Submit to E-Poetry!

Friday 23 November 2012, 12:43 pm   //////  

The deadline for E-Poetry 2013 (to take place in London, at Kingston University) is almost here – sumissions are due December 1. The festival will take place June 17-20.

Lede, Based on a True Story

Thursday 22 November 2012, 10:01 am   /////  

Sometimes I encounter language that sounds like it was computer-generated, or that sounds like it would be even better if it was. Hence, the slapdash “Lede,” which is based on the first sentence (no, not the whole first paragraph) of a news story that was brought to my attention on ifMUD.

This very simple system does incorporate one minor innovation, the function “fresh(),” which picks from all but the first element of an array and swaps the selection out so that it ends up at the beginning of the array. This means that it doesn’t ever pick the same selection twice in a row.

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans.

The Computer Museum is … Alive!

Tuesday 20 November 2012, 7:39 pm   ////  

A great story on the Living Computer Museum in Seattle, where they have computers … that work!

Palindromes, the Next Best Thing to Rounded Corners

Tuesday 20 November 2012, 2:24 pm   ///  

Mark Saltveit, palindromist and comedian, delivers a compelling “CHAD” talk on the e-levels of palindromes and his new approaches of Palindromics and its natural cultish extension, Scinegenics. In his talk, he covers some palindrome history and the development of weaponized palindromes. Although Mark is a letterist, he mentions a classic word-unit palindrome from the book of Exodus, “AHYH ASHR AHYH,” or “ehyeh asher ehyeh,” or, to rend it into a Popeye-esque English, “yam whaddaye yam!”

Judy Malloy on 10 PRINT

Monday 19 November 2012, 2:11 pm   ////  

Over on her site Authoring Software, longtime e-lit author and BASIC programmer Judy Malloy has written a news story about the release of 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10. I’m quoted, along with co-authors Mark Marino and Jeremy Douglass.

Also, the book has made its way further out into the world – both the Harvard Book Store and the The MIT Press Book store now have it in stock.

Statistics Outta My Face

Thursday 15 November 2012, 4:26 pm   ///  

Ben Grosser created Facebook Demetricator, a tool that removes counts from Facebook, so that instead of displaying “14,836 people like this” your interface will simply say “people like this.”

I love the concept. I haven’t seen it in action myself, because of my use of a manually-implemented “DeFacebookizer” that, rather than enmeshing me in the most direct possible corporate system of social control and structure, leaves me with only the heterogeneous, diverse, and open communications from people on the World Wide Web. The Web is not a pure wonderland, though. These sorts of communications are, of course, also continually subject to statistical analysis and displays of counts – how many comments on a blog post, for instance. To intervene in the count-obsession of digital media, it makes sense to go to where it is most prominent.

Grosser discusses his deaugmentation of Facebook in an interview with Matthew Fuller.

The 2013 ELO Conference in Paris

Wednesday 14 November 2012, 3:18 pm   //  

The Electronic Literature Organization’s 2013 conference will be in Paris:

Chercher le Texte:
Locating the Text in Electronic Literature

The Electronic Literature Organization (http://eliterature.org), the leading organization devoted to electronic literature, announces its 2013 conference to be held in Paris, France, September 24-27, 2013, in collaboration with Université Paris 8. Proposals are welcome on topics within electronic literature, including but not limited to:

  • Digital culture
  • Code and software studies
  • Digital art
  • Translation of electronic literature
  • E-literature and the body
  • Digital poetics
  • Digital storytelling
  • Mobile/locative media

The website is being prepared now, but a call for proposals (with further information) is already out. The deadline is December 31, 2012.

10 PRINT Exhibit, Reading

Tuesday 13 November 2012, 10:26 am   ///////  

Our book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 has been printed and bound and is making its way to bookstores now. It’s featured in a current exhibit at Hampshire College, and three of us ten co-authors did a reading to celebrate the release at the Harvard Book Store yesterday, where the first copies were available.

Nick Montfort of 10 PRINT

Our reading at the Harvard Book Store drew a sizable crowd, including MIT colleagues from Comparative Media Studies / Writing and Humanistic Studies and the Literature section; comrades in the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, librarians, and local free software folks and hackers, among others. The three of us read some short excerpts from the book and discussed the project, first with each other and then in response to questions from the audience. Several people assumed that the book was a collection of individually-authored articles, which is not a surprise, since that’s usually how a book like this is done. So we spent some time explaining the process of collaborative authorship that we used. The photos here are of me (Nick Montfort) on the left, then of Patsy Baudoin and Noah Vawter.

Patsy Baudoin of 10 PRINT Noah Vawter of 10 PRINT

Meanwhile, back in Western Massachusetts … and specifically at Hampshire College, the exhibit “Pulp to Pixels: Artist’s Books in the Digital Age” is on until November 16. The exhibit is curated by Andrea Dezsö, Steven Daiber, and Meredith Brober, is part of the “Non-Visible and Intangible” series, and is located at the Harold F. Johnson Library. There’s a news item about the exhibit and site with curatorial descriptions and documentation.

Below are photos of John Slepian, who offered his Commodore 64 for the exhibit and set it up, and a gallery visitor enjoying a 10 PRINT variant.

Setting up the C64

A visitor using the C64

By the weekend, 10 PRINT should be available in fine online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, including my other main bookstore in Cambridge, the MIT Press Bookstore. We hope readers will enjoy the project, and that it will also be an invitation to think about collaborative research and scholarship in the humanities in a new way.

HuffPo’s Interview with NiMo

Illya Szilak interviews Nick Montfort in the article “The Death of the Novel: How E-Lit Revolutionizes Fiction,” the first of a series of posts on electronic literature.

Tracy Fullerton this Thursday at MIT on “Walden, a game”

Tuesday 6 November 2012, 7:55 pm   ///////  

Tried of thinking about well-defined regions of red and blue?

… start thinking about PURPLE BLURB, the digital writing series at MIT.

We’ll have our next event with TRACY FULLERTON, an experimental game designer, professor and director of the Game Innovation Lab at the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she holds the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment. The Game Innovation Lab is a design research center that has produced several influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and The Night Journey – a collaboration with media artist Bill Viola. Tracy is also the author of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, a design textbook in use at game programs worldwide.

Fullerton’s talk “Finer Fruits: Experiment in Life and Play at Walden” will take place:

November 8
5:30pm
In MIT’s 32-155 (Stata Center)

This is a joint event with the CMS Colloquium, and supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund.

Walden, a game, is an experiment in play being made about an experiment in living. The game simulates Henry David Thoreau’s experiment in living a simplified existence as articulated in his book Walden. It puts Thoreau’s ideas about the essentials of life into a playable form, in which players can take on the role of Thoreau, attending to the “meaner” tasks of life at the Pond – providing themselves with food, fuel, shelter and clothing – while trying not to lose sight of their relationship to nature, where the Thoreau found the true rewards of his experiment, his “finer fruits” of life. The game is a work in progress, and this talk will look closely at the design of the underlying system and the cycles of thought that have gone into developing it. It will also detail the creation of the game world, which is based on close readings of Thoreau’s work, and the projected path forward for the team as we continue our sojourn in experimental in play.

We have also added a Purple Blurb event this semester. Prof. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writers House will join us for a conversation with Nick Montfort on December 10 at 5:30pm in 6-120. He’ll discuss his experience teaching modern poetry to 34,000 students online. More about this as the time nears …

For now, I hope to see you this Thursday for Tracy Fullerton’s presentation about Walden, a game.

Two E-Lit Gatherings in Europe

I was at a workshop in Bergen on Tuesday and a conference in Edinburgh Thursday through Saturday. There were many interesting things to report or at least mention, and I’ve only managed to note two of them on the blog so far. I’ll also mention that in Bergen, I did the first transverse reading of the full ppg256 series, reading through the seven generators’ output four times. I was very pleased with the art gallery setting, the other readings and screenings, and the way my reading went.

Fortunately there is good documentation of both events in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, a resource that lists critical work, events, and presentations about electronic literature as well as works of e-lit themselves. For these two events, abstracts and (in the case of the “Remediating the Social” ELMCIP conference in Edinburgh) full papers are included in the Knowledge Base as well.

For instance, my presentation in Bergen, represented by an abstract in the Knowledge Base, was “The ELO and Two E-Lit Exhibits.”

And, my keynote address at the beginning of the ELMCIP conference in Edinburgh was “Programming for Fun, Together,” for which a corresponding paper is available. I covered the main topics of the paper in about the first half of the talk and spent the second half trying to explain how to program in Commodore 64 BASIC, using concrete-poem-generating programs (including 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10) as my examples. I began by developing a program that prints “H” or “I” at random, using bpNichol’ favorite letter (“H”) and an adjacent letter that can be seen as either a rotation of “H” or a component of it. A one-line program was developed to printing either one uniformly at random. In part, this was my response to the less interesting but certainly more conventional “HELLO WORLD” program. I continued to show how a program that printed “x” or “y” could be quickly developed by modifying this one, after using Commodore BASIC itself, via the ASC function, to determine the appropriate new ASCII code. Then, I converted that program to “our” 10 PRINT (that is, the program I and nine co-authors have written a book about) and showed how the distribution and pair of characters could be changed.

In presenting these various 10 PRINT programs and developing new ones through modification, I wanted to show that BASIC programming can truly be undertaken in an exploratory way without a great deal of background. I also wanted to share with the group some of the amazing facility for poetic experimentation that is provided by a 30-year-old computer, inexpensive even at the time, that allows you to program immediately after being turned on.

Jill Walker Rettberg liveblogged my keynote (bringing back another wonderful historical tradition in digital media!) and there was also some discussion of the talk on Twitter.

My only regret related to the talk was that Rita Raley, who was scheduled to be the respondent for my talk, was unable to make it to the conference due to the storm damage and flooding in New York City. Scott Rettberg filled in and made a worthwhile connection from collaborative, social programming activity to collaborative writing, also questioning my four points about programming socially for fun.

The Edinburgh conference, which featured an exhibit at the Inspace gallery and performances throughout, resulted in a book that includes not only academic papers but also “artist’s pages” documenting the artistic works. I hope you’ll be interested in taking a look at the good supply of online “Remediating the Social” material.

The Cut Version, with Ads

Saturday 3 November 2012, 10:50 am   /////  

Jason Huff and Mimi Cabell did an excellent conceptual writing project, just presented at ELMCIP in Edinburgh.

Amazon provides American Psycho

A Study of the IF Community

Saturday 3 November 2012, 8:02 am   ///  

Here at the ELMCIP “Remediating the Social” conference, literature professor Yra van Dijk was added to the program and presented, today, on a topic of special interest to me – the interactive fiction community.

She has been examining the 2001-2004 exchanges on the IF newsgroups (rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction) with a focus on the online exchanges and the community’s archiving of them. Self-reflexivity and longevity makes this community particularly interesting to her. She sees a blending of roles: Practicioners, reviewers, and consumers are different roles but not different people. Her study uses literary sociology and literary theory, mainly Latour. She mentioned the “Interesting discussions” available on the Wiki; one does not have to join a mailing list to read them.

Technical issues, theory and self-reflection are discussed – many things that would be taken up by institutions in other contexts. She noted that actors on the newsgroups do not behave as if anonymous, but behave as they might in person. She noted as well that some in-person meetups now happen, that people often reflect on how to raise the profile of IF, and that awards and prizes imitate hierarchies of print literature, play a part in canonizing and archiving. She studied the consideration of IF as art – and found that most of the discussion is about craftsmanship, not poetics. Exchanges of code happen, and people discussed questions about how to write, not what we write.

She found that a well-defined genre is being redefined through discussion. Taste is being developed and discussed; intelligent readership is supported. An archive of knowledge about these works has been produced, along with an institutional network. So, the seemingly peripheral IF community has many interesting things happening. It resembles (to her surprise, she said) the 19th century literary communities with their emphasis on craftsmanship and criticism.

I regret that I didn’t get to speak with van Dijk, but it was great to hear her discussion of the IF community … and I have now something to report on at the next People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction meeting.

50 Years of the MIT Press

Tuesday 23 October 2012, 10:16 pm   ////  

Congratulations to the MIT Press on 50 years, and on their new website.

The new site includes a new and improved system for ordering books directly from the press. If you want to try it out, allow me to recommend Twisty Little Passages, The New Media Reader, Racing the Beam, and/or the forthcoming (in just a few weeks) 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10.

10 PRINT Reading / Release Party

Thursday 18 October 2012, 4:04 pm   //////////  

10 PRINT cover

Our first event for 10 PRINT is scheduled for:

Monday
November 12, 2012
7pm

at the

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA.

This means, of course, that the book will be printed and available for sale by then, which is less than a month from now.

The Harvard Book Store is an independent book store in Harvard Square, founded in 1932.

Of the ten authors of 10 PRINT, we’re planning to have at least me (Nick Montfort), Patsy Baudoin, and Noah Vawter there for some reading from the book, comments on the titular program and the writing of the book, and discussion. The reading is free and takes place at the bookstore itself, as the page on the event explains.

Queerskins and The Silent History Are New Digital Novels

Friday 12 October 2012, 8:33 pm   //////  

I discuss the history and context of electronic literature in this article about the new digital novel The Silent History. The article, by Eugenia Williamson, appears in Saturday’s print edition of the Boston Globe.

The Silent History certainly looks like a compelling project.

Another just-released digital novel which is also quite compelling, although it doesn’t have the same PR apparatus behind it, is Queerskins by Illya Szilak, designed by Cyril Tsiboulski. Although I’ve not read a great deal of this new novel yet, I’m impressed by its multimedia and literary engagement with a difficult aspect of recent American experience.

Queerskins explores the nature of love and justice through the story of a young gay physician from a rural Midwestern Catholic family who dies of AIDS at the start of the epidemic. Queerskins’ interface consists of layers of sound, text, and image that users can navigate at random or experience as a series of multimedia collages. Images of the mythic and the everyday, the sacred and the profane, from banal vacation footage to vintage burlesque, interact rhizomatically with text and audio monologues to subvert preconceived notions of gender, sexuality, and morality.

Queerskins can be read online for free, and it can be reading using free software; an iPad is not required. Although I’m a fan of location-based and other innovation and respect those working on all sorts of platforms, what I’d like for the future of literature is for it to be like this – fully accessible on even a public library computer and Internet-connected laptops throughout the world.

Debate Debate

Thursday 11 October 2012, 11:53 pm   //  

Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left
Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left

I —
I —

period.
period.

are you —
are you —

in — in —
in — in —

no,
no,

I’ll tell you what’s worse.
I’ll tell you what’s worse.

I — I —
I — I —

we —
we —

went —
went —

more —
more —

no —
no —

all —
all —

We are not going to run away —
We are not going to run away —

I do.
I do.

you —
you —

Step up.
Step up.

Let —
Let —

It’s —
It’s —

I —
I —

— my
— my

let —
let —

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