The project presents versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story with a simple generative or degenerative rule.
The project presents versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story with a simple generative or degenerative rule.
Michael Mateas gave the keynote today at Intelligent Narrative Technologies 6. With reference (early on) to the Hero’s Journey, he presented a sort of “developer’s journey,” noting that indie developers (as seen at Indiecade) have been turning away from concern with structure and mechanics and toward narrative. He similarly encouraged those working in AI and narrative to turn from structuralist narratology and look at concrete traditions of narrative based in communities of practice.
I thought his repudiation of structuralist narratology was in some ways similar to someone in computer graphics objecting to the pixel or the polygon becuase pixels and polygons do not provide any guidance as to how to create beautiful images. He’s right, and if people are missing this, it’s worth pointing out. But the core problem is with one’s expectation for structural understanding. If people are interested (as Michael is) in modeling “internal processes and conflicts” mapping to “external conflicts” … what are these external conflicts made of? Aren’t they made of events? And wouldn’t it be great to have a solid model of events so more complex narrative phenomena can be built up out of them?
Michael gave us an array of options for work motivated by specific poetic ideas, and these (in keeping with his practice) were extremely grand plans, with a panpoly of dissertations needed to make real progress. His suggestions were that we build huge AI systems, implementing Beckett, Boal, detective novels, flash fiction, and the levels of intentionality in Virgina Woolf. I don’t object to attempting to deal with goals of this sort, but this tour of the interactive narrative candy store seemed to be proposing 23 different manned space missions.
My idea: Why not create & compose simple models of narrative aspects that are indeed culturally grounded and for which there is a poetics, but which seem lower-level (or easier to start on) than the ideas Michael has – aspects such as repetition (seen in Beckett, of course), ellipsis (and its relationship to suspense, as treated in Michael Young’s research), and the like?
These sorts of questions seem to have easier starting points and offer the potential to generalize to some extent across genres, while yielding specific insights as well.
A repetition or ellipsis system would be as culturally grounded as any one that Michael suggested, and it too could be “fully realized” and produce outputs.
My very simple system “Through the Park,” described in “Small-Scale Systems and Computational Creativity,” is an attempt to show how low the stairs are for those interested in investigating ellipsis. Although extremely simple, it is a real model of an aspect of narrative and has been useful to me in thinking about it.
Ian Horswill pointed out in the discussion after the talk that understanding repetition may not be easier than generating romance novels, flash fiction, or work like that of specific authors. This is true, but with repetition there are more concrete starting points. One can certainly start with a lightweight simulation of the world, and of narration, and then elaborate.
Richard Evans mentioned that the repetition in The Odyssey and in Beckett’s plays doesn’t have much in common. I would say that this is true, but that they have something in common – creating a coherent and distinctive texture of language. On the other hand, even within the same work, or work by the same author, there will be different types of repetition that do different things. That’s what makes this aspect of narrative (or, really, textuality) a rich one. It seems to me that these different uses, within a single work or across different works, could be understood analytically and modeled computationally in useful ways. The focus on a single aspect, rather than a genre or community of practice, would make this more tractable and offer a foothold.
A new short, snappy, and expanding poem by Nick Montfort, Jerome Fletcher, Talan Memmott, Serge Bouchardon, Samantha Gorman, Leonardo Flores, Scott Rettberg, Jason Nelson, and Flourish Klink is now online.
It’s pop, an ELO 2013 anthology. It requires the use of arrow keys. And it was written at the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2013 conference, Chercher le texte, in Paris.
Puzzle out the constraint that was used, and feel free to continue the project…
(I have the feeling that I’ve omitted the name of at least one contributor … please let me know if I left you off the list; I will gladly remedy that on this post and on the pop page itself.)
Chris Funkhouser’s SoundBox 2012 has been posted in the online gallery space of DDDL, which I believe stands for Digital, Digital, Digital, digitaL. Or maybe Digital Digital Digital Littérature? There is a rich array of work up there; Chris’s contribution blends sounds with the carefully-recorded speech that he has recorded across many conferences and beyond, providing a rich audio record of activity in electronic literature and E-Poetry. As the description of the work says,
Combining music, demented artistic performances, lectures, and studio experiments, Funk’s SoundBox 2012 draws from hundreds of digital recordings produced by poet-critic Chris Funkhouser, who condenses them into a single interactive space. Users of this personal archive – a balance of words and sounds Funkhouser wishes to remember and share – will find ambient and raw materials amidst discussions led by some of the most influential figures in the field of digital writing, grand improvisations featuring a range of instrumentation, software play, and more weaved into a unique sonic projection.
Except — wait. Those are documented artistic performances, lectures, and studio experiments. Sheesh.
Except for its celebratory nature, it may ultimately have little to do with the New Zoo Revue, but the latest issue (number 7) of the French-language bleuOrange revue, from Figura and Laboratoire NT2, has now arrived. The issue publishes the results of a competition to translate electronic literature into French.
In this issue there is a rich selection of new translations, including translations of work by by J. R. Carpenter and Mark Marino, who are here with me now at the 2013 ELO conference Chercher le texte. One of these, too, is the translation of Three Rails Live by Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and Scott Rettberg. The translation is entitled Trois rails sous tension and is by Carolyne Ouellette and Jordan Tudisco, with the voices of Serge Bouchardon and Laetitia LeChatton. For now, there is video documentation of our piece and its translation, as the piece was developed as an installation. Next year a Web version of the video generator, the combinatory database narrative film, will be published on bleuOrange in English and French.
Noah Wardrip-Fruin was an organizer the Media Systems workshop at UCSC just over a year ago, August 26-29, 2012. It was an extraordinary gathering about computational media and its potential, with famous participants from a variety of disciplines and practices. The workshop’s sponsors were also remarkable: the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Research, and Microsoft Studios. Now, Noah is working to put high-quality videos of talks from this event online, and to offer some very useful framing discussion of those talks.
This month, three have been posted. The first of these is a talk by Ian Horswill: “Interdisciplinarity is Hard.” I’m collaborating with Ian now to edit a special issue on computational narrative and am looking forward to seeing him at AIIDE. In addition to his talk, I recommend (and assign) his short but rich article “What is Computation?,” which discusses some of the fundamentals of computation as a science along with its intellectual and cultural importance. Those with access to ACM content can also get the later version of the article that was published in Crossroads.
The second talk posted is from the inestimable production designer Alex McDowell: “World Building.” McDowell (The Crow, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fight Club, Minority Report, Watchmen, etc., etc. ) describes how the development of movies is no longer a storytelling process driven by a single person or idea, but is becoming a process of world building in which a variety of concepts, including design and in some cases engagement with urban planning and spaces, influence each other. McDowell made his points with some of the most beautiful and byzantine diagrammatic slides since David Byrne was doing work in PowerPoint.
The most recent talk is mine – Nick Montfort: “The Art of Operationalization.” I spoke about my experience implementing humanistic ideas (in my case, about narrative) in computational systems, ones that not only can produce narrative results, but which can advance our understanding of the humanities and arts. Prof. Janet Kolodner (now serving the National Science Foundation) seemed to be uncertain about the value of this work, and questioned me about that during my talk – in a way that surprised me a bit! But looking back, I see that our discussion was one of the benefits of having a diverse yet fairly small in-person gathering. I seldom have these discussions either on this blog or in larger, multi-track conferences.
I think of Curveship and even the development of small-scale programs such as Through the Park as research activities (in the humanities, but potentially also in computation) that as connected to narrative and poetic practice. While some people (such as Ken Perlin, who was also at workshop and whose video will be up next week) work in this sort of mode and see the value in it, the benefits are not obvious. The result may not a direct educational outcome, an incremental advance that can be directly measured and evaluated, or a work of art or literature that is recognizable in a traditional way. So, whether I was able to answer well at the time or not, I appreciate the questions, and hope to get more of those sort in other workshops such as these.
Next Saturday (September 21, 2013) is Boston Software Freedom Day. This event, like the Boston Festival of Independent Games yesterday, is also taking place in Cambridge rather than Boston – at Cambridge College, 1000 Mass Ave, between Central and Harvard Squares.
Come by to hear about and discuss freedoms on the computer and online, privacy, and government transparency. I’ll offer one of the very quick lightning talks at the end of the day, discussing some of the history of creative computing and its relationship to software freedom.
The event is not only libre, but also no-cost. And the cake to celebrate the 30th anniversary of GNU is not a lie.
I’m here at the Boston Festival of Independent Games (Boston FIG) today. It’s actually in Cambridge, at MIT, but otherwise the title is not misleading: It is festive and full of indie games and discussion of them. I’ve seen an incredible variety of work by individuals and small teams of developers. Just to give some flavor of the event — according to my notes, I’ve seen:
Beginner: Run up behind the participant unseen, assume the attitude of a zombie, and say “ggrgrghrhrhHHH BRAINS!” and the like.
Intermediate: Run up alongside the participant, assume the attitude of Michael Jackson in Thriller, and say “It’s only a movie!,” “What’s the problem? Come on, I’ll take you home,” and the like.
Of my “Taroko Gorge”:
“Take Ogre” by John Pat McNamara, remixed Febuary 16, 2013 on Achill Sound, Ireland. The piece trades off the images of the natural world for language of the mind, and sports a nice recursive background. (View source for some further information in a comment up top.) Thanks to publisher Michael J. Maguire for noting this remix in a comment here.
“TransmoGrify” by Leonardo Flores of I ♥ E-Poetry, published in Springgun Press Journal, issue number 8. (There’s a note on the piece in the journal.) This one is also about contemplation and mental work, endlessly describing the process of remixing “Taroko Gorge.”
In a different way, “TransmoGrify” is as meta as the remix “Argot Ogre, OK!” by Andrew Plotkin, whose titular monster also returns in John Pat McNamara’s work. Take my ogre — please! Take my gorge…
I went to New York to attend the opening of Ultraconcentrated, Casey Reas’s solo show at bitforms. As a rather pure computationalist, one who always tries to maximize code and minimize data, I was a teensy bit wary of the data-driven nature of Casey’s work in this show, which is based, to some extent, on digital television. This idea of using data wasn’t completely offputting, though; Casey and collaborator Ben Fry have done a nice mural here at MIT, which I often walk by, called Signals and based on the interconnections of proteins.
The works in the show certainly didn’t display data in a straightforward or disappointing way. There were prints (Control Room (Forward Command Post)) that seemed studies of color. There were also two laser etched anodized aluminum pieces, each with two semicircular segments, which present television signals as if they were converted to a monochrome and very uncanny landscape or cityscape. The main screen that turned on — two screens, actually — was a diptych video that shifts very rarely into a somewhat figurative or identifiable image. The work (including that on the 6th floor) was all appealing and interesting. It certainly justified the packed house at the opening.
Overall, the trip was great, as we caught up with several friends in New York. The other art-related encounters were excellent, too. I met Ben Fino-Radin and others at the XFR STN exhibit and project at the New Museum, where video and born-digital materials were being recovered for artists.
Most oddly, as I was walking though Chelsea after seeing Casey’s show, I noticed an opening of collage art by someone who — however conventional, however absent from today’s avant-garde — has written a great amount of poetry that has pleased and provoked me over the years: Mark Strand. (Among other things, such as dozens of poetry books, he is the author of a very offbeat book of prose, Mr. and Mrs. Baby.) He was wearing a white suit, as I expected (see, for instance, the beginning of his book Dark Harbor). And while I couldn’t think of anything to say to him that would have merited interrupting the excellent time he seemed to be having talking with others, it was nice to see his collages and share the room with him for a bit.
I recently answered a series of interesting questions about ppg256, questions that pertained to digital preservation among other issues.
I just wanted to share the one that I thought about the longest. Although I care deeply about properly addressing issues of energy use, recycling, and ethical sourcing of computer components, I think that there are some problems with putting a great deal of weight on these when one is specifically in digital art and digital poetry contexts. I was asked:
What effect does the environment, both location and ecology, have on the work? Does it have long term implications such as power usage, recycling, etc? Are those addressed in the work itself?
And I replied:
Centrally, my project is to show that computer programs can be poetic. The ppg256 programs can be run on any computer; they do not require a museum, gallery, proprietary operating system or Apple Store. So, practically anyone with access to computing can run them at any location. The development and running of computational poetry, to be honest, is not killing our environment. The mindset that computers are for business, war, and science but cannot be used to make poems and art does risk — to be honest – killing our future.
I have two new digital pieces (one a collaboration) that have just been published by James O’Sullivan’s New Binary Press:
Round is a computational poem that is non-interactive, deterministic, and infinite (boundless), since it simply substitutes text fragments for the digits 0-9 and presents a representation of the digits of pi. See the note for further information, and if the concept intrigues you at all, please, run the piece for a while.
Duels — Duets, by Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort, was developed after Stephanie suggested we write something about collaboration based on our experience developing Sea and Spar Between. We co-created a combinatorial poem based formally on A House of Dust by Alison Knowles and James Tenney, producing about the amount of text that was requested of us for print publication.
New Binary Press has a news item about the publication of these two pieces, too.
If you visit this page on the Worl, you may wonder how to read it.
Now, if you just click on that link, you’ll be taken to that page on the Web. To get to the Worl page, you’ll need to install The Deletionist bookmarklet and, once you get to the Web page, click on it. If the page is exactly the same as when I viewed it (it may change, as it’s a wiki front page) you can be sure that your Worl page looks the same as mine did — we’re both looking into the same Worl.
So, you may wonder how to read it.
I read it like this:
Sigh. Your introductory tutorial was going so well, but given the massive gender imbalance among programmers and computer scientist, I don’t think this is the best way to be inclusive…
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 has been reviewed in Neural, an excellent long-running magazine, print and online that covers creative computing from digital art and music through hacktivism. The reviews in Neural (which is published in Italy, in Italian and English) are short and to the point; I’m pleased to see that they neuronally grasped the concept of 10 PRINT and appreciated the work that my collaborators and I did on it.