I’ve participated in three conferences on digital and literary and poetic topics recently – and haven’t participated, unfortunately, in a barbecue.
The Critical Code Studies (CCS) Working Group 2012 is an online discussion – or, I suppose, several discussions – that started on January 30 and runs until February 20. It’s organized by Jeremy Douglass and Mark C. Marino.
At In Media Res, a project of MediaCommons, I was part of the digital literature discussion last week. This was organized by Eric LeMay.
And in meatspace (to be precise, at Brown University), I took part in Interrupt 2, a sort of semi-un-conference with performances from JODI, Vanessa Place, and my collaborator Stephanie Strickland. This one was put on by John “CPU” Cayley and many students.
The Boston Globe calls it the scientific community’s Arab Spring. Perhaps the comparison is bombastic, but this issue actually goes beyond science. It’s a question of whether the results of our research, scholarship, and critical writing as academics will be held hostage from our own universities and completely locked away from the public view, or whether we can put aside the artificial scarcity of information that commercial publishers have created and foster better, open communications.
Our colleagues in the sciences are the main ones who are taking a stand in this particular case – a boycott of commercial, closed-access publisher Elsevier – but others can stand with them.
If you haven’t, please read about the issue with Elsevier specifically, for instance in the Chronicle and the Guardian. These are good old news stories in which one side says it’s right and then the other side says it’s right, and so on.
I wrote about open access in the digital media field back in 2007, and at that point drew some ire (along with a good bit of agreement and praise) for simply refusing to review for a closed-access journal. That discussion may be interesting to those interested in this issue, too.
And there is plenty to read about open access more generally, such as John Willinsky’s book The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. (Registration is required, but the full text of the book is available for free download.)
I hope that these links help to inform, and that, if you’re an academic, you’ll choose to
and join the protest against Elsevier.
There are 5000 of us now.
Yo dawg, I hear you like blog posts. So I put a link to a blog post in your blog post. The link goes to my “Curator’s Note” on In Media Res about very short programs to generate music, in which I also mention how poorly suited prevalent Web systems are for transmitting and discussing code.
I’m very pleased to see the article Mia Consalvo and I wrote published in Loading…,
the journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA). There’s an intriguing lineup of articles in Loading… Vol 6, No 9; ours is:
Montfort, Nick and Mia Consalvo. “The Dreamcast, Console of the Avant-Garde.” Loading… 6: 9, 2012. http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/104/116
We look at the connections between the Dreamcast platform, five games in particular (Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, Rez, Seaman, and SGGG) and avant-garde movements and work in art, literature, and other areas in the 20th century. By seriously considering and applying the idea of the avant-garde and looking into these fives games closely (in terms of gameplay, in interpretive ways, and with regard to players’ online discourses about them), we show some ways in which videogames, within gaming, have done the work of the historical avant-garde; the business situations and factors in platform technology that relate to this innovation; and what opportunities for radical exploration in console gaming remain.
“A 1700 line text generated using a string of unix commands to process a short text file describing an encounter with a cat.”
This is all thanks to James W. Morris. He is the author and artist – not the cat.
Radical Books of 2011, 10/10
Big Questions, Anders Nilsen, Drawn & Quarterly, 9781770460478
Anders Nilsen has done exquisite sequential art, a.k.a. comix. I’m particularly fond of the trembling outlines and barely-representational figures in The End. The trade book of Big Questions is more conventional in style, but it binds 658 pages and 15 volumes of Nilsen’s work together in an extended, amazing story. In it, birds speak, but aren’t very smart. They devise their own ideas about a piece of unexploded ordnance, for instance, imagining it as an egg. An elderly woman dies in a plane crash; the idiot man-boy she has been caring for survives, as does the pilot. He also doesn’t seem too smart. The drawing style, which passes for simple at times but is nicely composed and filled with rich details, keys into the story, an animal tale that passes beyond childish simplicity. There are none of the mainstream superheros and no hint of the indie comics memoir in these ten years of work by a master of this art. Comic readers should love it; radical readers who wish to try out comics should try it.
Radical Books of 2011, 9/10
Pale Fire: A Poem in four Cantos by John Shade, Vladimir Nabokov, Ginkgo Press, 9781584234319
Extracting the poem (which only exists as a sort of in-joke in the radical novel Pale Fire) from what is perhaps (according, e.g., to Larry McCaffrey) the major English-language novel of the 20th Century? It’s at least a very extreme move. This edition drops the prose like a bad habit, makes like a banana and splits it off, makes like a tree and abandons House of Leaves prose for Leaves of Grass verse. Does it work in the sense of presenting a beautiful poem freed from its chrysalis? No. Much of it is still most notable for building up, and then comically deflating, the explicitly implied author, John Shade. It’s better as part of a narrative than as language trembling between sound and sense. But John Shade’s “Pale Fire” is not too bad of a poem qua poem, and reading it alone can certainly enhance one’s appreciation of the truly incredible novel that has been shucked off here. I haven’t read the included commentary, but must note that including commentary is an absolutely hilarious idea.
Radical Books of 2011, 8/10
You Can’t Have Everything… Where Would You Put It!, Bruce Andrews, Veer Books
There is no way this book will get past your spam filter:
facework cootie itsier-off
we are the dream sequences in your conventional cultural life –
Indeed we are. Here’s verbal salad (French dressing? Russian dressing?) shot through at times with lines of split and reassembled words:
It’s a delight to apprehend such text, passing words beneath one’s eyes, thinking about what it all might mean and sound like. Looking back now, I wonder if I should have flipped this open and read at random when I encountered it originally. Instead of plodding through, I might have thought for days about a line such as “tractor the Real.” But, as it happens, I can still do that. Although I have everything, I had nowhere to put it. I have to delve in again for specific examples of juxtapositions that Bruce Andrews fashions. The book is no doubt worth reading, scanning, or hashing into – however you want to have it all.
But my credit card company says otherwise…
Dene Grigar, vice president of the Electronic Literature Organization and one of the organizers of the excellent e-lit gallery and reading here at the MLA Convention, just gave a great presentation about the importance of platform in the development and reception of electronic literature. I was pleased initially to see that there was not only this presentation with “Platform” in the title, then very interested to hear about her work in a lab with original older computer hardware and her discussion of platform differences and changes through the years.
Even more surprising is that Ian Bogost and I have managed to advance part of our diabolical plan to have people use five long, colored rectangles stacked on top of each other:
Radical Books of 2011, 7/10
Silence: Lectures and Writings, John Cage, 50th anniversary edition, Wesleyan University Press, 9780819571762
Stefan Helmreich and I were at dinner with a group and started talking about John Cage. The anechoic chamber Cage visited at Harvard is no longer there. MIT doesn’t have one, either. The best you can do (as a visiting sound artist found out) is arrange to visit Bose headquarters in Framingham, where they have a scruffy, industrial room – completely unlike the pure, science-fictional, sound-proof capsule a visitor would no doubt imagine. The point of Cage’s anechoic chamber story is that he heard a low-frequency and a high-frequency sound when he was in it; this was the circulation of his blood and the sound of his nervous system. This experience suggests we cannot truly hear silence, since we always produce sounds. Stefan suggested that perhaps profoundly deaf people can hear silence. I said that since the deaf can’t hear sounds, and since silence only exists as the complement of sound, perhaps they couldn’t really hear silence. Later, I realized that this would only be true of those who were deaf from birth.
Radical Books of 2011, 6/10
Galerie de Difformité, Gretchen E. Henderson, &NOW Books, 9780982315637
Cross the form of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book with fragmented, cut-up, torn-up, stretched, and unconventionally printed text. Skip the “of” of an English title and give it a French name, using the “de” form. Bend book into blog. Deformity here includes transgressing the boundaries of authorship and inviting “user-generated” fascicles. Work the book’s text into something despicable or respectable: Fill out the form. Click to put Ye Ugly Face on Facebook. The story’s play of conspiracies and resurrections resonate with the transformations of the reading process that book and reader enact. Further, the exercises in textual topology – and lettered exhibits calling for further deformation – show that remixing is not just for one-note works such as Dramatic Chipmunk. The book, and indeed this thoughtfully developed artist’s book, can also serve as seed for elaborate transformation and convolution.
Radical Books of 2011, 5/10
Holocaust Museum, Robert Fitterman, Veer Books, 9781907088346
Here is an extraordinary list, a simple and straightforwardly organized book of metadata (in this case, photo captions) that gives a very detached view of the 20th Century’s most unthinkable occurrence. What is fascinating is that while the book comments on some of the tropes of memorials, Holocaust museums, and records of trauma in general – enumeration, detachment, clear identification and humanization of individuals – it nevertheless becomes an effective testimony of the Holocaust and of how it was inextricably involved with ordinary life and events and histories, beyond the horrors that were ordered and organized:
> A German-Jewish family poses outdoors for a family portrait with their dog. [Photograph #69297]
The book is conceptual, but seems to be as far from a conceptual joke as is possible. Unlike much conceptual writing that begins with appropriation, it demands to be read entire. This is in many ways a simple book, and in many ways an extremely complex engagement with history, memory, and writing.
Radical Books of 2011, 4/10
Found Poems, Bern Porter, new edition of a 1972 Something Else Press book, 9780982264591
Perhaps this exquisite collection of punctuation, numbers, and occasional letters recalls to the modern reader the idea of “uncreative writing” as described by Kenneth Goldsmith. I see it more as an example of subtractive writing: Creating new texts by erasure, or by cutting out text from advertisements, tables of technical information, and other ordinary but rich veins that can be mined for fragments of language. Each page can also be seen as a degenerate collage, a single clipping of text juxtaposed with nothing else (except what’s on the facing page). Porter, who was a publisher of radical writing and hoarded paper, never owned a phone or a computer. The book is, one might say, a real find, worth re-reading by anyone who seriously turns to contemporary poetry and conceptual writing, or indeed anyone fascinated with ordinary words locked in ads, fliers, and other everyday texts. At least do check out the fine related resources on UbuWeb’s Bern Porter page.
Radical Books of 2011, 3/10
Motes, Craig Dworkin, Roof Books, 9781931824446
Short titles (or none) followed by hardly longer texts – the form is due to Bob Grenier’s A Day at the Beach and his materially innovative Sentences. Dworkin does something new, showing this is no one-trick pony and has use beyond a single poet. Zak Smith was the first to do a picture for every page of a novel (Gravity’s Rainbow) only to be followed by Matt Kish’s 2011 demonstration that the conceit had legs. Similarly, Dworkin innovates in Motes by being the second to try his hand at an unusual way of writing, and to show that it can amplify his different voice:
>explanation of butter on the counter overnight
While playing on Grenier’s everyday experiences, Dworkin’s motes take another turn, entering language and ordinary experience more deeply at times, as in the oddly compelling:
>FOR THE WIDER GOOD
>I am tiger woods
>I am tiger woods