When e-books challenge writing

Dr Serge Bouchardon, senior lecturer in ICT sciences at UTC and deputy director of UTC’s Costech laboratory has just published « La valeur heuristique de la littérature numérique » [a heuristic value for e-literature] with the Paris editor Hermann. He shares his thoughts with Interactions.

When e-books challenge writing


Interactions- Can you explain how e-literature shows a new heuristic value compared with classic ‘paper’ production? 

Serge Bouchardon (SB) - Literary creation with and for computers has existed now for over 50 years. We can cite – hypertext fiction, animated poems, pieces incorporating auto-generation text, participative writing … and can readily conclude that digital literature is alive and flourishing, notably in its on-line format. e-literature has become particularly productive, due to an accumulative interest in literature per se, plus communications and pedagogy. This status allows us to rethink and indeed question certain concepts such as authorship, story line, text, material formats … the heuristic value then is seen as that value that enables a retroactive assessment on certain notions, ideas and concepts but is also provides sense and opens new paths for digital writing.


Interactions – What does this publication add to the debate in e-writing? 

SB – We all write on digital supports today and, as examples, we have: e-mails, preparing a slide-show, collegiately writing a text or indulging in synchronous writing via collaborative on-line tools, or writing on a micro-blog … The hypothesis I took for my book held that the very digitals tools and instruments we use transformed writing practice, and it seemed to me that the underlying characteristics required reassessing whenever the supports are digital. Writing on a digital support emphasizes the notions of visual, multimedia and manipulative, modifiable writing. The digital, world is an incentive to discover and rethink writing in all its complexity and, as it happens, “e-literature” provides an excellent topic to help us understand this complexity. For this reason, we included excerpts from existing e-literature that we found in the pedagogical modules designed in the course of a projects funded by the Picardie regional authorities called PRECIP, cf.


Interactions – How do you see the future evolution of e-literature? 

SB – Well, it is somewhat presumptuous to answer with confidence a prospective question like that. For the moment, let me say the field is experimental. We could imagine however that e-literature will become diluted in the flow of video games and in net art, or that it will open up paths that have nothing to do with literature, but more to digital creation in its widest connotation. I might add that the producers themselves will continue to propose new interactive literary experiments.


Interactions – You were one of the guest speakers at the conference on “Decision: processes and dynamics”, organized January 16, 2014 by the cluster Sorbonne Universités. In your view, what is the impact of took on decision processes? and on e-literature? 

SB – If I may reframe your question as “Do tools allow us to decide matters?, I would say that the question is more acute in that we can observe a growing degree of delegated decision to computer systems, given that the epistemological change accompanying big data processing can add to the apprehension some have that the tools – notably those that incorporate calculations – do the deciding for us. This then allows us to question the technical, phenomenon as a constituent part of human experience and social practice. For example, in e-literature, the technical parts play a crucial role, thus encouraging the actor retrospectively to take technical aspects into account and, likewise, the material framework in the entire e-literary production/ reception chain.


Interactions – What did the Conference teach us? 

SB – I personally was moved by the spirit of the event, in that it sought to identify truly pluridisciplinary, pluristructural research topics. This alone holds promise for the future of Sorbonne Universités.