Mariusz Pisarski

Polish cybertext histories

An introduction to the Polish part of "Cybertext Yearbook" 2010

Tekst ten przygotowany został do ostatniego wydania prestiżowego rocznika cybertekstowego Cybertext Yearbook, wydawanego przez Uniwersytet Jyväskylä i redagowanego przez naszych fińskich kolegów Markku Eskelinena i Rainego Koskimaa. W zamierzeniu cały rocznik miał być poświęcony polskim korzeniom literatury cyfrowej i generatywnej. Ostatecznie jednak zdecydowano się dołączyć dwa teksty poświęcone nie tylko literaturze polskiej, co automatycznie zniosło zasadność wprowadzenia. W ramach poszerzania zakresu Techstów o materiały angielskojęzyczne, postanowiliśmy jednak skorzystać z okazji i raz jeszcze przypomnieć o naszej obecności na scenie międzynarodowej. Zapraszamy do lektury najnowszego Cybertext Yearbook!

An algorithmic book of infinite number of pages that can print any word you ask it for, a book read and written by its readers/characters, a hypertext story whose pages are spread over a room and whose links readers by physically attached threads. These are just few oo the discoveries made on the collaborative quest in search of ergodic history of Polish literature.

E-literature in Poland is hardly perceptible. Over a decade of „digital revolution” in a country of nearly 40 millions had resulted in no more than a handful of literary works that make artistic use of the feedback loop between the machine and the user. The potential of the first generation of medium specific tools might be altogether lost. Using random graphic generation has recently become more familiar for a young self-acclaimed cyber-poet than relaying on the idea of user's empowerment made in a fashion of hypertext fiction or text adventure. The reasons could be many with perhaps the main one being a quite late embrace of computer technology in schools and in state universities. Combined with the lack of any tradition of creative writing as a classroom activity it resulted in a cyber-literary landscape as we see it today: highly individualistic, with several isolated, single-person islands and with scarcely any trends or schools.

The aim of the articles presented in the new Cybertext Yearbook volume was to examine if there is anything in the past that contemporary artists could embrace as their indirect ancestry while using ergodic techniques within the same language material. The chances that this ergodic archeology would result in discoveries that would bring something new to Catalan and German ergodic histories that were already presented in Cybertext Yearbook, were scarce. Polish literature's main role through the centuries was closely bound to the country's struggle with invading armies of neighbours, followed by a long fight for the independence. Yet the founds were quite surprising. At the same time they have also shown how revealing a cybertext perspective can be. It allows for an interdisciplinary platform where one can place side by side works of different historical, generic and material origin. Here in a seamless fashion literature meets arts and science.

Andrzej Pająk's Polish way to e-literature gives its reader a broad introductory overview on ergodic traits throughout the ages: from the Renaissance and the Baroque to Modernism and neo-avant-garde. Five papers that follow dwell on particular works from past and present, made in analogue or digital medium. The nodes and links of Małgorzata Dawidek Gryglicka's installations form an original type of a hypertext - the one in physical space. An Old Polish silva - family chronicle of noblemen has several intriguing textonic and collaborative features. Both of these are subjects of two articles by Mariusz Pisarski. Even more intriguing and original is one of this Yearbook's most astonishing discovery: A Book of All Words - an analogue cybertext from the mid-seventies built by Józef Żuk Piwkowski that can print any imaginable word from the Latin alphabet, discussed in detail in yet another of Pająk's papers. The last part of the Yearbook deals with the present. Emilia Branny focuses on intersemiotic consequences of the use of sign in Radosław Nowakowski's Emeryk - a hypertext fiction that transposes artistic ideas of liberature into hypertext environment ( the former being a contemporary approach to artistic books). Branny's second paper focuses on cybernetic poets of Perfokarta group and a mysterious blend of hypertext, linguistics and metaphysics in AE by Robert Szczerbowski, the first Polish hyperfiction.

I hope that the newest Cybertext Yearbook will once again reveal new fields for comparative cybertext studies and provide many historical treats that would enhance our ergodic models and typologies.