Funk’s SoundBox 2012

Wednesday 2 October 2013, 8:47 pm   //////  

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.

Place d’Italie – Pont Marie, 24 September 2013

Wednesday 25 September 2013, 2:48 am   ///  

I almost forgot to write a Metro poem
silly doofus
but studying the map, finger pointing to the moon
forking line
murmuring on rubber wheels
perhaps I should have forgotten to write a Metro poem

Talks from Media Systems

Thursday 19 September 2013, 3:50 pm   ////////  

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.

Remix Redux

Tuesday 10 September 2013, 11:35 pm   /////  

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…

Pad

Monday 9 September 2013, 11:49 pm   ////  
Pad, Steven Zultanski, Make Now Press, 2010

Pad, Steven Zultanski, Make Now Press, 2010

Can God be a big enough dick that he cannot lift himself? This is one of the many questions suggested, though not posed explicitly, by Pad, in which Steven Zultanski catalogs every item in his apartment, indicating whether or not each can be lifted with his penis:

My dick can lift the third clove of garlic from the windowsill. My dick cannot lift the sink.

Some sentences read like interactive fiction error messages, indicating how items that are fixed in place, or are part of the apartment, cannot be taken (by Zultanski’s dick).

However remarkable a part of the book it is, the dick is a distraction, offered in the same way the burglar provides a bit of meat for the house-dog. Yes, masculinity in poetry is treated, etc. But what makes the exercise interesting is the pudendum’s gymnasium. The domenstic inventory reveals a personal history, a personal moment, through possessions — ones always in the shadow, or perhaps in some sort of grip, of authorial presence.

My dick couldn’t put this book down.

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.

Books O’ Poems

Thursday 29 August 2013, 12:15 pm   ///  

I’ve read a few books of poetry recently that I found particularly interesting, so why not mention them here?

Man Years by Sandra Doller. Beautifully damaged utteraces that are highly unusual, resonant with known ways of speaking, and allusive. E.g., in the poem “Eggphrasis,” which begins “eggs / eggs / baby”.

The Container Store by Joe Hall and Chad Hardy. Urban space is explored, and its commercial division and compartmentalization. The typography is compelling, with black blocks often occluding the text like the blind eyes of office buildings.

Meditations 1-52 by Matthew Klane. Also quite engaged politically, also quite well-done typographically, but in another interesting mode. Includes a list of things Vannevar Bush did not invent.

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:

Or set upon a golden bough to tweet

Monday 29 July 2013, 3:57 pm   /////  

Mark Sample’s Twitter bots; currently, there are eleven.

Darius Kazemi’s Twitter bots; presently, six.

The classic “Horse ebooks,” once out of nature.

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…)

Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est

Friday 19 July 2013, 3:34 pm   //////  

Some of the Internet, Printed Out

The Internent isn’t just the Web; it’s also telnet, Gopher, email … and the Worl. Here are 500 pages of the Worl that I printed out and mailed today to Kenneth Goldsmith’s exhibit, Printing Out the Internet.

The Worl is accessible to anyone who has a recent Web browser and has installed The Deletionist.

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.

&NOW AWARDS 2

Monday 20 May 2013, 2:00 pm   /////  

Although the &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing may appear at first to be an HTML character entity reference, it’s actually a new book. Arranged back-to-back like Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee in The Killer, it offers copious amounts (400 pages) of recent provocative writing in various genres. It’s published by Lake Forest College Press.

I’m delighted to have my work in the good company of that by many excellent writers, including J.R. Carpenter, Craig Dworkin, and Michael Leong. My contribution to the volume is just a page each of output from the Latin and Cyrillic versions of “Letterformed Terrain,” from Concrete Perl.

Trope Tank Annual Report 2012-2013

Trope Tank home computers

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.

Trope Tank Atari VCS

The Trope Tank is a physical facility with unusual material computing resources from the past few decades – as well as places for researchers to sit and work with their more modern computers. The facility and materials provide for visits from classes, discussions with visiting researchers, and support for creative and research projects. The lab space continues to house the monthly meetings of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston Area’s local IF group. Trope Tank equipment has supported talks this year at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, Microsoft Research in Redmond, UCLA, the University of Maine, and other venues.

This academic year, two Trope Tank affiliates are becoming faculty members:

  • Clara Fernández-Vara, who took part in the Tools for the Telling project back in 2007-2008 and has been a visiting scholar at the Trope Tank this year, is joining the faculty of NYU’s Game Center at the end of summer as an associate arts professor.

  • Amaranth Borsuk, who was guest organizer of the Purple Blurb series in 2011-2012 and is a current collaborator on The Deletionist, is joining the faculty of The University of Washington, Bothell as an assistant professor. She has been a senior lecturer there.

The Trope Tank’s series of technical reports, called the “Trope Report” series, now features five items and is archived in MIT’s DSpace.

There have been two major research projects (both with artistic aspects) and one creative, poetic project this past year:

  • The book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 was published last year by the MIT Press (and is also available for free download as a PDF). Various subsets of the ten authors have been doing presentations related to the book in many different contents.

  • The story generation project Slant was initiated and the first paper was accepted at ICCC 2013. It will be presented there, in Sydney, next month. The project involves integrating or developing new work based on decades of research by Nick Montfort, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, and Fox Harrell; those three and Andrew Campana have collaborated to initiate the project.

  • The Deletionist is a current poetic project by Amaranth Borsuk, Jesper Juul, and Nick Montfort which will premiere at E-Poetry next month at Kingston University, London.

The Trope Tank will continue to support research, creative work, and teaching this summer and beyond. This is a laboratory to allow people to work with material computing systems; while it is not an archive, museum, or library, and does not offer all that such institutions do, it does provide for hands-on access to the history of creative computing. If you are interested in using the systems and materials in the Trope Tank, please contact Nick.

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