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.

Concise Computational Literature is Now Online in Taper

I’m pleased to announce the release of the first issue of Taper, along with the call for works for issue #2.

Taper is a DIY literary magazine that hosts very short computational literary works — in the first issue, sonic, visual, animated, and generated poetry that is no more than 1KB, excluding comments and the standard header that all pages share. In the second issue, this constraint will be relaxed to 2KB.

The first issue has nine poems by six authors, which were selected by an editorial collective of four. Here is how this work looked when showcased today at our exhibit in the Trope Tank:

Weights and Measures and for the pool players at the Golden Shovel, Lillian Yvonne-Bertram
“Weights and Measures” and “for the pool players at the Golden Shovel,” Lillian Yvonne-Bertram
193 and ArcMaze, Sebastian Bartlett
“193” and “ArcMaze,” Sebastian Bartlett
Alpha Riddims, Pierre Tchetgen and Rise, Angela Chang
“Alpha Riddims,” Pierre Tchetgen and “Rise,” Angela Chang
US and Field, Nick Montfort
“US” and “Field,” Nick Montfort
God, Milton Läufer
“God,” Milton Läufer

This issue is tiny in size and contains only a small number of projects, but we think they are of very high quality and interestingly diverse. This first issue of Taper also lays the groundwork for fairly easy production of future issues.

The next issue will have two new editorial collective members, but not me, as I focus on my role as publisher of this magazine though my very small press, Bad Quarto.

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

Sentaniz Nimerik, E-Lit in Haitian Creole

A week ago, on October 2, we put Sentaniz Nimerik online. This is an electronic literature work, an example of digital storytelling and digital poetry, that is by Sixto & BIC and was facilitated by Michel DeGraff & Nick Montfort. It is in Haitian Creole — Kreyòl, as the language is called in the language itself. This language has a community of about 12 million speakers worldwide and is the language shared by everyone in Haiti. It is not the same as Haitian French or mutually intelligible with Haitian French (or any other kind of French).

You can read more about Maurice Sixto, a famous Haitian storyteller who died in 1984, on Wikipedia, in English — of course there is an entry in Haitian Creole as well. His story “Sentaniz,” well-known in Haiti, is the storytelling basis for our digital work.

BIC is a singer, songwriter, and poet who is also known as B.I.C. (Brain. Intelligence. Creativity.) He came to MIT to work on this project with us and to do a concert, which was very well-attended. His songs and poems are mostly in Haitian Creole; some in French; not in English — although BIC is fluent in English and has worked as an English teacher.

Professor Michel DeGraff is a linguist and is my colleague at MIT. Among other things, he heads the MIT-Haiti Initiative and works to advance STEM education in the Boston area in schools where education is in Haitian Creole.

We (BIC, Michel DeGraff, and I) sat down together and looked at and discussed several simple JavaScript poems, some historical, some of mine, some done by others recently. We settled on “Through the Park” (a work of mine from 2008) as a starting point for our collaboration. We changed several things about the workings of the page, and the text used in this piece is also a new text related to “Sentaniz,” not any sort of translation of anything I have written.

To make concrete a few of the formal and conceptual differences: The final result has two generated versions presented one after the other. The underlying “story” is not only an story that originated in Haitian Creole, but has been elaborated into its digital version with frame statements and questions that do not correspond to anything in “Through the Park.” The visual design is simple, but also a bit different from the simple earlier version.

To be more specific about our roles in the project, for the most part I dealt with the JavaScript code, Michel typed in what was to be written in Haitian Creole (using my different keyboard layout), and BIC said what lines we should use. But Michel and BIC consulted about particular phrasings, as you might expect, and all of us talked a bit about the types of sentences that could be used, the linguistic constraint (no reference between sentences), and the design and functioning of the page.

We spent a while in discussion beforehand, and did some work to polish the project after the three of us met, but BIC was only at MIT for one full day. It took us about an hour to actually do the core creative and development work on Sentaniz Nimerik. The project was thanks to many people and offices at MIT, with the main support for BIC’s trip coming from CAMIT, the Council for the Arts at MIT.

I recorded a video of Michel DeGraff explaining the piece (in Haitian Creole) and have posted that on YouTube with a CC license. He explains how to “view souce” and that the piece can be studied and modified. The piece itself, although very short, is released under an explicit all-permissive license to make it clear that it is available to everyone for any purpose. I hope people in Haiti and speakers of Haitian Creole elsewhere will enjoy it and develop many new ideas, stories, and poems.

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.

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 2017 September 18: Added the first six Using Electricity books, Montfort, Perez y Perez, Parrish, Zilles, Bhatnagar, Läufer; also, Montfort 2018, King Zog, Goodwin.

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

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

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

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.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. Written Images. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You Have Been Offered ‘More Tongue’

I just put a new poetry generator up. This one was released in inchoate form at @party, the Boston area demoparty. I’ve finished it, now, writing an HTML page of 2kb that employs JavaScript to generate nonsense poems that *I*, at least, find rather amusing.

More Tongue (paused)

‘More Tongue’ is available in an expanded version (functioning the same but with uncompressed code and more meaningful variable and function names) which I suggest for just about everyone, since I encourage everyone to study and modify the code, for fun, for art, and so on. If you want to see the 2k version working, that’s there too.

I could have compacted this below 2kb, although I rather doubt I’d have gotten it to 1kb without some major shift in the way the program works. I can see a few inefficiencies in how I put the program together, and while I did turn to some compression resources I didn’t use the famed Minify. I was happy, though, with what the 2kb page does.

I’ll be reading from this in about an hour at Babycastles’s WordHack event, here in Manhattan, during the open mic. Hope to see some of you there.

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.

Some Houses of Dust

Zach Whalen pointed out that it would probably be interesting to compare the reimplementations of A House of Dust that he did early this year and that I did more recently. Whalen’s work to reimplement historical systems is really excellent, by the way, and I in fact showed his animated GIF of “Kick that Habit Man” when I premiered Memory Slam, including a workalike of Gysin and Sommerville’s program and my version of the Knowles and Tenney poem, at NYU ITP’s Code Poetry Slam.

While I’m not going to go deep into code-level analysis of these – that’s a better task for some other code scholar and code warrior – I will make a few high-level points about the two versions, to at least cover some of the obvious differences.

My implementation is much more flat, for better or worse.

Flat in terms of files; all the CSS and JavaScript used by my implementation is packed into the one HTML page, so it’s easy to save it to your desktop, change the file around quickly, and see the result. However, that’s not a very Enterprise way to go about it; Whalen’s version reflects more typical programming practices in that regard, linking to a standard CSS file used throughout the site and using JavaScript stashed in .js files.

My version is also flat also in terms of appearance. While I present the plain monochrome all-caps stanzas scrolling up, Whalen gives a Janus-like look backwards to the pinfeed fanfold paper on which the original poem was published and forwards to the world of social media, via the “Share” button. This is a visual reminder of how the original prinout looked (although it did have four spaces of indentation rather than one!) and an indication of how its output can be part of today’s systems of sharing. I chose to use a proportional font because the monospace font seems too austere and too severe of a historical reminder to me, but I’m glad there is Whalen’s monospace alternative as well. That the lines in Whalen’s version appear a bit at a time is also a nice printerly touch.

It’s an empirical question as to whose version is the most easily modifiable and remixable. One can change the strings around quite easily in both versions to attain new versions of the classic program, after all the files are obtained. I would guess (and hope) that my version might have the edge in providing this sort of flexibility to those exploring the poem through programming, whether new or experienced. If so, that might make it useful in this particular regard and make up for the less historicized appearance and less sharable output.

There was another point to my implementation, which was that it was done more or less uniformly with the other three pieces included in my Memory Slam. So, a new programmer working with any one of those would be more easily able to continue to work with other programs in the set.

That’s something of a start to the discussion of these. I certainly welcome further comments and comparisons.

Megawatt

Megawatt coverThe fruits of my National Novel Generation Month (NaNoGenMo) labors are now online; the _Megawatt_ generator is available as a single 350-line Python file, while the novel it deterministically generates can be obtained as a PDF, megawatt.pdf or in epub format, megawatt.epub. From the program’s docstring and from the preface to the book:

_Megawatt_ is the title of both a computer program, the source code
to which you may be reading, and the output of this program, which in
many ways is like a standard novel and which you may instead be reading.
This note appears at the beginning of both.

The program _Megawatt_ is based on passages from Samuel Beckett’s novel
_Watt,_ first published in 1953 but written much earlier, when Beckett
was aiding the French Resistance during World War II.

The novel _Megawatt_ leaves aside all of the more intelligible language
of Beckett’s novel and is based, instead, on that which is most systematic
and inscrutable. It does not just recreate these passages, although with
minor changes the _Megawatt_ code can be used to do so. In the new novel,
rather, they are intensified by generating, using the same methods that
Beckett used, significantly more text than is found in the already
excessive _Watt_.

(Please note: The following information is handy if you want to, for instance, modify the program and generate a PDF or epub yourself. You don’t need to do this to read the novel. You can download it in PDF: megawatt.pdf or in epub format: megawatt.epub.)

To produce the novel in markdown format, run megawatt.py (a Python 2
program) with TextBlob (a text processing library) installed.

% python megawatt.py > megawatt.text

To produce PDF and epub documents, use pandoc:

% pandoc -V geometry:paperwidth=5.5in \
-V geometry:paperheight=8.25in \
-V geometry:margin=.7in -o megawatt.pdf \
megawatt.text
% echo ‘% Megawatt’ > info.txt
% echo ‘% Nick Montfort’ >> info.txt
% pandoc -o megawatt.epub info.txt megawatt.text

_Megawatt_ was written/generated for the second NaNoGenMo (National
Novel Generation Month) in November 2014, and is free software.

A Gysin & Sommerville Question

I recently released Memory Slam, a set of four reimplementation of classic text generators. I did them over in JavaScript and in Python in the hopes that people would easily be able to play around with them, modify them, and understand them better through this sort of use. I’ve seen a few cases in which this has been done already, but first off, please let me know if you’ve posted modified versions of these, as I would love to see more. The license terms do not oblige you to do so, of course, they are licensed as free software. I’m just asking.

One question that remains is exactly when the program that automatically permuted phrases was written by Ian Sommerville in collaboration with Brion Gysin. I’m very interested in finding this out, but I do have other projects that are keeping me from doing archival or even deep library research into this. After discussion on the original announcement post, I’ve made a few corrections to this sort of metadata, but I still can’t figure out when this permutation code was first written. And since I don’t know which texts are the first examples of output from these programs, I also can’t tell how the permutations were ordered by the program.

The poem “KICK THAT HABIT MAN” was written manually in 1959 and other permutation poems were broadcast by the BBC in 1960. “Around 1960” is sometimes given as a date for the program or programs. However the Honeywell Series 200 Model 120, indicated in several places as the computer used, was not released until 1965. Please let me know if you know that a different computer was used or if you know the exact year in which the permutation poem programs were written.

And I can’t post something about these friends of William S. Burroughs, on Thanksgiving, without including this little prayer: