NewHive: A "Blank Canvas" for the Super-Feed

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Screenshot of booty by ana carrete from NewHive.

NewHive is a new service for creative expression online. Founded by Zach Verdin, Cara Buccifero, Andrew Sorkin (who later left the company), and Abram Clark in Seattle, the company launched in private beta in November 2011 with the public launch in 2012. The website describes itself as a "blank canvas" for expression on the web, offering users a drag-and-drop interface to construct anything they like, within the confines of a browser. 

This year has seen certain communities gravitate towards the site, with the new issue of poetry journal Pop Serial being built entirely on NewHive, and a visual mixtape featuring original tracks from a number of musicians launching in September. I'm interested in NewHive, and I like a lot of things that are made on it. I'm particularly interested in the alt lit community's attraction to it, perhaps because it is a convenient platform for people working with text to explore their practice in increasingly visual or hybrid ways. At the same time, I'm skeptical of its claim to be a "blank canvas," which obfuscates the aesthetic and political assumptions that it—that any cultural interface—reproduces.

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S.D. Chrostowska, Marie Calloway, and the New Media Novel

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1. The Email-Epistolary Novel

In a 2010 broadside subtitled "Where are the iPhone Addicts and Facebook ‘Stalkers’ in Contemporary Fiction?" Joanne McNeil critiqued the email correspondence in Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (2010) as having been "presented no differently than the epistolary passages in nineteenth-century literature." McNeil argued that the accurate portrayal of online communication today would resemble Burroughs and Gysin's cut-up technique.

If McNeil’s desired stalkers and addicts are still rarities in contemporary literature, the last several years have been bizarrely good for the email-epistolary novel. Besides Super Sad True Love Story (2010), S.D. Chrotowska's Permission (2013), Lynn Coady's The Antagonist (2011), Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia (2013) are all either primarily composed of emails or structurally rely on the form. The traditional epistolary novel is not as antiquated as memories of Richardson’s Pamela (1740) or Stoker’s Dracula (1897) might suggest. Contemporary authors are, after all, chief among the fetishizers of dead media, and snail-mail epistolary novels get churned out regularly. But the email-epistolary novel, arguably kicked off by Matt Beaumont's e in 2000, has now achieved conventionality as well.

Perhaps, however, this isn’t so bizarre. Email offers fertile ground for the central elements (unreliable narrator, disjointed plot, use of multi-media etc.) of contemporary conventional literature. And then there is the fact that most people who write conventional lit are old; old, as in above thirty-five. And old people write emails. They might text and post on Facebook and Twitter-fight about the latest listicle, but they've been using email for decades. They’re comfortable with its possibilities, with the way they can control it.

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Artist Profile: Steve Roggenbuck

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

 

Steve Roggenbuck.

LD: You recently posted AN INTERNET BARD AT LAST!!! (ARS POETICA) on YouTube about your vision of poetry on the internet. You talk about the importance of poets harnessing social media as a powerful way to change the life of someone else, anywhere in the world. Why is it so important for you to share this message at this time?

SR: the importance of sharing this message now is that our whole society is currently struggling to determine the role of these social platforms. corporations are trying to learn how to make money from them, families are trying to learn how to stay connected through them, everyone is asking "what value can there be in a 6-second video?" and it's all moving so fast, Vine blew up to 40 million users in its first 7 months. but the poetry world has largely been ignoring social media, mainly just using twitter and facebook to post links to standard, plain-text poems. my message is this: if our job is to move people with our language, these platforms give us endless and powerful new ways to do that. the tools to make our language visual and auditory have been democratized; the ability to maintain actual relationships with hundreds of our closest readers across the world is now a reality. i have no publisher, i've only been working at this for ~3 years, and my poems reach thousands of people each. i think social media represents the biggest set of new opportunities for poetry since the printing press.

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