a myriad of directions and dimensions, individually and collectively. Imagine whole narratives and conversations designed to fit into a single mark of punctuation; imagine sentences beginning and ending light years apart; unreadable, unwritable, unspeakable, the ARCHIVERSE holds fast to its origins in architecture designware, envisioning no separation at all between a mark and space itself. Where else but in the field of architecture do we find any line drawn on a page or a screen to produce more space, not less—to expand while it seeks to confine? In THE ARCHIVERSE, we hope to glimpse a similar antinomy: each note uttered yields yet more silence; each text added, more space to engage with. THE ARCHIVERSE thus presents its archinauts with the materiality of language more dependably than one might ever reasonably expect of paper.

For current documentation and updates on ARCHIVERSE app development, visit archiverse.net.

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