Mourn Google’s Departed

Friday 21 March 2014, 5:40 pm   ///  

You may have noticed that “corpse” and “corporate” are lexically quite similar, and seem even more so when it comes to technology. Slate’s Google Graveyard lets visitors leave a virtual flower in memory of their favorite dead Google product. Seeking to be ever ready, they have dug a hole for Google Glass.

“Envisioning the Future of Computational Media”

Thursday 20 March 2014, 3:55 pm   ////////  

The final report of the Media Systems workshop has just been released:

“Envisioning the Future of Computational Media.”

You can download either the executive summary alone or the whole report.

I took part in the Media Systems workshop in 2012 with about 40 others from across the country. The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research. As Noah Wardrip-Fruin, co-author and co-organizer of the workshop, writes on the HASTAC site:

Our report, “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media,” starts with the fact that the future of media is increasingly computational — video games, smartphone apps, ebooks, social media, and more.

As media evolve and change, the stakes are high, on many fronts — from culture and the economy to education and health.

To create media capable of continuing the expansion of computational media’s impact, we need to combine technical research that develops media possibilities with innovations in the creation and interpretation of media projects and forms.

Instead, today, we generally separate these activities. Technology research organizations generally don’t have disciplinary, funding, or organizational support for making or interpreting media. Media making and interpretation organizations generally lack support for long-term technology research.

Our report is focused on recommendations for how to fix this.

Although I see the success of people who have integrated technical and humanistic viewpoints all the time – in my colleagues and collaborators, to be sure, but also in MIT students who bring together technical depth and with humanistic inquiry and artistic creation – I realize that there is still a gap between computation and media. I hope this report, which offers a dozen recommendations to address this disconnect, will be helpful as we try to improve our own skills and those of our students.

A “Programs” Writeup

Wednesday 19 March 2014, 11:37 pm   //////  

Matthew Battles has a nice post about the “Programs at an Exhibition” show, up now on the metaLAB blog.

Happy Pi Day: Round

Friday 14 March 2014, 5:15 pm   ///  

My poem Round computes the digits of pi (in your browser, for as long as you like) and represents them as strings of text. It’s published by New Binary Press. Enjoy it on this 3/14.

How to “Train” as a Writer

Wednesday 12 March 2014, 11:10 pm   ///  

After a pilot program (or perhaps that should be “engineer program”?) in which one writer was gifted with a round-trip train ride, Amtrak recently announced that they will begin a larger-scale residency program which “will allow for up to 24 writers to take long-distance trains to work on their projects.”

The Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet, was all over this, but they soon posted about how problematic the official terms of the application are. This was originally pointed out at The Outlet.

For instance:

In submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties.

There is also a note that applications will not (actually, “NOT”) be kept confidential. This seems like pretty standard fare for a corporate contest, actually, which doesn’t mean that it’s right, that all writers should agree to it, or that any should agree to it without understanding the terms.

Since applications aren’t going to be kept confidential anyway, here’s mine, or at least my at-most-1000-character answers to the two main questions. They mention some other issues that I have with the “Official Terms,” although these do not keep me from being interested in the residency:

Why do you want an #AmtrakResidency?

My work is computational, has many layers of meaning, and is often collaborative, and so much of it is prohibited by the #AmtrakResidency Official Terms, which disallow submissions that “Contain executable programming of any kind,” “Contain … encoded messages,” and “Contain content not created by and original to Applicant.” If awarded a residency, I’ll continue to defy official concepts of writing. Since this opportunity exists to promote Amtrak on social media, I’m also interested in showing how social media isn’t limited to this moment’s corporate systems. I can do this well, as I have been a blogger for more than 10 years, have served as president of the Electronic Literature Organization, and am a professor of digital media at MIT. Finally, the sequential, systematic qualities of trains relate to aspects of my writing process. Although I am not personally inclined to record their arrival and departure times, trains do appeal to me in ways that aren’t just nostalgic or romantic.

How would this residency benefit your writing?

I would have the opportunity to focus on writing work and to do one or more trip-specific digital poetry projects which would be made available for free on the Web. Network access is not important to me for work of this sort, and there is even some advantage to not being online. I’ve already written a great deal on Northeast Corridor trains, did some of the editorial work for The New Media Reader on a train to Chicago, and generally find train travel conducive to many types of writing, including creative digital work. I’ve done one collaboration in which we used Amtrak trains as a meeting place and point of departure: Three Rails Live, a computational video installation documented (in English and in French translation) at http://revuebleuorange.org/bleuorange/07/threerailslive/three_rails/index.html. I mention this here rather than submit it as a writing sample because it is one of my many collaborative projects. More digital poems of mine are at the “Supporting Link.”

The Hunting of the eBook

Wednesday 12 March 2014, 6:47 pm   ///  

I’m quoted in this article on the origins of ebooks, published today in The Guardian. The news hook is the exhibition of Peter James’s Host in its 1993 floppy-disk edition.

“Programs at an Exhibition” Cards

Tuesday 11 March 2014, 10:46 pm   ///////  

From the “Programs at an Exhibition” exhibit, the C64 BASIC (Montfort) card, and the Perl (Thayer) card – both are being offered for visitors to take.

Photos from “Programs at an Exhibition”

Tuesday 11 March 2014, 3:57 pm   ///////  

Here’s some documentation of “Programs at an Exhibition” by Nick Montfort & Páll Thayer, an exhibit of five Commodore 64 BASIC programs and five Perl programs at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, March 6-16, 2014.

Exterior

The front of the gallery hosts a Commodore 64 running Nick Montfort’s “After Jasper Johns” (left) and an Intel/Ubuntu computer running Páll Thayer’s “Flag” (right). These two pieces respond to and rework the famous 1954 painting, Flag, which is in the collection of the MoMA. Jasper Johns, we salute you.

Take some code

Visitors are invited to take cards with all of the code to the five one-line BASIC programs and the five Perl programs that are running in the gallery. For you online visitors to this documentation, a disk image of the five C64 BASIC programs can be downloaded; VICE or another C64 emulator can be used to load, run, list, and modify the five programs on that image. (Except for “Zen for Commodore 64,” the programs do have to be retyped or broken into several lines to be modified.) Also, Páll Thayer’s entire Microcodes series, which includes the exhibited programs and which Thayer began in 2009, is online.

How to explain...

Páll Thayer’s “How to explain Perl to a dead hare,” based on the similarly-named 1965 performance by Joseph Beuys. The Perl program reads the Perl documentation aloud, one word at a time. The Perl documentation, incidentally, is really quite amusing to listen to.

Erased...

Páll Thayer’s “Erased de Kooning” enacts (repeatedly, in this instance) the erasure of one of Willem de Kooning’s drawings by Robert Rauschenberg.

Not shown but also in the exhibit are Páll Thayer’s “Seedbed” and “Untitled composition.”

All_5_C64s

Nick Montfort’s five Commodore 64 programs running on five of the taupe keyboard-and-CPU units. Two of the monitors, the smaller ones, are NEC 12″ CRTs; the other three are Commodore 1702 CRT monitors. On the middle display, one of the zip paintings generated by “After Barnett Newman” can be seen.

Morellet_and_Johns

On the left, Nick Montfort’s “After François Morellet,” which presents in one-character form all of the paintings that Morellet would have eventually painted if he continued to do other panels in his 1958 “6 répartitions aléatoires de 4 carrés noirs et blancs d’après les chiffres pairs et impairs du nombre Pi.” On the right, the instance of Nick Montfort’s “After Jasper Johns” that is running on a CRT monitor.

As with all of the programs, the complete code is presented along with the work’s title, the year of development, and the aritst’s name. The BASIC programs are also written out in a clearer form, with comments.

Not shown up close but also in the exhibit, in addition to “After Barnett Newman,” are Nick Montfort’s “Zen for Commodore 64” and “After Damien Hirst.”

‘Bitcoin’ Creator Pulled Currency Because It Was ‘Too Addictive’

Thursday 6 March 2014, 11:02 am   ///  

Amid Speculation of a Publicity Stunt, Developer Says Fuss Was Overwhelming

LOS ANGELES – Despite what many users of his infuriatingly difficult “Bitcoin” currency seem to think, Satoshi Nakamoto isn’t actually Satan.

“I just wanted to create a currency that people could enjoy for a few minutes,” he said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview.

His currency, which became a global phenomenon, in recent weeks soared to the top of the currency charts , turning the shy 64-year-old Mr. Nakamoto into something of a sensation among small, independent currency developers. His notoriety grew further when he mysteriously withdrew the currency from circulation Sunday at the height of its success.

“It was just too addictive,” Mr. Nakamoto said. He said he didn’t intend for people to mine the currency for months at a time, as many users appear to have done.

“That was the main negative. So I decided to take it down,” he said.

Music Technology Event at Tufts

Tuesday 4 March 2014, 1:37 pm   /////  

After just listening to numerous covers of Main Titles from Blade Runner by Vangelis, I just got word that “Machine Fantasies: A Workshop on Music Technologies – Past, Present, and Future” is happening April 4-5, 2014 here in town, at the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center of Tufts University.

“Programs” Previewed at Boston.com

Monday 3 March 2014, 8:17 pm   /////  

Here’s the Boston.com article on our exhibit “Programs at an Exhibition,” which opens Thursday (March 6). Hope to see you at the opening, which is 6pm-9pm.

Get Yer Consumer Survey Here

Friday 28 February 2014, 7:33 pm   ///  

I like clicking through this: “Psychographics: Consumer Survey” by Dane Watkins. And I learned something about myself by doing so. I think. Yes.

10 PRINT Gets 10 SUNG

Thursday 27 February 2014, 8:38 pm   ////  

Or at least inspires a song and video…

Confounded to Corruption

The musical group Bedford Level Experiment writes of their song “Confounded to Corruption” and of the video for it:

We’ve been reading the book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 and became very inspired by the section on procedurally generated art. All the footage in this video was generated by Commodore 64 programs written by us, including a 6502 assembly version of 10 PRINT. The lyrics were also generated algorithmically; Sonnet 64 and some commentary on it from Wikipedia were fed into an old Amiga program called NIALL, and the output was edited together into something resembling lyrics. The corruption the sonnet underwent became the theme of the song and video.

The line of verse the lyrics are based on,

Or state itself confounded to decay

is, quite aptly, line 10 of Shakespeare’s sonnet 64.

“Programs at an Exhibition” March 6-16

Tuesday 25 February 2014, 6:18 pm   /////////  

Nick Montfort & Páll Thayer

Programs at an Exhibition

At the Boston Cyberarts Gallery
141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Located in the Green Street T Station on the Orange Line
Phone number: 617-522-6710

The exhibit runs March 6 through March 16.

Opening: 6pm-9pm, Thursday March 6.

A snapshot of 'After Jasper Johns,' Nick Montfort, installed at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery

Part of the life of remarkable artworks is that they are appropriated, transformed, and made new. In Programs at an Exhibition, two artists who use code and computation as their medium continue the sort of work others have done by representing visual art as music, by recreating performance pieces in Second Life, and by painting a mustache and goatee on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. Programs at an Exhibition presents computer programs, written in Perl and Commodore 64 BASIC, each running on its own dedicated computer. The 20th century artworks reenvisioned in these programs include some by painters and visual artists, but also include performances by Joseph Beuys and Vito Acconci. All of the underlying code is made available for gallery visitors to read; they are even welcome to take it home, type it in, and run or rework these programs themselves.

The programs (Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, Perl by Páll Thayer) re-create aspects of the concepts and artistic processes that underlie well-known artworks, not just the visual appearance of those works. They participate in popular and “recreational” programming traditions of the sort that people have read about in magazines of the 1970s and 1980s, including Creative Computing. Programmers working in these traditions share code, and they also share an admiration for beautiful output. By celebrating such practices, the exhibit relates to the history of art as well as to the ideals of free software and to the productions of the demoscene. By encouraging gallery visitors to explore programming in the context of contemporary art and the work of specific artists, the exhibit offers a way to make connections between well-known art history and the vibrant, but less widely-known, creative programming practices that have been taken up in recent decades by popular computer users, professional programmers, and artists.

The Perl programs in the exhibit are from Microcodes, a series of very small code-based artworks that Páll Thayer began in 2009. Each one is a fully contained work of art. The conceptual meaning of each piece is revealed through the combination of the title, the code and the results of running them on a computer. Many contemporary programmers view Perl as a “dated” language that saw its heyday in the early ages of the World Wide Web as the primary language used to combine websites with databases. Perl was originally developed by Larry Wall, whose primary interest was to develop a language for parsing text. Because of his background in linguistics, he also wanted the language to have a certain degree of flexibility which has contributed to its motto, “There’s more than one way to do it.” “That motto, ‘TMTOWTDI,’ makes Perl challenging for professional programers who have to take over other’s people code and may struggle to make sense of it,” Thayer said. “But it’s one of the main reasons that Perl, a very expressive programming language, appealed to me in developing this project. This flexibility encouraged Perl programmers to explore individual creative expression in the writing of functional code.”

“Páll’s work in Microcodes engages explicitly with the way computer programs are read by people and hwo they have meanings to those trying to understand them, modify them, debug them, and develop them further,” Nick Montfort said. “The Perl programs in Microcodes are quite readerly when compared to my BASIC programs. I’ve tried to engage with a related, but different documented historical tradition — the one-line BASIC program — as it works in a particular computer, the Commodore 64, and to dive into what that particular computer can do using a very limited amount of code, given these many formal, material, and historical specifics. Because my programs are harder to understand, even though they are written in a more populist programming language, I’m including versions of the program that I have rewritten in a clearer form and that include comments.” Montfort’s related projects include a collaborative book, written with nine others in a single voice, that focuses on a particular Commodore 64 BASIC one-liner. The book, published in 2012, is named after the program that is its focus, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10. Montfort also writes short programs to generate poetry. These include two collections of Perl programs that are constrained in size: his ppg256 series of 256-character programs, and a set of 32-character concrete poetry generators, Concrete Perl. His book #! (pronounced “Shebang”) collects these and other poetry generators, along with their output, and is forthcoming from Counterpath Press.


Nick Montfort develops literary generators and other computational art and poetry, and has participated in dozens of collaborations. He is associate professor of digital media at MIT and faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization, whose Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 he co-edited. Montfort wrote the book of poems Riddle & Bind and co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story with William Gillespie. The MIT Press has published four of Montfort’s collaborative and individually-authored books: The New Media Reader (co-edited with Noah Wardrip-Fruin), Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam (co-authored with Ian Bogost), and most recently 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboration with Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter that Montfort organized. Nick Montfort’s site, with his digital poems and a link to a free PDF of 10 PRINT: http://nickm.com

Páll Thayer is an Icelandic/American artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is a devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source code for his projects is released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world with solo shows in Iceland, Sweden, and New York and notable group shows in the US, Canada, Finland, Germany, and Brazil. Páll Thayer has an MFA degree in visual arts from Concordia University in Montréal. He is an active member of Lorna, Iceland’s only organization devoted to electronic arts. He is also an alumni member of The Institute for Everyday Life, Concordia/Hexagram, Montréal. Páll Thayer currently works as a lecturer and technical support specialist at SUNY Purchase College, New York. Páll Thayer’s Microcodes site: http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/microcodes/


Ten programs will be exhibited, running on ten computers. Two of them, one in Perl by Páll Thayer and one in Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, are based on the same artwork, Jasper Johns’s Flag: Flag: Pall Thayer

Flag: Pall Thayer

Flag · Páll Thayer
Perl program · 2009

After Jasper Johns: Nick Montfort

After Jasper Johns: Nick Montfort

After Jasper Johns · Nick Montfort
one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program · 2013

Can I Use Your (CC-Licensed) Work?

Monday 24 February 2014, 6:24 pm   //  

Or free software work?

In ways that you have already explicitly allowed me to use it, in a legal document that you posted along with this work?

YES.

“POET The Game” The Movie The Poem…

Sunday 23 February 2014, 10:30 pm   ///  

It’s not quite Thy Dungeonman, but you can now play POET The Game, which pokes at the life of an MFA student poet in a browser-based roll-your-own-parser experience that is meant to recall the text adventures of yore.

The C64 in the NYT

Saturday 22 February 2014, 10:46 pm   /////  

My colleague Myke pointed out this New York Times column about the Commodore 64, which waxes nostalgic and also points out how the computer opened up possibilities for new programmers to explore and learn. Myke also pointed out, quite aptly, that the photo, which is supposed to be of a Commodore 64, is actually of a 1541 disk drive. Alas, the Grey Lady, in reference to the rainbow-logoed computer, nods…

« Previous PageNext Page »
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
(c) 2017 Post Position | Barecity theme