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The Cyberliterary Efficacy of Combinatory Literature in Urban Cishet University Students(or how to imagine a paper by programming an abstract)

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[Meta]Abstract: Scholarly work relies upon textual stability. Authors choose their words and concepts from large paradigms that are based on associative relations. However, in order to be quoted and divulged, the syntagms that result from their choices are fixed and stable. What happens if we use combinatorics (programmability) and randomness (indeterminacy) to write an essay that is never the same, but one that is variable instead? More: what if we compose a generative and aleatory abstract pointing to papers that were never published or even imagined? For the inaugural issue of The Digital Review on "Digital Essayism," Rui Torres and Diogo Marques propose an experimental "short-form essay" that takes the shape of an outline of possible papers that were never written. Composed of a title, an abstract (with purpose, problem, methods, results, and conclusions), and a set of keywords, it will use a lexicon of e-lit theory and related concepts, suggesting digital essayism to be a performance of theory. Using poemario.js, a JavaScript lib of combinatory functions created by Rui Torres and Nuno Ferreira, we will thus propose paratexts to be recombined anew at every reading, generating multiple instantiations of possible essays. In doing so, we argue that this creative research constitutes a speculative, though self-reflexive, theorization about the limits and possibilities of using digital media to perform essayism, hence revealing its dual programmable and experimental nature.

[Meta]Keywords: digital essayism; electronic literature; creative research.

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is Professor of Communication Sciences at University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal. He is the director of the book series Cibertextualidades (UFP Press) and one of the editors of the Electronic Literature Series (Bloomsbury Publishing). An author of electronic literature, his poems were published in several anthologies, CD-ROMs and digital archives. He is the coordinator of the Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Poetry ( and a member of the Board of Directors of the ELO - Electronic Literature Organization. His poems and writings are available at

is a post-doc research fellow at the Universidade Fernando Pessoa (Porto, Portugal), where he is currently working at the intersection of Arts, Health and Technology. He holds a Ph.D. in the Materialities of Literature (School of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra). He is an author of digital experimental poetry and founding member of Portuguese artist collective wr3ad1ng d1g1t5 ( He is also a member of Artech-Int – International Association of Computational Art; ELO – Electronic Literature Organization and CLP – Center for Portuguese Literature. He was a curator to several new media arts exhibitions and a translator of digital fiction to Portuguese language.