e-Lit Resource
The Pixel/The Line

In 2004, Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin began the First Person thread on the electronic journal Electronic Book Review. Using Electronic Book Review’s riposte system, as well as First Person’s own website, the goal was to create an ongoing discussion of various essays--from creators and theorists alike--in the field of academic video game criticism. The conversations that developed helped contributors edit, revise, and expand upon their original essays, which were then to be collected into the First Person anthology published by The MIT press and edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. This anthology has been followed by two subsequent volumes, Second Person (2007), and Third Person (2009).

“The Pixel/The Line” provides the Editor’s introduction to this particular section of the First Person thread. In this entry, Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin introduce the discussion of textual differences between the page and the screen. The authors note that “[m]ost text that appears on computer screen acts little different from text on paper.” “The Pixel/The Line” provides a venue for the three artists/theorists included to challenge this conception of digital text. “In their work, and in the work by others described herein,” the Editor’s write, “text is presented in manner impossible to sensibly understand through the metaphor of the page.”

“The Pixel/The Line” opens up the discussion of digital textuality to the ideas of interaction and recombination, moving the focus from the paragraph or line to the word or letter. The author’s are aware of these systems being likened as merely an “extension of the approach” of works created in the Oulipo movement, but iterate that “this is a significant movement, and its consequences are only beginning to be explored.” This brief entry on the ebr is notable not for its own content, but for illustrating the collaborative, discourse-oriented nature of the site and the First Person thread.

Essays included in "The Pixel/The Line" section:

Literal Art: Neither Lines nor Pixel but Letters, by John Cayley

Unusual Positions: Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces, by Camille Utterback

The Pixel/The Line: Approaches to Interactive Text, and Recombinant Poetics - Media-Element Field Explorations