nickm.com
Nick Montfort

Nick Montfort develops literary generators and other computational art and poetry. He is a scholar of computational art and media who has undertaken dozens of academic and literary collaborations, and is now associate professor of digital media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization. He earned a Ph.D. in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters in creative writing (poetry) from Boston University, a Masters in media arts and sciences from MIT, and undergraduate degrees in liberal arts and computer science from the University of Texas.

Projects of Montfort’s include the interactive fiction system Curveship and (with international collaborators) the large-scale story generation system Slant; very small-scale poetry generators including the ppg256 series and Concrete Perl; the group blog Grand Text Auto; Ream, a 500-page poem written in one day; Mystery House Taken Over, a collaborative “occupation” of a classic game; Implementation, a co-written novel on stickers documented in a book; the interactive fictions Winchesters Nightmare, Ad Verbum, and Book and Volume; and several other digital poems and language generators, including the collaborations Sea and Spar Between and The Deletionist. He works in several different contexts. These include the Web, book publication, and reading/performance as well as the demoscene (e.g., the collaboration Nanowatt, shown at Récursion in Montréal) and gallery exhibition (e.g, From the Tables of My Memorie, to be shown in Boston and Singapore this year). He translates computational art and writing; his own work has been translated into half a dozen languages. For instance, his free-software computer-generated novel World Clock has been translated to Polish and will be published in October in the Liberatura series, which also includes Finnegans Wake. Many of Montfort’s works have also been modified and transformed by others; his short generator Taroko Gorge has been the basis for more than two dozen published remixes.

Montfort has helped to establish several new academic fields: Platform studies (he initiated this field and the corresponding MIT Press book series with Ian Bogost), critical code studies (he organized and co-authored the main book using this approach), and electronic literature (he wrote the first book focusing on a single form of e-lit, has extensively created, edited, and written about work of this sort, and has served on the board of directors of the Electronic Literature Organization for more than ten years). He founded and directs The Trope Tank, a DIY and boundary-transgressing MIT research lab that undertakes scholarly and aesthetic projects and offers material computing resources.

#! (Counterpath, 2014; the title is pronounced “shebang”) is Montfort’s latest book, and contains programs and poems. 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, (MIT Press, 2013), a 10-author single-voice publication that he organized, focuses on a one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program. He wrote Riddle & Bind (Spineless Books, 2010), a book of literary riddles and constrained poems. With Ian Bogost, he wrote Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (MIT Press, 2009). He wrote Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (MIT Press, 2003), and, with William Gillespie, 2002: A Palindrome Story (Spineless Books, 2002), which the Oulipo acknowledged as the world’s longest literary palindrome. He also edited The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 (with N. Katherine Hayles, Stephanie Strickland, and Scott Rettberg, ELO, 2006) and The New Media Reader (with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, MIT Press, 2003). Montfort recently finished drafting his tenth book, which continues his long-term project to teach programming as a method of culturally engaged inquiry and making: Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities (MIT Press, 2016).

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... August 2014

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In 100 words...

Nick Montfort develops literary generators and other computational art and poetry. He has participated in dozens of literary and academic collaborations. He teaches at MIT and is faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization, whose Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 he co-edited. Montfort wrote the books of poems #! and Riddle & Bind and co-wrote 2002. The MIT Press has published four of his collaborative and individually-authored books: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, and 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboration with nine other authors that Montfort organized.