A Web Reply to the Post-Web Generation

At the recent ELO conference in Montréal Leonardo Flores introduced the concept of “3rd Generation” electronic literature. I was at another session during his influential talk, but I heard about the concept from him beforehand and have read about it on Twitter (a 3rd generation context, I believe) and Flores’s blog (more of a 2nd generation context, I believe). One of the aspects of this concept is that the third generation of e-lit writers makes use of existing platforms (Twitter APIs, for instance) rather than developing their own interfaces. Blogging is a bit different from hand-rolled HTML, but one administers one’s own blog.

When Flores & I spoke, I realized that I have what seems like a very similar idea of how to divide electronic literature work today. Not exactly the same, I’m sure, but pretty easily defined and I think with a strong correspondence to this three-generation concept. I describe it like this:

  • Pre-Web
  • Web
  • Post-Web

To understand the way I’m splitting things up, you first have to agree that we live in a post-Web world of networked information today. Let me try to persuade you of that, to begin with.

The Web is now at most an option for digital communication of documents, literature, and art. It’s an option that fewer and fewer people are taking. Floppy disks and CD-ROMs also remain options, although they are even less frequently used. The norm today has more to do with app-based connectivity and less with the open Web. When you tweet, and when you read things on Twitter, you don’t need to use the Web; you can use your phone’s Twitter client. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat would be just fine if the Web was taken out behind the shed and never seen again. These are all typically used via apps, with the Web being at most an option for access.

The more companies divert use of their social networks from the Web to their own proprietary apps, the more they are able to shape how their users interact — and their users are their products, that which they offer to advertisers. So, why not keep moving these users, these products, into the better-controlled conduits of app-based communication?

Yes, I happen to be writing a blog entry right now — one which I don’t expect anyone to comment on, like they used to in the good old days. There is much more discussion of things I blog about on Twitter than in the comment section of my blog; this is evidence that we are in the post-Web era. People can still do Web (and even pre-Web) electronic literature and art projects. As Jodi put it in an interview this year, “You can still make websites these days.” This doesn’t change that we reached peak Web years ago. We live now in a post-Web era where some are still doing Web work, just as some are still doing pre-Web sorts of work.

In my view, the pre-Web works are ones in HyperCard and the original Mac and Windows Storyspace, of course. (It may limit your audience, but you can still make work in these formats, if you like!) Some early pieces of mine, such as The Help File (written in the standard Windows help system) and my parser-based interactive fiction, written in Inform 6, are also pre-Web. You can distribute parser-based IF on the Web, and you can play it in the browser, but it was being distributed on an FTP site, the IF Archive, before the Web became the prevalent means of distribution. (The IF Archive now has a fancy new Web interface.) Before the IF Archive, interactive fiction was sold on floppy disk. I consider that the significant number of people making parser-based interactive fiction today are still doing pre-Web electronic literature work that happens to be available on the Web or sometimes in app form.

Also worth noting is that Rob Wittig’s Blue Company and Scott Rettberg’s Kind of Blue are best considered pre-Web works by my reckoning, as email, the form used for them, was in wide use before the Web came along. (HTML is used in these email projects for formatting and to incorporate illustrations, so the Web does have some involvement, but the projects are still mainly email projects.) The Unknown, on the other hand, is definitely an electronic literature work of the Web.

Twitterbots, as long as they last, are great examples of post-Web electronic literature, of course.

With this for preface, I have to say that I don’t completely agree with Flores’s characterization of the books in the Using Electricity series. It could be because my pre-Web/Web/post-Web concept doesn’t map onto his 1st/2nd/3rd generation idea exactly. It could also be that it doesn’t exactly make sense to name printed books, or for that matter installations in gallery spaces, as pre-Web/Web/post-Web. This type of division makes the most sense for work one accesses on one’s own computer, whether it got there via a network, a floppy disk, a CD-ROM, or some other way. But if we wanted to see where the affinities lie, I would have to indicate mostly pre-Web and Web connections; I think there is only one post-Web Using Electricity book that has been released or is coming out soon:

  1. The Truelist (Nick Montfort) is more of a pre-Web project, kin to early combinatorial poetry but taken to a book-length, exhaustive extreme.

  2. Mexica (Rafael Pérez y Pérez) is more of a pre-Web project based on a “Good Old-Fashioned AI” (GOFAI) system.

  3. Articulations (Allison Parrish) is based on a large store of textual data, Project Gutenberg, shaped into verse with two different sorts of vector-space analyses, phonetic and syntactical. While Project Gutenberg predates the Web by almost two decades, it became the large-scale resource that it is today in the Web era. So, this would be a pre-Web or Web project.

  4. Encomials (Ranjit Bhatnagar), coming in September, relies on Twitter data, and indeed the firehose of it, so is a post-Web/3rd generation project.

  5. Machine Unlearning (Li Zilles), coming in September, is directly based on machine learning on data from the open Web. This is a Web-generation project which wouldn’t have come to fruition in the walled gardens of the post-Web.

  6. A Noise Such as a Man Might Make (Milton Läufer), coming in September, uses a classic algorithm from early in the 20th Century — one you could read about in Scientific American in the 1980s, and see working on USENET — to conflate two novels. It seems like a pretty clear pre-Web project to me.

  7. Ringing the Changes (Stephanie Strickland), coming in 2019, uses the combinatorics of change ringing and a reasonably small body of documents, although larger than Läufer’s two books. So, again, it would be pre-Web.

Having described the “generational” tendencies of these computer-generated books, I’ll close by mentioning one of the implications of the three-part generational model, as I see it, for what we used to call “hypertext.” The pre-Web allowed for hypertexts that resided on one computer, while the Web made it much more easily possible to update a piece of hypertext writing, collaborate with others remotely, release it over time, and link out to external sites.

Now, what has happened to Hypertext in the post-Web world? Just to stick to Twitter, for a moment: You can still put links into tweets, but corporate enclosure of communications means that the wild wild wild linking of the Web tends to be more constrained. Links in tweets look like often-cryptic partial URLs instead of looking like text, as they do in pre-Web and Web hypertexts. You essentially get to make a Web citation or reference, not build a hypertext, by tweeting. And hypertext links have gotten more abstruse in this third, post-Web generation! When you’re on Twitter, you’re supposed to be consuming that linear feed — automatically produced for you in the same way that birds feed their young — not clicking away of your own volition to see what the Web has to offer and exploring a network of media.

The creative bots of Twitter (while they last) do subvert the standard orientation of the platform in interesting ways. But even good old fashioned hypertext is reigned in by post-Web systems. If there’s no bright post-post-Web available, I’m willing to keep making a blog post now and then, and am glad to keep making Web projects — some of which people can use as sort of free/libre/open-source 3rd-generation platforms, if they like.

VIdeo of My PRB Reading

Thanks to host Joseph Mosconi, I read at the Poetics Research Bureau in Los Angeles from two recent computer-generated books. Sophia Le Fraga and Aaron Winslow read with me on this evening, on July 21.

I have now posted 360 video of my readings of both The Truelist and Hard West Turn.

Montfort’s Poetic Research Bureau reading of July 21, 2018

I read from The Truelist (Counterpath, 2017). The Truelist is available as an offset-printed book from Counterpath, as a short, deterministic, free software program that generates the full text of the book, and as a free audiobook, thanks to the generosity of the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, its Wexler Studio, and PennSound.

After this, I read from Hard West Turn (Bad Quarto, 2018), a computer-generated novel about gun violence in the United States, the first of a series. Each novel, copy-edited by the author/programmer, will be re-generated annually for release on July 4. Hard West Turn (2018) is available in print in a very limited edition, only 13 copies for sale + 3 artist’s proofs. The short free software program that generated the text is available as well. The first draft of this project was done as a NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month) program in November 2017.

Platform Studies at 10

The Platform Studies series from MIT Press is now about ten years old. The first book in the series, my & Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, was published in 2009. (We also edit this series.) Before our book on the Atari VCS/Atari 2600 came out, we launched the site and announced the series, back at the end of 2006, and Ian and I were presenting about it at conferences the next year. So, although the exact birthday is uncertain, let’s say a (probably belated) happy 10th.

Pong's circuit board on the left, BASIC code from Hunt the Wumpus on the right
Pong compared to Hunt the Wumpus: The platforms, not just game structures and interfaces, fundamentally differ.

Nine books have been published in the series:

It’s worth noting again that platform studies isn’t a subset of game studies. You can see this from the above list, which includes books about two home computers (the Amiga and BBC Micro), a software platform used for different purposes (Flash), a national telecommunications system (Mintiel), and a peripheral used to connect computing to motion picture film (the Stromberg-Carlson 4020). On the other hand, its intersection with game studies is quite significant; four books are about gaming platforms while games play an important role in most of the other five studies.

As Ian & I have written, we have put forth platform studies, as a concept and (in capital letters) as a book series, simply as a way to focus an investigation of computational media.

It isn’t a methodology or even a method. It doesn’t require or preclude any particular sort of scholarship or analysis. We do think that since computational platforms are the focus in platform studies, some serious engagement with their computational aspects is needed, but this engagement can come from many different directions, from people with training in many disciplines and interdisciplines.

The point of the series and concept is to invite a focus on platform, just as we already have studies that focus on particular national contexts, particular historical periods, particular game/creative genres, particular games and creative works, and work done by particular organizations, collectives, and individuals. We describe this in, for instance:

That said, we have put forth a five-layered model to explain what a computational platform is and how it interacts with other layers of digital media. (This was introduced in Montfort, Nick, “Combat in Context,” Game Studies vol. 6, no. 1, December 2006.) We do believe computational platforms can be defined and that they have significance. So platform studies is meant to be an inviting space, but it is not one that is completely unfurnished.

Several people have done critical writing about the platform studies concept in the academic literature:

Others have taken a platform focus in their studies outside of the series, often in articles. These are a few that have come to my attention:

Ian & I continue to welcome inquiries from potential Platform Studies authors. We are available, as we have been, to help prospective authors develop book proposals for the MIT Press.

While we welcome books on all sorts of platforms, we want to particularly encourage writers to think about some of the platforms of major historical importance that are not yet covered in the series:

  • The Apple II series, successful home computers for which many games and business applications first were developed; also the basis for the success of Apple Computer.

  • The Commodore 64, the best-selling single model of computer ever made; highly influential in early online systems, gaming, the demoscene, and music.

  • The IBM PC, whose open architecture led “PC compatible” machines to dominate in home and business computing by the end of the 1980s.

  • The Macintosh series, influential in bringing the GUI into popular use; used in education and desktop publishing; the basis for the continued success of Apple Computer/Apple Inc.

  • Microsoft Windows, the operating system/desktop platform that has dominated in business but also many creative contexts and propelled the success of Microsoft.

  • HyperCard, the first widely-used hypermedia system before to the Web, included for free with Macs when it was released in 1987.

Again, books focused on any platform — or on a series of computers or a closely-related family of platforms — are welcome in Platform Studies. If a case can be made for studying a platform, it doesn’t need to be a popular favorite throughout the world. And, even if a platform is very prominent, a proposal still needs to explain why a study of it will be valuable. I just don’t want authors to shy away from these six!

Updated July 26 to add an entry for Samuel Tobin’s book on the Nintendo DS.

“Bullet” and Poem without Suffering

A bullet
Discussed in this review: “Bullet,” David Byrne, American Utopia, Nonesuch, 2018; Poem without Suffering, Josef Kaplan, Wonder Books, 2015

David Byrne’s earworm takes a distant yet close perspective, describing a bullet’s fatal encounter with a human body. Did he know about Kaplan’s similar short, rapid, book-length poem? Byrne’s song sets its sights on an adult man, Kaplan’s poem on a child. The life of the child is hinted by describing what a warm maternal relationship is like, and by mentioning injuries from falling off a bunk bed and being hit by a baseball. We hear about the man’s life because of what the bullet cuts through: “Skin that women had touched,” “Many fine meals he tasted there,” “his heart with thoughts of you.” The general description is very effective. There are striking metaphors — positive associations — for the bullet itself, also. In Poem, it is a triumphant runner (such as Usain Bolt, who bears the name of a crossbow’s projectile) dragging gore from the body as if it were a trophy or banner. In “Bullet,” it is “Like an old grey dog / On a fox’s trail.” Perhaps America’s reliable old dog cannot be taught new tricks.

American Utopia · Poem without Suffering

Using Electricity readings, with video of one

I’m writing now from the middle of a four-city book tour which I’m on with Rafael Pérez y Pérez and Allison Parrish – we are the first three author/programmers to develop books (The Truelist, Mexica, and Articulations) in this Counterpath series, Using Electricity.

I’m taking the time now to post a link to video of a short reading that Allison and I did at the MLA Convention, from exactly a month ago. If you can’t join us at an upcoming reading (MIT Press Bookstore, 2018-02-06 6pm or Babycastles in NYC, 2018-02-07 7pm) and have 10 minutes, the video provides an introduction to two of the three projects.

Rafael wasn’t able to join us then; we are very glad he’s here from Mexico City with us this week, and has read with us in Philadelphia and Providence so far!

Author Function

The exhibit Author Function, featuring computer-generated literary art in print, is now up in MIT’s Rotch Library (77 Mass Ave, Building 7, 2nd Floor) and in my lab/studio, The Trope Tank (Room 14N-233, in building 14, the same building that houses the Hayden Library). Please contact me by email if you are interested in seeing the materials in the Trope Tank, as this part of the exhibit is accessible by appointment only.

There are three events associated with the exhibit happening in Cambridge, Mass:

February 7, 6pm-7pm, a reading and signing at the MIT Press bookstore. Nick Montfort, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, and Allison Parrish.

March 5, 4:30pm-6pm, a reception at the main part of the exhibit in the Rotch Library.

March 5, 7pm-8pm, a reading and signing at the Harvard Book Store. John Cayley, Liza Daly, Nick Montfort, and Allison Parrish.

In addition to a shelf of computer-generated books that is available for perusal, by appointment, in the Trope Tank, the following items of printed matter are displayed in the exhibit:

  • 2×6, Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos León, Aleksandra Małecka, and Piotr Marecki
  • A Slow Year: Game Poems, Ian Bogost
  • Action Score Generator, Nathan Walker
  • American Psycho, Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff
  • Anarchy, John Cage
  • Articulations, Allison Parrish
  • Autopia, Nick Montfort
  • Brute Force Manifesto: The Catalog of All Truth, Version 1.1, Series AAA-1, Vol 01, Brian James
  • Clear Skies All Week, Alison Knowles
  • Firmy, Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak
  • for the sleepers in that quiet earth., Sofian Audry
  • From the Library of Babel: Axaxaxas Mlo – The Combed Thunderclap LXUM,LKWC – MCV – The Plaster Cramp, Christian Bök
  • Generation[s], J.R. Carpenter
  • Google Volume 1, King Zog
  • How It Is In Common Tongues, Daniel C. Howe and John Cayley
  • Incandescent Beautifuls, Erica T. Carter [Jim Carpenter]
  • Irritant, Darby Larson
  • Love Letters, Letterpress Broadside, Output by a reimplementation of a program by Christopher Strachey
  • Mexica: 20 Years – 20 Stories / 20 años – 20 historias, Rafael Pérez y Pérez
  • My Buttons Are Blue: And Other Love Poems From the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer, A Color Computer
  • My Molly [Departed], Talan Memmott
  • no people, Katie Rose Pipkin
  • Phaedrus Pron, Paul Chan
  • Puniverse, Volumes 32 and 38 of 57, Stephen Reid McLaughlin
  • Re-Writing Freud, Simon Morris
  • Seraphs, Liza Daly
  • The Appearances of the Letters of the Hollywood Sign in Increasing Amounts of Smog and at a Distance, Poster, David Gissen
  • The Poiceman’s Beard is Half Constructed: Computer prose and poetry by Racter
  • The Truelist, Nick Montfort
  • Tristano, Nanni Balestrini
  • Written Images, Eds. Matrin Fuchs and Peter Bichsel

Here are some photos documenting the exhibit:

Author Function Rotch main display case

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

The Gathering Cloud

The Gathering Cloud, J. R. Carpenter, 2017
The Gathering Cloud, J. R. Carpenter, 2017. (I was given a review copy of this book.)

J.R. Carpenter’s book is an accomplishment, not just in terms of the core project, but also by virtue of how the codex is put together. The introduction is by Jussi Parikka, the after-poem by Lisa Robertson. While social media and ethereal imaginations of the network keep us from being lonely as a cloud these days, they obscure the material nature of computing, the cost of linking us in terms of wire and heat. Carpenter’s computer-generated Generation[s] was concerned with the computational production of text; The Gathering Cloud also engages with the generation of power. This book and the corresponding digital performance, for instance at the recent ELO Festival in Porto, yields up the rich results of research, cast in accomplished verse. As with Carpenter’s other work that is rooted in zines and the handmade Web, it is personal rather than didactic. Deftly, despite the gravity of the topic, the book still affects the reader with a gesture, not a deluge of facts — more by waving than drowning.

My @party Talk on Computer-Generated Books

I just gave a talk at the local demoparty, @party. While I haven’t written out notes and it wasn’t recorded, here are the slides. The talk was “Book Productions: The Latest in Computer-Generated Literary Art,” and included some discussion of how computer-generated literary books related to demoscene productions.

Sliders

Sliders front cover, with battlements

My minimal book Sliders has been published by my press, Bad Quarto. The book contains 32 poems, some of which are only one word long. In a break from tradition, they are not computer-generated.

Currently Sliders is only available for sale at the MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Mass.

Sliders back cover, with blurbs

Multisequential Books in the Trope Tank

Updated 2018-10-10

Love is not Constantly Wondering if you are Making the Biggest Mistake of your Life. Portland, OR: Perfect Day Pub, 2011.

Roflcon III. Cambridge, MA: Self Published, 2012.

Auster, Paul. 4 3 2 1. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2017.

Bottke, Allison, Heather Gemmen Wilson, Gary Locke. Friend or Freak. Colorado Springs, CO: Faith Kidz, 2004.

Ball, Jonathan. Ex Machina. Toronto: BookThug, 2009. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Becket, Jim. Inca Gold. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #20. Chooseco, 2006.

Berry, Jedediah, Eben Kling. The Family Arcana. Ninepin Press, 2015.

Bourbaki, Nicholas. If. Livingston, AL : Livingston Press, the University of West Alabama, 2014.

Burk, Jeff. Super Giant Monster Time! Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2010. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Carr, Mike. Robbers and Robots. New York: Random House, 1983.

Castillo, Ana. The Mixquiahuala Letters. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1992. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Clarke, Miranda. Night of a Thousand Boyfriends. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Coover, Robert. Heart Suit. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2005.

Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. London: Doubleday, 2000.

Danielewski, Mark Z. Only Revolutions. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

DeVault, Christine, Ian Akin. Too Soon for Sex? Santa Cruz, CA: Network Publications, 1989.

Dever, Joe, Gary Chalk. Flight from the Dark. New York: Berkley Books, 1985.

Donihe, Kevin L., Carlton Mellick III. Ocean of Lard. Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2005. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dubuc, Joey. Neither Either Nor Or. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2003. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dworkin, Craig Douglas, David Wolske, Emily Tipps, Claire Taylor, Chris Dunsmore, Robert Buchert, Laurence Sterne. Chap. XXIV. Salt Lake City, UT: Red Butte Press, 2013

Emerson, Hunt, Pat Mills. You are Maggie Thatcher: a Dole-Playing Game. London: Titan Books, 1987. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

English, James H. Escape From Fire Island! Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003.

EnJoe, Toh, Terry Gallagher. Self-Reference Engine. San Francisco : Haikasoru, 2013.

Erdich, Lauren, Sierra Nelson. I Take Back the Sponge Cake. Brookline, MA: Rose Metal Press, 2012.

Estes, Rose. Dragon of Doom. New York: Random House, 1983.

Estes, Rose. Dungeon of Dread. New York: Random House, 1982.

Estes, Rose. Hero of Washington Square. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1983.

Giffin, Lawrence. Non Facit Saltus. Troll Thread, 2014. (Available free online)

Giffin, Lawrence. Quod Vide. Troll Thread, 2014. (Available free online)

Gilligan, Shannon. Cup of Death. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #13. Chooseco, 2005.

Gilligan, Shannon. Struggle Down Under. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #21. Chooseco, 2005.

Gilligan, Shannon. The Case of the Silk King. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #14. Chooseco, 2005.

Glickman, Bob. Work Sucks! A Hilarious Guide to Choosing or Changing Your Career. Los Angeles: CCC Publications, 1992.

Harris, Neil Patrick. Choose Your Own Autobiography. New York: Crown Archetype, 2014. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Hefter, Richard, Martin Moskof. The new original shufflebook. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978.

Hemmingson, Michael. The Classics Professor. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Johnson, B.S. The Unfortunates. New York: New Directions Pub., 2007. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Knechtel, John. Suspect. London: MIT Press, 2006.

Kurtz, Joe. Die: roll to Proceed. New York: Mind the Art Entertainment, 2012.

Leibold, Jay. Secret of the Ninja. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #16. Chooseco, 2005.

Levy, Robert Joseph. The Suicide King. New York: SSE/Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. The Holidays. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. The Office Adventure. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

Maden, Svend Åge, W Glyn Jones. Days with Diam. Norwich, England: Norvik Press, 1994. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Matthews, T.J. The Hunting Safari. Orlando: Wycliffe, 2003.

McElhatton, Heather. Pretty Little Mistakes. London: Headline Review, 2008. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Mohanraj, Mary Anne. Kathryn in the City. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Montgomery, Anson. Moon Quest. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #26. Chooseco, 2008.

Montgomery, R.A. Beyond Escape. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #15. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Blood on the Handle. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #33. Chooseco, 2010.

Montgomery, R.A. Chinese Dragons. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #30. Chooseco, 2009.

Montgomery, R.A. Danger Zones. New York: Bantam, 1987.

Montgomery, R.A. Escape. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #8. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Forecast from Stonehenge. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #19. Chooseco, 2006.

Montgomery, R.A. House of Danger. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #6. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Island of Time. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #28. Chooseco, 2008.

Montgomery, R.A. Journey Under the Sea. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #2. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Lost on the Amazon. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #9. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Mystery of the Maya. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #5. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Prisoner of the Ant People. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #10. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Project UFO. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #27. Chooseco, 2008.

Montgomery, R.A. Race Forever. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #7. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Return to Atlantis. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #18. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Silver Wings. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #23. Chooseco, 2006.

Montgomery, R.A. Smoke Jumpers. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #29. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Space and Beyond. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #3. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Tattoo of Death. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #22. Chooseco, 2006.

Montgomery, R.A. The Abominable Snowman. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #1. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. The Brilliant Dr. Wogan. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #17. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. The Lost Jewels of Nabooti. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #4. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Track Star!. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #31. Chooseco, 2009.

Montgomery, R.A. Trouble on Planet Earth. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #11. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. War with the Evil Power Master. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #12. Chooseco, 2005.

Montgomery, R.A. Your Very Own Robot. Waitsfield, VT: Chooseco, 2007.

Montgomery, Ramsey. U.N. Adventure: Mission to Molowa. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #32. Chooseco, 2009.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1962. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Newman, Kim. Life’s Lottery. London: Simon & Schuster, 1999. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

North, Ryan, William Shakespeare. Poor Yorick. Breadpig, 2013.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. Romeo and/or Juliet. Riverhead Books, 2014.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. To be or not to be. Breadpig, 2013.

Olsen, Lance. Theories of Forgetting. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: FC2, The University of Alabama Press, 2014 (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

O’Toole, Cate. Oh My Darling. New York: Black Lawrence Press, 2015

Packard, Edward. Deadwood City. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Inside UFO 54-40. New York: Bantam, 1982. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Journey to the Year 3000. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Packard, Edward. La Supercomputadora. Buenos Aires: Editorial Atlántida, 1986.

Packard, Edward. Sunken Treasure. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

Packard, Edward. Supercomputer. New York: Bantam, 1984. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. The Cave of Time. New York: Bantam Books, 1979. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? New York: Bantam Books, 1981. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Paviç, Milorad, Christina Pribicevic-Zoric. Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Powers, Bob. You are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero!. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Queneau, Raymond. Exercises in Style. New York: New Directions, 1981. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Roseman, Kenneth. Escape from the Holocaust. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1985.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… All Your Dreams Came True. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… All Your Friends Turned on You. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Everyone Knew Your Name. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2006.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Everyone Was Doing It. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… You Broke All the Rules. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2007.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. What if… Your Past Came Back to Haunt You. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ryman, Geoff. 253: The Print Remix. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Saporta, Marc, Richard Howard. Composition No. 1. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

Sewell, Justin. Who Killed John F. Kennedy?. Despair, Inc., 2013.

Shiga, Jason. Knock Knock. 2006.

Shiga, Jason. Meanwhile. New York, New York: Amulet Books, 2010. (Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Shiga, Jason. The Last Supper. 1997.

Snyder, Laurel. Daphne and Jim. Portland, OR.: Burnside Review Press, 2005.

Stamper, Judith Bauer. Bionic Commando. Scholastic Inc., 1991

Stewart, Michael. A Brief Encyclopedia of Modern Magic. The Cupboard Pamphlet, 2015.

Tija, Sherwin. You are a Cat! Pick-a-Plot! Book #1. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2011.

Tija, Sherwin. You are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse! Pick-a-Plot! Book #2. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2013.

Tija, Sherwin. You are a Kitten! Pick-a-Plot! Book #3. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2015.

Wall, Noah. Grotesque Tables II. 2016.

Wallace, Jim. Search for the Mountain Gorillas. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #25. Chooseco, 2008.

Wallace, Jim. Terror on the Titanic. Choose Your Own Adventure, Book #24. Chooseco, 2006.

Webster, Emma Campbell. Lost in Austen. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Weinersmith, Zach. Trial of the Clone. Breadpig Inc., 2012.

Wilgus, Alison. A Stray in the Woods. New York: Alison Wiglus, 2013.

Zimmerman, Eric, Nancy Nowaceks. Life in the Garden: A Deck of Stories. New York, New York: Razorfish Studios, 1999.

Youngmark, Matt. Zombocalypse Now. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2009.

Youngmark, Matt. Thrusts of Justice. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2012.

Digital Lengua, the launch of 2×6 and Autopia, Nov 20 in NYC

Clouds of Digital Lengua palabras

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan –
5:30pm Sunday November 20

This reading of computer-generated literature in English and Spanish
serves as the global book launch for two titles:

2×6
Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series
http://lesfigues.com/book/2×6/
256 pp.

Autopia
Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
http://trollthread.tumblr.com/post/152339108524/nick-montfort-autopia-troll-thread-2016-purchase
256 pp.

Montfort will read from these two books, reading English and Spanish
texts from 2×6. Paperback copies will be available for purchase. The
short programs that generated these books are printed in the books and also
available as free software online.

Läufer will read from his projects Bigrammatology and WriterTools™, in
both cases, in Spanish and English.

Montfort and Läufer will read from work done as part of the Renderings
project and as part of another project, Heftings.

The Renderings project, organized by Montfort and based at his
lab, The Trope Tank, involves locating computational literature (such as
poetry generating computer programs) from around the globe and translating
these works into English. Läufer and Montfort will read from two
Spanish-language poetry generators, from Argentina and Spain, and from
translations of them.

The Heftings project, also organized by Montfort through The
Trope Tank, involves making attempts, often many, at translating conceptual,
constrained, concrete & visual, and other types of literary art that are
generally considered to be impossible to translate. Montfort and Läufer will
read from some short works that are originally in Spanish or English and
works that have Spanish or English translations.

Nick Montfort develops computational art and poetry, often
collaboratively. His poetry books are #!, Riddle & Bind, and
Autopia;
he co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story and 2×6. His
more than fifty digital projects, at http://nickm.com, include the
collaborations The Deletionist, Sea and Spar Between, and the
Renderings
project. His collaborative and individual books from the MIT
Press are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10,
and most recently Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities.
He lives in New York and
Boston, offers naming services as Nomnym, and is a professor at MIT.

Milton Läufer is an Argentinian writer, journalist and teacher.
Currently he is doing a PhD at New York University focused on digital
literature in Latin America. He is the 2016-2017 writer-in-residence of
The Trope Tank
, MIT. In 2015 he published Lagunas, a partially
algorithmic-generated novel, which —as most of his work— is available online
at http://www.miltonlaufer.com.ar. He has participated in art exhibitions in
Latin America, the US and Europe. He lives in Brooklyn.

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan – 5:30pm Domingo, Noviembre 20

Esta lectura de literatura generada por computadora en español e inglés
oficiará, a la vez, de lanzamiento para los siguientes dos títulos:

2×6
Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series
http://lesfigues.com/book/2×6/
256 págs.

Autopia
Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
http://trollthread.tumblr.com/post/152339108524/nick-montfort-autopia-troll-thread-2016-purchase
256 págs.

Montfort leerá de ambos libros, en español e inglés para el caso de
2×6
. Habrá copias impresas disponibles para su compra. Los breves
programas que generan el código se encuentran en dichos libros y también en
línea como software libre (y gratuito).

Läufer leerá de sus proyectos Bigrammatology y WriterTools™, en español e inglés en ambos casos.

Los autores leerán también de los trabajos realizados en el marco de los
proyecto Renderings y Heftings.

El proyecto Renderings, organizado por Montfort con base en su
laboratorio, The Trope Tank, involucra la búsqueda de literatura
computacional (tal como poesía generada por programas de computadora) a lo
largo del globo y la traducción de estos proyectos al inglés. Läufer y
Montfort leerán de dos generadores de poesía en español, uno de Argentina y
otro de España, así como sus traducciones.

El proyecto Heftings, también organizado por Montfort a través de
The Trope Tank, consiste en la producción de intentos, a menudo
muchos, de traducir obras literarias conceptuales, formalistas, concretas o
visuales tales que son generalmente consideradas imposibles de traducir.
Montfort y Läufer leerán algunos trabajos breves originalmente en español o
inglés y trabajos que poseen traducciones españolas o inglesas.

Nick Montfort desarrolla arte y poesía computacional,
frecuentemente en colaboración. Entre sus libros se destacan #!,
Riddle & Bind
y Autopia; y, en colaboración, 2002: A
Palindrome Story
y 2×6. Entre sus más de cincuenta proyectos
digitales, en http://nickm.com, se encuentran las colaboraciones The
Deletionist
, Sea and Spar Between y Renderings, un
proyecto centrado en la traducción. Sus libros de MIT Press son The New
Media Reader
, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
y, recientemente, Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities
. Vive en New York y Boston,
ofrece servicios de nombres como Nomnym, y es un profesor en MIT.

Milton Läufer es un escritor, periodista y docente argentino.
Actualmente se encuentra realizando un PhD en la New York University acerca
de literatura digital in América Latina. Es el escritor en residencia de
The Trope Tank
para el período 2016-2017, en MIT. En 2015 publicó la
novela generada parcialmente por algoritmos Lagunas, la cual —como el
resto de su obra el literatura digital— es accesible desde su sitio,
http://www.miltonlaufer.com.ar. Ha participado de exposiciones en América
Latina, Estados Unidos y Europa. Vive en Brooklyn.

 

Computer-Generated Books

Here’s a first effort (drafted, initially, at 2am on July 22) at a bibliography of computer-generated books.

These are books in the standard material sense, somehow printed, whether via print-on-demand or in a print run. I may include chapbooks eventually, as they certainly interest me, but so far I have been focusing on books, however bound, with spines. (Updated June 23, 2017: I added the first chapbooks today.) Books in any language are welcome.

So far I have not included books where the text has been obviously sorted computer (e.g. Auerbach, Reimer) or where a text has been produced repeatedly, obviously by computer (e.g. Chernofsky). Also omitted are computer-generated utilitarian tables, e.g. of logarithms or for artillery firing. Books composed using a formal process, but without using a computer, are not included.

I have included some strange outliers such as books written with computational assistance (programs were used to generate text and the text was human-assembled/edited/written) and one book that is apparently human written but is supposed to read like a computer-generated book.

I’d love to know about more of these. I’m not as interested in the thousands of computer-generated spam books available for purchase, and have not listed any of these, but let me know if there are specific ones that you believe are worthwhile. I would particularly like to know if some of the great NaNoGenMo books I’ve read are available in print.

Updated in 2016 11:43am July 22: Since the original post I have added Whalen, Tranter, Balestrini, and five books by Bök. 5:35pm: I’ve added Thompson and Woetmann. 8:37am July 23: Added Bogost. 8:37pm July 24: Added Bailey, Baudot, Cabell & Huff, Cage x 2, Huff, Hirmes. October 12-14: Added Archangel, Seward, Dörfelt. Updated in 2017 June 12: Added Morris, Pipkin. June 23: Added Clark, Knowles 2011, The Maggot, and four chapbooks: Knowles & Tenney, Parrish, Pipkin (picking figs…), Temkin. September 5: Added Mize. Updated in 2018 September 18: Added the first six Using Electricity books, Montfort, Perez y Perez, Parrish, Zilles, Bhatnagar, Läufer; also, Montfort 2018, King Zog, Goodwin. November 6: Added the four Balousek chapbooks, two Stewart chapbooks, Friedhoff, Funkhouser, Tiar.

Archangel, Cory. Working on my Novel. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Audry, Sofian. for the sleepers in that quiet earth. Boston and New York: Bad Quarto, 2018.

Bailey, Richard W. Computer Poems. Drummond Island, MI: Potagannissing Press, 1973.

Balestrini, Nanni. Tristano. Translated by Mike Harakis. London and New York: Verso, 2014.

Balousek, Matthew R. F. and Emma Stewart. Exchange of Letters. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, third installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R. F. Gold Chocobo. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, fourth installment. Mount Vernon, 2018.

Balousek, Matthew R. F. Or, the Whale. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, second installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R. F. Post Meridiem. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, first installment. Santa Cruz, 2016.

Baudot, Jean. La Machine a écrire mise en marche et programmée par Jean A. Baudot. Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bhatnagar, Ranjit. Encomials: Sonnets from Pentametron. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Bogost, Ian. A Slow Year: Game Poems. Highlands Ranch, CO: Open Texture, [2010].

Bök, Christian. LXUM,LKWC (Oh Time Thy Pyramids). San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. MCV. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. Axaxaxas Mlo. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Plaster Cramp. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Combed Thunderclap. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Cabell, Mimi, and Jason Huff. American Psycho. Vienna: Traumavien, 2012.

Cage, John. Anarchy (New York City, January 1988). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Cage, John. I-IV. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Carpenter, J. R. GENERATION[S] Vienna: Traumawien, 2010.

Cayley, John and Daniel C. Howe, How it Is in Common Tongues. Providence: NLLF, 2012.

Cayley, John. Image Generation. London: Veer Books, 2015.

Chamberlin, Darick. Cigarette Boy: A Mock Machine Mock-Epic. [Seattle]: Rogue Drogue: 1991.

Chan, Paul. Phaedrus Pron. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited, 2010.

Clark, Ron. My Buttons Are Blue and Other Love Poems from the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer. Woodsboro, Maryland: Arcsoft Pub, 1982.

Daly, Liza. Seraphs: A Procedurally Generated Mysterious Codex. [San Francisco]: Blurb, 2014.

Friedhoff, Jane. it is a different/friction. 2015.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. Written Images. 2011.

Funkhouser, Christopher. Electro þerdix. Propolis Press. Least Weasel Chapbook Series. 2011.

Goodwin, Ross. 1 the Road. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2018.

Hartman, Charles and Hugh Kenner. Sentences. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995.

Heldén, Johannes and Håkan Jonson. Evolution. Stockholm, OEI Editör, 2014.

Hirmes, David. Directions From Unknown Road to Unknown Road. [Handmade edition of 10.] The Elements Press: 2010.

Huff, Jason. Autosummarize. [McNally Jackson]: 2010.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler-Henry. Apostrophe. Toronto, ECW Press, 2006.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler. Update. Montréal: Snare, [2010.]

King Zog. Google, Volume 1. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2013.

Knowles, Alison, James Tenney, and Siemens System 4004. A House of Dust. Köln & New York: Verlag Gebr. König, 1969.

Knowles, Alison. Clear Skies All Week. Onestar Press, 2011.

Larson, Darby. Irritant. New York and Atlanta: Blue Square Press, 2013.

Läufer, Milton. A Noise Such as a Man Might Make. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Maggot, The. Heroic Real Estate Otter of the 21st Century. lulu.com, 2013.

Mize, Rando. Machine Ramblings. n.p., 2016.

Montfort, Nick. World Clock. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. Zegar ?wiatowy. Translated by Piotr Marecki. Krakow: ha!art, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. #! Denver: Counterpath, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. Megawatt. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2014.

Montfort, Nick, Serge Bouchardon, Carlos León, Natalia Fedorova, Andrew Campana, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki. 2×6. Global Poetics series. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Montfort, Nick. The Truelist. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Montfort, Nick. Hard West Turn. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2018.

Morris, Simon. Re-writing Freud. York, England: Information as Material, 2005.

Parrish, Allison. The Ephemerides. Access Token Secret Press, 2015.

Parrish, Allison. Articulations. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Pérez y Pérez, Rafael. Mexica: 20 Years–20 Stories [20 años–20 historias]. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2017.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself. Austin: Raw Paw Press, 2015.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. no people. Katie Rose Pipkin, 2015.

Racter, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Rosén, Carl-Johan. I Speak Myself Into an Object. Stockholm: Rensvist Förlag, 2013.

Dörfelt, Matthias. I Follow. Series of unique flip-books with computer-generated aspects of animation. Made by the artist. 2013-present.

Seward, Rob. Death Death Death. VHS Design LLC, 2010.

Stewart, Emma. My Lovers Learn About the Economy of Debt. n.p., n.d.

Stewart, Emma. Slapping Bandaids on Earthquakes: Thoughts about life under surveillance. n.p., n.d.

Temkin, Daniel. Non-Words. Edition of 100, each with unique words generated by same algorithm used in @nondenotative. n.d.

Thompson, Jeff. Grid Remix: The Fellowship of the Ring. San Francisco: Blurb, 2013.

[Tiar, Louis-Charles]. Let us Now Praise 5,202 Persons. n.p., n.d.

Tranter, John. Different Hands. North Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998.

Walker, Nathan. Action Score Generator. Manchester: if p then q, 2015.

Whalen, Zach. An Anthrogram. Fredericksburg, Virginia: 2015.

Woetmann, Peter-Clement. 105 Variationer. Cophenhagen: Arena, 2015.

Zilles, Li. Machine, Unlearning. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Great Workshop for New Programmers at Babycastles

I had a launch event Saturday afternoon for my new book, Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. Not a typical reading or book party, but a workshop for people completely new to programming but interested in pursuing it. It was at the excellent gallery and venue, Babycastles, on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

I don’t actually have the list of attendees – I’d like to sent everyone a note, but it will have to wait! – but two people I knew beforehand participated and ten others joined in, with some people from Babycastles also participating and helping out. (Special thanks to Lauren Gardner for hosting!) I was very glad that the group was diverse in terms of gender, race, background, interests … also, pleased that this time around we had more people who were genuinely new to programming. I’ve done similar workshops before, prior to the publication of Exploratory Programming, and often there are folks who have had some programming classes and done some programming projects before. I’m glad to help such people as they re-start work with code, but I tried to make sure this time that there was no crypto-prerequisite suggested; the session really was for those wanting to program but lacking background.

Of course we dealt with programming as culturally situated and meaningful within art, poetry, writing, and inquiry. We used the historical Memory Slam examples that I prepared a few years ago for another event in Lower Manhattan.

Because the book is out and registration for the workshop included a copy of it, I didn’t feel the need to go through particular code examples that are in there. I was able to frame the whole idea of programming and focus on a few early specifics in both JavaScript and Python – showing that code is just editing a text file; that there’s a difference between code and data (and parameters, too); and that error messages can be helpful rather than frustrating. We did work with specific code, but didn’t cover specific code discussions in the book or the exercises in there. The book is for use in a classroom, but also for individual learners, to allow people to continue their work as programmers formally and informally.

Many people introducing a new book will have book parties, with or without readings, that draw a much larger crowd that this event did. But, as Brian Eno said about the Velvet Underground’s first album, not many people bought it but all the people who did started a band. I hope everyone who participated in this modest event at Babycastles goes on to start a band, by developing a programming practice engaged with the arts and humanities.

Update: I should have mentioned – we’ll have a similar workshop on May 15 at the School for Poetic Computation!

Explorers of Bottomless Pit Return with Treasure

They found the key.
They found the key.

Far from plunging us into darkness, Reading Project: A Collaborative Analysis of William Poundstone’s Project for Tachistoscope {Bottomless Pit} provides brilliant and multifaceted reflections on a rapid, serial electronic literature work. (You can read Bottomless Pit for free online, by the way, in ELCv1 and on Poundstone’s site.)

The party that sets out on the adventure of this reading is Paladin Jessica Pressman, who seeks truly through media archeology and quests into thorny literary theories; Thief Mark C. Marino, who slyly reverse-engineers the program and acquires the source code, stealing sequences of words and images along with how they are produced; and Illusionist Jeremy Douglass, who summons visualizations of the piece that dazzle but also unfold new understandings. They ascend from the endless passage of Project, and from the dungeon of collaboration, with numerous new insights, showing how different reading strategies – ranging from rather conventional to quite novel – can inform one another. There’s so much background offered (etymological, historical, bibliographical) that one imagines it being drawn out of a bag of holding. The view of the project that emerges seems beyond what a Beholder would be able to comprehend.

These three cover the fundamental workings of Project well, showing the role of randomness (a saving throw of sequential words does not abolish chance) and how individual pixels shine during a loop of the main story text. What this text means and alludes to, and the presence of a second sequence of less coherent words, is also discussed, and connections are made between such meanings and references and the piece’s material and technical aspects. From the media technology of various historical tachistoscopes to the nature of the pit in Freudian psychoanalysis, there is a great deal about Project that is – let’s not say excavated, but illuminated – in this book.

In its engagement with computation, the relationship of recent computational work to historical and literary concepts, and in the way it helps to develop productive collaborative approaches in the humanities, this is a landmark investigation – almost surely deeper than you imagine. It’s essential reading for those interested in digital literature, but also also for anyone (concerned with e-lit or not) who wonders how humanistic thinking can continue to develop and how thinkers can work together in new ways.

Shebang Bash at Babycastles, July 2

Shebang Bash is a two-part event at Babycastles (137 West 14th Street, Floor 2, New York City) on Thursday, July 2.

It'll be sort of like this reading in Saint Petersburg, but with projectors.
It’ll be sort of like this reading in Saint Petersburg, but with projectors and a workshop beforehand.

The workshop (beginning at 6pm) provides an opportunity for anyone to begin developing computational poetry by modifying existing programs. Those without programming experience are particularly encouraged to attend. Workshop participants will develop, share, and discuss their work. Participants must register in advance and bring their own notebook computer running Linux, Mac OS, or Windows. (A tablet or phone will not suffice; computers are not available at the gallery.) Those who wish to can show and/or read from their work during the second part of Shebang Bash, although presenting during the reading isn’t a requirement.

The reading (beginning at 8pm) will feature work from Nick Montfort’s #! (Counterpath, 2014), modified versions of Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge,” and poems developed just previously at the workshop. Montfort will read from several pieces in #!, will screen concrete poems from the book, will discuss the project of this book and his computational poetry practice, and will answer questions.

#! (pronounced “shebang”) is a book of programs and poems, consisting of short programs in Python, Perl, and Ruby followed by examples of their output. While the book is published by a small press that specializes in poetry, part of its heritage can be traced to BASIC programming books and magazines from the 1970s and 1980s. Copies will be available for sale at Shebang Bash.

Tickets to the reading will also be available at the door on the day of the event. For workshop tickets or to get reading tickets in advance, see the Eventbrite page.

Des Imagistes Lost & Found

Des Imagistes, first Web editionI’m glad to share the first Web edition of Des Imagistes, which is now back on the Web.

I assigned a class to collaborate on an editorial project back in 2008, one intended to provide practical experience with the Web and literary editing while also resulting in a useful contribution. I handed them a copy of the first US edition of Des Imagistes, the first Imagist anthology, edited by Ezra Pound and published in 1914.

Jason Begy, Audubon Dougherty, Madeleine Clare Elish, Florence Gallez, Madeline Flourish Klink, Hillary Kolos, Michelle Moon Lee, Elliot Pinkus, Nick Seaver, and Sheila Murphy Seles, the Fall 2008 workshop class, did a great job. The project was prompted, and indeed assigned, by me, but it’s the work of that group, not my work. The class put a great deal of editorial care into the project and also attended to principles of flexible, appropriate Web design. The cento they assembled and used for an alternate table of contents made for a nice main page, inviting attention to the text rather than to some sort of illustration. I’m not saying it would have been exactly my approach, but what they did is explained clearly and works well.

I told the class that the licensing of their project was up to them. They chose a CC BY-NC-SA license, more restrictive than I would have selected, given that the material was in the public domain to begin with, but a reasoned choice. They were similarly asked to decide about the hosting of the work. They just had to present what they’d done in class, answer questions about it, and let me look at and interact with it. While I would be glad to place a copy on my site, nickm.com, it was up to them as to whether they would take me up on the offer. They placed their work online on its own domain, which they acquired and for which they set up hosting.

After announcing this edition, readers, scholars, and teachers of Imagist poetry commented and thanked the class for it work. But as I bemoaned last October, Des Imagistes was no longer online a few years later. I asked around for files, but asking former students to submit an assignent six years later turns out to be a poor part of a preservation strategy.

Now, working with Erik Stayton (who a research assistant in the Trope Tank and is in the masters in CMS 2015 class), I’ve recovered the site from the Internet Archive. The pages were downloaded manually, in adherence to the robots.txt file on archive.org, the Internet Archive’s additions to the pages were removed, and something very close to the original site was assembled and uploaded.

Some lessons, I suppose, are that it’s not particularly the case that a group of students doing a groundbreaking project will manage to keep their work online. As much as I like reciprocal and equitable ways of working together, the non-hierarchical nature of this project probably didn’t help when it came to keeping it available; no one was officially in charge, accepting credit and blame. Except, of course, that I should have been in charge of keeping this around after it was done and after that course was complete. I should have asked for the files and (while obeying the license terms) put the project on my site – and for that matter, other places online.

Would you like to have a copy of the Des Imagistes site for your personal use or to place online somewhere, non-commerically? Here’s a zipfile of the whole site; you will also want to get the larger PDF of the book, which should be placed in the des_imagistes directory.