issue 02: (digital)performance


In this issue of The Digital Review, we invite you to experience a selection of process-oriented, born-digital works that forefront performance as an integral means, media, and method for keeping multimodal research and creative scholarship alive.

The experience of digital works start with the performance of turning on an electronic device. Clicking on and off, scrolling up and down, zooming in and out, we perform choreographed movements, gestures, and actions prescribed by creative modalities of expression and their computational environment.

The process of reading and writing digital projects is performance. It is thinking-through-making and the embodied practice of organizing ideas. Through the gesture of transformative exchange, readers and writers co-create new experimental frameworks to surface the indeterminacy of the ‘born-digital’ as a tangible space, place, and sensorial site of study. The artists and writers included in this issue touch, twist, and push against a world presented as fixed.

Created in collaboration with co-editors Kevin Sweet, Darija Medić, and Brad Gallagher, this issue of The Digital Review presents works that navigate the shifting contours of living research. We offer performance as a way to expand the conversations within born-digital essayism to unveil boundaries drawn between disciplines so they may be dismantled. We collectively extend our appreciation to you, our readers and writers of this one-of-a-kind experimental living publication.

— Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Editor




Rediscoveries of electronic literature are no different than rediscoveries of print literature. Without structured acts of rediscovery, the works that shape a given era can easily be lost - and this is even more the case for a digital canon whose platforms are changing all the time. The editors of The Digital Review nod to David Madden and Peggy Bach, who asked important writers of the 1970s and 1980s to select, and write about their favorite works of neglected fiction. The Digital Review and the Electronic Literature Lab will be doing the same, over the current decade, for at least a few (of the thousands?) of forgotten digital works.

Reconstructing Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden

By Dene Grigar Director, Electronic Literature Lab

“[Victory Garden] was originally intended for the first-generation Apple Macintosh, with its monochrome (but multi-font!) screen whose size would these days suggest a dashboard nav system. This was long in advance of e-books and tablets, and shortly before Myst, Doom, and Netscape Navigator unleashed their graphics revolutions; in a brief, fragile, twilight of the word.”—Stuart Moulthrop, Artist Statement for “Electronic Literature & Its Emerging Forms,” 2013

When I first discussed with Stuart Moulthrop the possibility of reconstructing his hypertext novel, Victory Garden (1991), he was not interested. In his artist statement for the exhibition Kathi Inman Berens and I mounted at the Library of Congress in 2013 Moulthrop provides a clue why: The novel was built for a specific type of experience that had been superseded by color, graphics, sound, animation, and touch and, so, may not be of interest to today’s audience. No amount of cajoling could convince him otherwise, not even when I showed him evidence that the novel has been the subject of 100 books, essays, and theses and dissertations over the last 30 years, close to 40% of which produced during the last 13 when the work was not even accessible to the public. [1] It was only when he saw the reconstruction my lab did for Richard Holeton’s Figurski at Findhorn on Acid in 2021 that he was convinced it was time to resurrect Victory Garden, and he asked us to help him with the project.

A year later Victory Garden 2022 was completed and available as an archival web-based version. Though he started the project thinking he would stay close the original version created with Storyspace and published by Eastgate Systems, Inc., he changed his mind once the project began. In the 2022 version, the writing and textlinks remain largely the same, but the interface varies dramatically from the original. As he states in the “Preface” to the work, readers will recognize the default Paths, the Labyrinth, and the Map but will find a new navigational structure that includes what he calls “Streams,” or “sequences of pages that present scenes, events, and riffs. . . as discrete units” (Moulthrop). [2] There are 43 Streams presented, functioning much like book chapters from which readers can choose for navigating the work. Besides the full color interface and over 50 images created by the artist, another feature that should stand out for those who remember the work is the striking menu, evoking the Storyspace toolbar, that gives easy access to the schematic map, Streams, navigation through the Streams and Paths, and restart. Those who fondly remember what a Janespace is and wonder if translating Victory Garden from Storyspace, where it originated, to HTML [3] would retain this quirky feature, the answer is yes. You are challenged to find it. Moulthrop also included an easter egg, a lexia called “Machine.” Find either of these for a reward. [4]

Moulthrop conceptualized the new version, coded it, and produced the images for it. Assisting him from the Electronic Literature Lab were Arlo Ptolemy, who served as the Project Manager and Quality Assurance Tester. Andrew Thompson helped with coding and interface and created the element for the logo. Holly Slocum, the lab’s Senior Designer, was the Front-End Designer for the project. Austin Gohl, a spring graduate of the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program, designed the archival website that hosts the game for his capstone project.


[1] I document the use of Victory Garden in theses, dissertations, articles, and books from around the world in “The Persistence of Genius: The Case for Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden” in Rebooting Electronic Literature: Volume 3. August 2020. DOI:

[2] See Moulthrop’s “Preface” at

[3] Mariusz Pisarski and I argue in our forthcoming book, The Challenges of Born-Digital Fiction: Editions, Translations, and Emulations, for Cambridge University Press that reconstructions like the lab undertook for Holeton’s and Moulthrop’s novels constitute what we call, media translation––that is, the transformation of a work, potentially, between formats, software, platforms, hardware, computer languages, and/or digital qualities in a way that impacts the human experience with such works. It may or may not involve linguistic transformation, but always the underlying code is affected and may or may not result in changes to functionality and presentation.

[4] Your name will be emblazoned in glory on the archival site.