There’s a nice article up at The Atlantic about Flash, written by the two authors of the new Platform Studies book, Anastasia Salter and John Murray. Their new book, I’ll remind you, is Flash: Building the Interactive Web.
There is much to discuss and celebrate, such as the conclusion of the IF Comp – congrats to Sean M. Shore for his 1st place game Hunger Daemon, and to all the other winners. Besides that there’s the recent release of Hadean Lands by PR-IF stalwart Andew Plotkin. And, today there’s a front-page New York Times article about IF, and Twine games specifically. I’m sure I forgot some things we have to celebrate, so come by to see what those things are.
Students published the first digital Des Imagistes in 2008, chose to self-host it without sending me a copy. It’s gone.
Wired: It’s up on the Internet Archive. Tired: Without scraping that I can’t get the CC BY-NC-SA site.
Beautiful class project. The preservation strategy was not so great. I should have required the files be sent to me, too. Live, learn.
Nick Montfort presents #! in the atrium of MIT’s building E15, just steps from the Kendall T stop. It’s October 22, Wednesday, at 6:30pm, and thanks to the List Visual Arts Center. The book is Montfort’s new one from Counterpath Press, consisting of programs and poems. Please, come join me!
Hey, lookit here. Not only is 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (by Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter, MIT Press, 2013) available for free online as a Creative Commons PDF, and available in the original harback edition that MIT Press published, it’s also now in paperback.
The paperback looks beautiful, by the way, thanks to the design work and attention of our co-author Casey Reas.
I’m delighted that Flash: Building the Interactive Web by Anastasia Salter and John Murray has just been published by the MIT Press.
This is an excellent study of an influential software platform – our first such study in the Platform Studies series – and it both traces the history of the platform, its development and the contexts in which it arose, as it also covers many famous and representative Flash productions.
Mark Sample writes of it, “Combining historical research, software studies, and a deep appreciate for digital creativity, Salter and Murray dramatically explore Flash—whose very ubiquity has heretofore made it transparent to media scholars—as the defining technology for a generation of artists, storytellers, game designers, and Web 2.0 companies.”
Dene Grigar calls it “a must-read for all scholars and artists of digital media,” while Aaron Delwiche names it “the best and most provocative work I’ve encountered about emerging technologies since the publication of The Cyborg Handbook.“
Flash is still with us, but Salter and Murray nevertheless take up the difficult task of providing the historical context for this platform’s creation, from the days before it supported general-purpose programming through its dominance on the Web. The relevance of this book is not limited to a particular product (now, but not always, an Adobe product). It extends to the Web to interactive computing overall.
Yes, the first event is today, the date of this post…
September 12, Friday, 6pm-8pm
Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
“Collision21: More Human” exhibit opens – it’s up through October 26.
“From the Tables of My Memorie” by Montfort, an interactive video installation, is included.
September 18, Thursday, 7pm-8pm
Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA
Montfort reads from #!, World Clock, and the new paperback 10 PRINT
September 24, Wednesday, 7:30pm
Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
Montfort joins a panel of artists in “Collision21: More Human” for this Art Technology New England discussion.
October 22, Wednesday, 6:30pm-7:30pm
The Atrium of MIT’s Building E15 (“Old Media Lab”/Wiesner Building)
Montfort reads from #! at the List Visual Arts Center
November 15, Saturday, 9am-3pm
MIT (specific location TBA)
Urban Poetry Lateral Studio, a master class by Montfort for MIT’s SA+P
December 4, Thursday, 5pm-7pm
“Making Computing Strange,” a forum with:
Lev Manovich (Software Takes Command, The Language of New Media)
Fox Harrell (Phantasmal Media)
moderated by Nick Montfort
The forum will examine the ways in which computational models can be used in cultural contexts for everything from analyzing media to imagining new ways to represent ourselves.
So, I’m not saying they’re a bad idea, but why do these things get called “driverless” or “self-driving”? They are being driven by an immense corporation with the most massive store of data on Earth. They can’t function without this corporation or this store of data. They can’t drive themselves.
I dunno, maybe we should at least notice this sort of — hey! These cars are programmed to go up to 10 mph above the speed limit! Shiny!
I’ve revisited two games about depression which seem interesting to compare. One has been discussed more recently, particularly thanks to its recent release on Steam: the Twine game Depression Quest. (It’s also available on the Web.) The other, which is in Flash and on the Web, is the platformer Elude. The latter was developed at MIT, in the GAMBIT Game Lab.
Both of these games have seen plenty of discussion, but I wanted to mention an aspect that make them interesting to compare. Of course, Elude is graphical and played in real time, while Depression Quest is text-based and allows the user to select CYOA-style options. But that’s quite obvious.
More interesting to me is that “Elude‘s metaphorical model for depression serves to bring awareness to the realities of depression by creating empathy with those who live with depression every day,” while “Depression Quest is a game that deals with living with depression in a very literal way.” Of course, being literal or metaphorical goes beyond having a single axis or slider, and it isn’t tied to whether one has a graphical or textual game. It’s interesting to see two games about the same subject matter that declare their intent to be different in this way. I wonder if there is a pair of games on similar topics where the text game is very metaphorical and the graphical game literal?
codewiz and I (nom de nom) showed a wild demo at @party yesterday (June 14) at MIT.
The concept is based on one-line C programs to generate music, the earliest of which were by viznut. I (nom de nom) wrote a C expression in this style to generate a waveform that could be output as sound but also consisted of all printable ASCII characters. The source is about 1kb, without much effort at compression. And the sound, in addition to driving speakers, can be (and was) connected to a Tesla coil.
To connect the oneTesla coil he built, codewiz modified the firmware and the control box to allow the audio output to be read by the potentiometer input. He also wrote dsptee.c to improve the way the text scrolls.
Topsy was the elephant electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903 to help prove that AC electricity (advocated by Tesla) was unsafe.
My main disappointment was that the projector, which I thought would be HD and thus the same as my display, showed only the left-hand side of the video. I should have checked it more thoroughly before we got started.
We were very pleased to get second place behind a nice oscilloscope demo.
The final section of the demo is based on the bpNichol poem “Island,” part of his Apple IIe collection First Screening. This poem, in turn, refers to a concrete poem by Ian Hamilton Finlay. I’ve put a video/screencast of the end of the production online.
I direct a lab at MIT called The Trope Tank. This is a lab for research, teaching, and creative production, located in building 14 (where the Hayden Library is also housed), in room 14N-233. Its mission is to develop new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language.
The lab’s website has just been updated with some new information about our two major creative/research projects, Slant and Renderings. Earlier this academic year, a hardware and software catalog of Trope Tank resources was developed by Erik Stayton with contributions from Sylvia Tomayko-Peters.
As usual, the Trope Tanks hosts the monthly meetings of the local interactive fiction club, the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction. Also, the Trope Tank’s series of digital writing presentations, Purple Blurb, continued this year; I was on leave in Fall 2013, but the series was back and hosted four excellent presentations in Spring 2014. See those sites for more information about PR-IF and Purple Blurb.
Here’s what we’ve been up to since our last annual report in May 2013:
New Works: Creative projects released.
- Nanowatt, single-loading (3.5 KB) demoscene production for the VIC-20. By Nick Montfort, Michael C. Martin, and Patsy Baudoin as Nom de Nom, McMartin, and Baud 1. Shown and awarded 2nd place on 30 November 2013 at Récursion, Montréal.
- World Clock, computer generated novel with source code by Nick Montfort. Published on the Web 30 November 2013, in print at the Harvard Book Store.
- Round, digital poem by Nick Montfort. Published on the Web 14 August 2013 by New Binary Press.
- Duels — Duets, digital poem. By Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort. Published on the Web 14 August 2013 by New Binary Press.
- The Deletionist, digital poetry system. By Nick Montfort, Amaranth Borsuk, and Jesper Juul. 2011–2013. Premiered at E-Poetry 2013 in London and published on the Web.
- Three Rails Live, an interactive video installation. By Rod Coover, Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg. 2011–2013. Documentation published on the web in bleuOrange 7, 2013.
Trope Reports: We have issued two technical reports.
- TROPE-13-02 – Videogame Editions for Play and Study (Clara Fernández-Vara and Nick Montfort)
- TROPE-13-03 – No Code: Null Programs (Nick Montfort)
Exhibit & Museum Event:
- Second Fridays: How People Connect, Presentation of Commodore 64 BASIC programming, Piotr Marecki and Erik Stayton, and event at the MIT Museum, February 14, 2014
- Programs at an Exhibition, Nick Montfort & Páll Thayer, an exhibit at the Boston Cyberats Gallery, March 6-16, 2014
- Marecki, Piotr, “Sticker literature or augmented reality literature,” David Foster Wallace Conference, Department of English, Illinois State University, May 23, 2014
- Marecki, Piotr, “The Road to Assland and early Polish Text Adventure Games,” People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, The Trope Tank, MIT, May 13, 2014
- Montfort, Nick, “Combinatory Media and Possibilities for Documentary,” OpenDoc Lab, MIT, May 8, 2014
- Marecki, Piotr, “Polish Literature in the Digital Age,” MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing, May 7, 2014
- Marecki, Piotr, “Textual Caves: Expanding the Literary Writing Space,” Shapeshifters: Recycling and Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Yale University, April 25-26 2014
- Montfort, Nick “Exploratory Programming,” first of four major topics for the online Critical Code Studies Working Group 2014, 23 February-23 March, 2014.
- Montfort, Nick, “Aesthetic Obfuscated Code,” Symposium on Obfusctation, New York University, 15 February 2014.
- Montfort, Nick, “Ten Cases of Computational Poetics,” UCLA, M/ELT, 17 January 2014.
- Montfort, Nick, “Computational Poetic Models,” University of Southern California, SCA Complex, 16 January 2014
- Marecki, Piotr, “Polish Literature in the Digital Age,” IAP talk, MIT, January 21, 2014.
- Montfort, Nick, “Computational Literary Models for Fun and Poetics,” Concordia University, Montréal, 10 January 2014.
- Montfort, Nick, “Scaling Up Literary Models with Curveship and Slant,” 8th Mexican International Colloquium on Computational Creativity, UNAM, Mexico City, 15 November 2013.
- Montfort, Nick, “Literary Models,” 8th Mexican International Colloquium on Computational Creativity, UAM Cuajimalpa, Mexico City, 14 November 2013.
- Montfort, Nick, “Electronic Literature and Other Forms of Popular Creative Computing.” Keynote address at Writing Literature, Reading Society, Municipal Public Library, Kraków, 29 October 2013.
- Montfort, Nick, “10 PRINT,” MIT CSAIL Programming Language & Software Engineering retreat, MIT Endicott House, 21 May 2013
- Montfort, Nick, “Hardware and Emulation to Access Creative Computing,” Preserving.exe Summit, Library of Congress, 20 May 2013
- Baudoin, Patsy and Nick Montfort, “10 PRINT,” Writing Across the Curriculum, MIT, 17 May 2013
Translations: Andrew Campana translated “The Two” by Nick Montfort into Japanese. Piotr Marecki translated Montfort’s “Lede,” “The Two,” and World Clock (via translation of the novel-generating program) into Polish, and, with Aleksandra Małecka, translated “Between Page and Screen” by Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse into Polish. These will be placed online when revisions are complete.
- The Trope Tank hosted a visit by The Word Made Digital, 21W.764, during Spring 2014.
- “Exploratory Programming Workshop” by Nick Montfort, New York University, 14 February 2014.
- Commodore 64 BASIC Workshop by Nick Montfort, offered for MIT’s Independent Activities Period, 29 January 2014.
- “Workshop in Exploratory Programming” by Nick Montfort, UAM Cuajimalpa, Mexico City, two meetings on 11-12 November 2013.
Upcoming: In Milwaukee this month Trope Tank researchers will present at (int)7 (Intelligent Narrative Technologies 7) and the Electronic Literature Organization Conference. The presentation will be “Expressing the Narrator’s Expectations” by Montfort and Stayton at (int)7, and at ELO in the conference paper sessions “The Formation of the Field of Electronic Literature in Poland” by Marecki, “Computational Editions, Ports, and Remakes of ‘First Screening’ and ‘Karateka'” by Stayton and Montfort, and “New Novel Machines: Nanowatt and World Clock” by Montfort. The ELO Media Arts show will include “The Postulate to Hyperdescribe the World” by Marecki and Aleksandra Małecka and “Round” by Montfort. Andrew Campana’s work will be part of the Gallery of E-Lit 1st Encounters.
Many papers and even some books developed with Trope Tank support are forthcoming, but instead of trying to enumerate those, I’ll list them next year, when they have appeared.
MIT, room 14E-310
Monday 5/5, 5:30pm
Free and open to the public, no reservation required
“Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to Understand Ourselves”
This Monday (2014-05-05) the Purple Blurb series of Spring 2014 presentations will conclude with a talk by Jill Walker Rettberg on a pervasive but still not well-understood phenomenon, the types of digital writing, tracking, photography, and media production of other sorts that people do about themselves. Her examples will be drawn from her own work as well as from photobooths, older self-portraits, and entries from others’ diaries.
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.
More about Purple Blurb …
Slice of MIT, an MIT alumni publication, has an article on my work with poetry and computation. It’s by Kate Hoagland, was written for National Poetry Month, and is an excellent short discussion of several recent projects and some themes in my work and that of my lab, The Trope Tank.
MIT, room 14E-310
Monday 4/28, 5:30pm
Free and open to the public, no reservation required
This Monday (2014-04-28) Purple Blurb is proud to host a screening and discussion of narrative video art work done in collaboration with Roderick Coover, including The Last Volcano, Cats and Rats, Three Rails Live, and Toxicity. (The last two are combinatory pieces; Three Rails Live is a collaboration between Coover, Rettberg, and Nick Montfort.) These pieces deal with personal and global catastrophes and are written across languages, with one of the voices in Cats and Rats in (subtitled) Norwegian. They continue Rettberg’s work on novel-length electronic literature projects and his frequent collaboration with others.
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, and Toxicity. 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, and The Krannert Art Museum.
More about Purple Blurb …
“Lance Olsen is at the center of every discussion I have about the contemporary landscape of innovative and experimental writing.”
April 7, 5:30pm
MIT’s Room 14E-310
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.
Purple Blurb takes place on MIT’s main campus in Building 14, the same building that is the home of the Hayden Library. 14E-310 in in the East Wing, third floor, across the courtyard from the library entrance (do not enter the library to get to 14E-310).
Purple Blurb is free and open to the public, no reservation required.
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.
The final report of the Media Systems workshop has just been released:
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.