Bergen Apothegma, Part 2

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.

Bergen Apothegma, Part 1

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.]

ELO_AI: Archive & Innovate

The Electronic Literature Organization‘s
Fourth International Conference
& Program of Digitally Mediated Literary Art

June 3-6, 2010
Brown University
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
  • codework
  • 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.

Eludamos Posts New Issue, Seeks Articles, Volunteers

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

Mary Flanagan Speaks in Purple Blurb, Monday 11/2 6pm

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

Mary Flanagan.

Mary Flanagan

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.

Invisible GeoCities

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.

from geocities

from geocities

from geocities

from geocities

from geocities

from geocities

Platform Readings: Jaguar, Pseudo 3D

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.

&Now in Buffalo

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.


Babyfucker, Urs Allemann, trans. Peter Smith, biligual edition, Les Figues Press, 2010
Babyfucker, Urs Allemann, trans. Peter Smith, biligual edition, Les Figues Press, 2010

“… 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.

Morpheus Biblionaut

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 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.

Of Late

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 Scott continues to back up Geocities, and, in the process of doing this, has posted page-heaps of under construction and email icons. Warning: ginormous.

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.

zzzZRT: Unit compliance -- 0%. Unit appears incapable of mentioning people with any other first name. Attempting repair...

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.

Lots of people are playing and reviewing Interactive Fiction Competition games. A list of way-many reviews was put together and is being updated by Yoon Ha Lee.

Curveship in AI Magazine

Delightfully, the current issue of AI Magazine (Volume 30, number 3, Fall 2009) is on computational creativity. The number offers articles on the field overall; the history of workshops on the topic; computer models of creativity; and creative systems to generate music, stories and their tellings, moves of chess, and humor. The last article is computer-generated in high Hofstadter style.

Pablo Gervás’s contribution, “Computational Approaches to Storytelling and Creativity,” provides a clear introduction to the concept of creativity and the history of the term, analyzes the relevant features that storytelling systems can work upon, gives an outline of work in computational creativity so far, and continues with a capsule summary of several important storytelling systems. The last one of these is my system nn, which I renamed “Curveship” as I started focusing on a public release of the software.

In the nn system for interactive fiction (Montfort 2007) the user controls the main character of a story by introducing simple descriptions of what it should do, and the system responds with descriptions of the outcomes of the character’s actions. Within nn, the Narrator module [now called the Teller] provides storytelling functionality, so that the user can be “told” the story of the interaction so far. The Narrator module of nn addresses important issues in storytelling that had not been addressed by previous systems: order of presentation in narrative and focalization. Instead of telling events always in chronological order, the nn Narrator allows various alternative possibilities: flashbacks, flash-forwards, interleaving of events from two different time periods, telling events back to front. It also captures appropriate treatment of tense depending on the relative ordering of speech time, reference time, and event time. Focalization is handled by the use of different focalizer worlds [now called concepts] within the system. Aside from the actual world of the interactive fiction system, nn maintains additional separate worlds representing the individual perspectives and beliefs of different characters. These can be used to achieve correct treatment of focalization (telling the story from the point of view of specific characters). [pp. 57-58]

In discussing the systems, Gervás notes (and I agree) that the other systems he discussed, ranging from Klein’s Novel Writer and Meehan’s Talespin to The Virtual Storyteller and Riedl’s Fabulist, are system for inventing stories, while nn’s Narrator (Curveship’s Teller) is the only system for telling stories. He writes:

If the processes for inventing stories in the reviewed systems rate low in terms of creativity, the rating obtained by processes for telling stories is even sadder. The challenge of how to tell a story has received very little attention in general, and it is mostly tagged on as a final stage to systems that concentrate on inventing stories. The nn system is a notable exception in that it involves a significant effort to model computationally some of the basic elements contained in Genette’s work on narrative discourse (Genette 1980): relative order of presentation and focalization. However, all the systems that tell the stories they invent do in fact include default solutions to many of the technical challenges involved in telling a story. [p. 60]

Although Gervás has provided a good take on the system, I’ll just note one way in which Curveship (née nn) does a bit more than the article might suggest to reader and one way in which it does less.

Genette described five categories of narrative discourse: order, frequency, speed, mood (which includes focalization), and voice (which includes distance). Curveship can vary not only order and focalization; it also allows for significant variation in the other three categories. I hope this will be of practical interest to interactive fiction authors and to those seeking to teach narrative theory using Curveship. However, the main research advances that have been made so far are in the two areas that Gervás indicates: order and mood (specifically, focalization).

While Curveship can automatically creative narrative variation based on parameters, I have to note that I am not putting it forth as a creative system. This makes it unlike many of the programs discussed in Gervás’s article and in this issue of AI Magazine. Given a specification for telling (which is called a spin), the system can make the appropriate changes and generate suitable text. However, the system does not, by itself, determine how a story should be told. The code that individual IF authors and AI researchers write is needed to accomplish that task.

Of course, formalizing the elements of narrative variation is necessary for any principled system that is supposed to vary the telling of a story. I hope that Curveship’s Teller will be deeply relevant to work in the creative invention and telling of stories, and that it will be used not only to enable new sorts of learning systems and interactive fiction pieces but also, in modified or unmodified form, as a component of creative systems.

Tenure Track Position: Assistant Professor of Visual Arts

My colleagues in the Visual Art Program are looking for an artist (and particularly inviting new media artists) to join the faculty and teach in the program. MIT, of course, offers the opportunity for artists to work in a diverse and high-powered technical context, but the campus also has incredible arts dimension. A nicely-formatted announcement is on the Web and available in PDF. Here’s the text of it:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is seeking an individual with an emerging international reputation to join the faculty of its Visual Arts Program as an Assistant Professor, tenure-track. We seek a colleague with significant experience, knowledge and accomplishments in the fields of technoaesthetic and/or technocultural art practice, especially in the areas of New Media and/or Media Performance, an artist who has strong
skills and experience in teaching at the college, university or art school academic level. This appointment will be a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor.

Minimum Qualifications:
· Master of Fine Arts degree or equivalent
· Emerging international recognition as a practicing artist
· Experience teaching at the college, university or art school level
· Skills, knowledge and accomplishments in technocultural, technoaesthetic and performative art practice and a strong interest in transdisciplinary collaboration
· The candidate must be highly knowledgeable in contemporary art practice, art history, art and media theory

We seek a colleague whose artistic practice bridges art, science, and technology, and intersects with emerging directions and methodologies in sciences (including social and human sciences), new technologies (including communication technologies), and/or design, media research, and engineering. Accomplishments in the fields of new media including digital, database, Internet art responsive/interactive, media performance, or other emerging techno-aesthetic arts will be a plus. Candidates should be highly articulate in the field of audio/visual culture and other relevant fields and disciplines (for example, gender or postcolonial studies). Preference will be given to candidates whose projects and intellectual approach address contemporary social, cultural and ethical issues and do so in analytical, critical and/or transformative ways.

MIT’s Visual Arts Program develops critical analytical and visionary strategies in artistic practice within the context of the advanced scientific and engineering community of MIT. Students and faculty alike are drawn to the program because of the transdisciplinary opportunities found in this unique environment. The faculty is composed of renowned artists with active, international careers in artistic production and a strong interest in cross-discipline debate and modes of production. MIT students are diverse, intellectually gifted and highly motivated. Undergraduates come from a variety of scientific and technical fields from across the Institute. Graduate enrollment includes not only the program’s own master’s students, but also students from Architecture, the Media Lab, and other academic units.

This position is a unique opportunity to engage, interact and inspire undergraduate students from a variety of cultures and disciplines, as well as to mentor an exceptional group of graduate students in the visual arts. We are seeking candidates of diverse backgrounds and approaches, who are passionate about community building and who have an interest in collaborative projects crossing to other fields. The appointment can begin as early as fall 2010.

Please submit materials on DVD or CD to Professor Krzysztof Wodiczko, Chair, Search Committee, MIT Visual Arts Program, 265 Massachusetts Avenue N51-328, Cambridge, MA 02139. Submissions will not be returned to applicant. Included with materials should be (in digital format on disk):· CV· Letter of intention and teaching philosophy· A well-organized selection of artistic work, presented in a manner to make it easy to review· Names and contact information of at least four references· Other supporting materials such as selection of writing by applicant (writings, interviews, statements) and/or critical reviews by others of applicant’s work is appreciated

Review of applications will begin November 1, 2009. MIT is building a culturally diverse faculty and strongly encourages applications from women and members of underrepresented groups. Applications from women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged. MIT is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer. Further information on the Visual Arts Program can be found at:

For more information, please email:

Tenured Faculty Position in Comparative Media Studies

I’m delighted to announce that MIT’s CMS program, where I’ve done much of my teaching and advising, is hiring:

MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies seeks applications for a tenured position beginning in September 2010. A PhD and an extensive record of publication, research activity and leadership are expected. We encourage applicants from a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds. The successful candidate will teach and guide research in one or more of the Program’s dimensions of comparativity (historical, methodological, cultural) across media forms. Expertise in the cultural and social implications of established media forms (film, television, audio and visual cultures, print) is as important as scholarship in one or more emerging areas such as games, social media, new media literacies, participatory culture, software studies, IPTV, and transmedia storytelling.

The position involves teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, developing and guiding collaborative research activities, and participating in the intellectual and creative leadership of the Program and the Institute. Candidates should demonstrate a record of effective teaching and thesis supervision, significant research/creative activity, relevant administrative experience, and international recognition.

CMS offers SB and SM programs and maintains a full roster of research initiatives and outreach activities [see ] The program embraces the notion of comparativity and collaboration, and works across MIT’s various schools, and between MIT and the larger media landscape.
MIT is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

Applications consisting of a curriculum vita, a statement of teaching philosophy and experience, a statement of current and future research plans, selected major publications, and names of suggested references should be submitted by November 1, 2009 to:

Professor William Uricchio
Director, Comparative Media Studies
MIT 14N-207
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02143 USA