Charles Baldwin on Sun, 7 Sep 2014 22:37:21 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> unknown format (call for papers)

 I encourage anyone interested to submit. Feel free to send questions.

MATLIT Vol. 2.2 (2014)

Unknown Format

Editors: Sandy Baldwin (West Virginia University) and Dibs Roy (West Virginia University)

Files and directories, characters and pixels. There are others: mp3, docx, RFID. What is the materiality of these curious and ubiquitous objects? Or rather, of these formats - what is the materiality of formats? Formats cannot be understood in the Kittlerian terms of a readable trace of withdrawn yet mediating a priori. To explain a "file" as current differentials in a silicon substrate only demonstrates the failure of explanation. They may be closer to Michel Foucault's understanding of discourse as possessing "repeatable materiality" that is "of the order of the institution rather than of spatio-temporal location" (103). Through its materiality, a "statement circulates, is used, disappears, allows or prevents the realization of a desire, serves or resists various interests, participates in challenge and struggle, and becomes a theme of appropriation or rivalry" (105). Yet formats are physical in ways that statements are not. A graphical character on a computer screen is precisely d
 etermined in its appearance - its display is part of its materiality.

Some questions are necessary.

Firstly, what is the intersection of rights and formats? How is the status of files and directories, characters and pixels, inseparable from questions of agency and interiority? Whether we consider the Wikileaks or NSA or DMCA, the right to copy and delete formats is precisely formatted.

Secondly, what of the contingency of formats? Pixels are refreshed every few milliseconds. Formats materialize through flows that are subject to breakdowns and viruses. Formats are dispersions, scatterings and emissions as much as containers and processes.

Finally, what interventions are possible in formats? The form of the format determines rewriting and transcription - again, in Foucault's sense of "repeatability" - but what procedures are open to us to intervene in this form?

The etymology of format is in the Latin phrase formatus liber, meaning "the shape of the book." For this issue of MATLIT, we welcome submissions that address these questions as the site of "the literary" today: the materiality of formats as literature. Furthermore, we welcome submissions that take formats and test their materiality in other domains outside of the computer. What about MLA format, Robert's Rules of Order, Braille, or barcodes in passports? How far can we understand subjectivity as a file in a directory, or as a character on a screen? And how can the repetition of formats in this way be understood as part of their "literariness"?

DEADLINE: Articles of approximately 5000 words must be submitted by September 30, 2014. Authors will be contacted with decisions by November 30, 2014. Authors must register with the journal's online system and submit articles in this manner. The "About" section of the journal website has information on the journal's scope and submission guidelines ( Feel free to contact

the issue editors with questions: and

Sandy Baldwin
West Virginia University
Associate Professor of English
Director of the Center for Literary Computing

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