Bitcoin for your Warhol!

Thursday 24 April 2014, 12:59 pm   ////////  

Thanks to Golan Levin’s “atypical, anti-disciplinary and inter-institutional” FRSCI lab, the CMU Computer Club, and ROM hacking bit-boy Cory Archangel, several instances of previously unknown visual artwork, done by Andy Warhol on the Amiga 1000 in 1985, have been recovered.

CA$H for your WARHOL sign

Warhol’s use of this classic multimedia system is but one of the many surprising, rich aspects of Amiga history that are carefully detailed by Jimmy Maher in The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga. An early topic is the launch of the first Amiga computer at the Lincoln Center, with Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry in attendance and with Warhol producing a portrait of her on the machine during the festivities. Maher also writes about how Warhol’s attitude toward the computer was actually a bit retrograde in some ways: Rather than thinking of the screen as a first-class medium for visual art, he wanted better printers that could produce work in a more conventional medium. The discussion of Warhol’s involvement is but one chapter (actually, less than one chapter) in a book that covers the Amiga’s hardware development, technical advances, relationship to image editing and video processing work, and lively demos — from the early, famous “Boing Ball” demo to the productions of the demoscene. The Future Was Here is the latest book in the Platform Studies series, which I edit with Ian Bogost.

The Future Was Here cover

With these images surfacing now, after almost 30 years, the age-old question “soup or art?” is awakened in us once again. Do we need to print these out to enjoy them? To sell them for cash? Did Warhol invent what is now thought of as the “MS Paint” style, back on the Amiga 1000 in 1985?

Amiga soup can

Note, finally, that there is a detailed report on the recovery project provided in PDF form.

Those Persistent Mainframes

Monday 7 April 2014, 12:11 pm   ///////  

Mickey Rooney is no longer with us, but the mainframe computer is. The Register writes up the 50th anniversary of IBM’s System 360, finishing by describing the current zEnterprise line of IBM mainframes. The line was updated just last year.

If this anniversary encourages you to hit the books about the System 360, I suggest IBM’s 360 and Early 370 Systems by Emerson W. Pugh, Lyle R. Johnson and John H. Palmer.

Advanced Bitcoin Simulator

Thursday 3 April 2014, 3:51 pm   /////  

If you felt like you missed your chance to … profit! … from the ascendance of Bitcoin, try the new, shiny Advanced Bitcoin Simulator, an interactive fiction by a sekrit author. It’s built with yui3, Inform 7, and parchment, but also builds on the simulation of online forums found in Judith Pintar’s CosmoServe, incorporates some of the audacity of several recent Twine games, and offers a bit (no pun intended) of the Ayn Rand pillory found in Bioshock.

Fox Harrell on Digital Soul

Monday 24 March 2014, 6:09 pm   ////  

Check out my colleague Fox Harrell’s article “Digital Soul: The Computer, Imagination and Social Change, just posted at The Root. It’s a very nice, concise statement of Harrell’s vision of the computer as an imaginative force.

“Envisioning the Future of Computational Media”

Thursday 20 March 2014, 3:55 pm   ////////  

The final report of the Media Systems workshop has just been released:

“Envisioning the Future of Computational Media.”

You can download either the executive summary alone or the whole report.

I took part in the Media Systems workshop in 2012 with about 40 others from across the country. The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research. As Noah Wardrip-Fruin, co-author and co-organizer of the workshop, writes on the HASTAC site:

Our report, “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media,” starts with the fact that the future of media is increasingly computational — video games, smartphone apps, ebooks, social media, and more.

As media evolve and change, the stakes are high, on many fronts — from culture and the economy to education and health.

To create media capable of continuing the expansion of computational media’s impact, we need to combine technical research that develops media possibilities with innovations in the creation and interpretation of media projects and forms.

Instead, today, we generally separate these activities. Technology research organizations generally don’t have disciplinary, funding, or organizational support for making or interpreting media. Media making and interpretation organizations generally lack support for long-term technology research.

Our report is focused on recommendations for how to fix this.

Although I see the success of people who have integrated technical and humanistic viewpoints all the time – in my colleagues and collaborators, to be sure, but also in MIT students who bring together technical depth and with humanistic inquiry and artistic creation – I realize that there is still a gap between computation and media. I hope this report, which offers a dozen recommendations to address this disconnect, will be helpful as we try to improve our own skills and those of our students.

Happy Pi Day: Round

Friday 14 March 2014, 5:15 pm   ///  

My poem Round computes the digits of pi (in your browser, for as long as you like) and represents them as strings of text. It’s published by New Binary Press. Enjoy it on this 3/14.

The Hunting of the eBook

Wednesday 12 March 2014, 6:47 pm   ///  

I’m quoted in this article on the origins of ebooks, published today in The Guardian. The news hook is the exhibition of Peter James’s Host in its 1993 floppy-disk edition.

‘Bitcoin’ Creator Pulled Currency Because It Was ‘Too Addictive’

Thursday 6 March 2014, 11:02 am   ///  

Amid Speculation of a Publicity Stunt, Developer Says Fuss Was Overwhelming

LOS ANGELES – Despite what many users of his infuriatingly difficult “Bitcoin” currency seem to think, Satoshi Nakamoto isn’t actually Satan.

“I just wanted to create a currency that people could enjoy for a few minutes,” he said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview.

His currency, which became a global phenomenon, in recent weeks soared to the top of the currency charts , turning the shy 64-year-old Mr. Nakamoto into something of a sensation among small, independent currency developers. His notoriety grew further when he mysteriously withdrew the currency from circulation Sunday at the height of its success.

“It was just too addictive,” Mr. Nakamoto said. He said he didn’t intend for people to mine the currency for months at a time, as many users appear to have done.

“That was the main negative. So I decided to take it down,” he said.

Music Technology Event at Tufts

Tuesday 4 March 2014, 1:37 pm   /////  

After just listening to numerous covers of Main Titles from Blade Runner by Vangelis, I just got word that “Machine Fantasies: A Workshop on Music Technologies – Past, Present, and Future” is happening April 4-5, 2014 here in town, at the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center of Tufts University.

“Programs at an Exhibition” Opens March 6

Wednesday 19 February 2014, 3:57 pm   //////////  

I’ll post more on this soon, but for now, let me invite you to the opening of my & Páll Thayer’s show at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery: 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, located in the Green Street T Station on the Orange Line, 617-522-6710.

The opening is 6pm-9pm on Thursday March 6.

The exhibit (which will be up March 6-16) will feature ten programs (five in Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, five in Perl by Páll Thayer), each running on its own computer. The programs re-create aspects of the concepts and artistic processes that underlie well-known artworks, not just the visual appearance of those works. They participate in popular and “recreational” programming traditions of the sort that people read about in magazines of the 1970s and 1980s, including Creative Computing. Programmers working in these traditions share code, and they also share an admiration for beautiful output. By celebrating such practices, the exhibit relates to the history of art as well as to the ideals of free software and to the productions of the demoscene. By encouraging gallery visitors to explore programming in the context of contemporary art and the work of specific artists, the exhibit offers a way to make connections between well-known art history and the vibrant, but less widely-known, creative programming practices that have been taken up in recent decades by popular computer users, professional programmers, and artists.

Flag: Pall Thayer

Flag: Pall Thayer

Flag · Páll Thayer
Perl program · 2009

After Jasper Johns: Nick Montfort

After Jasper Johns: Nick Montfort

After Jasper Johns · Nick Montfort
one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program · 2013

Purple Blurb’s Digital Writing Events this Semester

Tuesday 11 February 2014, 8:35 pm   ////////  

Purple Blurb, MIT’s digital writing series organized by Prof. Nick Montfort of the Trope Tank, powers on, thanks to the four excellent writers/artists who will be presenting in Spring 2014. All events this semester will be held Mondays at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310.

Purple Blurb presenters Spring 2014

March 10, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Páll Thayer
Microcodes

Short Perl programs that are also artworks, presented for viewers to read, download, and execute. Thayer will trace some key steps showing how he went from his background in painting and drawing to presenting code as his artwork.

Páll Thayer is an Icelandic artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source-code for his projects is always released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world with solo shows in Iceland, Sweden and New York and notable group shows in the US, Canada, Finland, Germany and Brazil (to name but a few). Pall Thayer has an MFA degree in visual arts from Concordia University in Montreal. He is an active member of Lorna, Iceland’s only organization devoted to electronic arts. He is also an alumni member of The Institute for Everyday Life, Concordia/Hexagram, Montreal. Pall Thayer currently works as a lecturer and technical support specialist at SUNY Purchase College, New York.

April 7, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Lance Olsen
Experimental writing & video

Including a reading from his recent book [[ there. ]] and video from his Theories of Forgetting project.

Lance Olsen is author of more than 20 books of and about innovative writing, including two appearing this spring: the novel based on Robert Smithson’s earthwork the Spiral Jetty, Theories of Forgetting (accompanied by a short experimental film made by one of its characters), and [[ there. ]], a trash-diary meditation on the confluence of travel, curiosity, and experimental writing practices. His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies. A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, he teaches experimental theory and practice at the University of Utah.

April 28, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Scott Rettberg
Videos & combinatory videos

Produced in collaboration with Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and others, including: The Last Volcano, Cats and Rats, Three Rails Live and Toxicity.

Scott Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture in the department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. Rettberg is the project leader of ELMCIP (Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice), a HERA-funded collaborative research project, and a founder of the Electronic Literature Organization. Rettberg is the author or coauthor of novel-length works of electronic literature, combinatory poetry, and films including The Unknown, Kind of Blue, Implementation, Frequency, Three Rails Live, Toxicity and others. His creative work has been exhibited online and at art venues including the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Palazzo dell Arti Napoli, Beall Center, the Slought Foundation, The Krannert Art Museum, and elsewhere.

May 5, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Jill Walker Rettberg
Selfies

With examples from her own work as well as from photobooths, older self-portraits, and entries from others’ diaries, in her talk “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to Understand Ourselves.”

Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen in Norway. Her research centers on how we tell stories online, and she has published on electronic literature, digital art, blogging, games and selfies. She has written a research blog, jilltxt.net, since October 2000, and co-wrote the first academic paper on blogs in 2002. Her book Blogging was published in a second edition in 2014. In 2008 she co-edited an anthology of scholarly articles on World of Warcraft. Jill is currently writing a book on technologically mediated self-representations, from blogs and selfies to automated diaries and visualisations of data from wearable devices.

“Poetic Computing,” my Talk at NYU Thursday

Sunday 9 February 2014, 8:29 pm   /////  

Update: Blankets of snow and torrents of sleet have tried to match the intensity of the poster design below. As a result, today’s talk (2/13) is cancelled! NYU is closing at 3pm today. Hopefully there will be another chance before too long…

I don’t always announce my upcoming talks on my blog…

But when I do, they’re promoted by very nice posters.

Feb 13, 6pm, 239 Greene St, 8th Floor, NYU: 'Poetic Computing' a talk by Nick Montfort

BITS Are Now Flipped On

Wednesday 5 February 2014, 11:29 am   ////  
BITS: Stella and Combat

MIT Press has just launched the BITS series of excerpts from the press’s book publications. They are offered as DRM-free e-books, and come with a 40% discount on the purchase of the entire print or e-book from which the excerpt comes. I’m glad to see a collaborator and a colleague topping the list, and I’m also pleased that one of the first selections featured is from my and Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam.

Upcoming Events at USC, UCLA, MIT, NYU

Wednesday 15 January 2014, 3:11 pm   /////  

The Trope Tank has a good deal going on in the next month, as classes at MIT begin. If you’re in LA, the Boston Area, or New York at the right times, please join us…

No Code: Null Programs

Sunday 15 December 2013, 4:15 pm   //////  

Just posted: TROPE-13-03 – No Code: Null Programs by Nick Montfort, in the Trope Report series (technical reports from my lab the Trope Tank at MIT).

To continue the productive discussion of uninscribed artworks in Craig Dworkin’s No Medium, this report discusses, in detail, those computer programs that have no code, and are thus empty or null. Several specific examples that have been offered in different contexts (the demoscene, obfuscated coding, a programming challenge, etc.) are analyzed. The concept of a null program is discussed with reference to null strings and files. This limit case of computing shows that both technical and cultural means of analysis are important to a complete understanding of programs – even in the unusual case that they lack code.

Please share and enjoy. And do feel free to leave a comment here if anything to add on this topic, or if you have a question about this report. I’d be glad to continue the discussion of these unusual programs.

Skinning Poetry

Friday 13 December 2013, 1:30 pm   ////  

Online magazine The Claudius App, devoted to “fast poems and negative reviews,” is now in its fifth number and clad in the classic Sim-City-like skin of a burning New York City. There’s a more standard but still DOS-like directory listing, with links to much fine fare, including a translation of a Georges Perec piece and an interactive but also self-scrolling work, “Titanichat,” by Cecilia Corrigan and Ian Hatcher. It comes with a soundtrack, too.

Collect all five numbers, with their curiously strong interfaces: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

The Firewall .. is Us!

Wednesday 11 December 2013, 7:06 pm   //////  

Slavoj Žižek did not write a twine game, but Alan DeNiro did. It’s called We Are the Firewall, and it has more rodents than Rat Chaos. It twists and communicates with the whole category of Twine games quite well, and the writing is quite compelling, and it’s well worth reading/solving.

DeNiro, by the way, is the author of (in addition to short stories and novels) the uncanny interactive fiction Deadline Enchanter, which I also recommend.

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