Am about halfway through Joe Milutis' book, Failure, a Writer's Life, which treats the subject of failed literature or non-literature. As in, the necessity and difficulties of adducing a theory for the vast amount of productive writing that falls outside the narrow spectrum of literature: cranks and obsessives such as Charles Fort, real-life versions of Borges' Funes the Memorious, database-compilers on and offline, etc.
I would add J.G. Ballard's favorite non-literature: office memoranda. Also books by authors who have lost and never regained publishers after being hyped as "towering talents for our age." (Several good science fiction authors fall in that category.)
Occasionally the analysis crosses over into failed art or non-art (visual as opposed to writing). Clement Greenberg once noted that we don't have a theory for failed art. Would rather read about someone like Francis Picabia, who was considered a great Dadaist who then produced decades of terrible paintings (until those terrible paintings were reassessed -- and the jury's still out) than Milutis' example of Ryan Trecartin, who, although a terrible artist, is considered a smashing success by every contemporary curator you could name.
Our interests intersect with Milutis' analysis of dump.fm [I made a pdf excerpt -- hope that's OK]. Dump is half-art, half-writing, all "failed" or "non-". The same curators who can talk you to death about Trecartin's carnivalesque inversion of blah-blah are deathly silent about Dump. Words simply fail them.
Milutis rolls up his sleeves and does the work and gets it about 85% right. An excerpt:
Dump.fm, a continuous stream of user-created or repurposed web junk, is based on the premise of “talking with images”: one can, for example, take the url of one participant‘s post, and immediately splice it with another url, with an eye to immediate commerce with images, the surprise combination, or the visual pun, rather than image-authorship strictly conceived. It is isomorphic with Flarf, in that the hastily recontextualized and modified gifs and jpgs, exchanged in a real-time semianonymous community, tend towards the cute, the cloying, the un-P.C., the “not O.K.” Yet because it is a free-floating environment, rather than a stand-alone net art “object,” it has developed in ways that complexify any notion of coherent approaches and specific ontological properties, accommodating methods and uses that do not fit under the rubric of a manifesto. [wikipedia flarf link added]
Nevertheless, in their embrace of real-time, spontaneous discourse with digital junk, Dump.fm users espouse an ambiguous relation to the enforced scarcities of the art world. On the one hand, because Dump.fm values spontaneous participation but also because, for better or for worse, it much of the time gets taken over as a teenage chat rumpus room, there is little patience with work that attempts to be too crafty, or that doesn‘t deal with bottom-barrel internet grotesques for freak-show gawking, or that seems to come from anyone over twenty with any art world cred. One racks up more “likes” in the dump rating system if the dump is a quick turn-over of another dump, rather than something painstakingly composed in Photoshop or AfterEffects: more cred for projectile than for project. There‘s a whole “genre” of dump participant who rarely, if ever, composes or recomposes images, but instead merely posts asignifying snaps from his or her webcam, exerting casual presence as a dump star, as if trying to win the slow bicycle race of artistic inactivity and unambition.
Like the chat function, the webcam functions as a territorializing machine within this more deterritorialized space. That is, the webcam has an indexical function—the presence of the person behind the camera cannot easily be faked; and because no one looks over twenty-one, the frequent use of webcam stills forces unstated rules about who can participate and how. Similarly, the use or overuse of the chat function—sometimes overriding the site's raison d'être of “talking with images” for long stretches of time—tends to create boundaries, subgroups, and rivalries that would not be as evident or easy to maintain if the commerce were merely with recycled web-junk.
Milutis over-rates dump's art world connections. Am flattered to be described as a "participating éminence gris" but at this point dump does more for me than vice versa. Ditto Ryder Ripps, who rarely participates anymore in his own creation. As noted above, the part of the art world that could valorize dump through writing and analysis has been busy with far easier subjects.