Purple Blurb at MIT this semester!

Yes we have Purple Blurb! The first event is in less than a week – sorry for the short notice; I hope you locals can join us. Here are the details:

Monday October 1, 5:30pm in 6-120

Rafael Pérez y Pérez, Fox Harrell, and Nick Montfort

In conversation about narrative generation and MEXICA, GRIOT, and Curveship

Three creators of poetic and imaginative systems speak about computational creativity, narrative generation, and the way systems for this sort of work are culturally generated. Rafael Pérez y Pérez is creator of the plot-focused MEXICA system for the generation of stories and is Profesor/Investigador Titular C in the Departamento de Tecnologías de la Información at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Cuajimalpa, México D. F. Fox Harrell is creator of GRIOT and the Alloy algorithm, which generates literary and multimedia texts based on conceptual structures. Harrell is associate professor of digital media at MIT in CMS/WHS, a principal investigator at CSAIL, and head of the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory. Nick Montfort developed Curveship, an interactive fiction and text generation systems that allows for parametrically controlled narrative variation. Montfort is associate professor of digital media at MIT in CMS/WHS and head of the Trope Tank.

Thursday November 8, 5:30pm in 32-155

Tracy Fullerton

“Finer Fruits: Experiment in Life and Play at Walden”

A joint event with the CMS Colloquium

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.

Tracy Fullerton, M.F.A., is 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.

As always, all events are free and open to the public. The Purple Blurb series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and Comparative Media Studies / Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Christmas Bytes Seeks Funds for Filming

Sunday 23 September 2012, 1:56 pm   ///  

As filmmaker Brett Neveu explains in his video about Christmas Bytes, he’s aiming to make the resonant Christmas movie for our (or at least my) generation, when the coveted item was not an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, but rather the Atari Video Computer System.

Ian Bogost and I donated a signed copy of Racing the Beam to the campaign, and there are a raft of other 80s-related enticements. For instance, I tend the judge the wisdom of my actions by whether anonymous San Francisco band The Residents are doing the same, and in this case, I am pleased to say that they also have contributed CDs — and are lined up to do the original soundtrack for the film.

Until tomorrow you can also vote for Christmas Bytes as the movie of the week on Indiewire.

T-CIAIG (Computational Narrative & Games) Due October 5

Wednesday 19 September 2012, 10:48 pm   ////////  

The tickets are now diamonds!

Ian Horswill, Michael Young and I are editing a special issue of IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games (T-CIAIG), and your submissions are invited — until October 5, 2011. We have extended the deadline two weeks.

Specifically:

The T-CIAIG Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games solicits papers on all topics related to narrative in computational media and of relevance to games, including but not limited to:

  • Storytelling systems
  • Story generation
  • Drama management
  • Interactive fiction
  • Story presentation, including performance, lighting, staging, music and camera control
  • Dialog generation
  • Authoring tools
  • Human-subject evaluations of systems

I posted the full call here way back in February: “Call for papers: Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games.” We are very interested in submissions dealing with computationally involved work on the important topic of narrative.

Friday’s the Deadline: Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games

Tuesday 18 September 2012, 8:57 am   ////////  

As mentioned here before, Ian Horswill, Michael Young and I are editing a special issue of IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games (T-CIAIG), and your submissions are invited. Specifically:

The T-CIAIG Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games solicits papers on all topics related to narrative in computational media and of relevance to games, including but not limited to:

  • Storytelling systems
  • Story generation
  • Drama management
  • Interactive fiction
  • Story presentation, including performance, lighting, staging, music and camera control
  • Dialog generation
  • Authoring tools
  • Human-subject evaluations of systems

I posted the full call here way back in February: “Call for papers: Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games.” So it seems appropriate to remind everyone now, as the deadline for submissions is this Friday, September 21, 2012.

All author/submission info is online. Submission is done through Manuscript Central.

Let me know (soon!) in comments or by email if you have questions.

Games by the Book, an Exhibit

Sunday 9 September 2012, 9:01 pm   ////////  

Games by the Book
Videogame Adaptations of Literary Works in the Hayden Library

The Hayden Library (in MIT’s Building 14) is hosting an interactive exhibition starting on September 7th. Visitors to the second floor will be able to play four videogames that are adapted from literary works, from Sophocles and Shakespeare to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Douglas Adams. The exhibit explores the range of approaches taken to create video games of literary works, The result is often whimsical, turning the worlds of these stories into spaces to be explored, often transforming them according video game conventions.

The games featured in the exhibit invite players to become Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, dodging drunken partygoers in his way to meet Gatsby; explore the world of Shakespeare’s plays; carry out an exercise of introspection based on Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus; or revisit the events of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Games by the Book, curated by Clara Fernández-Vara and Nick Montfort, will be open to the public until October 8th, in the Humanities library, on the 2nd floor of the Hayden Library. Further details can be found at:

http://trope-tank.mit.edu/games_by_the_book/

The exhibit is sponsored by the De Florez Fund for Humor, the MIT Council of the Arts, the MIT Game Lab, the Electronic Literature Organization, and Comparative Media Studies.

An Aphorism

Thursday 6 September 2012, 8:22 am   ///  

Lady Gaga is the larval stage of Yo-Landi Vi$$er. The previous, embryonic stage: Katy Perry.

A New Book: Implementation

Wednesday 22 August 2012, 2:22 am   //  

Implementation has stuck, and it’s now bound as a book. It’s a beautifully designed full-color hardback that documents this project about the war on terror, allowing the reader to view photographs showing where the novel manifested itself while also reading the entire text of the novel.

In 2003, when Scott Rettberg and I were fairly close by (he was near Atlantic City, I lived in Philadelphia), we decided to write a rather atypical novel together. We collaborated from concept through proofreading, and beyond that stage, to write eight installments of three sheets each, with ten shorts texts on each sheet. The texts we wrote were, in 2004, printed on stickers – shipping labels – and adhered to public surfaces around the world by the two of us and by other participants in the project. Initially, we mailed each installment to a group of people without consulting them beforehand. Then, we made the sheets available as PDFs on the Web so that anyone could download them and print them out on label paper. Some of the placements of Implementation stickers were documented in photographs, and eventually more than 1600 of these wound up on our Implementation site.

As Scott has noted on the page for the book,

Implementation is about four main characters: Frank, Samantha, Kilroy, and Roxanne, who live in a Midwestern town. The action of the novel begins in September 2001 and runs through the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. One of the characters, Kilroy, is a reservist who is called up and then sent to Iraq, but the other characters are affected in much more oblique ways by the attack on the World Trade Center and the changes that follow. They continue to dine at restaurants, drink at bars, work, worry about their jobs and careers, have flings and relationships, and go to celebrations and funerals. While even a bombing in town changes little on the surface of these lives, the effects of the war can be read in shifts in their gestures, longings, and language. Implementation is a novel about the peripheral, everyday, psychological toll of the war on terror.

The writing of Implementation was done coequally. We thought up the idea together and drafted many of the texts on index cards in bars, revised some of them the same way and some by email, and worked through the emplotment, the characters, the dialogues, and essentially all aspects of the novel together.

Some of the other aspects of the project were divided up. I wrote and ran scripts to assemble new Web pages and maintained the site; Scott did the photo processing and was certainly the more avid photographer. (I didn’t even have a digital camera in 2004.) I contributed to the making of the book on a few occasions, but this latest Implementation manifestation is thanks to Scott’s work. He secured funding from Arts Council Norway (the arts organization of his new home) and enlisted the designer Adam Richer. He also organized a new deployment and documentation of the novel in 2009-2010. If we had only the photos from 2004, a book like this wouldn’t have been possible. We encouraged people to send us pre-processed, low-resolution photos that were ready for the Web. The photos in the book are quite different. They are very suitable for print and for both reading and viewing.

Implementation is really quite highly slick and quite highly punk. On the slick side, in one photo included in the book, Harry Mathews (who placed some Implementation stickers) stares at an Implementation sticker we have placed on a wine bottle. Not represented in the book is that on July 18, 2004, Scott and I were stopped by three police officers outside Penn Station for photographing an Implementation sticker which was, as we learned, on a bomb-proof trash can. One of the offers ran a warrant check on Scott as we waited.

I’m pleased with the project in terms of the novel’s text, which juxtaposes the everyday experience of Middle America with that of African-American soldiers deployed in Iraq. The novel moves from the absurd (Scott’s never going to forgive me for the pirates) to the ordinary, intersecting both rather often in a way that still seems authentic and effective.

Implementation is also very pleasing to me because of how that text was created – collaboratively – and how it was originally shared – by mail, by PDF download, through photos on a Web site, in public spaces. Now, I’m delighted at how the book turned out, thanks to Scott’s work, and how it represents the particapatory sharing of the novel.

The book is not cheap, but it’s an high-quality photography book and a novel packed into one. (It’s also being offered at cost, so only the publisher is making anything off of it.) For the street, and for the screen, you can still visit the Implementation site to view photos and download PDFs. For browsing on the coffee table, and for reading Implementation like the novel it is, I do suggest the book.

Erasure? But I hardly…

Thursday 9 August 2012, 5:22 pm   ///  

A Rough-Cut Gorge

Wednesday 8 August 2012, 5:48 pm   /////  

“Rough Cuts: Media and Design in Process,” a set of “middle-state artifacts” curated by Kari Kraus, has just been presented as part of The New Everyday, a project at MediaCommons.

My contribution is a printout of “Taroko Gorge” in the original Klingon Python. I also offer some discussion of this printed page, representing one phase of a poetry generator that has been reworked and plundered more than a dozen times.

Shuffle Literature? Read ‘Em and Weep

Tuesday 7 August 2012, 12:08 am   ////////  

Among several notable new articles in ebr (electronic book review), please find “Shuffle Literature and the Hand of Fate” by Zuzana Husárová and Nick Montfort:

Zuzana Husárová and Nick Montfort up the ante for experimental writing by examining the category of “shuffle literature.” What is shuffle literature? Simply put: books that are meant to be shuffled. Using formal reading of narrative and themes, but also a material reading of construction and production, Husárová and Montfort show that there are many writing practices and readerly strategies associated with this diverse category of literature.

S=A=U=S=A=G=E

Friday 3 August 2012, 4:42 pm   /////  

Alternate (actually, rejected) titles for the famous journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, recently revealed in Jacket2.

I don’t know about you, but Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews’s cutting room floor is often better than what ends up stuffed into my projector.

For instance, I see that Rhizome, which wound up being used, is on the list.

Maybe the next interactive fiction journal could be called Inventory.

And, I think Salad is still a great title – maybe even a better one today. It’s a dish best served cold.

Civic Media from 2006

Friday 3 August 2012, 12:12 am   ////  

These are unedited search queries, all recorded in this sequence and all from the same “anonymized” user, on the evening of 2006-04-07. They were found in the user-ct-test-collection-03.txt, one of the leaked AOL search query files from 2006.

jaimiewantsahondacivic
www.iwantahondacivic.com
jaimiedeservessomethingthistime
mickisselfish.com
www.selfishhusbands.com
hondacivicshondacivicshondacivics
iwantahondacivic.com
hondacivicforjaimie
jaimiewantsahondacivicplease
if you love me then please buy me a civic

A Thousand Twitters

Thursday 2 August 2012, 11:24 pm   ////////  

News of a strange new social network, Monolyth, reaches us from December of this year and from Chris McDowall.

To sate the great appetites of the system, which will only publish messages at least 140,000 characters long (and will abbreviate longer ones), authors turn to unusual techniques.

One of these is generating massive texts using modified versions of Taroko Gorge, one of which is included in the blog post.

Fire Up Your Computational Narrative and Games Submissions

Wednesday 1 August 2012, 10:51 pm   ////////  

Ian Horswill, Michael Young and I are editing a special issue of IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games (T-CIAIG), and your submissions are invited. Specifically:

The T-CIAIG Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games solicits papers on all topics related to narrative in computational media and of relevance to games, including but not limited to:

  • Storytelling systems
  • Story generation
  • Drama management
  • Interactive fiction
  • Story presentation, including performance, lighting, staging, music and camera control
  • Dialog generation
  • Authoring tools
  • Human-subject evaluations of systems

I posted the full call here way back in February: “Call for papers: Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games.” So it seems appropriate to remind everyone now, as the deadline for submissions is September 21, 2012.

I recently updated the URL for author/submission info. Submission is done through Manuscript Central.

Let me know in comments or by email if you have questions.

Be Kind, Reconstruct

Friday 27 July 2012, 10:07 pm   //////  

It’s not bigger and longer than Star Wars, but it is more uncut: “Death of the Author [Psycho Shower Scene RECON]” by Dick Whyte. This, somewhat like the later famous Star Wars video, is a “reconstruction of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous shower scene from Psycho using amateur YouTube remakes.” 57 of them.

If you got that and you’re ready to increase the avant-garde, see also “John Cage – 4’33” [May ’68 Comeback Special RECON]” and “Andy Warhols Eat A Hamburger [38 Scenes From YouTube RECON].” All from 2010, but recalled here for your enjoyment.

An Insight Gained from Re-Watching Tron

Friday 27 July 2012, 1:47 pm   /////  

Enron (logo)

+

Infocom (logo)

=

Encom (logo from Tron still)

The Problem with “Videogames”

Thursday 19 July 2012, 4:37 pm   ///  

For years, many people have been use the word “videogames” to describe various different things – often a similar category of games playable in arcades and at home thanks to digital electronic technology and using video displays. Sometimes this category is distinguished from “computer games” which are played on general-purpose home (or, if one is lucky, office) computers. Often people nowadays who think about gaming don’t think of specific classic titles (Zork, Hunt the Wumpus, Star Trek) as videogames but are willing to consider them computer games.

It’s not universal to use the single-word term. The OED has only an entry for “video game” (with 1973 and 1983 references), although “videotape” is listed as a single word. In Racing the Beam, Ian Bogost and I compromised on using “videogame” as the adjective form and “video game” as the noun form, so we wrote phrases such as “videogame players” but also wrote of “popular video games.” Perhaps this was the worst of both worlds, but no one, not even our copy editor, railed at us about it.

The problem that I see is that I like to explain to people, often in writing, that I study “computer and video games.” If I use the term “videogames,” what would I say? “I study computer games and videogames”? “I study computer. Also, I study videogames”? “I study video- and computer games”?

In an effort to make videogames seem like their own special thing (which was provided to me by one editor as an explanation for why the one-word version was used), Bioshock for PC is verbally classed in an entirely different category from Bioshock for Xbox 360. Given my work as an editor of the MIT Press Platform Studies series, I certainly recognize the real importance of the subtle difference between these two – but it seems awkward as a digital media scholar to actually go and call them different things, and it seems like that is what the sleek and special term “videogame” compels us to do. Maybe I need to become retro and go back to the two-word version of the term.

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