West Virginia University has attracted the attention of one of the foremost figures in the field of new media arts.

Alan Sondheim, a writer and video artist who focuses on the intersections of writing and technology, is visiting WVU through mid-July. Sondheim is being hosted by the Virtual Environments Laboratory, housed within the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, and the Center for Literary Computing, sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

The collaborative research project, entitledWorld Premiere: The Phenomenology of the Virtual,will explore the relationship of virtual being tolivebeing, through the mediation of computer technology. The project will also explore the interfaces between the technological and the natural, the analog and the digital.

Sondheims work combines an exhaustive exploration of online publishing with observations of his life and events in the world around him,explained Sandy Baldwin, assistant professor of English and director of the WVU CLC .His research project will result in a series of performances, environments and installations in galleries or museums, and a series of texts.

In February, Sondheim visited WVU and discussed the interaction between computer programming and different types of creativity. He discussed his own artwork, as well as the theoretical issues surrounding art in digital networks and virtual environments.

Unlike traditional literature, where a writer submits a manuscript to a publisher and is thus printed permanently on paper, a writer such as Sondheim can create and distribute his own work in diverse forms and to diverse audiences around the world using Internet technologies. For instance, Sondheim uses chat roomsonline sites where people can go and communicate via writingto create collaborative texts with multiple authors, which are then distributed widely on the Internet.

All of these things give me tools for thinking about writing and new ways of putting words and meaning together,Sondheim said.Ill very rarely let anything aloneI dont really care how the text is producedso Ill go back into it and rearrange things, making the text say things or lead the reader in new and different directions.