Ultraconcentrated and a Suit that Outdoes the Moon

Sunday 8 September 2013, 11:32 pm   ////  

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.

Is ppg256 Green?

Thursday 29 August 2013, 8:55 pm   ////  

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.

Round and Duels — Duets Published

Wednesday 14 August 2013, 7:45 pm   ///////  

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.

How to Read a Page of the Worl

Wednesday 7 August 2013, 6:22 pm   ////  

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:

Learn Brogramming

Thursday 25 July 2013, 4:22 pm   ////  

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…

The facts of life in a Ruby tutorial.

Neural has the Nerve for 10 PRINT

Tuesday 23 July 2013, 5:56 pm   ////  

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.

from   modernist master

Friday 19 July 2013, 9:39 pm   ////  

wcw_worl

Here’s one of many amazing pages on, not the World Wide Web, but The Worl: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/guide/236558

(You need to install and activate The Deletionist to see it correctly…)

Media Archaeology Lab’s New Media

Tuesday 16 July 2013, 4:53 pm   /////  

Lori Emerson has been running an excellent facility at the University of Colorado at Boulder that is a kindred lab, and an inspiration, to my Trope Tank here at MIT.

This is the Media Archaeology Lab, which has recently launched a new site (with blog) and has also begun (as a lab) to tweet.

The Colorado lab, like the Trope Tank, offers working systems from decades past to support research, teaching, and artistic/literary work. The MAL is ahead of us in several ways, for instance by providing extensive information about its holdings in the form of an inventory. They even have a NeXT cube, like we do – although I think the retail price estimate on that page is missing a digit. The Trope Tank only has such information on placards placed on the hardware itself, as discussed in our technical report on the setup of the lab, but perhaps we’ll look to better publish what we’ve gathered here in months to come. I hope the MAL’s progress continues and that I’ll get to visit before too long.

Doug Engelbart, 88, Inventor of …

Tuesday 9 July 2013, 1:55 pm   /////  

… the mouse; the chording keyboard for use with the mouse; the demo; videoconferencing; real-time online collaboration and collaborative editing; the first practical, working hypertext system, which was also a hypermedia system; word processing; dynamic file linking; version control; computer augmentation of human intelligence; and the bootstrapping of human intellectual processes.

Engelbart died on July 2. (Los Angeles Times obituary.)

An Occasional Digital Poem

Wednesday 19 June 2013, 8:59 am   ///  

After releasing The Deletionist, a project that three collaborators started two years ago, I thought it would be nice to do something smaller-scale – an occasional poem (in HTML and JavaScript) that took me 30 minutes to write during a conference/festival session this morning, and referring to some of the discussion in it: “I Heart E-Poetry.” It’s meant to be read alound, so I suggest at least imagining doing so.

The Deletionist

Tuesday 18 June 2013, 9:41 pm   //////  

The Deletionist I’m pleased to announce the release of a project that I’ve been working on with Amaranth Borsuk and Jesper Juul for the past two years: The Deletionist. This is a bookmarklet (easily added to the bookmark bar in one’s browser) that automatically creates erasure poetry from any page on the World Wide Web, revealing an alterate mesh of texts called the Worl. Amaranth and I presented The Deletionist for the first time today at E-Poetry in London, at Kingston University.

Is that a Computer in Your Browser?

Wednesday 5 June 2013, 9:56 am   //////  

Two online emulator initiatives I found out about at the Library of Congress recently, at the Preserving.exe Summit:

The Olive Executable Archive, which originated at CMU and which is not open to the public yet, provides Linux VMs running emulators via one’s browser. When I saw it demonstrated, I was told it worked only on Linux, but that the team planned to have it working on other platforms soon.

JavaScript MESS, a port of the famous multi-emulator to allow it to run in a browser window. It’s not complete, but some of it is working and the code’s on GitHub. This one is an initiative of Jason Scott’s, with a great deal of work contributed by others.

A New Trope Report on E-Lit Readings & Exhibition

Tuesday 23 April 2013, 11:04 pm   ////////  

Thanks to Dr. Clara Fernández-Vara, the Trope Tank has a new technical report, TROPE-13-01: “Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings.”

This report covers readings of interactive fiction done by the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston area IF group, and the exhibit Games by the Book, discussed previously on here. But there is much more detail in this report about how these attempts managed to share computational works (works that are both games and e-lit) with the public. If you are interested in outreach and presentations of this sort, please take a look.

Just Posted, Computational, Conceptual

Friday 18 January 2013, 8:54 pm   //////  

Now online: “The First M Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order.”

This was my New Year’s poem for 2013. It is based on Claude Closky’s 1989 “Les 1000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique” [The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order], which he laser printed and which begins this way:

From Closky's The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order

A full image of the first page spread (which is the source for the image above), and more context for this work, is available on this page.

The printed copies of my “The First M…” were dot-matrix printed on two connected sheets of fanfold paper. In the printout, as online, I included the program as well as the output.

The Tale of the MLA E-Lit Exhibit, Reading

Monday 14 January 2013, 12:54 am   ///////  

Kathi Inman Berens storified some nice media elements relating to the 2013 electronic literature exhibit and reading at the MLA Convention.

Canonical Hypertext, IF, and Digital Narrative

Thursday 10 January 2013, 8:13 pm   /////  

What is it that those who have it hate it and oppose it, but those who lack it desperately want it and imagine it?

A canon.

Deb Chachra called my attention to Infovore’s new canonical list of “hypertext literature / interactive fiction / digital narrative.”

I certainly don’t object to the exercise of blog-based canon development. Back in 2004 I presented a canon-like list of Atari VCS games. Thinking up the list and discussing it online were very useful to me as I started formulating the book I’d later write with Ian Bogost, Racing the Beam. Some of the discussion was “what about this game, why not that game?,” as one commenter noted, but really not much of it – more often we ended up discussing why the focus on the Atari VCS, or what qualities make a game worth studying, or how gameplay and graphics/sound interact, etc.

So, instead of offering any substitute items for the list provided, I’ll just try to mention an aspect of “canon” that Infovore has already picked up on. The best idea in developing such lists seems to be not to pick the greatest hits or the first at doing something or the most widely cited, but rather to choose those productions that are interesting to compare to others.

A canon is a standard, as the OED offers: “c. A standard of judgement or authority; a test, criterion, means of discrimination.” So, it would make sense to me to select works that are, for example, the best at political discourse, or engagement with language, or formal innovation, or critique and transformation of existing work – or whatever aspects of interactive literature one values. What would you hold up as an example of avant-garde writing practices meeting interactivity, for instance, after 1961? What’s the standard for work that engages with contemporary political issues?

New 10 PRINT Story from the MIT Libraries

Thursday 10 January 2013, 11:43 am   /////  

The MIT Libraries have posted a story on 10 PRINT that includes discussion of the book from Patsy Baudoin and me, describes how the project came amount, and gives the latest information on how royalties are being donated. The story was written by Katharine Dunn.

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