Ten Predictions about Digital Literature

Ten is a round number, it has a nice ring to it, so I’m using it for a series of blog posts. Ten, of course. The first was Ten Misconceptions About Digital Literature, and this one is Ten Predictions. The last will probably be Ten Reasons Why I Should Not Have Done This, but until then…

There has been a lot of press about digital literature over the past few years, some of it negative. This is to be expected–when does any art form, emerging or not, get only positive reviews? The problem is more acute, though, when there is an impression, however ill-founded, that an art form is endangered, and every nick in the armor portends a mortal wound.

Digital literature is not endangered. In fact, my confidence is so high, I venture the following predictions:

Within five years: (1) Many online journals and magazines now only publishing traditional text-based fiction and poetry will, as part of their online offerings, publish digital literature on a regular basis;

(2) Most major universities and many colleges (if they don’t already) will offer courses in New Media, and those courses will cover/include digital literature;

(3) Accomplished scholars who assess the whole of digital literature by examining exemplary models from early hypertexts will be saying “oops!” and seeking a vocabulary that accepts the continual flux and explosive change of current practices in digital literature;

(4) Most everyone will accept that finding a Joyce, Beckett, or Faulkner in the world of digital literature might take as long as it did in the world of print, and considering the radical differences in these forms, that any such search is probably bogus to begin with;

(5) The average digital writer on the web will be more read, and have a higher visibility, than his or her counterpart “midlist” writer in traditional print format;

(6) Publishing houses will be reaching out to digital writers in an attempt to monetize their creative work–they will be generally unsuccessful, because digital writers will have already figured a way to do it for themselves;

(7) The field of digital literature will be crowded with writers. Where now they number in the hundred(s), in the future, they will be in the thousands;

(8) The entertainment industry, fueled by New York and Hollywood dollars, will have a big stake in developing digital literature for the web. Individual artists will be able to compete by collaborating with their peers and (as some do now) using audio, still image, and video files available, either free or through subscription, online;

(9) Digital literature (as it is already) will be displayed in galleries and museums not just in group art shows, but in solo shows. Works will be bought and sold, not as computer installations, but as interactive artworks to be hung on gallery walls, and;

(10) Yes, there will be rock stars among digital writers. Fans will ask for their autographs (virtual or otherwise), companies will run ads on their websites, radio and TV talk shows will invite them for interviews, and documentaries will be made. When they die, mourners will fill the corridors of the web….

Do the math. We take two steps ahead for every one someone sends us back. Anyone care to make a wager?

(August 28, 2010)

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