(Seen at a university in Cambridge, MA – not MIT or Lesley University.)
(Seen at a university in Cambridge, MA – not MIT or Lesley University.)
The 2011 International Conference on Computational Creativity will be held in Mexico City April 27-29. We now have information on the keynote address by Prof. George E. Lewis, “Improvising With Creative Machines: Reflections on Human-Machine Interaction.” And, there’s a list of accepted papers and demos. I’m looking forward to seeing those of you who are presenting at the end of April in Mexico City. And if any others with an interest in the field can make it to the gathering and be part of the discussion, attend the presentations, and learn about systems through demos, please do!
I gave a talk about Curveship in the “IF Suite” (actually an ordinary hotel room with a few upturned beds, not a suite) at PAX-East 2011 earlier this month. It was great to present to fellow IF author/programmers from around the world at this event, which was effectively the second annual Festival of Interactive Fiction. The IF Summit was organized by Andrew Plotkin, a.k.a. Zarf, once again this year. Thanks to Jason McIntosh, there’s pretty good-quality video (very good, considering the ramshackle setup) of the first 22.5 minutes of my talk:
The parts where I actually demo the system and discuss how games are written are missing, unfortunately, but my comments do introduce Curveship and its motivation.
Also check out the video documentation of the “Setting as Character” panel with Andrew Plotkin, Rob Wheeler, Stephen Granade, and Dean Tate. (This one took place in the more capacious Alcott Room, which we had on Saturday, March 12 thanks to Dave Cornelson.) Also, there’s video of the panel on “Non-Gamers Gaming,” with Caleb Garner, Tim Crosby, Heather Albano, Sarah Morayati, and Andrew Plotkin.
In 2001, Beehive was the first Web publication to print a creative digital media piece of mine, “The Girl and the Wolf.” I had written this story back in 1997 in Janet Murray’s Interactive Narrative class at MIT. (These days, I teach this class here at MIT.) It was strongly inspired by the readings of folk tales we had done in Henry Jenkins’s Children’s Literature class. “The Girl and the Wolf” is a very early creative piece of mine, but I remain pleased with the systematic concept and with what I wrote. It’s a simple arrangement of nine versions of a story, allowing the levels of sex and violence to be increased independently. With some contemporary references and a few other turns of phrase, I introduced only a few deviations from well-known folkloric versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story.
Ruber Eaglenest has now translated this “variable tale” into Spanish as “La Muchacha y el Lobo.”
Eaglenest describes himself as a “wannabe” game programmer, but has participated in the Spanish IF community in many ways using the name El Clérigo Urbatain. In addition to writing many reviews and articles and doing several interviews, he has written and collaborated on several pieces of interactive fiction: Por la necedad humana, Astral, Aventurero en el Sega Park, El extraño caso de Randolph Dwight, and an episode of El museo de consciencias. He has also adapted several interactive fiction games and translated several to Spanish – most recently, Graham Nelson’s Relics of Tolti-Aph.
Eaglenest has also provided a lengthy and very useful post about the Little Red Riding Hood story and “The Girl and the Wolf” on his blog (in Spanish).
Death and the Powers had a brilliant and resonant U.S. premiere on Friday at the Cutler Majestic in Boston. I’ve been looking forward to the opera’s completion, and then to its coming to the U.S., for several years. My mentor from the B.U. poetry program, Robert Pinsky, wrote the libretto, and my current colleague Tod Machover composed the opera. Congratulations to all those who put this production together, including Tod’s Opera of the Future group at the Media Lab. Death and the Powers is technically intricate and thematically ambitious, and all of that came together perfectly. (Image source.)
If you’re interested in story generation or Processing, do check out Scott Rettberg’s new screencast describing the process he undertook in writing and programming After Parthenope. He goes through the nuts and bolts of the piece and how it rolls out language using a hand-crafted trigram model; he also explains some of the pleasures of authoring a system like this.
Jeff Orkin, of Restaurant Game fame, has just launched Improviso, a system that allows players to improvise (online) and make a somewhat corny science fiction film by taking the role of director or lead actor. Orkin developed the system with collaborating students at the Singapore MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. I was pleased to see an early version of the system this summer, and very glad that the project has now blasted off. If you do Windows, download Improviso and see what you can make of it and with it.
I had a great time showing Curveship, and explaining the motivation behind it, at the IF Summit next to PAX-East today. And it was generally a great weekend of catching up with the people who are continually discussing this system (and many other matters) with me online. My thanks particularly to Zarf, the main organizer of the IF suite, Dave, who set up us the conference room, and Emily, who ran the IF Demo Fair on Saturday night. And generally, hooray for interactive fiction and the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction – I hope we have many other productive gatherings in years to come.
[An announcement from Penn’s Kelly Writers House:]
We’re pulling out all the constraints for our OULIPOLOOZA next Tuesday,
March 15, at 7:00 pm. Organized by our own Sarah Arkebauer (C’11) and
Michelle Taransky, this celebration of all things Oulipo will feature five
experts and aficionados talking about the “Ouvroir de littérature
potentielle,” the highly-influential French school of avant garde poetry.
The evening will be rounded out by the launching “An Oulipolooza,” a
collection of new Oulipian writing, and a constraint-inspired reception.
This is one celebration you should not A Void!
The Kelly Writers House presents
a celebration of potential literature
and NICK MONTFORT
Tuesday, March 15, at 7:00 PM in the Arts Café
Kelly Writers House | 3805 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA
No registration required – this event is free & open to the public
Come help us celebrate the continuing potential of literatures by attending
the OULIPOLOOZA, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things
Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” (workshop of
potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in
1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom
through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza will include
readings about the Oulipo by five experts and aficionados, a reception full
of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of “An Oulipolooza”: a collection
of oulipian texts.
KATIE L. PRICE is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Pennsylvania’s
English Department completing her dissertation, tentatively titled “‘The
Tangential Point’: Pataphysical Practice in Post-War Poetry.” She is also an
associate editor for Electronic Poetry Center, co-coordinator of the Poetry
& Poetics graduate group, and will teach a course in the fall entitled
Poetry, Technology, Gender and Globalization.
LOUIS BURY teaches literature at New York University, is a part-time
professional poker player, and is completing a constraint-based dissertation
about constraint-based writing, titled Exercises in Criticism, at the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
JEAN-MICHEL RABATÉ is Vartan Gregorian Professor in the Humanities at the
University of Pennsylvania. Co-founder and curator of Slought Foundation,
he is a senior editor of the Journal of Modern Literature. A fellow of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has authored or edited more than
thirty books on modernism, psychoanalysis, contemporary art and philosophy.
Recent titles include Lacan Literario (2007), 1913: The cradle of modernism
(2007), The Ethic of the Lie (2008) and Etant donnes: 1) l’art, 2) le
crime (2010). Currently, he is editing a collection of essays on Modernism
and Theory. He is the president of the Samuel Beckett Society and completing
a book on Samuel Beckett and philosophy.
GERALD PRINCE is Professor of Romance Languages and Head of the French
section at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many articles
and reviews on narrative theory and on modern (French) literature as well as
of several books (including A Dictionary of Narratology and Guide du roman
de langue française: 1901-1950) and his work has been translated into a
dozen languages. A co-editor of the “Stages” series for the University of
Nebraska Press and a member of a dozen editorial and advisory boards, Prince
is working on the second volume of his Guide du roman (1951-2000).
NICK MONTFORT writes computational and constrained poetry, develops computer
games, and is a critic, theorist, and scholar of computational art and
media. He is associate professor of digital media in the Program in Writing
and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is
now serving as president of the Electronic Literature Organization. He
earned a Ph.D. in computer and information science from the University of
Platform Studies, Material Computing, and the Atari VCS
Nick Montfort, MIT
A presentation in the
Workshop in the History of Material Texts
University of Pennsylvania – March 14, 2011 – 5:15pm
Van Pelt Library, 2nd Floor
Platform studies is a family of approaches that aim to help us understand the relationship between computational platforms and the creative work that is done on them. At a high level, two realizations are particularly important to platform studies: First, that creative production on the computer, using computation, is culturally relevant; and second, that we can usefully look to the underlying systems and structures that constrain and enable this creative production. In this talk, I will describe how participating in this workshop helped me to engage with the materiality of texts and then of computing, how I initially sought to investigate the relationship between textual studies and computational media, and how, working with my collaborator Ian Bogost, I found a deeper, productive connection between digital media and textual materiality that is based on the concept of the platform. Along the way, I will discuss and use as my main example the Atari VCS (a.k.a. Atari 2600). This famous early cartridge-based game system was the focus of my and Bogost’s 2009 book, Racing The Beam, the first book in the MIT Press series Platform Studies.
As if polishing a statue of our glorious leader, the Web secretariat of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction has hoisted a fine new website. It has everything the old site had, but shiner and more expandable – which is important for a Cambridge-based group with a destiny that is manifest, a group that continues to share IF with the Boston area and the world.
Please do note that PR-IF will be at PAX-East 2011 with a suite and a conference room. All events are open to the public and do not require a PAX-East badge. I’ll hope to see some of you there.
Interested in electronic literature, and a new large-scale resource listing works, authors, and more? The ELMCIP Knowledge Base is now available in beta form. Also, check out this screencast about the ELMCIP Knowledge Base.
By ELMCIP, we mean Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice, a research project that extends throughout Europe and is funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) JRP for Creativity and Innovation. ELMCIP is a project to try to understand creative communities working in electronic literature. Among the many involved parties are friends and collaborators Scott Rettberg (the project leader) and Jill Walker Rettberg.
In describing the newly opened Knowledge Base, Scott writes:
We are still working on the design and some features are still in progress but we are happy enough with the work-in-progress to open it up to more readers and contributors. I hope that you will join us in developing this important resource. We need your help to make a good platform into a great resource.
Here, as it stands, is the list of works in the Knowledge Base. Take a look, even if you want to browse, but particularly if you think you may wish to contribute.
I guess that answers the perennial question, “I can has cheezburger?”
Almost a decade after the project began, the IF Theory Reader is finally here, thanks to the hard work of editors Kevin Jackson-Mead and J. Robinson Wheeler. The book has been published by Transcript On Press and has made it out in time for PAX-East, where Kevin’s group The People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction will be hosting a hospitality suite.
My own contribution, “Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction,” has a first page which (except for the title of the article) is entirely occupied by a footnote. Perhaps ominously. I did, however, revise the article for the N+1th time, trying to make it a bit more accessible. I began writing this particular piece back when this book project was first being formulated, and am very, very glad to have it officially published after all these years.
The compendium of writing about interactive fiction that we finally have here includes 26 articles – the same number, I should mention, as there are letters of the alphabet:
Again, congratulations to Kevin and Rob, and thanks to my fellow authors. I’ve read many of these articles before; I’m looking forward to sitting down and reading everything, previously seen and unseen, in this excellent codex.
A pivotal point in this book – one that is reassuringly labeled “A Novel” – is the paragraph that reads, in its entirety, “Spent Adidas.” The other shoe drops. Imagination finally spills from one isolated paragraph to the next. This two-word paragraph does not stand out as unusually short among many that relating incidents or facts; literary, artistic, or philosophical deaths; and sometimes simply an author’s or some famous character’s name. How can we avoid being overwhelmed by the weight of what we know, what we have read about other lives? How can what we have learned about history frame, rather than imprison, what we seek to create as readers and writers? Why even attempt to imagine, when truth is stranger and so weighty? These questions raise themselves like ghosts in Hades scenting blood. As in Wittgenstein’s Mistress, a powerful image of a writer’s path of thought. Then, the poesies that succeeded in Borges’s “The Circular Ruins” takes a different turn in Reader’s Block, after a struggle.
This and That Thought, a Turbulence commission, is a robot riot. (Turn on your sound before beginning!) The new issue of Culture Machine grapples with e-lit and the digital humanities and looks to be made of win. And there’s the happy occasion of a new issue of Game Studies, focused on game reward systems.
Learning from YouTube by Alexandra Juhasz is an open access MIT Press “video-book” published on Vectors. It’s made of “texteos” (with YouTube-like videos at the core) and is hilarious and incisive. I suggest you vread it right away.