Emergency! Please Help!

Wednesday 30 November 2011, 10:19 pm   ///  

I really hope this gets to you in time! During a trip to Brookline, Massachusetts I was robbed — robbed of all poetic impulse. All of the brilliance of language was stolen from me. My poetic license was taken as well. I need your help encountering English once again.

I know the unusual diction of this note, the unusual nature of this request, the fact that I am using more than one exclamation point per email, and the fact that it is being sent to everyone in my address book must make it seem like my account was hacked, but I assure you, that’s not the case!

I’ve made contact with my library but the best they could do was to send me a poem the mail which will take 3-5 working days to arrive here. I need you to lend me some words to sort my self out of this predicament.

It would be a great help if you’d just quickly reply (you can use that “comment” mechanism, below) with a single memorable phrase, or some sort of short litany or list, or the current contents of your copy and paste buffer, or a Google search result, or a paragraph, joke, riddle, or even haiku.

I’ll pay you back as soon as I can!

Thanks,

-Nick

Brian Moriarty to Speak at MIT

Sunday 27 November 2011, 11:07 pm   ////////  

In the Boston area? Please join us for a talk by

 

Brian Moriarty

Creator of Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, and other interactive fiction and graphic adventure titles

and professor of practice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

“Beyond Zork: Games & Interactive Fiction”

Monday, November 28, 5:30 pm

MIT’s room 6-120

 

Brian Moriarty built his first computer in the fifth grade. He began publishing games in the early 1980s and in 1984 joined legendary text adventure company Infocom, where he authored three award-winning interactive fiction titles, Wishbringer (1985), Trinity (1986) and Beyond Zork (1987). His first graphic adventure game, Loom, was published in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games to wide critical acclaim.

Sponsored by the Angus N. MacDonald Fund

As always, this Purple Blurb event is free and open to the public.

“Electrifying Literature” Deadline

Tuesday 22 November 2011, 3:43 pm   //////////  

An exhortation for those creating or researching electronic literature to please submit to Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization conference. The gathering will take place June 20-23, 2012 in Morgantown, West Virginia. A juried Media Arts Gallery Exhibit will be held from Wednesday, June 13 through Saturday, June 23, 2012 at The Monongalia Arts Center. Registration costs have been kept down to make it easier for writers and artists who don’t have institutional travel support to be part of the event.

The deadline for abstracts & proposals is November 30, by the way.

Positive Publication

Monday 21 November 2011, 10:08 pm   /////////  

An interview that James J. Brown, Jr. did with me is now up as part of the latest issue of JEP: The Journal of Electronic Publishing.

It’s entitled “The Literary and the Computational: A Conversation with Nick Montfort.”

I’ve banged up against some fairly conservative, and indeed rather backwards, ideas about what publishing is recently; it was great to talk with Brown and see him and JEP representing a much more positive idea.

Chicago Colloquium Notes

Monday 21 November 2011, 2:02 pm   ////////  

I went to the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities & Computer Science this weekend (Sunday and today), and gave the keynote that opened this event. I spoke about Platform Studies, describing how the difference between Pong and Hunt the Wumpus could be better understood by considering that these games were made of different stuff — different material computing systems. Then, I brought in the five-level model of digital media studies that I introduced in Game Studies in my article “Combat in Context” back in 2006. I spoke about the existing and forthcoming titles in the Platform Studies book series by MIT Press: Racing the Beam (Montfort & Bogost, 2009); the book on the Wii, Codename: Revolution by Steven E. Jones and George K. Thiruvathukal; and The Future was Here by Jimmy Maher, covering the Amiga. I also spoke about 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); GOTO 10, a book engaging with platforms that I, and nine co-authors, are completing. Finally, I concluded by offering 16 questions about the digital humanities, in a lecture moment that was inspired by a particular 20th century American composer.

A few of my favorite aspects of the colloquium:

  • Talking with Steven E. Jones and George K. Thiruvathukal, colloquium organizers and Platform Studies authors, among other platform-interested authors.

  • Meeting Perry Collins, a new program officer for the NEH Office of Digital Humanities. This was Perry’s first trip outside the Washington, D.C. metro area, and she immediately (first talk of the colloquium) got to do something all of her colleagues at the ODH — Brett Bobley, Jason Rhody, Jennifer Serventi — have already done: listen to me complain about the prevailing, overly traditional, overly narrow model of the digital humanities that doesn’t embrace contemporary work and the expressive, creative power of computational media. There are some things to enjoy about being a gadfly, but I do wonder if I’ve now become a hazing ritual at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Getting to talk more with Kurt Fendt and two CMS students working for his group, HyperStudio, about their current projects. Although I can walk over to their space without going outside, of course I have to travel to Chicago to really learn about what they’re up to, and to hear discussion of it supported by an immense poster — it’s the nature of things.

  • Suggesting to Quinn Dombrowski of DHCommons that that site have some facilities for allowing potential collaborators to meet at conferences, and to know about who was at conference together, and then discussing this with her over Twitter and email while she was sitting six feet away from me.

I had many other good conversations, saw several intriguing presentations, and even saw some nice automated text collage, but those are the most amusing highlights, at least.

A Giant Sucking Sound

Friday 11 November 2011, 12:30 am   ///  

*uck. After five years of activity at the dawning of the Web, after about fifteen years of keeping the site online, it seems that they are gone.

The Sounds of Little C

Sunday 9 October 2011, 3:01 pm   /////  

A group of sonic and code explorers has been discovering excellent super-short C programs that, piped to an 8-bit audio device, generate music. Here’s the first video and a second video with sounds and code.

Here’s the code for one example, “Lost in Space,” from video #2:

main(t){
for(t=0;;t++)putchar(
((t*(t>>8|t>>9)&46&t>>8))^(t&t>>13|t<<6)
);}

If you are also a righteous Ubuntu user, you can paste that into a file (let’s call it “lost_in_space.c”) and compile it with:

% gcc lost_in_space.c -o lost_in_space

Then, pipe it (or pretend to pipe it, using padsp, since recent versions of Ubuntu don’t have /dev/dsp) to your audio device using:

% ./lost_in_space | padsp tee /dev/dsp > /dev/null

Thanks to Andrew Stern for tipping me off about this one.

Mass Effect 3 Unlocks Gayness

Saturday 8 October 2011, 8:24 pm   ////  

In the Mass Effect series, you get all the intensity of a first-person shooter combined with a sprawling space-opera plot arc. And, the games have another aspect as well: As pan-galactic dating sims.

In the first two games, your customizable human, Commander Shepherd, who is the same paragon or renegade badass whether he’s black or white, male or female, can get it on with select characters. However, even though this is the way-far future sort of world in which there’s no problem with romance between beings from different planets, she or he can basically have only heterosexual relationships.

(Okay, she, if your Shepherd is female, can hook up with an alien character who looks quite a bit like a female human. But it’s made clear that your xenophilia isn’t, stricly speaking, homosexual, it’s just a pheremone thing with this hot alien who is not really a chick anyway.)

In May, the news broke that Mass Effect 3, still forthcoming, will support gay. So, everyone should stop teabagging their opponents in Halo 3 for a moment and celebrate this newfound progressive inclusiveness, right?

Well … the thing is, Mass Effect is a series. (Or franchise, really, with spin-offs … but let’s keep things simple.) The two main games released so far are strongly linked, with great effort made to connect the first to the second game – via importation of a character or play-through of an interactive comic. In the new game, Shepherd is definitely supposed to be the same guy (or butch woman, if you picked that option) that he or she was in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.

Which means that if Mass Effect 3 is the first game to support homosexuality … and players choose to take this option … it could suggest that the stress of saving the living universe has somehow turned Shepherd gay.

Unless, I suppose, Shepherd really was before, and you simply have turn somewhere else, other than your XBox or PS3, to read about it.

Unconference/Hackday on Digital Writing

Thursday 6 October 2011, 11:32 pm   //////  

Normally I only mention events that I’m attending or organizing, but I want to announce this Boston-area event even though I’ll be in Chicago and won’t be able to attend.

It’s called Dangerous Readings, and is sponsored by Eastgate Systems. Check out the page to see how you can participate.

IF Comp Games Are Out

Sunday 2 October 2011, 11:52 am   /////  

The 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition games! They’re out. Go get ’em.

Games, Stories, and a Three-Part List

Saturday 1 October 2011, 11:43 am   //////  

I’m in Montréal at Experiencing Stories with/in Digital Games Concordia University. I’ll be offering some remarks, entitled “Deinventing the Wheel,” about language and interaction. That will be on the next panel, which focuses on Mass Effect 2.

I won’t elaborate right now, but the current panel, which includes the Tale of Tales folks, made me think about the relationship between Passage, Tao, and The Graveyard.

Yo Dawg, I Hear You Like Taroko Gorge

Tuesday 27 September 2011, 11:52 pm   //////  

In his just-released “Argot Ogre, OK!” Andrew Plotkin presents mash-ups and remixes of (almost) all the “Taroko Gorge” remixes to date (and of course the original “Taroko Gorge”), producing such poignant lines as “LAWN DARTS linger” along with single-source remixes and some different stanza shapes. Anyone interested in this thread of poetry generation projects should check it out and should certainly “view source.” Or don’t, if you don’t want to discover more about the secret of the monkey.

This, my friends, calls for a recap of the generators of this general sort to date – eleven of them, so far. Note particularly the two generators mentioned only in comments (“Whisper Wire,” a third remix with visual elements by J. R. Carpenter and the fanlicious “Takei, George” by Mark Sample, which was released after my post) and two other generators released after my post (“Alone Engaged” by Maria Engberg, made at and perhaps redolent of Georgia Tech, and a generator for the the Harry Potter wizarding world of Weasleycest, “Fred & George” by Flourish Klink). In alphabetical order by title, here is a linked list of all of them so far:

Alone Engaged by Maria Engberg Along the Briny Beach by J. R. Carpenter Argot Ogre, OK! by Andrew Plotkin Fred & George by Flourish Klink Gorge by J. R. Carpenter Takei, George by Mark Sample Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort Tokyo Garage by Scott Rettberg Toy Garbage by Talan Memmott Whisper Wire by J. R. Carpenter Yoko Engorged by Eric Snodgrass

Technically Speaking

Wednesday 14 September 2011, 9:41 pm   ///  

COMPUTER world hacked Mitnick

Digital being apprehended and N.C., It wasn’t five years in prison,

vid-like “A video friend)

Ghost in wizardry

Hacker attuned

recounts are one engineering”

cat-and-computer-to willingly provide

the online con his unknowing targets

Selections from an American Way book review

Wow, Game Mag. Wow.

Friday 9 September 2011, 3:55 pm   //////  

I keep hearing about this Believer article about palindromes – actually, it’s mostly an article exposing a particular palindromist to readers’ chortles. The article signals no awareness of the palindrome as a literary form, but I appreciate it pointing me to Mr. Duncan’s “A Greenward Palindrome,” written for my local eco-boutique and charming in its topicality.

A community of practice is a set of people who do the same type of work (writing, art, game development, etc.) and who are at least aware of one another and have some interaction with one another. Poets constitute a community of practice, for instance, or at least several significantly interlocking communities of practice. Poets are aware that there are other poets. They read each others’ work. Sometimes they hate one another, which shows that they care.

Electronic literature authors are literary migrants to the computer, not always of the same genre or movement, and are less established as a single community of practice. But thanks to organizations like the Electronic Literature Organization and events like the E-Poetry festival and the ELO conference, many of them do get to meet each other, talk to each other, and learn about each others’ work and interests. Some specific sorts of practice, such as poetry generation, have much less community around them, of course; but others, such as interactive fiction, have a great deal of healthy community.

Palindromists, I would venture, do not constitute a community of practice. They mostly don’t know each other and aren’t aware of each others’ work, despite the efforts of people like Mark Saltveit, editor of the magazine The Palindromist. Duncan describes palindrome authors as “practicing the invisible craft.” When thinking of the short, canoncial palindromes that have circulated without attribution, this designation makes sense. But in other cases, it doesn’t.

For instance, there are plenty of palindrome books in print for those who look. Here are three from a single press, Spineless Books: 2002: A Palindrome Story by Nick Montfort and William Gillespie, I’d Revere Verdi: Palindromes for the Serious Music Lover by Jane Z. Smith and Barbara Thorburn, and the sublime Drawn Inward and Other Poems by Mike J. Maguire, which contains:

Same Nice Cinemas

Same nice cinemas,
same nice cafe.

We talk late.

We face cinemas.
Same nice cinemas.

There are several palindromes of literary interest online, too – my and William’s 2002 is just one, alongside “Dammit I’m Mad” by Demetri Martin and “The Big One” by Will Helston.

From reading that recent article, one would guess that palindromists aren’t a community of practice because palindrome writing isn’t a practice, but a pathology. The truth is that palindromes make for difficult reading, difficult writing, and unique engagements with language that have been savored by Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, Harry Mathews, and Georges Perec. So, for those who want to take a break from gawking at personal quirks to read some brilliant texts, read a few of the many palindromes that are out there – works of writing that will wow you coming and going.

EVERYTHING AKIMBO

Tuesday 6 September 2011, 7:19 pm   ////  

an event to welcome the Electronic Literature Organization to MIT
and to introduce the ELO to the MIT community
an open house / open mic / open mouse
featuring 5-7 minute presentations and readings
by a host of electronic literature authors (perhaps including you)

[LOCATION] The 6th floor of Fumihiko Maki’s new Media Lab building
in the large multipurpose room (E14-674)

[DATE & TIME] Monday September 19
5:30pm Kickoff, signup for open mic/open mouse begins
6:30pm Open mic/open mouse readings & presentations

an event in the Purple Blurb series
sponsored by Angus N. MacDonald Fund
and the Council for the Arts at MIT

Snacks provided [] Free and open to the public [] Free, open, and AKIMBO

App of Leaves

Tuesday 6 September 2011, 1:46 pm   ///  

Congrats to Andrew Plotkin (a.k.a. Zarf), interactive fiction author and active member of our local People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, on the release of his first iPad app: My Secret Hideout. It’s not IF per se, but an interactive narrative toy – or, as Zarf says, “It’s an interactive toy… or rather poem… or artwork… It’s an interactive textual art generator set in a treehouse!” It has no score, possibly because life doesn’t work that way.

Check out Zarf’s page on My Secret Hideout for further details. Or, visit the App Store to nab it.

Videos about MIT’s Montfort and Harrell

Saturday 3 September 2011, 12:25 am   ///////  

At MIT TechTV, there’s a new 5-minute video about me and my work, featuring Ad Verbum, Curveship, Taroko Gorge, the ppg256 series and (as examples of really cool things that have been done with computers and that are worth our attention) some productions by others from the demoscene.

Also see the excellent video covering the work of my colleague Fox Harrell and his Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab. Harrell describes his projects, reads from one of them, and discusses his concept of “phantasmal media.” That term provides the title for a book he’s completing for the MIT Press.

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