The essays in this issue of ebr, focusing on the visual arts in various media, came together while the journal itself was undergoing a design overhaul and significant organizational expansion. Indeed, we intended to present webarts not as a numbered issue at all, but as part of a new interface whose database architecture would eliminate the need for periodical publication. More than a year in the making, ebr 3.0 will now be launched in Fall 2001, when webarts and all the previous issues – five years worth of ebr – will enter the database. At that point, all content will be current; every reader, while reading, will be free to create site maps and customized lists of essays and reviews; materials will be posted to the site continuously; and ripostes will appear within hours of their composition in the margins of our new page.
Like the webarts here under discussion, ebr approaches the Internet, in the first instance, as a unique art medium. That is why, although ebr remains a literary journal, the editors have always emphasized its visual aspect. We do this not for purposes of illustration only; nor is it our archival mission to scan images and texts that were never intended for digital reproduction. Rather, we're interested in how the hand and the eye of a reader, accustomed to the turning pages of a book, can be guided through a well-designed web installation by the collaborative action of word and image. That the habits of linear reading die hard, however, was brought home to us by a review this year in Europe's leading design journal, whose author reproduced the longest essay in ebr10 and our entire list of contents, without ever mentioning the visual movement that takes a reader from one screen to the other, let alone the thREADs that open up each essay to the web environment.
In the coming year, as the new interface takes us further into the web environment, we are adding sound to ebr's medial mix. But sound considered, like the visuals, as a compositional element – an aural environment for online reading; but also a non-verbal space for unreading, unwriting, watching, and listening. With this in mind, we invite submissions for an upcoming series, co-edited by Cary Wolfe, Mark Amerika, and Joseph Tabbi, titled music/sound/noise – or msn, appropriate to the medium whose incipient commodification promises to define the Internet economy. At the same time, however, msn offers an opportunity for dematerialization, and for a deconstruction of the commodity, "music," into its less widely marketable composition as "sound" and "noise." There's a parallel here to the sort of critique that ebr has attempted from the start, a project that spatializes the web, but in an especially fleeting and evanescent way. As one literary/academic site within a network whose extension is literally global, ebr has needed to organize itself within and continually adjust to the very environment we critique. With the introduction of sound, this problematic – the achievement of an interdependent web identity – can now open onto the question of what are the relations between sound, then noise, then music. As "sound" approaches ever more closely the condition of music it too approaches a kind of writing, which is then retroactively revealed to have been "noisy" all along.
Working from the perspective of sound as one of the "spatial arts," contributors might raise the question of how one should navigate through the rhetoric of noise (while filtering the noise of rhetoric). Who wants to remix this noise into pseudo-autobiographical narrative? mystory? critifiction?
Why did Progressve Networks change their name to Real Networks?
And what about the new Senator from Washington state, the 42-year-old Maria Cantwell who funded her campaign with moneys cashed in from her job at Real Networks? What's up with all that media noise?
Already committed to the msn project are music critic Anthony DeCurtis (of Rolling Stone and VH1 fame); Paul Rapp (former drummer for the rock band Blotto, of "Lifeguard" fame); designer David Greenberger (Duplex Planet); Rob Wittig of the Tank20 Literary Studio; and Scott Rettberg of The Unknown (who will write about the the cultural and economic impact of Napster). We're particularly interested in submissions on sound art, and we'd like to feature web writing that uses sound to advance or disturb a narrative unfolding. We'll accept and edit submissions through the Summer. In June 2001, we'll start releasing content, and msn will continue through the following year as the dominant thread in the new ebr weave.