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Techniques for creating electronic literature


Hypertext is a technique that can be used to link a portion of a text (a word, series of words or a sentence, for example), to another portion of text (either in the same text or in a different text). Hypertext works were initially distributed on floppy disks or CD-ROMs. Two programs that were often used to create hypertext works are  Storyspace and Hypercard. The rise of the World Wide Web has meant that the Internet is now a more common medium for hypertext literature. You can typically use standard HTML editors to create this type of electronic literature. Soryspace, which its publisher describes as "a hypertext writing environment that is especially well-suited to large, complex, and challenging hypertexts", is still available and is capable of exporting files to the Internet.
More information about hypertext: To learn more about the theory behind literature and hypertext, look for publications by George Landow, a pioneer and recognized expert in this field. His publication Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) is considered a particularly groundbreaking book. His most recent standard work on this subject is Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).


Flash, a commercial system developed by Macromedia, is a technique that can be used to develop videos and animations, for example, for publication through web browsers. To be able to view Flash creations, you need a Flash player, which is available as a free plug-in for all recent web browsers. Poetry created with Flash is also known as flash poetry, and is typified by features such as multimediality, mobility and variability. More information can be found in the Wikipedia entry for Flash.
Note: you might still run into the predecessor of Flash, Shockwave, in some older electronic literature.

Programming languages and scripting languages

Standard programming languages and scripting languages are also used to develop electronic literature. JavaScript is a well-known scripting language, which can be used to develop web applications.

Attention points

An important point relating to these techniques is their shelf life: the internet develops rapidly, and many techniques age quickly. This may mean that a modern computer with an up-to-date operating system is not able to properly view older electronic literature any more. This can only be fixed by installing a so-called emulator, which allows your pc to behave like an older system with an older OS (which you might have to install yourself). Older applications often had another problem: products developed for Apple MacIntosh computers would typically not work (optimally) on different systems, such as Windows or Linux computers. This is called platform dependence.
These factors also mean that archiving electronic literature may be a challenging task, which complicates the preservation of this form of art.

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