The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: A Review

Álvaro Seiça, The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: A Review

Text by Álvaro Seiça about ELMCIP Knowledge (2010, Univ. Bergen, Norway). [Text. Links]

Seiça, Álvaro. “The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: A Review”. Feb. 14, 2014 | This entry was drafted at the University of Bergen, Norway during the Winter 2013-14 term, as part of the author’s doctoral program | Originally published in the Electronic Literature Directory:

Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice (ELMCIP) is a research project (2010-2013) that gathered several European academic partners from Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Scotland, England, Slovenia, and a non-academic institution, New Media Scotland. Funded by the HERA Joint Research Programme and by the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities Programme from the European Commission, the project is led by Scott Rettberg (University of Bergen, Norway). In addition to conferences, exhibitions, workshops, seminars, anthologies (e.g. European Electronic Literature), videos and numerous publication, the project’s main outcome was the development of the ELMCIP Knowledge Base (

The ELMCIP Knowledge Base was initiated in 2010 in order to become an open and collaborative online database, and was built in Drupal for that purpose. Since then, it was established as the benchmark project of the Bergen Electronic Literature Research Group. Available on the Internet and already hosting more than 9000 records (as of December 3, 2013), the database aims to be a role model in the field of digital humanities. Amongst its distinctive features are: 1) it allows the submission and addition of new content by any user, as well as the edition of preexisting one, open access and shared knowledge in the domain of electronic literature; 2) it promotes the preservation and archiving of digital works, by mapping the creation and theory with various content-type records: authors/people, creative works, critical writing, events, organizations, publishers and journals, databases and archives, teaching resources and research collections; 3) it deepens the attestation and contextualization of the submitted records with multimedia files (documents, images, videos), which are directly or indirectly attached in its website (for a detailed description, see the “Project Report,” by Eric Dean Rasmussen [former editor of the database] and Scott Rettberg [2013]).

Stirred by Theodor Holm Nelson’s proposal of an “ongoing system of interconnecting documents” (1981: 2/9), and following on the networked concepts of agency and actors in the Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) by Bruno Latour (1987, 2005) and Michel Callon, one of the ELMCIP KB’s main practical contributions, with its wiki-like structure, is the expanding cross-reference created by several content-type records, which autocomplete when adding new material that references existing records. This feature hyperlinks records inside the structure itself, allowing a broader and prompt understanding of the field of electronic literature, and a more productive and long-term documentation of the works’ critical reception, both for authors, researchers and scholars interested in this area.

Another aspect that seems relevant to stress is pedagogical: first, the database contains records for courses already taught, including descriptions, syllabi and used references, acting as a worldwide learning tool in the classroom; second, by setting up research collections, it enhances further research on a free topic, increasing and aggregating knowledge about a given theme, whether it is or is not already latent in the ELMCIP KB. The research collections developed so far, especially those concerning issues of nationality, cultural region or language, have provided greater activity in the database, because their curators have inserted thousands of new records on countries and languages hitherto less addressed in the international field of research. The addition of these collections has gathered dispersed records and lead to groups that had little critical coverage, such as the collections on Polish references, electronic literature in the Nordic countries, Brazil, Russia, Portugal, and the Spanish-speaking world.

As an organic virtual object that diachronically keeps growing, the ELMCIP KB achieved its initial objectives by fostering the practice and analysis of electronic literature – “understand how creative communities form and interact through distributed media,” “document and evaluate,” “develop pedagogical tools” – and thus hosting, outside the American scene, an accessible, participatory and shared research platform. This fact not only encourages new ways of analyzing individual works, but also of building on its bibliographic archive of creative and critical records, as was recently demonstrated by the distant and macro readings of the field of e-lit, using the visualization software Gephi and network analyses, both at the University of Bergen’s 2013 Summer workshop and the ELO 2013 conference.

The ELMCIP KB’s impact as a translinguistic, transnational and transcultural research network is no longer merely European. It became one of the main available online databases about digital literary arts. One can point visible analogies between the ELMCIP KB and the ELO’s Electronic Literature Directory (ELD,, in terms of open access and user collaboration, although the ELD has a scholarly-driven record system, lacking deep cross-reference between creative work and critical writing, but gaining in the discussion field a kind of forum for contribution exchange. Moreover, unlike ELMCIP KB’s open folksonomy, the ELD’s initial controlled tagging taxonomy helps restricting the records’ classification. In the same way, the NT2 Hypermedia Art and Literature Directory ( aims for a comprehensive review of each creative work, highlighting information, themes and platform with a striking web design layout. Although it expands the field towards digital artworks, the NT2 directory neglects critical writing as a direct resource and a policy of collaborative user input. Likewise, the PO.EX digital archive (, in spite of focusing on Portuguese Experimental and Cyberliterature, lacks the same collaborative user input, but increases its potential by cross-referencing creative work and critical writing, and especially by preserving and emulating its source material as a unique feature.

Now, future goals lay ahead, but with the development of the CELL consortium ( it is expected that several international databases share a common taxonomy, folksonomy, metadata system and cross-referenced bibliographic records, benefiting research across platforms and the global access for users.

References >

Baldwin, Sandy and Scott Rettberg (eds.) Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice: A Report from the HERA Joint Research Project. Morgantown, WV: Center for Literary Computing/West Virginia University Press, 2014.

Latour, Bruno. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.

—. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Nelson, Theodor H. Literary Machines 93.1. Sausalito: Mindful Press, 1981.

Rasmussen, Eric Dean and Scott Rettberg. “The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: Project Report”. 2013. Online. Accessed: November 21, 2013.

[We would like to thank Álvaro Seiça and ELD for their authorization to make this article available in the PO.EX Digital Archive]