Cover Story: The Future of (E)ducation?

Davin Heckman's Electronic Literature Course Breaks New Academic Ground

The Future of (E)ducation?

Davin Heckman's Electronic Literature Course Breaks New Academic Ground

By Tabitha Lambertson, Student Writer

What is Literature?

That question has been asked throughout the ages, and the answer is continually being redefined. With the advent of the Internet Age, that question is being asked again, and a Siena Heights University professor is attempting to provide his own interpretation.

SHU Assistant Professor English Davin Heckman was given the honor of editing j0173955.gifa special issue of MIT Press’ flagship new media arts journal, The Leonardo Electronic Almanac ( ). As part of his teaching strategy which corresponded to his Almanac editing, Heckman offered an electronic literature class for the winter semester. This past winter and spring, he introduced students to literature web sites and stories online, allowing them to write reactions, as well as their own stories.

As a course, Heckman said electronic literature is designed to influence digital media on literature and its interpretation. The class focused on novels and poems. Students then debated the value and quality of the work. Siena Heights students who participated in the course were excited to be part of a groundbreaking academic endeavor.

 “I like trying to write with different processes that I wouldn’t normally use,” said senior English/communications major Bonny Buckner. “As a professor, Davin knows a lot about electronic literature and he always had great examples to share with us.”

Jason Nelson, a colleague of Heckman’s in the electronic literature field who visited Siena Heights last year, had his work prominently featured in Heckman’s class. Senior Annie Carden cited Nelson’s example of Game, Game, Game and Again Game, as an outstanding example of electronic literature.

“As an art major, I appreciates electronic literature’s strong relationship to visual arts,” Carden said.

Otherwise known as a “video game” Nelson invented using artwork, his game has multiple levels that discuss topics ranging from Christianity to drugs. There is no reward system to playing the game, players just skip through the levels by looking at artwork. For example, on the Christianity level there is a picture of the cross and the player of the game has to choose which path to take: a sin-filled adventure or a faith-filled path. The cross in the picture opens to form a fork in the road. Therefore, it illustrates what people do when making choices.

“It’s both art and literature mixed with programming,” said sophomore Aidan davin-heckman1.jpgSprague of Nelson’s work. “This class makes me see the internet in a different way.”

Heckman also showed students webs sites that publish and review electronic literature. For example, is the Electronic Literature Organization that includes programs, publications and memberships for users to try.

Heckman said there are two purposes to his electronic literature class.

“I have a passion for electronic literature I want to share with my students, plug them into the electronic community and provide them the opportunity to debate and decide what literature is to them,” Heckman said.

Heckman said the The Leonardo Electronic Almanac, which is expected to be released some time this summer, will include two sections: critical essays and a gallery show. He said he ultimately hopes to continue his learning and teaching with electronic literature:

“We began with a question, which is what is electronic literature?” Heckman said. “It’s one of the questions that has been puzzling creators and critics ever since people started producing pieces of electronic literature. What is literature? There was a time when literature was just epic poetry. There is a time whne it was verse. … Now that we’ve kind of passed the Gutenberg era of western civilization, we’re asking this question again.”

Davin Heckman explains his electronic literature class (below).


To view some examples of Electronic Literature, please visit these sites:


Electronic Literature Organization:


Jason Nelson's work:


Jason Nelson’s web site:


Hyperrhiz, a new media journal (Davin Heckman sits on its board):





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Digital Communications and Computer Information Systems major; Student Government President; Brazil

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Hillary Day Harrington '10

English graduate; Lawyer