Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Alt-X, which I have been actively publishing since I founded it over 14 years ago, is one of the oldest surviving net / art / writing sites on the Internet. Many others have come and gone, including significant sites like FEED and SUCK.

When was Alt-X celebrating its big mo in super prime time as a viable force in net culture? Most of our serious early readers would say circa 1996-1999 (when we became something of a media darling -- "the literary publishing model of the future" according to Publishers Weekly). We experienced a further jump in traffic and attention with the launch of the Alt-X Press in 2001.

My favorite Alt-X "splash page" is from about 1999. Although the 2007 version is quite popular with the second-generation net art crowd.

Many of the early Alt-X files (Alt X-Files?) are now archived in their various sections, including Virtual Imprints, Hyper-X, and Black Ice. The same will soon happen with Alt-X Audio ("Deep Crates"). Meanwhile, the electronic book review (ebr), Alt-X's stellar new media forum on digital art and writing, reminds us that
everything that happens, happens now [...]
and that a living archive can always reinvent itself by constantly increasing its output over time, as with the case of the sudden blossoming of new essays in the decade-old "Critical Ecologies" thread. As the "thread editor" writes:
Initially presented as a thread in two parts, green and grey, Critical Ecologies continues to explore convergences among natural and constructed ecosystems, green politics and grey matter, silicon chips and sand. A 2004 Festschrift, with over a dozen essays on Joseph McElroy, hints at the literary implications of an ecological, medial turn in literary theory.
Then there is the digital-friendly Alt-X Press which I also publish. The press launched as an ebook and print on-demand (POD) series in 2001 and has now generated over a 200,000 downloads. In fact, our top downloaded ebook, HARD_CODE: Narrating the Network Society, had 2187 downloads on January 6th alone.

From Eugene Thacker's introduction to the HARD_CODE anthology:
What does this have to do with "literature"? Nothing. And that's the problem. If the so-called avant-gardes and experimental fiction writers have anything to teach us, it's that a subversion of the dominant modes of language in a given moment is also a technical, tactical re-programming of the codes of language. Those codes are not only tied to the social items, black boxes - technologies which claim to be both transparent and neutral. Programming, hacking, hand-coding - whatever you want to call it - these are all modes of working through language at the back-end level. There is a lot to be learned from the seemingly routine practices of computer programmers: database security, systems analysts, bioinformatics, e-trading consultants, video game designers, CG artists, encryption experts. Nietzsche's dictum that language speaks us has mutated. We don't simply use infotech as a tool to make our lives easier; infotech codes us on a daily basis.
Net art + fiction + hactivism + programmatological language riffing = HARD_CODE.

With that in mind, who is the one who shape-shifts the malleable construct of digital identity / persona?

Would that be the one we call artist-medium? But then that would make everyone an artist-medium, right?

Although we have a moratorium on new manuscripts, Alt-X Press still has a couple of new titles in the pipeline that I hope to be able to publish in 2007 and 2008, so stay tuned for those announcements.

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