The Laboratory for Electronic Literature (LabEL) was founded in 2022 to investigate and archive electronic literature. The project is born out of a long-term partnership between KBR and the Center for Natural Language Processing (CENTAL) at UCLouvain.
What is electronic literature?
A work of interactive fiction powered by Artificial Intelligence. A twitter account publishing random extracts from Moby Dick. A poem designed to erase itself after being read once. All of these works are part of the world of electronic literature.
Electronic literature includes all digital-born literary works in which the meaning and/or the aesthetics are closely linked to the affordances of digital media. These works are multi-disciplinary and often disconcerting because they question our understanding of the concepts of ‘writing’ and ‘reading’.
LabEL has three main goals:
- Acquisition, archiving and sustainability: Electronic literature is highly vulnerable to technological obsolescence. It is common for a work to become illegible a few years after its publication because one of the pieces of software used to create it is no longer supported. These works are an integral part of the Belgian cultural heritage, and it is essential to develop strategies to ‘restore’ them while respecting their artistic integrity.
- Visibility and accessibility: Electronic literature often develops in the margins of the traditional publishing circuit. It is frequently found on personal websites, on social media or in exhibitions organised by specialised artistic organisations. Consequently, it is not widely known by the public at large. However, in a largely digital society, this type of literature offers many critical keys, in particular for questioning topics such as Artificial Intelligence. LabEL’s mission is therefore to shed light on this art form at the border between genres, through exhibitions, events, KBR’s online catalogue and access formats dedicated to the scientific community.
- Research: The laboratory aims to analyse the corpus of Belgian electronic literature, from the identification of past and current places of production and dissemination to its interaction with contemporary and historical literature and the characteristics of the Belgian production in the national and international contexts. Moreover, one of LabEL’s missions is to develop digital analysis methods which take into consideration the audio-visual, textual and computational elements of this form. These methods would also benefit the archiving goal of the project, notably thanks to the (semi-)automatic creation of metadata.
Dr. Isabelle Gribomont, Lead of LabEL & postdoctoral researcher at CENTAL (Center of Natural Language Processing) at UCLouvain – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Julie Birkholz (Lead of the Digital Research Lab, KBR; Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities, UGent)
- Xavier Delor (Head of the ICT department, KBR)
- Cédrick Fairon (Full professor and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Arts and Letters, UCLouvain) – Co-promoter of LabEL
- François Lambotte (Professor at the Institute for Language and Communication, UCLouvain)
- Frédéric Lemmers (Head of Digitisation, KBR)
- Anne Reverseau (FNRS researcher and professor, UCLouvain)
- Chris Tanasescu (Altissia chair in Digital Humanities, UCLouvain)
- Sophie Vandepontseele (Head of Contemporary Collections, KBR) – Co-promoter of LabEL
- Patrick Watrin (Head of the CENTAL platform, UCLouvain)
This project is funded by Belspo through the FED-tWIN programme. It is based on a long-term partnership with the CENTAL at UCLouvain.