Katherine Hayles, the doyenne of electronic literature and author of the printed book "How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics," is a professor of English and design/media arts at UCLA. She was the first speaker at the conference, a woman in a pink kimono surrounded by screens and wires. The topic she raised, which seemed to inflame the audience, is the question of obsolescence.
When these people speak of literature, they mean Borges or Neruda or Nietzsche. They mean high literature, avant-garde literature, political literature. The first car, Hayles told the audience--the horseless carriage, as it was called--resembled its predecessor, the horse and carriage, more than it did the cars of today. In the same way, these works resemble, in content, their printed predecessors more than new media as they are used commercially.
[Robert Coover] and Hayles stressed that hypertext technology, rather than being exclusive, could be more available on the Web than books ever have been in public libraries. "Part of our task is to think through questions of access," Hayles said. "Young people of all classes are entranced by the Web. There is a great divide: The 18-year-olds I teach intuitively have a better understanding of strategies than the older graduate students. The visual vocabulary of video games is, for better or worse, pervasive. Electronic literature has a dual parentage: high literature and popular culture. It is a literary popular culture."