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SCROLL / NETWORK / HACK: A Poetics of ASCII Literature (1983-1989) Open Access


Other title
Hackerly Poetics
Text Files
Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes)
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Katelnikoff, Joel
Supervisor and department
O'Driscoll, Michael (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Quamen, Harvey (English and Film Studies)
Stewart, Christine (English and Film Studies)
Gouglas, Sean (Humanities Computing)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
SCROLL / NETWORK / HACK is a poetics of ASCII text files published and distributed by means of electronic bulletin board systems from the early-1980s until the mid-1990s. This medium offered computer users a means to share information and opinions with one another, but it also gave rise to an innovative literature shaped by the material conditions and technological environment within which it was produced. This writing, influenced by Hacking/Phreaking/Anarchy/Cracking manuals, sought to hack, phreak, and crack the technologies of writing and the conventions of discourse. SCROLL / NETWORK / HACK is the product of my experience as a reader, writer, and editor of ASCII text files, and also as an instructor of literary analysis and creative writing. The project is, in part, driven by a desire to courier these obscure texts to my audience, but it is primarily inspired by a need to investigate the constraints of these texts, their extralinguistic signification, and the ways in which they hypermediate, modify, and disrupt code. Perhaps most importantly, I am interested in how we might further extend the artistic practices that are described and implemented in these hackerly texts. SCROLL / NETWORK / HACK treats all writing as textual material rather than as an access point to a transcendental signified. Screen captures from ASCII text files are incorporated throughout the study, which might include more or less material than is required for any particular analytical response; this allows me to not only describe the tactics of the courier and pirate, but also to enact them, simulating my own struggle with these unwieldy networks of literary code. Furthermore, the work of critical theorists (e.g. Shklovsky, Barthes, McLuhan) will be treated only as textual material—this material will be valuable to the extent that I am able to repurpose, extend, modify, and riff on it, but the material will not be interpreted, contextualized, nor respected in terms of its authority. Ultimately, the project must be a dissertation, becoming descriptive, informative, and at times neglectful of the frame of reference, but it strives, through a discourse bound by convention, to help readers to discover and produce a new, hackerly, style of discourse.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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