Code and Music on In Media Res

Thursday 9 February 2012, 12:04 am   ////  

Yo dawg, I hear you like blog posts. So I put a link to a blog post in your blog post. The link goes to my “Curator’s Note” on In Media Res about very short programs to generate music, in which I also mention how poorly suited prevalent Web systems are for transmitting and discussing code.

A New Paper on the Dreamcast

Sunday 5 February 2012, 10:21 am   ////////  

I’m very pleased to see the article Mia Consalvo and I wrote published in Loading…, the journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA). There’s an intriguing lineup of articles in Loading… Vol 6, No 9; ours is:

Montfort, Nick and Mia Consalvo. “The Dreamcast, Console of the Avant-Garde.” Loading… 6: 9, 2012. http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/104/116

We look at the connections between the Dreamcast platform, five games in particular (Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, Rez, Seaman, and SGGG) and avant-garde movements and work in art, literature, and other areas in the 20th century. By seriously considering and applying the idea of the avant-garde and looking into these fives games closely (in terms of gameplay, in interpretive ways, and with regard to players’ online discourses about them), we show some ways in which videogames, within gaming, have done the work of the historical avant-garde; the business situations and factors in platform technology that relate to this innovation; and what opportunities for radical exploration in console gaming remain.

Cut-up Codework Meow Mix

Wednesday 1 February 2012, 9:37 pm   ////  

“A 1700 line text generated using a string of unix commands to process a short text file describing an encounter with a cat.”

This is all thanks to James W. Morris. He is the author and artist – not the cat.

E-Lit Platforms at the MLA

Saturday 7 January 2012, 5:19 pm   ///////  

Dene Grigar, vice president of the Electronic Literature Organization and one of the organizers of the excellent e-lit gallery and reading here at the MLA Convention, just gave a great presentation about the importance of platform in the development and reception of electronic literature. I was pleased initially to see that there was not only this presentation with “Platform” in the title, then very interested to hear about her work in a lab with original older computer hardware and her discussion of platform differences and changes through the years.

Even more surprising is that Ian Bogost and I have managed to advance part of our diabolical plan to have people use five long, colored rectangles stacked on top of each other:

Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment!

Monday 2 January 2012, 7:19 pm   ///  

It’s a totally new take on Track & Field. Thanks to inky for the tip … Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment! is by Pippin Barr of ITU-Copenhagen.

Fire in the Cow

Friday 23 December 2011, 12:11 am   /////  

“Fire in the Library” is an article in the new Technology Review about digital archivist, documentary filmmaker, and cat impersonator Jason Scott.

“The Curse of Cow Clicker” is an article in the new Wired about game developer, ontologist, and cowpocalyptic force Ian Bogost.

Enjoy your holiday season with these fine profiles.

More from New River

Monday 19 December 2011, 10:57 pm   /////  

The journal New River has a new issue, very nicely designed and with a diverse selection of work. Editors Brianna P. Stout and Christopher Linforth have five different sorts of collaborative works, by Andy Campbell and Lynda Williams; Chris Funkhouser and Amy Hufnagel; Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova (who translated my “Concrete Perl,” “The Two,” and “Through the Park” into Russian); Jason Nelson and several Virginia Tech collaborators; and Alan Bigelow with those readers who respond. Here’s the link to my three poems, which are short computational works that operate on the level of the letter, word or phrase, and sentence.

HypeDyn Hypertext Authoring System Released

Monday 19 December 2011, 10:12 pm   //////  

Here’s an announcement about a new, free hypertext authoring system from my collaborator Alex Mitchell:

We are pleased to announce the first public release of the HypeDyn hypertext fiction authoring tool: http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn

HypeDyn is a procedural hypertext fiction authoring tool for non-programmers who want to create text-based interactive stories that adapt to reader choice. HypeDyn is free to download and open source, and runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows. You can download HypeDyn from http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn/download.html

HypeDyn was written in Kawa Scheme, http://www.gnu.org/software/kawa/

As part of our ongoing research, we are interested in how people use HypeDyn. Please let us know at hypedyn@partechgroup.org if you are using HypeDyn and would like to tell us about your experiences, in particular if you have made any changes to the code.

We are also interested in having authors take part in a more detailed study. If you are interested in helping with this study, please read the details at http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn/study.html

Note that downloading/using HypeDyn does not require participation in the study.

Samantha Gorman at MIT in Purple Blurb

Monday 5 December 2011, 10:09 am   /////  

In the Boston area? Please join us today for the last Purple Blurb event of the semester:

Penumbra: Rich Media & Gestural Text

Samantha Gorman

Creator of Penumbra, Books of Kells, Canticle

Instructor in Performance Studies & Digital Literature, RISD M.F.A. Brown University

Monday, December 5, 5:30 pm

MIT’s 6-120

Samantha Gorman is a writer and media artist who composes for the intersection of text, dance, performance, and digital culture. She holds an MFA and BA in Literary Arts from Brown University, where she studied poetry and writing for digital media. Penumbra, a hybrid art/literature app for the iPad created with Danny Cannizzaro, challenges the notion of a static “ebook” by carefully integrating short film, rich animation, illustration and fiction.

Sponsored by the Angus N. MacDonald Fund

As always, this Purple Blurb event is free and open to the public.

Brian Moriarty to Speak at MIT

Sunday 27 November 2011, 11:07 pm   ////////  

In the Boston area? Please join us for a talk by

 

Brian Moriarty

Creator of Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, and other interactive fiction and graphic adventure titles

and professor of practice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

“Beyond Zork: Games & Interactive Fiction”

Monday, November 28, 5:30 pm

MIT’s room 6-120

 

Brian Moriarty built his first computer in the fifth grade. He began publishing games in the early 1980s and in 1984 joined legendary text adventure company Infocom, where he authored three award-winning interactive fiction titles, Wishbringer (1985), Trinity (1986) and Beyond Zork (1987). His first graphic adventure game, Loom, was published in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games to wide critical acclaim.

Sponsored by the Angus N. MacDonald Fund

As always, this Purple Blurb event is free and open to the public.

“Electrifying Literature” Deadline

Tuesday 22 November 2011, 3:43 pm   //////////  

An exhortation for those creating or researching electronic literature to please submit to Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization conference. The gathering will take place June 20-23, 2012 in Morgantown, West Virginia. A juried Media Arts Gallery Exhibit will be held from Wednesday, June 13 through Saturday, June 23, 2012 at The Monongalia Arts Center. Registration costs have been kept down to make it easier for writers and artists who don’t have institutional travel support to be part of the event.

The deadline for abstracts & proposals is November 30, by the way.

Positive Publication

Monday 21 November 2011, 10:08 pm   /////////  

An interview that James J. Brown, Jr. did with me is now up as part of the latest issue of JEP: The Journal of Electronic Publishing.

It’s entitled “The Literary and the Computational: A Conversation with Nick Montfort.”

I’ve banged up against some fairly conservative, and indeed rather backwards, ideas about what publishing is recently; it was great to talk with Brown and see him and JEP representing a much more positive idea.

Chicago Colloquium Notes

Monday 21 November 2011, 2:02 pm   ////////  

I went to the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities & Computer Science this weekend (Sunday and today), and gave the keynote that opened this event. I spoke about Platform Studies, describing how the difference between Pong and Hunt the Wumpus could be better understood by considering that these games were made of different stuff — different material computing systems. Then, I brought in the five-level model of digital media studies that I introduced in Game Studies in my article “Combat in Context” back in 2006. I spoke about the existing and forthcoming titles in the Platform Studies book series by MIT Press: Racing the Beam (Montfort & Bogost, 2009); the book on the Wii, Codename: Revolution by Steven E. Jones and George K. Thiruvathukal; and The Future was Here by Jimmy Maher, covering the Amiga. I also spoke about 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); GOTO 10, a book engaging with platforms that I, and nine co-authors, are completing. Finally, I concluded by offering 16 questions about the digital humanities, in a lecture moment that was inspired by a particular 20th century American composer.

A few of my favorite aspects of the colloquium:

  • Talking with Steven E. Jones and George K. Thiruvathukal, colloquium organizers and Platform Studies authors, among other platform-interested authors.

  • Meeting Perry Collins, a new program officer for the NEH Office of Digital Humanities. This was Perry’s first trip outside the Washington, D.C. metro area, and she immediately (first talk of the colloquium) got to do something all of her colleagues at the ODH — Brett Bobley, Jason Rhody, Jennifer Serventi — have already done: listen to me complain about the prevailing, overly traditional, overly narrow model of the digital humanities that doesn’t embrace contemporary work and the expressive, creative power of computational media. There are some things to enjoy about being a gadfly, but I do wonder if I’ve now become a hazing ritual at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Getting to talk more with Kurt Fendt and two CMS students working for his group, HyperStudio, about their current projects. Although I can walk over to their space without going outside, of course I have to travel to Chicago to really learn about what they’re up to, and to hear discussion of it supported by an immense poster — it’s the nature of things.

  • Suggesting to Quinn Dombrowski of DHCommons that that site have some facilities for allowing potential collaborators to meet at conferences, and to know about who was at conference together, and then discussing this with her over Twitter and email while she was sitting six feet away from me.

I had many other good conversations, saw several intriguing presentations, and even saw some nice automated text collage, but those are the most amusing highlights, at least.

The Sounds of Little C

Sunday 9 October 2011, 3:01 pm   /////  

A group of sonic and code explorers has been discovering excellent super-short C programs that, piped to an 8-bit audio device, generate music. Here’s the first video and a second video with sounds and code.

Here’s the code for one example, “Lost in Space,” from video #2:

main(t){
for(t=0;;t++)putchar(
((t*(t>>8|t>>9)&46&t>>8))^(t&t>>13|t<<6)
);}

If you are also a righteous Ubuntu user, you can paste that into a file (let’s call it “lost_in_space.c”) and compile it with:

% gcc lost_in_space.c -o lost_in_space

Then, pipe it (or pretend to pipe it, using padsp, since recent versions of Ubuntu don’t have /dev/dsp) to your audio device using:

% ./lost_in_space | padsp tee /dev/dsp > /dev/null

Thanks to Andrew Stern for tipping me off about this one.

Mass Effect 3 Unlocks Gayness

Saturday 8 October 2011, 8:24 pm   ////  

In the Mass Effect series, you get all the intensity of a first-person shooter combined with a sprawling space-opera plot arc. And, the games have another aspect as well: As pan-galactic dating sims.

In the first two games, your customizable human, Commander Shepherd, who is the same paragon or renegade badass whether he’s black or white, male or female, can get it on with select characters. However, even though this is the way-far future sort of world in which there’s no problem with romance between beings from different planets, she or he can basically have only heterosexual relationships.

(Okay, she, if your Shepherd is female, can hook up with an alien character who looks quite a bit like a female human. But it’s made clear that your xenophilia isn’t, stricly speaking, homosexual, it’s just a pheremone thing with this hot alien who is not really a chick anyway.)

In May, the news broke that Mass Effect 3, still forthcoming, will support gay. So, everyone should stop teabagging their opponents in Halo 3 for a moment and celebrate this newfound progressive inclusiveness, right?

Well … the thing is, Mass Effect is a series. (Or franchise, really, with spin-offs … but let’s keep things simple.) The two main games released so far are strongly linked, with great effort made to connect the first to the second game – via importation of a character or play-through of an interactive comic. In the new game, Shepherd is definitely supposed to be the same guy (or butch woman, if you picked that option) that he or she was in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.

Which means that if Mass Effect 3 is the first game to support homosexuality … and players choose to take this option … it could suggest that the stress of saving the living universe has somehow turned Shepherd gay.

Unless, I suppose, Shepherd really was before, and you simply have turn somewhere else, other than your XBox or PS3, to read about it.

Unconference/Hackday on Digital Writing

Thursday 6 October 2011, 11:32 pm   //////  

Normally I only mention events that I’m attending or organizing, but I want to announce this Boston-area event even though I’ll be in Chicago and won’t be able to attend.

It’s called Dangerous Readings, and is sponsored by Eastgate Systems. Check out the page to see how you can participate.

IF Comp Games Are Out

Sunday 2 October 2011, 11:52 am   /////  

The 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition games! They’re out. Go get ’em.

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