Inside Out of the Box:
Default Settings and Electronic Poetics

by Davin Heckman

Developing meaningful approaches to criticism appropriate to new modes of cultural production is among the most pressing problems facing the humanities scholars today. This essay discusses digital poetry as a method of revealing defaults in a technical age. It begins with a general definition of the default, followed by a close reading of Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die (2006) and David Jhave Johnston’s Interstitial (2006) as works that challenge default settings: practically, by opening up the space for criticism within digital practice, and philosophically, by engaging with questions of mortality. Through these poetic works, I trace a path through larger social and philosophical questions about technology via Heidegger and the contemporary discourses of technoscience and posthumanism. I conclude with a discussion of the “black box” as a metaphor for an unresolved knowledge of the human between the technical and the poetic.

Fault Lines
Finding Fault
The Poetics of the Default
Technology as Default
Mea Culpa, or, Through My Own Fault
Works Cited

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