Monday 22 May 2017, 8:12 pm   //////  

Sliders front cover, with battlements

My minimal book Sliders has been published by my press, Bad Quarto. The book contains 32 poems, some of which are only one word long. In a break from tradition, they are not computer-generated.

Currently Sliders is only available for sale at the MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Mass.

Sliders back cover, with blurbs

Salon 256 on May 1

SALON 256 is a forum for presentation and discussion of very small creative computer programs. Such programs have featured in digital art and poetry, electronic literature, computer music, and the demoscene.

YOU are invited to present a tiny program of yours:

Monday May 1 . 5pm-7pm . MIT’s 14E-304

Presenters already confirmed:

  • Mike “Dr.Claw” Piantedosi
  • Angela Chang
  • Sofian Audry
  • Nick Montfort
  • Chris Kerich
  • Willy Wu
  • Henry Lieberman
  • Doug Orleans

Programs in an interpreted language are fine, as long as the code is 256 bytes or less; compiled programs with an executable file of 256b or less are fine, too.

Building 14 also holds the Hayden Library and is not Building E14. If you’d like to present, leave a comment or sign up at the event.

A Purple Blurb / The Trope Tank production.

Tiny Trope Tank Productions

Recently, at the suggestion of our writer in residence, Milton Läufer, we in the Trope Tankt have been producing digital files for discussion at meetings. These productions, almost always computer programs but not constrained to be such, must be at most 256 bytes.

It’s been extremely productive in terms of thinking about digital media, platforms and programming languages, and how we approach creative projects — and even other projects — generally. Postdoctoral researcher Sofian Audry prompted us to discuss this some at the last meeting.

So far we have three sets of 256b files which have landed in this directory, organized by date and with file names that indicate who wrote what:

They include work by RA Chris Kerich, who has produced rather demoscene-like visual effects using Python running in a terminal, and by postdoctoral researcher Angela Chang, who has provided short example programs for use in teaching. Angela’s examples show that you don’t have to have hypercompressed, confused code when you write short, interesting programs. You can value clarity and pedagogical usefulness if you like, or you can pack in as much as possible, for instance, in order to produce a visual effect.

Sofian has explored creative computing history by writing a 256b Commodore 64 BASIC program that implements, or at least strongly refers to, the classic Lemonade Stand BASIC program. Milton has generated various compelling visual displays. His and Chris’s most recent programs are less clearly mathematical and regular, instead imitating the natural world.

It was very apropos that Christian Bök pointed me to Dwitter, a framework for making tiny programs that can be easily shared on the Web, just recently. I’m sure we’ll all dig into that soon.

My pieces include one bash script, one Python 3 program, and an executable of 256b written in assembly for the Commodore 64. The Python 3 program is actually a very tiny text adventure, Wastes, and is listed on the Interactive Fiction Database. In fact, I’m pleased to see that at this point, it has one four-star (our of five) review!

Multisequential Books in the Trope Tank

Friday 27 January 2017, 6:15 pm   ////  

Love is not Constantly Wondering if you are Making the Biggest Mistake of your Life. Portland, OR: Perfect Day Pub, 2011.

Roflcon III. Cambridge, MA: Self Published, 2012.

Bottke, Allison, Heather Gemmen Wilson, Gary Locke. Friend or Freak. Colorado Springs, CO: Faith Kidz, 2004.

Ball, Jonathan. Ex Machina. Toronto: BookThug, 2009. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Bourbaki, Nicholas. If. Livingston, AL : Livingston Press, the University of West Alabama, 2014.

Burk, Jeff. Super Giant Monster Time! Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2010. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Carr, Mike. Robbers and Robots. New York: Random House, 1983.

Castillo, Ana. The Mixquiahuala Letters. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1992. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Clarke, Miranda. Night of a Thousand Boyfriends. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Coover, Robert. Heart Suit. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2005.

Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. London: Doubleday, 2000.

Danielewski, Mark Z. Only Revolutions. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

DeVault, Christine, Ian Akin. Too Soon for Sex? Santa Cruz, CA: Network Publications, 1989.

Dever, Joe, Gary Chalk. Flight from the Dark. New York: Berkley Books, 1985.

Donihe, Kevin L., Carlton Mellick III. Ocean of Lard. Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2005. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dubuc, Joey. Neither Either Nor Or. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2003. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dworkin, Craig Douglas, David Wolske, Emily Tipps, Claire Taylor, Chris Dunsmore, Robert Buchert, Laurence Sterne. Chap. XXIV. Salt Lake City, UT: Red Butte Press, 2013

Emerson, Hunt, Pat Mills. You are Maggie Thatcher: a Dole-Playing Game. London: Titan Books, 1987. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

English, James H. Escape From Fire Island! Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003.

EnJoe, Toh, Terry Gallagher. Self-Reference Engine. San Francisco : Haikasoru, 2013.

Erdich, Lauren, Sierra Nelson. I Take Back the Sponge Cake. Brookline, MA: Rose Metal Press, 2012.

Estes, Rose. Dragon of Doom. New York: Random House, 1983.

Estes, Rose. Dungeon of Dread. New York: Random House, 1982.

Estes, Rose. Hero of Washington Square. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1983.

Giffin, Lawrence. Non Facit Saltus. Troll Thread, 2014. (Available free online)

Giffin, Lawrence. Quod Vide. Troll Thread, 2014. (Available free online)

Glickman, Bob. Work Sucks! A Hilarious Guide to Choosing or Changing Your Career. Los Angeles: CCC Publications, 1992.

Harris, Neil Patrick. Choose Your Own Autobiography. New York: Crown Archetype, 2014. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Hefter, Richard, Martin Moskof. The new original shufflebook. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978.

Hemmingson, Michael. The Classics Professor. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Johnson, B.S. The Unfortunates. New York: New Directions Pub., 2007. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Knechtel, John. Suspect. London: MIT Press, 2006.

Kurtz, Joe. Die: roll to Proceed. New York: Mind the Art Entertainment, 2012.

Levy, Robert Joseph. The Suicide King. New York: SSE/Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. The Holidays. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. The Office Adventure. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

Maden, Svend A?ge, W Glyn Jones. Days with Diam. Norwich, England: Norvik Press, 1994. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Matthews, T.J. The Hunting Safari. Orlando: Wycliffe, 2003.

McElhatton, Heather. Pretty Little Mistakes. London: Headline Review, 2008. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Mohanraj, Mary Anne. Kathryn in the City. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Montgomery, R.A. Danger Zones. New York: Bantam, 1987.

Montgomery, R.A. Your Very Own Robot. Waitsfield, VT: Chooseco, 2007.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1962. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Newman, Kim. Life’s Lottery. London: Simon & Schuster, 1999. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

North, Ryan, William Shakespeare. Poor Yorick. Breadpig, 2013.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. Romeo and/or Juliet. Riverhead Books, 2014.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. To be or not to be. Breadpig, 2013.

Olsen, Lance. Theories of Forgetting. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: FC2, The University of Alabama Press, 2014 (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

O’Toole, Cate. Oh My Darling. New York: Black Lawrence Press, 2015

Packard, Edward. Deadwood City. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Inside UFO 54-40. New York: Bantam, 1982. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Journey to the Year 3000. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Packard, Edward. La Supercomputadora. Buenos Aires: Editorial Atla?ntida, 1986.

Packard, Edward. Sunken Treasure. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

Packard, Edward. Supercomputer. New York: Bantam, 1984. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. The Cave of Time. New York: Bantam Books, 1979. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? New York: Bantam Books, 1981. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Pavic?, Milorad, Christina Pribic?evic?-Zoric?. Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Powers, Bob. You are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero!. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Queneau, Raymond. Exercises in Style. New York: New Directions, 1981. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Roseman, Kenneth. Escape from the Holocaust. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1985.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… All Your Dreams Came True. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… All Your Friends Turned on You. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Everyone Knew Your Name. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2006.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Everyone Was Doing It. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… You Broke All the Rules. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2007.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Your Past Came Back to Haunt You. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ryman, Geoff. 253: The Print Remix. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Saporta, Marc, Richard Howard. Composition No. 1. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

Sewell, Justin. Who Killed John F. Kennedy?. Despair, Inc., 2013.

Shiga, Jason. Knock Knock. 2006.

Shiga, Jason. Meanwhile. New York, New York: Amulet Books, 2010. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Shiga, Jason. The Last Supper. 1997.

Snyder, Laurel. Daphne and Jim. Portland, OR.: Burnside Review Press, 2005.

Webster, Emma Campbell. Lost in Austen. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Weinersmith, Zach. Trial of the Clone. Breadpig Inc., 2012.

Wilgus, Alison. A Stray in the Woods. New York: Alison Wiglus, 2013.

Zimmerman, Eric, Nancy Nowaceks. Life in the Garden: A Deck of Stories. New York, New York: Razorfish Studios, 1999.

Youngmark, Matt. Zombocalypse Now. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2009.

Youngmark, Matt. Thrusts of Justice. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2012.

Happy New Year 2017

Sunday 1 January 2017, 6:03 pm   ////  

My New Year’s poem for 2017 is Colors, a 1KB Web page, online at and here it is, too:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html style="overflow:hidden">
<head><meta charset=utf-8>
<!-- Copyright (c) 2016 Nick Montfort <>   2016-12-31, 1KB

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification,
are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright
notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is,
without any warranty.

Click pauses, Add ?00f000 or similar to URL for the specified color.-->
<script type=text/javascript>
var c = 0, i;
function up() {
 if (c > 16581375) { c = 0; } = "#"+("00000"+c.toString(16)).slice(-6);
 c += 1;
function pause(e) {
 if (i) { clearInterval(i); i = 0; } else { go(); }
function init() {
 var s =;
 if (s.slice(0, 1) === '?') { c = parseInt(unescape(s.slice(1)), 16); }
function go() { i = window.setInterval(up, 5); };
<body onload=init() onmousedown=pause(event)>
<div style="width:100vw; height:100vh"></div>

As the code says, you can add an argument in the URL to start with a particular color, such as medium gray:

Click to stop on a particular color that you especially like. Click again to continue moving through the colors. If you let it run, you’ll see all 16581375 colors in just over 23 hours.

Happy new year.

Digital Lengua, the launch of 2×6 and Autopia, Nov 20 in NYC

Thursday 27 October 2016, 10:34 pm   ////////  
Clouds of Digital Lengua palabras

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan – 5:30pm Sunday November 20

This reading of computer-generated literature in English and Spanish serves as the global book launch for two titles:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series×6/
256 pp.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 pp.

Montfort will read from these two books, reading English and Spanish texts from 2×6. Paperback copies will be available for purchase. The short programs that generated these books are printed in the books and also available as free software online.

Läufer will read from his projects Bigrammatology and WriterTools™, in both cases, in Spanish and English.

Montfort and Läufer will read from work done as part of the Renderings project and as part of another project, Heftings.

The Renderings project, organized by Montfort and based at his lab, The Trope Tank, involves locating computational literature (such as poetry generating computer programs) from around the globe and translating these works into English. Läufer and Montfort will read from two Spanish-language poetry generators, from Argentina and Spain, and from translations of them.

The Heftings project, also organized by Montfort through The Trope Tank, involves making attempts, often many, at translating conceptual, constrained, concrete & visual, and other types of literary art that are generally considered to be impossible to translate. Montfort and Läufer will read from some short works that are originally in Spanish or English and works that have Spanish or English translations.

Nick Montfort develops computational art and poetry, often collaboratively. His poetry books are #!, Riddle & Bind, and Autopia; he co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story and 2×6. His more than fifty digital projects, at, include the collaborations The Deletionist, Sea and Spar Between, and the Renderings project. His collaborative and individual books from the MIT Press are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, and most recently Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. He lives in New York and Boston, offers naming services as Nomnym, and is a professor at MIT.

Milton Läufer is an Argentinian writer, journalist and teacher. Currently he is doing a PhD at New York University focused on digital literature in Latin America. He is the 2016-2017 writer-in-residence of The Trope Tank, MIT. In 2015 he published Lagunas, a partially algorithmic-generated novel, which —as most of his work— is available online at He has participated in art exhibitions in Latin America, the US and Europe. He lives in Brooklyn.

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan – 5:30pm Domingo, Noviembre 20

Esta lectura de literatura generada por computadora en español e inglés oficiará, a la vez, de lanzamiento para los siguientes dos títulos:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series×6/
256 págs.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 págs.

Montfort leerá de ambos libros, en español e inglés para el caso de 2×6. Habrá copias impresas disponibles para su compra. Los breves programas que generan el código se encuentran en dichos libros y también en línea como software libre (y gratuito).

Läufer leerá de sus proyectos Bigrammatology y WriterTools™, en español e inglés en ambos casos.

Los autores leerán también de los trabajos realizados en el marco de los proyecto Renderings y Heftings.

El proyecto Renderings, organizado por Montfort con base en su laboratorio, The Trope Tank, involucra la búsqueda de literatura computacional (tal como poesía generada por programas de computadora) a lo largo del globo y la traducción de estos proyectos al inglés. Läufer y Montfort leerán de dos generadores de poesía en español, uno de Argentina y otro de España, así como sus traducciones.

El proyecto Heftings, también organizado por Montfort a través de The Trope Tank, consiste en la producción de intentos, a menudo muchos, de traducir obras literarias conceptuales, formalistas, concretas o visuales tales que son generalmente consideradas imposibles de traducir. Montfort y Läufer leerán algunos trabajos breves originalmente en español o inglés y trabajos que poseen traducciones españolas o inglesas.

Nick Montfort desarrolla arte y poesía computacional, frecuentemente en colaboración. Entre sus libros se destacan #!, Riddle & Bind y Autopia; y, en colaboración, 2002: A Palindrome Story y 2×6. Entre sus más de cincuenta proyectos digitales, en, se encuentran las colaboraciones The Deletionist, Sea and Spar Between y Renderings, un proyecto centrado en la traducción. Sus libros de MIT Press son The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 y, recientemente, Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. Vive en New York y Boston, ofrece servicios de nombres como Nomnym, y es un profesor en MIT.

Milton Läufer es un escritor, periodista y docente argentino. Actualmente se encuentra realizando un PhD en la New York University acerca de literatura digital in América Latina. Es el escritor en residencia de The Trope Tank para el período 2016-2017, en MIT. En 2015 publicó la novela generada parcialmente por algoritmos Lagunas, la cual —como el resto de su obra el literatura digital— es accesible desde su sitio, Ha participado de exposiciones en América Latina, Estados Unidos y Europa. Vive en Brooklyn.


Trope Tank Writer in Residence

Wednesday 3 August 2016, 5:29 pm   //////  

The Trope Tank is accepting applications for a writer in residence during academic year 2016-2017.

The Trope Tank, 3 August 2016

Our mission is developing new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language. More can be discovered about the Trope Tank here:

The main projects of the Trope Tank for 2016-2017 are Renderings and Heftings, as I’ve described for a forthcoming article in Convolutions 4:

The Renderings project is an effort to locate computational literature in languages other than English — poetry and other text generators, combinatorial poems, interactive fiction, and interactive visual poetry, for example — and translate this work to English. Along the way, it is necessary to port some of this work to the Web, or emulate it, or re-implement it, both in the source language and in English. This provides the original language community better access to a functioning version of the original work, some of which originates in computer magazines from several decades ago, some of which is from even earlier. The translations give the English-language community some perspective on the global creative work that has been undertaken with language and computation, helping to remedy the typical view of this area, which is almost always strongly English-centered.

Heftings, on the other hand, is not about translation into English; the project is able to include translation between any pair of languages (along with the translation of work that is originally multilingual). Nor does it focus on digital and computational work. Instead, Heftings is about “impossible translation” of all sorts — for instance, of minimal, highly constrained, densely allusive, and concrete/visual poems. The idea is that even if the translation of such works is impossible, attempts at translation, made while working collaboratively and in conversation with others, can lead to insights. The Heftings project seeks to encourage translation attempts, many such attempts per source text, and to facilitate discussion of these. There is no concept that one of these attempts will be determined to be the best and will be settled upon as the right answer to the question of translation.

The Trope Tank’s work goes beyond these main projects. It includes developing creative projects, individually and collaboratively; teaching about computing, videogaming, and the material history of the text in formal and informal ways; and research into related areas. Those in the Trope Tank have also curated and produced exhibits and brought some of the lab’s resources to the public at other venues. The lab hosts monthly meetings of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction and occasional workshops.

There are no fees or costs associated with the residency; there is also no stipend or other financial support provided as part of the appointment. A writer in residence has 24-hour access to and use of the Trope Tank, including space to work, power and network connection, and use of materials and equipment. As a member of the MIT community, a writer in residence can access the campus and check out books from the MIT Libraries. We encourage our writer in residence to attend research and creative discussions and join us in project work and other collaborations, but this is not expressed with a particular requirement to be in the Trope Tank some amount of time per week.

To apply, email me, Nick Montfort, at moc.mkcin@mkcin with short answers (in no case to exceed 250 words each) to the following questions:

  • What work have you done that relates to computation, language and literature, and the mission of the lab? Include URLs when appropriate; there is no need to include the URLs when counting words.

  • How would you make use of your time in the Trope Tank? You do not have to offer a detailed outline of a particular project, but explain in some way how it would be useful to you to have access to the materials, equipment, and people here.

  • What is your relationship, if any, to literary translation, and do you see yourself contributing to Renderings, Heftings, or both? If so, how?

  • What connections could you potentially make between communities of practice and other groups you know, either in the Boston area or beyond, and the existing Trope Tank community within MIT?

Include a CV/resume in PDF format as an attachment.

Applications will be considered beginning on August 15; applicants are encouraged to apply by noon on that day.

We value diverse backgrounds, experiences, and thinking, and encourage applications by members of groups that are underrepresented at MIT.

Computer-Generated Books

Friday 22 July 2016, 2:16 am   /////  

Here’s a first effort (drafted, initially, at 2am on July 22) at a bibliography of computer-generated books.

These are books in the standard material sense, somehow printed, whether via print-on-demand or in a print run. I may include chapbooks eventually, as they certainly interest me, but so far I have been focusing on books, however bound, with spines. Books in any language are welcome.

So far I have not included books where the text has been obviously sorted computer (e.g. Auerbach, Reimer) or where a text has been produced repeatedly, obviously by computer (e.g. Chernofsky). Also omitted are computer-generated utilitarian tables, e.g. of logarithms or for artillery firing. Books composed by a process, but without using a computer, are not included.

I have included some strange outliers such as books written with computational assistance (programs were used to generate text and the text was human-assembled/edited/written) and one book that is apparently human written but is supposed to read like a computer-generated book.

I’d love to know about more of these. I’m not as interested in the thousands of computer-generated spam books available for purchase, and have not listed any of these, but let me know if there are specific ones that you believe are worthwhile. I would particularly like to know if some of the great NaNoGenMo books I’ve read are available in print.

Updated 11:43am July 22: Since the original post I have added Whalen, Tranter, Balestrini, and five books by Bök. 5:35pm: I’ve added Thompson and Woetmann. 8:37am July 23: Added Bogost. 8:37pm July 24: Added Bailey, Baudot, Cabell & Huff, Cage x 2, Huff, Hirmes. October 12-14: Added Archangel, Seward, Dörfelt.

Archangel, Cory. Working on my Novel. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Bailey, Richard W. Computer Poems. Drummond Island, MI: Potagannissing Press, 1973.

Balestrini, Nanni. Tristano. Translated by Mike Harakis. London and New York: Verso, 2014.

Baudot, Jean. La machine a écrire. Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bogost, Ian. A Slow Year: Game Poems. Highlands Ranch, CO: Open Texture, [2010].

Bök, Christian. LXUM,LKWC (Oh Time Thy Pyramids). San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. MCV. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. Axaxaxas Mlo. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Plaster Cramp. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Combed Thunderclap. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Cabell, Mimi, and Jason Huff. American Psycho. Vienna: Traumavien, 2012.

Cage, John. Anarchy (New York City, January 1988). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Cage, John. I-IV. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Carpenter, J. R. GENERATION[S] Vienna: Traumawien, 2010.

Cayley, John and Daniel C. Howe, How it Is in Common Tongues. Providence: NLLF, 2012.

Cayley, John. Image Generation. London: Veer Books, 2015.

Chamberlin, Darick. Cigarette Boy: A Mock Machine Mock-Epic. [Seattle]: Rogue Drogue: 1991.

Chan, Paul. Phaedrus Pron. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited, 2010.

Daly, Liza. Seraphs: A Procedurally Generated Mysterious Codex. [San Francisco]: Blurb, 2014.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. Written Images. 2011.

Hartman, Charles and Hugh Kenner. Sentences. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995.

Heldén, Johannes and Håkan Jonson. Evolution. Stockholm, OEI Editör, 2014.

Hirmes, David. Directions From Unknown Road to Unknown Road. [Handmade edition of 10.] The Elements Press: 2010.

Huff, Jason. Autosummarize. [McNally Jackson]: 2010.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler-Henry. Apostrophe. Toronto, ECW Press, 2006.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler. Update. Montréal: Snare, [2010.]

Larson, Darby. Irritant. New York and Atlanta: Blue Square Press, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. World Clock. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. Zegar światowy. Translated by Piotr Marecki. Krakow: ha!art, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. #! Denver: Counterpath, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. Megawatt. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2014.

Montfort, Nick, Serge Bouchardon, Carlos León, Natalia Fedorova, Andrew Campana, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki. 2×6. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Racter, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Rosén, Carl-Johan. I Speak Myself Into an Object. Stockholm: Rensvist Förlag, 2013.

Dörfelt, Matthias. I Follow. Series of unique flip-books with computer-generated aspects of animation. Made by the artist. 2013-present.

Seward, Rob. Death Death Death. VHS Design LLC, 2010.

Thompson, Jeff. Grid Remix: The Fellowship of the Ring. San Francisco: Blurb, 2013.

Tranter, John. Different Hands. North Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998.

Walker, Nathan. Action Score Generator. Manchester: if p then q, 2015.

Whalen, Zach. An Anthrogram. Fredericksburg, Virginia: 2015.

Woetmann, Peter-Clement. 105 Variationer. Cophenhagen: Arena, 2015.

Hello, Globe

Monday 25 April 2016, 4:45 pm   ////  

On Saturday, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and, happy birthday, too, Will), I delivered to Twitter, via post-haste dispatch, the following four Commodore 64 BASIC programs, versions of the famous “Hello world” program:

400 ? chr$(147)"hello world":for a=1 to 500:next:? chr$(19)"brave":new:rem #c64

400 ? chr$(144)chr$(79)chr$(84)"hello world":rem #c64

400 ? "hello world"chr$(4^3+(2b or not 2b)):rem #c64

400 for a=0to255:? chr$(147)spc(a)"(QRQ) hello world":next:? chr$(147):rem #c64

Type ’em in to a for-real Commodore 64 or to this Web-based emulator here. No special characters are involved, so entering these programs should be easy; lowercase letters will appear capitalized and the few capital ones will appear as graphical symbols.

Let me know what you think … and if you see the relationship to four of Shakespeare’s plays.

Great Workshop for New Programmers at Babycastles

Monday 25 April 2016, 1:41 pm   ///////  

I had a launch event Saturday afternoon for my new book, Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. Not a typical reading or book party, but a workshop for people completely new to programming but interested in pursuing it. It was at the excellent gallery and venue, Babycastles, on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

I don’t actually have the list of attendees – I’d like to sent everyone a note, but it will have to wait! – but two people I knew beforehand participated and ten others joined in, with some people from Babycastles also participating and helping out. (Special thanks to Lauren Gardner for hosting!) I was very glad that the group was diverse in terms of gender, race, background, interests … also, pleased that this time around we had more people who were genuinely new to programming. I’ve done similar workshops before, prior to the publication of Exploratory Programming, and often there are folks who have had some programming classes and done some programming projects before. I’m glad to help such people as they re-start work with code, but I tried to make sure this time that there was no crypto-prerequisite suggested; the session really was for those wanting to program but lacking background.

Of course we dealt with programming as culturally situated and meaningful within art, poetry, writing, and inquiry. We used the historical Memory Slam examples that I prepared a few years ago for another event in Lower Manhattan.

Because the book is out and registration for the workshop included a copy of it, I didn’t feel the need to go through particular code examples that are in there. I was able to frame the whole idea of programming and focus on a few early specifics in both JavaScript and Python – showing that code is just editing a text file; that there’s a difference between code and data (and parameters, too); and that error messages can be helpful rather than frustrating. We did work with specific code, but didn’t cover specific code discussions in the book or the exercises in there. The book is for use in a classroom, but also for individual learners, to allow people to continue their work as programmers formally and informally.

Many people introducing a new book will have book parties, with or without readings, that draw a much larger crowd that this event did. But, as Brian Eno said about the Velvet Underground’s first album, not many people bought it but all the people who did started a band. I hope everyone who participated in this modest event at Babycastles goes on to start a band, by developing a programming practice engaged with the arts and humanities.

Update: I should have mentioned – we’ll have a similar workshop on May 15 at the School for Poetic Computation!

Exploratory Programming Published

Thursday 14 April 2016, 2:58 pm   //  

I’m pleased to announce the publication of Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities, an MIT Press book to teach programming as a method of inquiry and creativity, no background required.

Exploratory Programmming, Montfort

I’ll be running events that are associated with the book to help people start programming. The first of these is at Babycastles (137 West 14th Street in Manhattan) on April 23. If you’re near and interested in starting to program, please sign up! A copy of the book is included with the workshop fee, which, with processing charges, comes in under $60 and supports this community-oriented gallery.

Babycastles workshop with Nick

Language Hacking at SXSW Interactive

We had a great panel at SXSW Interactive on March 11, exploring several radical ways in which langauge and computing are intersecting. It was “Hacking Language: Bots, IF and Esolangs.” I moderated; the main speakers were Allison Parrish a.k.a. @aparrish; Daniel Temkin DBA @rottytooth; and Emily Short, alias @emshort.

I kicked things off by showing some simple combinatorial text generators, including the modifiable “Stochastic Texts” from my Memory Slam reimplementation and my super-simple startup name generator, Upstart. No slides from me, just links and a bit of quick modification to show how easily one can work with literary langauge and a Web generator.

Allison Parrish, top bot maker, spoke about how the most interesting Twitter bots, rather than beign spammy and harmful or full of delightful utility, are enacing a critique of the banal corporate system that Twitter has carefully been shaped into by its makers (and compliant users). Allison showed her and other’s work; The theoretical basis for her discussion was Iain Borden’s “Another Pavement, Another Beach: Skateboarding and the Performative Critique of Architecture.” Read over Allison’s slides (with notes) to see the argument as she makes it:

Twitter Bots and the Performative Critique of Procedural Writing

Daniel Temkin introduced the group to esoteric programming languages, including several that he created and a few classics. He brought copies of a chapbook for people in the audience, too. We got a view of this programming-language creation activity generally – why people devise these projects, what they tell us about computing, and what they tell us about language – and learned some about Temkin’s own practice as an esolang developer. Take a look at Daniel’s slides and notes for the devious details:

Esolangs: A Guide to "Useless" Programming Languages

Finally, interactive fiction author Emily Short reviewed some of the classic problems of interactive fiction and how consideration has moved from the level of naïve physics to models of the social worlds – again, with reference to her own IF development and that of others. One example she presented early on was the challenge of responding to the IF command “look at my feet.” Although my first interactive fiction, Winchester’s Nightmare (1999) was not very remarkable generally, I’m pleased to note that it does at least offer a reasonable reply to this command:

Winchester's Nightmare excerpt

That was done by creating numerous objects of class “BodyPart” (or some similar name) which just generate error messages. Not sure if it was a tremendous breakthrough. But I think there is something to the idea of gently encouraging the interactor to o play within particular boundaries.

Emily’s slides (offering many other insights) may be posted in a bit – she is still traveling. I’ll link them here, if so.

Update! Emily’s slides are now online — please take a look.

I had a trio of questions for each pair of presenters, and we had time for questions from the audience, too. The three main presenters each had really great, compact presentations that gave a critical survey of these insurgent areas, and we managed to see a bit of how they speak to each other, too. This session, and getting to talk with these three during and outside of it, certainly made SXSW Interactive worth the trip for me.

There’s an audio recording of the event that’s available, too.

Christian Bök’s The Xenotext Book I at MIT

Tuesday 2 February 2016, 12:43 pm   //  

Christian read late last semester in the Purple Blurb series, a Trope Tank and CMS/W production. Here’s a video record of this appearance of his at MIT:

A New, Untitled Poem

Friday 4 December 2015, 5:34 pm   //  

I hope you enjoy this one, and don’t dismiss it as lighght verse.

Why I Hate The Martian

Monday 5 October 2015, 7:42 pm   //  

The Martian is a movie (a book, too, but I haven’t read it) where Matt Damon’s character, Matt Watley, is stranded on Mars and has to figure out how to survive as people on Earth figure out how to rescue him. It is a version of Robinson Crusoe (without Friday). There are no enemies or bad people, just understandable mistakes and the capricious forces of “nature,” or as it’s called here, space. Watley declares himself officially the first colonist of Mars, and he solves every problem, as he explicitly says, with science.

To turn to more contemporary references, it seems to me that the film is a conflation of Gravity, Moon, and Apollo 13. Which is fine with me – I’m all about movies that mash up, reference, and reinvent other movies. Film A = film B + film C + film D can be a nice equation. Romeo and Juliet with modern street gangs, or with modern street gangs and fast cutting, or with zombies. But in any case film A needs to do something innovative by combining elements from these other movies, or, at the very least, it needs to do the same things that B and C and D did, but better.

From one perspective The Martian, Gravity, Moon, and Apollo 13 are all basically escape-the-room puzzles, just with larger and smaller rooms and solved on-screen for you. They are all narratives about problem-solving and the virtues of being clever. Now, sometimes there are problems that can be solved by science and engineering, just as sometimes there are problems that can be solved without science and engineering. You bump into someone on the street; you say “sorry,” acknowledging them and your mistake and keeping society from deteriorating a tiny bit. Didn’t really need science there – even social science. But most major, significant problems involve both to some extent.

The Martian, however, is a parody of problem solving. By glorifying its brand of problem solving as something quintessentially American (but with global appeal), it suggests that we should narrow our understanding of how to think when things get difficult. There are plenty of things one can pick at in the film, but its model of problem solving is why I hate it.

First, The Martian presents its big, complex problem – one that engages the interest of mass audiences across the Earth, in different cities – as a “pure science” problem. I will do science to it, and it will be solved. Although international relations and tensions, along with congressional funding for the space program, are all a very explicit part of the film, they are rapidly glossed over when it comes to problem solving, so that a purely engineering approach is all that is needed to triumph. Being a Martian colonist and being a pirate in “international waters” are invoked as time-filling jokes by the protagonist, but there’s no hint that colonialism and international relations might be real issues – in the latter case, even within the film’s fictional world. There are no international issues, though. Those in the Chinese space program just shrug and say that of course they’ll help out, since they’re scientists. Any political or cultural difficulties that might arise are left unmentioned. Even Gravity involved one astronaut sacrificing himself for another instead of solving an engineering problem to cheat death. That film also presented the cultural (rather than purely technical) challenge of entering a space station where the controls were all in another language. In Moon, an unethical corporation was central to the situation. In The Martian there’s none of this complexity. Solving problems is just about making the right calculations.

Second, problem solving in The Martian is always a solo flight. In the case of Mark Watley, left alone and initially without communication capability on Mars, of course he’s going to start off solving problems alone, and it makes sense to showcase his individualistic ability to survive and prevail. But while collaborative problem solving was central Apollo 13 (based, remember, on real life), the people back home on Earth, even though they have the ability to work with one another to solve problems, never do. We just hear a snarky remark about how they tell him to drill through the roof of the rover and jump on it until it breaks open. Consider the socially inept mega-genius Rich Purnell, the JPL scientist whose insight is critical to NASA’s rescue attempt. Purnell communes only with the supercomputer as he figures out his ingenious plan. He uses other people only to represent Earth and Mars as he produces one of the film’s many exciting astrodynamical visualizations using everyday objects. Purnell even stops himself from talking to anyone else about his idea several times. There’s approximately one case of someone saying “that gives me an idea!” in response to something someone else said, and no instances in which people are shown working out problems together. Please. Moon essentially has only one character and even that movie has people working together to solve problems.

Sure, this Robinson Crusoe in space; I don’t expect the main character to be dealing with international relations, thinking as a team, or doing much more, for his part, than being an individual scientist. But the film has a lot of other characters, and none of them solve problems except by doing science to them, without reference to society, culture, politics, or language. None of them think about problems together.

Consider just the most “scientific” sorts of problems that are important to us today (such as climate change, water quality, disease from AIDS through cholera and ebola) without even getting into such important issues as war in the Middle East, mass and police killings, and the drug war. I submit that to make progress on these problems, and certainly the other ones, it is essential to consider social and cultural issues, and it is also essential for people to work together. For instance, a scientist decades ago can develop a drug that today helps those who have AIDS, then the company that produces it can raise the price 5000%. This is not a problem to which science can simply be done. Of course, engineering is in many cases essential to better water quality, but the civic and social contexts are important as well.

The Martian really didn’t have to insist that reductionism and solitary thought are the only ways to solve problems, even with its focus. If you’re looking for an escape-the-room movie, allow me to suggest Gravity, Moon, or Apollo 13.

A New Poem: “Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins”

Wednesday 23 September 2015, 9:34 pm   //  

Gur anzr bs gur nhgube vf gur svefg gb tb
sbyybjrq borqvragyl ol gur gvgyr, gur cybg,
gur urnegoernxvat pbapyhfvba, gur ragver abiry
juvpu fhqqrayl orpbzrf bar lbh unir arire ernq,
arire rira urneq bs,

nf vs, bar ol bar, gur zrzbevrf lbh hfrq gb uneobe
qrpvqrq gb ergver gb gur fbhgurea urzvfcurer bs gur oenva,
gb n yvggyr svfuvat ivyyntr jurer gurer ner ab cubarf.

Ybat ntb lbh xvffrq gur anzrf bs gur avar Zhfrf tbbqolr
naq jngpurq gur dhnqengvp rdhngvba cnpx vgf ont,
naq rira abj nf lbh zrzbevmr gur beqre bs gur cynargf,

fbzrguvat ryfr vf fyvccvat njnl, n fgngr sybjre creuncf,
gur nqqerff bs na hapyr, gur pncvgny bs Cnenthnl.

Jungrire vg vf lbh ner fgehttyvat gb erzrzore,
vg vf abg cbvfrq ba gur gvc bs lbhe gbathr,
abg rira yhexvat va fbzr bofpher pbeare bs lbhe fcyrra.

Vg unf sybngrq njnl qbja n qnex zlgubybtvpny evire
jubfr anzr ortvaf jvgu na Y nf sne nf lbh pna erpnyy,
jryy ba lbhe bja jnl gb boyvivba jurer lbh jvyy wbva gubfr
jub unir rira sbetbggra ubj gb fjvz naq ubj gb evqr n ovplpyr.

Ab jbaqre lbh evfr va gur zvqqyr bs gur avtug
gb ybbx hc gur qngr bs n snzbhf onggyr va n obbx ba jne.
Ab jbaqre gur zbba va gur jvaqbj frrzf gb unir qevsgrq
bhg bs n ybir cbrz gung lbh hfrq gb xabj ol urneg.

Explorers of Bottomless Pit Return with Treasure

Tuesday 8 September 2015, 5:04 pm   ///////  
They found the key.

They found the key.

Far from plunging us into darkness, Reading Project: A Collaborative Analysis of William Poundstone’s Project for Tachistoscope {Bottomless Pit} provides brilliant and multifaceted reflections on a rapid, serial electronic literature work. (You can read Bottomless Pit for free online, by the way, in ELCv1 and on Poundstone’s site.)

The party that sets out on the adventure of this reading is Paladin Jessica Pressman, who seeks truly through media archeology and quests into thorny literary theories; Thief Mark C. Marino, who slyly reverse-engineers the program and acquires the source code, stealing sequences of words and images along with how they are produced; and Illusionist Jeremy Douglass, who summons visualizations of the piece that dazzle but also unfold new understandings. They ascend from the endless passage of Project, and from the dungeon of collaboration, with numerous new insights, showing how different reading strategies – ranging from rather conventional to quite novel – can inform one another. There’s so much background offered (etymological, historical, bibliographical) that one imagines it being drawn out of a bag of holding. The view of the project that emerges seems beyond what a Beholder would be able to comprehend.

These three cover the fundamental workings of Project well, showing the role of randomness (a saving throw of sequential words does not abolish chance) and how individual pixels shine during a loop of the main story text. What this text means and alludes to, and the presence of a second sequence of less coherent words, is also discussed, and connections are made between such meanings and references and the piece’s material and technical aspects. From the media technology of various historical tachistoscopes to the nature of the pit in Freudian psychoanalysis, there is a great deal about Project that is – let’s not say excavated, but illuminated – in this book.

In its engagement with computation, the relationship of recent computational work to historical and literary concepts, and in the way it helps to develop productive collaborative approaches in the humanities, this is a landmark investigation – almost surely deeper than you imagine. It’s essential reading for those interested in digital literature, but also also for anyone (concerned with e-lit or not) who wonders how humanistic thinking can continue to develop and how thinkers can work together in new ways.

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