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Preserving Literatures in the Digital Age

Literature has evolved far beyond the printed word. So much so, that these days some works exist solely in a digital format. But how do you make sure that as technology advances, older electronic literature doesn’t get lost?

Sandy Baldwin giving a presentation Sandy Baldwin, associate professor of English and director of the Center for Literary Computing at West Virginia University, will work to ensure the appreciation and preservation of these pieces as the new vice president of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO).

At WVU, Baldwin focuses on the future of literary studies in a digital age and promotes the reading, writing, teaching, and understanding of literature in today’s changing digital world.

The ELO is the largest and most prominent organization devoted to electronic literature. The organization is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is composed of writers, artists, teachers, scholars, and developers. It is a nonprofit organization that sponsors exhibitions around the world and partners with the U.S. Library of Congress to archive electronic literature.

Baldwin joined the ELO board of directors in 2010 and served as treasurer for two years before his recent appointment. His work with the organization and WVU align with his firm belief in the importance of new horizons for literature through electronic media.

“Today, all writers are electronic writers, and all literature is electronic literature. Computers and the Web enable new and exciting means of expression, publication, collaboration, teaching, and research,” Baldwin said. Baldwin has coordinated two ELO annual conferences and organized this fall’s conference in Paris. He also coordinates the Consortium on Electronic Literature (CELL) project for ELO, an ongoing effort to create databases and online resources that are more accessible to students and researchers.

Baldwin has been a scholar and creator of electronic literature for more than two decades and specializes in relationships between literature and media, avant-garde writing, twentieth-century American literature, and critical theory. He has played an integral role in growing WVU’s international reputation in new media studies with several research initiatives and awards.

“We write on our laptops or cellphones, not with a pen and paper,” Baldwin said. “If we do use pen and paper, our writing ends up distributed and shared on computers and across the Web. Many writers are taking advantage of this fact. The possibilities are immense and exciting, and WVU is a pioneer in electronic literature.”