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Conference "La connaissance intranquille" (Intranquil Knowledge)

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June 3, 2022

On June 3, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. (EST), Margot Mellet gives a lecture titled "Le savoir intranquille du texte numérique : restituer une intimité avec son texte à l'écran" (The Un-Tranquil Knowledge of the Digital Text: Restituting Intimacy With One's Text on the Screen) at the conference "La connaissance intranquille" (Intranquil Knowledge) organised by l'Organon, a research and creative writing group put in place by the McConnell-Université de Montréal Chair on stories and writings surrounding care-providing and end-of-life.

While many digital creations or editions are posed in mimicry in relation to the paper medium (recreating the format of an A4 page, the structure of a content in pages, etc.), the digital can be invested as a space where to renegotiate the characteristics of what is a text and what makes literature. The architecture of this medium (between hybridity, strata of writing, modularity of inscriptions that seem to be infinitely erasable and reinscribable), but also the lack of knowledge we may have of how it works dispossess us in a way of the text in the digital.

Between what is shown to us on the screen, the Web rendering, and what concretely constitutes this text, its technical backstage, lies a world of tranquility. Thinking about text on the screen requires awareness of its digital materiality -- and in particular of the format that determines it (DOCX, PDF, TXT or other) -- but also of the fundamental unbinding between text and media. My screen may be broken, my keyboard may be broken, my battery may be dead, my text will not be affected *to the letter*; however, a crash, a bug or a hack of my file will corrupt its words without my screen, my keyboard or my machine being affected. The health of the text is actually beyond its reading or writing interface, it depends on the format that decides its accessibility. However, I am not the author of this format. My digital writing machine does not make me the owner of the text I write on its interface. Conversely, I don't need to be Bill Gates or Paul Allen to write my text in DOCX. To claim ownership of the latter, however, I would have to usurp their identities. Where then to locate our relationship of intimacy to the text?

Going beyond the rendering on the screen, into the illegibility of the digital text (in the encoding languages), into this intermediate space between human and machine, going to meet the intranquillity of the digital text, is a process of research as much as it is of creating a literary intimacy. In this paper, I wish to deepen this idea of an intranquil knowledge in the experience of an intimacy with the digital text.

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