The Presence and Circulation of Literature on the Internet
The cybermap was one of the first spaces created and made public on the Hermeneia website in July 2002. Its main objective was to describe the vast panorama of literature on the Internet from a perspective that would allow Hermeneia to provide its first critical contribution to the field in the initial stage of development of this research group. The theoretical framework for this space was grounded in Vannevar Bush’s conception of the Memex, a system that would permit the storage, linking and accessing of a great variety of information. This concept led Hermeneia to attempt to define the navigation itineraries that relate literature to new technologies, aprocess that ultimately would help this research group to elaborate an operational classification of the existent literary works on the Web.
As the group worked on the above concept, its members realized that in order to achieve rigorous scholarly work in fields such as literature and ICT it was essential to develop a cybermap that would embrace a multidisciplinary approach that underscored the interest and skills of philologists, literary theoreticians, computer programmers and archivists, among others. In this sense Hermeneia assumes that this initial cybermap is only representative of the constant state of flux and development of the evolution and application of the new technologies to the humanities, and more specifically to the study and creation of literary works. Hermeneia would like to locate this space under the umbrella of the Web because it preserves the testimony of a specific moment as well as the initial spirit and motivation of the field of study within which this group is inscribed.
Internet and literature: approaching routes
The evident popularization of Internet in the last few years has had a very positive repercussion in the area of literary creation and the study of literature. The exponential growth of the Net as a new communication medium constitutes, in fact, the first challenge that we need to face: itsvastness. Therefore, when the Hermeneia website wasbuilt the group attempted to achieve a representative description of the state of the art of e-lit at a certain time, knowing that it could not aspire to exhaustiveness.
The Internet has given institutions and individuals in the public or private sector the possibility of displaying large amounts of information. In some cases, this information represents the transference of new or unpublished information. The ease with which new content can be published forces the users to be very cautious. On the other hand, the dynamism of the Net implicitly signals an expiration date of everything born as a static material.
Hermeneia also wants to draw special attention to the effect that digital technologies have on literature and on the study of literature. One aspect that is being influenced by the possibilities of new technologies is literary creation. The reader of literature generated in and for the Internet (e-lit) becomes one of the most important agents in the process of literary creation and recreation. The role of the reader-navigator becomes almost more important than the role of the writer whose authorial power seems to subtly diminish. Based upon this concept, it is necessary to observe how this new literature, which has begun to spread at a constant pace, develops as it plays a significant role in the world of letters and the humanities.
As stated earlier, the Internet has put into circulation a literary corpus that is part of our cultural tradition, and new technological support will open new horizons for these literary works. One of the most popular initiatives has been on-line libraries, because they put a large amount of emblematic and representative literary works within everyone's reach. These kinds of libraries carry out an interesting and laudable task, but in order to be effective they must be as rigorous as possible. The user should know which kind of editions and reproductions he is looking up. In spite of all the recent development in on-line libraries that has taken place, it is alsoimportant to highlight the effort of some traditional libraries which have included online resources as part of their catalogues.
The Hermeneia website is part of a virtual environment which strives for an accessible and effective transfer and diffusion of knowledge and research. That is why the Hermeneia research group wants to make available on its websiteall the initiatives related to literary research and creation, especially those which have been created on the Web to be read on the Web. The format and organization of these new journals and electronic works provide the reader with easy access to large amounts of information that in years past could have been overlooked or more difficult to find. As the reader explores the Hermeneia site, he we can easily find specific information organized in a very practical and useful way.
As a way to connect with other scholars in the field of electronic literature, the Hermeneia research site also provides links to other research group websites that offer research results or conclusions pertinent to the field. Finally, it is important to emphasize the passionate and altruistic effort of the researchers who, through their individual initiatives and websites, offer a multidisciplinary and unique perspective on the study of literature.
Even though the situation of literature on the Internet has been outlined above, the nature of the Net renders it general and incomplete. One of the main of objectives of the group is to continue updating and enlarging itself. The list of links is quite indicative of what can be found on the Internet, yet for the Hermeneia research group, this initial exploration of literary websites represents the first step towards reachingone of our objectives: to describe the context in which Hermeneia is inscribed. The cybermap is an example not only of quantity but also of the quality of some of the emerging initiatives about literary creation or the study of literature. At Hermeneia, we think that it is necessary to provide scholarly content and tools as well as categories that provide easy access to that material. Moreover, we think that the introduction of new technologies in the areas of literary study and literary creation represent an essential goal for the evolution of literature. This journey has just begun,but we would like to share our explorations with you.