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Distant Readings of a Field: Using Macroanalytic Digital Research Methods to Data Mine the ELMCIP Knowledge Base

The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base ( is a human-edited, open-access, contributory Drupal database consisting of cross-referenced entries describing creative works of and critical writing about electronic literature as well as entries on authors, events, exhibitions, publishers, teaching resources and archives. The project has been developed by the Electronic Literature Research Group at the University of Bergen as an outcome of the ELMCIP project. All nodes are cross-referenced so users can see at a glance which works were presented at an event, and follow links to see which articles have been written about any given work or which other events they were presented at. Most records provide simple bibliographic metadata about a work or event, but increasingly we are also gathering source code of works, PDFs of papers and dissertations, videos of talks and performances, and other forms of archival documentation. While our first priority in designing the Knowledge Base was to provide a basic open-access online research infrastructure for an emergent field of scholarly and creative practice, providing researchers, teachers, and students with easy access to works, critical writing, and the context of a field, we are increasingly realizing its value as a base for further research in its own right. The Knowledge Base provides us with a growing pool of data that we are beginning to analyze using visualisations, social network analysis and other digital methods. This panel will consist of presentations of research developed by using information in the Knowledge Base as the basis for what Franco Moretti refers to as “Distant Reading” to better understand the discourse of the field and the works it encompasses. In this approach, instead of analysing individual works, we search for patterns across the entire field of electronic literature. The panel will present four different approaches to using the Knowledge Base to collect specific types of information related to objects, networks and practices of electronic literature and use digital methods to reveal patterns and trends from within the collected data that will hopefully inform a better understanding of specific aspects of the field.The papers to be presented are:

  • Scott Rettberg:  An Emerging Canon? A Preliminary Analysis of All References to Creative Works in Critical Writing Documented in the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base

As of July 2013, the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base includes documentation of more than 2,000 creative works and more than 2,000 articles of critical writing. Many of the records of critical writing include cross-references to the creative works they address. This brief article presents a preliminary analysis of all of the critical writing-to-creative work crossreferences currently documented in the Knowledge Base in the aggregate. By developing static and interactive visualizations of this data, we might begin to see the outlines of an emerging “canon” of electronic literature.

  • Jill Walker Rettberg:  A Network Analysis of Dissertations About Electronic Literature

More than 60 dissertations in the field of electronic literature have been documented in the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base, including tags, abstracts and in most cases links to full texts of the dissertations. This paper performs a network analysis of the citations in 29 of these dissertations to identify trends, patterns and information about an emerging canon.

  • Luciana Gattass: Digital Humanties in Praxis: Introducing the Brazilian Electronic Reseach Collection  

While a guest researcher at the University of Bergen in 2012, Luciana Gattass has aggregated a research collection of information about authors, works, critical writing, events, publishers and organizations related to the practices of electronic literature in Brazil. We will use this for the basis of a comparative analysis of Brazilian electronic literature, identifying dominant genres of creative and critical practice, and exploring the possible correlation of geographical proximity and commonalities of practice.

  • Elisabeth Nesheim: Extending Embodiment Within the Knowledge Base

This paper investigates how the theoretical concept of embodiment and related keywords such as touch, movement, gesture and haptic appears within the current practice of tagging creative works in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base. It further suggests how this practice can be extended within the Knowledge Base platform both in terms of providing more precise tags, and through the forthcoming Platform content type which will give users the possibility connect specific hardware and software with a creative work. Finally, it presents the outline for a research collection that explores the notion of embodiment. The collection gives an introduction to relevant researchers, artists, creative works and scholarly works exploring the concept of embodiment and technology, in the hopes that such a framework can inspire the further investigation of works related to the field of electronic literature.