That’s an interview with Alan DeNiro now up at Grinding to Valhalla. DeNiro is author of the just-published Total Oblivion, More or Less, in which Minnesota, and then the rest of the US, is invaded by ancient European tribes. DeNiro also wrote and programmed one of the most unusual interactive fiction pieces of recent vintage, Deadline Enchanter. Or perhaps the word is “bizarre.” The game seems to not completely work, in a few different senses of “work,” but I was intrigued with it and found it to be oddly compelling, a refreshing experiment. Hopefully novel-readers will receive a similar wake-up slap from Total Oblivion, and, hopefully DeNiro won’t abandon interactive fiction now that he’s made it to print.
Rachel Miller of Virginia Commonwealth University just interviewed me about my electronic literature work – my digital writing, focusing on my interactive fiction. She asked some very good questions. In return, I asked if she’d let me post the interview here, to which she kindly agreed.
1. Do you have a specific audience you are trying to appeal to with your work? (It may be different audiences depending on the genre.)
Yes, certainly. I even think of specific people who I would like to enjoy particular pieces of work, and that offers very good guidance. I also think of groups of people such as the interactive fiction community, digital poets, and electronic literature authors and scholars.
2. How do you feel about cellphones? Is it me or did I notice a reoccurring theme of cell phones? (Another Hole+Ten Mobile Texts.)
Cell phones are now completely ordinary and ubiquitous, but they’re pretty amazing in terms of being a very recent technology and one that changes the way we speak and experience space. I could say more, but the pieces you mention (along with Book and Volume, which has an anachronistic pager instead of a cell phone but is trying to deal with that technology obliquely) are my more extended attempts to marvel at this communications technology.
3. What advice do you have for people who are new to interactive fiction?
Play it with someone else, whether your IF partner is experienced or not. I don’t think I know anyone who learned the conventions of IF alone – I certainly didn’t. And, solving puzzles together and exploring a world together is great fun.
4. Why do you support IF? What are the benefits of further development and it being considered a genre in literature?
I see IF as a fascinating point of intersection between literary writing, computer gaming, and the power of the computer to simulate. I’ve always loved what language can do and what computing can do, and I see that this comes together in a powerful way in IF. Of course, it’s specific pieces of IF that give me this feeling. While I see great successes in the form, I also see untapped potential, which encourages me as I work on particular games and as I develop my IF system, Curveship.
5. What do you want your “interactors” to walk away with?
More to think about, so that solving puzzles and completing the game has opened up new questions and possibilities instead of wrapping everything up.
6. What potential problems (if any) do you see with IF?
It’s sometimes dismissed for the wrong reasons – I’m not sure that’s a problem with IF, really. I guess if people are expecting it to become mainstream again, they may be disappointed. I think IF is very interesting in its niche and on its margin, so this doesn’t bother me. Beyond that, IF has the same problems many literary and gaming forms do, such as: Most of it is not very good, and some of it in good in some ways but really problematic in others. But, as is the case with other types of literature and gaming, there are also some pieces of IF which are awesome.
7. Implementation is a fascinating idea. I have not read the entire sticker novel but enjoy the process of viewing pictures online or being a *web reader*. Are you simply exposing narratives/dialogues/scenarios in public areas all over the world so that it may inspire all walks of life? What is your goal or hope here? Is there is an overall theme to the sticker novel? If so, doesn’t this affect the interpretation of the place readers? Or,is it more of an experiment to see how publicized you can make the project?
One goal of the project is to extend the idea of sticker art – a really nice concept, I think – into literary practice. We wanted to offer these literary texts, ones that aren’t advertising anything, in public spaces for people to read and enjoy. That by itself, apart from the themes and plot of Implementation (and, yes, there is are themes and a plot), was meant to challenge what we see and read in public. Implementation isn’t mainly an attempt to publicize itself – most of the people on the street who read some of it won’t know that they’re reading a novel called Implementation and there’s nothing to advertise that Scott Rettberg and I wrote the text. Instead, it’s an attempt to introduce literary reading into a different set of spaces.
8. What started your passion/interest for the digital and literary world?
I can’t trace my interest in computing and the literary back to anything in particular, but as I was becoming an avid reader, I was also learning to program, and soon thereafter was playing and (clumsily) writing interactive fiction. So I see these two interests as very kindred with one another.
9. Just curious…how many hours a week do you spend on a computer? If a lot, does it have any negative effects physically or mentally?
I’m not sure I can estimate, but I spend a lot of time in different contexts (home, office, classrooms, coffeehouses, trains, planes) and can’t say that I do feel any strong negative effects. If I sat at the same desk for the same eight hours a day using a computer, I might, but I think I benefit from having a lot of choice in where, when, and how I work. I wish more people had this choice.
Andrew Stern’s company Stumptown Game Machine released their Touch Pets Dogs, published by ngmoco for the iPhone. On this social network, everyone knows that you’re a virtual dog. Versions of it are in the top 10 free apps on the iPhone App Store now, and in the top 100 of pay apps.
Rover’s Day Out is the winner of the IF Comp. (Dogs everywhere!) The game is by Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman. Broken Legs by Sarah Morayati took second, Snowquest by Eric Eve third. Congratulations to all authors! If you haven’t played the games yet, they’re still there waiting for you.
People on the Interweb donated $25,000 to Jason Scott, the textfiles.com, BBS Documentary, and Get Lamp guy. Man, it’s so easy to get money on the Web. Maybe you could do it too, if you first spend years, in your spare time and without pay, saving BBS files, saving Geocities, documenting computer history, and generally amassing a larger archive of digital media history than almost every university in the world put together.
Truly “indie” artgames made the New York Times Magazine. Jason Roherer leads the charge, but many of the usual suspects are quoted in this look at how non-industrial gaming is augmenting and challenging games of the commercial sphere.
A new issue of Game Studies is out, with these articles: “The Character of Difference: Procedurality, Rhetoric, and Roleplaying Games,” “Moral Decision Making in Fallout,” “Cheesers, Pullers, and Glitchers: The Rhetoric of Sportsmanship and the Discourse of Online Sports Gamers,” and “World of Warcraft: Service or Space?” Game Studies is free to everyone! No page fees for authors! Peer reviewed! The future of academic publishing, already here, and about games!
JayIsGames hosts an IF contest and calls for interactive fiction authors to create escape-the-room games. The deadline for this Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7 is January 31. Z-code only, unfortunately for those of us wedded to Curveship, but that lets you use Inform 6 or 7.
On Monday (November 16) at 6pm in MIT’s room 14E-310,
The Purple Blurb series of readings and presentations on digital writing will present a talk by
D. Fox Harrell
creator of GRIOT, a system that generates poetry and interactive multimedia narrative using his Alloy algorithm. Alloy uses an algebraic semiotics formalization of the cognitive linguistics theory of conceptual integration, also called conceptual blending.
Harrell’s generative poetic systems change elements such as theme, metaphorical exposition, emotional tone, or imagery based upon user input – exploring issues such as contingent and dynamic identities that challenge trite conceptions of identity based in binary oppositions of race, power, gender, and other normative categories. In addition to his work in interactive narrative and poetry, Harrell has completed a number of technologies for social identity representation under the umbrella of his Advanced Identity Representation (AIR) Project. The AIR Project represents a new transdisciplinary approach to designing computational identity technologies. The AIR Project results in new technology (e.g., virtual characters, avatars, and social networking profiles) and theory to allow users to create highly imaginative self-representations and to reveal how stereotypes, prejudice, bias, and other ills are built into current technologies. Dr. Harrell is Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the department of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He directs the Imagination, Computation, and Expression [ICE] Lab (icelab.lcc.gatech.edu) in developing new forms of computational narrative and poetry, gaming, social networking, and related forms, all with bases in computer science, cognitive science, and digital media arts. He is recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty, which includes a generous, five-year grant to support his research. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego. He earned an M.P.S. in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He also earned a B.F.A. in Art, a B.S. in Logic and Computation, and minor in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, each with highest honors. He has worked as an interactive television producer and as a game designer. He has completed a novel, “Milk Pudding Flavored with Rose Water, Blood Pudding Flavored by the Sea,” and is completing a book on an imaginative cognition- and computation-based approach to digital media, “Phantasmal Media.”
Actually I haven’t had the energy to keep mining each of the presentations at The Network as a Space and Medium for Collaborative Interdisciplinary Art Practice, but they were rich in provocation and new ideas, and now I have to post something to follow “part 1.” The workshop went very well; particularly good were two long evenings of electronic literature, digital poetry, and readable digital art that were done by individuals but showcased collaboration. These two readings stood out because so much of the workshop time (which usually would have gone to very full days of panels) was dedicated to the presentation of creative work, and because the variety and quality of work was stellar.
You can check the twitsphere to see what was twot about the workshop.
A big thanks to Scott Rettberg for putting on this event and for inviting us Americans to join this international discussion.
I’m at a fine gathering, The Network as a Space and Medium for Collaborative Interdisciplinary Art Practice. This is a workshop Scott Rettberg organized here in Bergen, Norway. Here’s a tiny glimpse of it.
First, Daniel Apollon has very deftly provided us with a video of last night’s electronic literature readings / presentations by nine readers: Jörg Piringer. Roderick Coover, J. R. Carpenter, John Cayley, Renée Turner, Serge Bouchardon, Chris Funkhouser, Talan Memmott, and Michelle Teran. It was remarkable for being an extremely long e-lit reading that was also very compelling throughout and offered a wide range of work, never lagging at any point during the three hours. The video is just over 11 minutes.
Regarding the panel presentations today so far, I have no summary – see the abstracts for that. Instead, a handful of analects, transcribed ineptly:
“If there were going to be a great novel or a great poem in new media by now, we’d have it. There are major works in digital media, but they aren’t continuations of the novel or the poem.” -Joseph Tabbi
“That’s the real promise of peer-to-peer review – you can follow the debates that make claims and that become knowledge.” -Eric Dean Rasmussen
“… calculation being a material process … authors, who work on the technical dimension and on the medium, may allow a new aesthetic to emerge.” -Serge Bouchardon
“For a long time I advocated that we have two classes of electronic literature – Class A which represents that work which is truly programmatic, and the other which is traditional writing. Increasingly, I don’t see this distinction as important.” -Raine Koskimaa
“I don’t actually mind cookie cutters – I make a lot of cookies, and I use proprietary cookie cutters.” -Jill Walker Rettberg [Jill’s slides and a preprint of her related paper are online.]
“Already the manifesto is the exquisite corpse.” -Renée Turner (regarding discussion on the NetBehavior list)
[Please let me know if I’ve seriously misquoted you, fellow workshop attendees.]
The Electronic Literature Organization‘s
Fourth International Conference
& Program of Digitally Mediated Literary Art
June 3-6, 2010
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Organized by the ELO and Writing Digital Media
at the Brown University Literary Arts Program
dedicated to Robert Coover
The Electronic Literature Organization and Brown University’s Literary Arts Program invite submissions to the Electronic Literature Organization 2010 Conference to be held from June 3-6, 2008 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
- electronic literature
- writing digital media
- language-driven digital poesis
- literal art
We welcome papers and presentations on a broad range of topics. The conference will focus on the theory, criticism, close-reading, practice and archiving of language-driven digital art and poetics. Our gathering will also embrace all the related cultural practices that continue to be addressed by scholars and artists in our growing field:
- expressive processing
- computational art
- artificial cognition and intelligence
- aesthetic gaming
- information art
- digitally mediated performance
- network & media art & activism
In addition we will give a special welcome to papers that engage with the contribution that Robert Coover has made to our field. A festschrift comprised of papers from the conference is proposed and Professor Coover will be our chief featured eWriter. (Other featured speakers to be announced shortly.)
In conjunction with the three-day conference, there will be a juried Program of Language-Driven Digital Art, concentrating on but not confined to installation works. We plan to show the selected work in gallery spaces close to the conference venue in downtown Providence over a two week period. Subject to funding restrictions, selected artists will be awarded bursaries to assist with attending the conference. Submission guidelines will be posted on the conference website by mid November.
Deadline for Submissions: December 15, 2009
Notification of Acceptance: January 25, 2010
PLEASE NOTE: Deadline for full papers will be May 1, 2010 to allow for reflection and exchange on the papers prior to the conference and to get head-start in the publication process.
The basic cost of the conference is $150; graduate students and non-affiliated artists pay only $100.
Conference registration covers access to all events, the reception, some meals, and shuttle transportation.
All conference attendees are also expected to join the ELO before the conference and this can be done at registration.
We are planning to implement online submission and registration. Before submitting, please consult the conference website at …
… where these facilities will be available and where you will find much more information about both the content and the form of the conference and arts program.
After consulting the website, for further queries and all email correspondence contact:
elo dot ai at eliterature dot org
The above address should be used for all conference business. It will checked by myself and also those colleagues and students who will be assisting me with the conference organization. But I appreciate that you may sometimes also want to get in touch with the conference organizer:
John Cayley, Literary Arts Program
Box 1923, Brown University
68 1/2 Brown Street
Providence, RI 02912, USA
office: +1 401 863 3966, John underscore Cayley at brown dot edu
The Conference is currently sponsored and supported by The Electronic Literature Organization, Brown University Literary Arts Program, Brown University Creative Arts Council, Brown University Library, and the RISD D+M Program.
Any organization or individual in receipt of this call who would like to sponsor and support this major international conference, please get in touch. External sponsors are being sought and will be appropriately acknowledged.
Those of us who study computer and video games are very fortunate to have two free, online, peer-reviewed journals that do not assess page fees: Game Studies and Eludamos. And, there is at least one more free, online, peer-reviewed journal that does not assess page fees and includes articles about computer and video games: Digital Humanities Quarterly.
That’s the preface to my mentioning that a new issue (vol. 3, no. 2) of Eludamos is now out.
Also, that journal has issued a new call for papers:
The new call for papers for “Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture” is now open, and again, we cordially invite submissions dealing with everything that is relevant to the field of game studies.
All articles undergo a double blind peer review process except for
papers submitted to the game review section. We expect all
submissions to be in English and accept full papers only. For further
specifications about our submission guidelines please
consult the Eludamos site.
Eludamos also seeks volunteers to do editorial and proofreading work:
We are happy to announce that since its initiation three years ago, not just Eludamos’ readership but also its submission numbers have grown steadily. Thus we are looking to expand the ranks of our editors and proof-readers. Please note that all positions are honorary.
We are specifically looking for a book review editor. The editor’s responsibility would be to identify “hot topics” and to solicit reviews of new publications that deal with them.
We are also hoping to attract two volunteers for copy editing / proof reading.
Please send a short statement of interest via e-mail to the following address: ajahn2 at uni-goettingen dot de
On Monday (November 2) at 6pm in MIT’s room 14E-310,
The Purple Blurb series of readings and presentations on digital writing will present a talk by
author of Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press, 2009)
Mary Flanagan is the creator of [giantJoystick], and author of [theHouse] among other digital writing works. She is Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth, where she directs Tiltfactor, a lab focused on the design of activists and socially-conscious software.
Flanagan investigates everyday technologies through critical writing, artwork, and activist design projects. Flanagan’s work has been exhibited internationally at museums, festivals, and galleries, including: the Guggenheim, The Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, and The Banff Centre. Her projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Flanagan writes about popular culture and digital media such as computer games, virtual agents, and online spaces in order to understand their affect on culture. Her co-edited collection reload: rethinking women + cyberculture with Austin Booth was published by MIT Press in 2002. She is also co-author with Matteo Bittanti of Similitudini. Simboli. Simulacri ( SIMilarities, Symbols, Simulacra ) on The Sims game (in Italian, Unicopli 2003), and the co-editor of the collection re:skin (2007).
Flanagan is also the creator of The Adventures of Josie True, the first web-based adventure game for girls, and is implementing innovations in pedagogical and values-based game design.
Using the formal language of the computer program or game to create systems which interrogate seemingly mundane experiences such as writing email, using search engines, playing video games, or saving data to the hard drive, Flanagan reworks these activities to blur the line between the social uses of technology, and what these activities tell us about the technology user themselves.
A representative from the MIT Press bookstore will be at the talk offering copies of Flanagan’s books for sale.
GeoCities, founded in 1995, grew to become the third most visited site on the Web in 1999, when it was bought by Yahoo! for more than $3.5 billion. It offered free Web hosting in directories themed as different cities. Many people published their first page and first site on GeoCities. The Archiveteam has been working to save as much of it as possible; this wildly individual Web work won’t be completely lost to us as much of the pre-Wayback Web is. But at midnight Pacific Time, the plug will be pulled on this significant and populist piece of the Web. Here is, not an archive, but at least a peek at some of what will go dark.
As an Atari Jaguar owner, I suppose I have something of a soft spot for the system, but I really do wish that it had more than one awesome game. There’s a recent article on the failure of Atari’s last console by Matthew Kaplan. He ends up singing of the Jaguar rather as if it has been the Great White Hope, sadly fallen to Japanese consoles, but touches on several interesting aspects of the console along the way. Technology, pricing, and marketing are all discussed in some detail. This will help us remember the “64-bit” claims that were made for the system and the never-shipped VR helmet that made appearances at trade shows. Thanks to Jason Scott for this link.
Pseudo 3D graphics is the road less traveled these days, but this non-polygon method of making racetracks and other planar spaces appear to be 3D is fascinating. It’s written up very clearly, with code, example images, and discussion of games that use unusual pseudo-3D techniques, in an article by Louis Gorenfeld. I like how the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques are discussed – the method is treated as neither strictly inferior or “way better” than what we usually think of as 3D. This one’s not only relevant to platform studies, but an obvious topic for a blog called Post Position. Thanks to Josh Diaz for the link.
I’m not up to a writeup of the recent &Now: A Conference of Innovative Writing and the Literary Arts, a festival/conference (“festerence,” as someone noted) which just shuffled through Buffalo. But while you are waiting for the deadpan article in Harper’s about the event, these should be worth about 3000 words.
“… mirrors and copulation are abominable because they increase the number of men.” —Borges
Babyfucker is far more disturbing than the title suggests. The book, written by a Swiss author, spawned a controversy in Germany in 1991. It begins unabashedly with the sentence “I fuck babies,” which the narrator declares to be his sentence. It is the reader’s sentence, too. However, there are no detailed representations of infant pedophilia. There is terse, detached description of an impossible garret, filled with baskets of babies, supplied with a spigot and drain for morphine-laced milk; trepidation at humanity and new life; a man who sees himself in the mirror as a baby — then as made up, limb by limb, of babies. If there are specific sexual visions here, they must belong mainly to the reader, not the text. Among other unsettling things, the volume (which is yellow and pink, tiny, and cute) shows the reader’s involvement in literary atrocities, in any violation committed by shared imagination.
Hand-drawn, player-created computer game maps are sought for a traveling exhibit in the UK. They’re needed soon – by mid-November. Thanks to Ian Bogost for letting me know about this.
Writer, publisher, and collaborator of mine William Gillespie just read (yesterday afternoon) an extraordinary piece here at the &Now festival in Buffalo. The multimedia piece is Morpheus Biblionaut, which he created with Travis Alber of Bookglutton.com. Gillespie pulls out the stops for this tale of an American astronaut and poet who returns to earth to find almost no radio activity, except, perhaps, for one signal. Plug in, isolate yourself for a space of time, and read this one!
I presented right after on ppg256, my series of poetry generators.
People I know have been up to many things lately, and many of these surely deserve a full, thoughtful blog post. I won’t manage that, so the least I can do is mention that …
Jason Nelson presented his new, uncanny, crapcredible game, Evidence of Everything Exploding.
Jason McIntosh has a great video about a non-digital game, Diplomacy, that he and friends did during a day-long session, wearing more-ot-less nationally appropriate hats.
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Jill Walker Rettberg has a short and insightful video about blogging as a way of learning.
Robert Pinsky’s libretto was sung in a musical reading of Tod Machover’s opera Death and the Powers at Cambridge’s A.R.T. on September 17. The workshop presentation (check out the photos) was a major milestone toward a full production of the digitally augmented “robot pageant,” which I found zestfully written and very cleverly framed.