Never in print: the born digital literary essay

Chris Rodley Presenting
Is print the ideal and only form for the literary essay? The Sydney Review of Books (opens in a new window) has only ever existed as an online publication. How can the multimodality exhibited by many genres of online writing inform the practice of literary essayists, such as those published in the Sydney Review of Books? Or should the essay, a mode of careful literary deliberation, shield itself from the distractions and vernacular of digital media? What do “digital-only” and “born digital” mean for the research and composition practices of literary essayists? Put differently, what can literary essayists learn from Buzzfeed (and Vice, bloggers, experimental film-makers and W.G. Sebald)?

-Catriona Menzies-Pike will give an overview of her work with the Sydney Review of Books and sketch some new possibilities for the literary essay online.

Catriona Menzies-Pike presenting

-Ben Denham will present a case study in composition and digital production, his recent long SRB essay on Donna Haraway,(opens in a new window) and some thoughts on compositional possibilities for the online essay.

Ben Denham presenting

-Chris Rodley, whose research focuses on the future of writing, will discuss several other examples of experimental non-fiction that utilise digital storytelling techniques such as multimedia, collage, interactivity, crowdsourcing and bots.

The second half of the workshop will be given over to discussion and contestation, with a particular focus on how the presentations and examples might shape the practice of literary essayists and non-fiction writers.

Catriona Menzies-Pike is the editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

Ben Denham is a visual artist and writer. He works with performance video and makes machines that engage different parts of the body in the process drawing and writing. His doctoral thesis considered the relationship between art and neuroscience, with a particular focus on gesture and linguistic embodiment. He is currently working on a project that brings together microbiology, immune function, Amazonian plant medicine, and art practice.

Chris Rodley is a writer who works at the intersection of literature and technology. His creative collaborations include the story generator @MagicRealismBot, an automated play script based on real-time tweets, and a multimedia “novel” generated from social media content. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, where his research focuses on writing in the social media age.

Audio: Listen to or download (right click and "save link as")  the audio of Catriona's presentation.

Listen to or download (right click and "save link as")  the audio of Ben's presentation.

Listen to or download (right click and "save link as")  the audio of Chris' presentation.

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