A Poetry Class for 36,000

Tuesday 4 December 2012, 7:24 pm   ///////  

December 10, 5:30pm in MIT’s 6-120

Al Filreis

Teaching Modern & Contemporary American Poetry to 36k

Al Filreis has taught his “ModPo” course at Penn for years; in Fall 2012 he offered a 10-week version of the course online, via Coursera, to more than 36,000 students. The course, as in its previous versions, does not include lectures, being based instead on discussion – the collaborative close readings of poems. The course grows out of Filreis’s work at the Kelly Writers House; he has been Faculty Director of this literary freespace since its founding in 1995. Filreis is also co-founder of PennSound, the Web’s main free archive of poetry readings, publisher of Jacket2 magazine, and producer and host of “PoemTalk,” a podcast/radio series of close readings of poems. In conversation with Nick Montfort, Filreis will discuss ModPo and his perspective on writing, teaching, and digital media.

Filreis is Kelly Professor of English and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Wallace Stevens and the Actual World, Modernism from Right to Left, Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modernism, 1945-60, and other works. He was chosen as Pennsylvania Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation in 2000.

Co-sponsored by the SHASS Dean’s Office and the Literature Section.

All Purple Blurb events are free and open to the public. The Purple Blurb series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Tracy Fullerton this Thursday at MIT on “Walden, a game”

Tuesday 6 November 2012, 7:55 pm   ///////  

Tried of thinking about well-defined regions of red and blue?

… start thinking about PURPLE BLURB, the digital writing series at MIT.

We’ll have our next event with TRACY FULLERTON, an experimental game designer, professor and director of the Game Innovation Lab at the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she holds the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment. The Game Innovation Lab is a design research center that has produced several influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and The Night Journey – a collaboration with media artist Bill Viola. Tracy is also the author of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, a design textbook in use at game programs worldwide.

Fullerton’s talk “Finer Fruits: Experiment in Life and Play at Walden” will take place:

November 8
5:30pm
In MIT’s 32-155 (Stata Center)

This is a joint event with the CMS Colloquium, and supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund.

Walden, a game, is an experiment in play being made about an experiment in living. The game simulates Henry David Thoreau’s experiment in living a simplified existence as articulated in his book Walden. It puts Thoreau’s ideas about the essentials of life into a playable form, in which players can take on the role of Thoreau, attending to the “meaner” tasks of life at the Pond – providing themselves with food, fuel, shelter and clothing – while trying not to lose sight of their relationship to nature, where the Thoreau found the true rewards of his experiment, his “finer fruits” of life. The game is a work in progress, and this talk will look closely at the design of the underlying system and the cycles of thought that have gone into developing it. It will also detail the creation of the game world, which is based on close readings of Thoreau’s work, and the projected path forward for the team as we continue our sojourn in experimental in play.

We have also added a Purple Blurb event this semester. Prof. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writers House will join us for a conversation with Nick Montfort on December 10 at 5:30pm in 6-120. He’ll discuss his experience teaching modern poetry to 34,000 students online. More about this as the time nears …

For now, I hope to see you this Thursday for Tracy Fullerton’s presentation about Walden, a game.

PAX Blurb

Thursday 1 April 2010, 9:55 pm   ////////  

This weekend was a great time, both at the official PAX-East, where we saw the premiere of Get Lamp, and in the alternate but connected universe of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction Hospitality Suite, where Andrew Plotkin’s organizational acumen and contributions allowed us to hear panels, write and play Speed IF games, and snack and converse. The 2010 IF Summit at PAX-East was a great success. There and at the main expo, I got to speak with people from the contemporary IF community and many old-school IF luminaries from Infocom and before – and even got to be on a panel with several of them.

Dave Lebling, Don Woods, Brian Moriarty, Andrew Plotkin, Nick Montfort, Steve Meretzky, Jason Scott (standing, in absurd outfit). It is April Fool’s Day. Am I Photoshopped into this panel? Photo CC by Eric Havir.

And, I got to play on the proto-Ms. Pac Man board – the one Crazy Otto board that is known to still exist.

After PAX, I hosted a great reading of interactive fiction by Emily Short (who read from Alabaster) and Jeremy Freese (Violet), with interacting done by Kevin Jackson-Mead and Jenni Poladni. The event was at MIT (as with all Purple Blurb presentations), had standing room only, and prompted a great deal of good conversation afterwards.

There is much more that could be said, and many more PAX-East IF people that I could mention – a few of those, beyond the PR-IF regulars, are: Sam Kabo Ashwell, Liza Daly, Brendan Desilets, Stephen Granade, Juhana Leinonen, Jacqueline Lott, Jesse McGrew, Carl Muckenhoupt, Aaron Reed, Dan Schmidt, Robb Sherwin, Dan Shiovitz, Emily Short, and Rob Wheeler. (My apologies to those whose names I’m overlooking or don’t have on hand.) Some of these are locals I rarely see; others are people I have known for years, had numerous extensive discussions with, and in one case, collaborated with, and yet PAX-East was my first chance to meet them in person.

Based on last weekend and last Monday, the outlook for IF is extremely bright: We can share games and discuss important questions about IF in person as well as online, we have plenty of ideas that we’re making progress on but can certainly discuss further, and we have a documentary film coming on DVD that will please IF diehards and help to introduce students and other sympathetic viewers to the pleasures of the text adventure.

IF Purple Blurb today

Monday 29 March 2010, 2:41 pm   /////  

A last-minute reminder for you local Post Position readers: Emily Short and Jeremy Freese are reading from their interactive fiction work today in MIT’s room 14E-310 at 5:30pm. Hope to see you there!

Free / Writing / Game Gatherings

This weekend, I’m attending LibrePlanet, the Free Software Foundation’s conference and hackfest here in Cambridge. I don’t have anything to present or hack upon at this one, but I’ll be listening and learning more about free software and software freedom.

On Tuesday, I head to Grand Forks, ND for the University of North Dakota Writers Conference: Mind the Gap – Print, New Media, Art. The featured authors and artists this year are:

  • Art Spiegelman
  • Frank X. Walker
  • Nick Montfort
  • Cecelia Condit
  • Saul Williams
  • Mark Amerika
  • Stuart Moulthrop
  • Deena Larsen
  • Zeitgeist
  • Kanser with More Than Lights

I’ll return on Friday and head straight to the Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX East) in Boston, where the confluence of about 60,000 gamers is expected. At 9:30pm on Friday is the world premiere of Jason Scott’s interactive fiction documentary Get Lamp. Afterwards is a panel with:

  • Dave Lebling (Zork, Starcross, The Lurking Horror)
  • Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Hitchhiker’s, A Mind Forever Voyaging)
  • Nick Montfort (included in this august group for writing a book about this stuff)
  • Brian Moriarty (Wishbringer, Trinity, Beyond Zork)
  • Andrew Plotkin (Spider and Web, Shade, Dual Transform)
  • Don Woods (co-author with Will Crowther of the canonical first IF, Adventure)

And then, on Monday, March 29, at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310, I’ll host a reading in the Purple Blurb series. Emily Short (author of many award-winning interactive fiction pieces, including the recent Alabaster) and Jeremy Freese (winner of last year’s IF Comp for his Violet) will present and read from their work.

I hope to see some of you here in the Boston/Cambridge area or, perhaps, in Grand Forks!

Purple Blurb, Spring 2010

Tuesday 9 February 2010, 6:52 pm   ////////  

I’m delighted to announce our Spring 2010 Purple Blurb events:

Video
Roderick Coover & Nitin Sawhney
Monday, March 1
5:30pm-7pm

Poetry
Stephanie Strickland
Monday, March 8
5:30pm-7pm

Interactive Fiction
Jeremy Freese & Emily Short
Monday, March 29
5:30pm-7pm

Poetry
John Cayley & Daniel C. Howe
Wednesday, April 28
7:30pm-9pm

All events are in MIT’s 14E-310.

Note that the first three events begin earlier (5:30pm) than in semesters past, while the final event this semester begins later (7:30pm).

Please also note (or recall) that 14E is the east wing of Building 14, the building which also houses the Hayden Library. This is not building E14, the new Media Lab building.

March 1

RODERICK COOVER

Canyonlands (www.unknownterritories.org) is a film and interactive documentary about the works of the novelist and essayist, Edward Abbey (1927-1989). Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger and forest lookout in Western parks and forest-lands, wrote in praise of wilderness, and called attention to the destruction of the desert landscape. His descriptions of eco-sabotage in his novel The Monkey Gang were an inspiration for the formation of the environmentalist organizations such as EarthFirst! Canyonlands takes users into a virtual representation of the Colorado River and Utah canyonlands. There, users will follow Abbey’s road and fascinating side routes as they weave their way through history.

Roderick Coover makes panoramic interactive environments, collaborative streaming visual poems, and multimedia documentary projects about histories, narratives, and the sense of place. Some titles include Unknown Territories (Unknownterritories.org), Cultures in Webs (Eastgate Systems), From Verite to Virtual (D.E.R), The Theory of Time Here (Video Data Bank), The Language of Wine (RLCP), and Something That Happened Only Once (RLCP) among others. An associate professor of film and media arts at Temple University, Roderick Coover has received awards from USIS-Fulbight, a LEF Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. URL: http://www.roderickcoover.com

NITIN SAWHNEY

Strawberries, Roosters and the Chocolate Seas is an upcoming feature-length documentary. It is a personal journey into the heart of Gaza using a satirical and poetic rendering of everyday life and the extraordinary events witnessed by the filmmaker, during his visit there one year after the devastating 22-day siege in January 2009. The film, shot during two intense weeks in January 2010, includes interviews with fishermen, farmers, physicians, teachers, and working professionals, interspersed with footage that captures dramatic events like the large convoys of aid arriving in Gaza despite the blockade, tunnels used to smuggle goods, hip hop bands striving for creative expression, and the floods that turned Gaza’s seashore from deep blue to chocolate. 

Nitin Sawhney is a research fellow in the Program in Art, Culture and Technology in the Department of Architecture at MIT. He co-founded the Voices Beyond Walls initiative for digital storytelling in Palestinian refugee camps. The program was founded in 2006, when pilot digital media and storytelling workshops were first conducted in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps in the West Bank. Since then local and international volunteers have conducted nearly a dozen workshops in six different refugee camps. See: http://www.voicesbeyondwalls.org Sawhney was selected as a Visionary Fellow with the Jerusalem 2050 Program: http://envisioningpeace.org/visions/media-barrios He has recently returned from a trip to Gaza and is sharing footage from a documentary he is co-producing: http://www.GazaRoosterFilms.com

March 8

STEPHANIE STRICKLAND

Strickland will read from four collaborative digital poems created over the past twelve years, each of which uses the screen differently: V: Vniverse, Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot, Errand Upon Which We Came, and slippingglimpse.

Stephanie Strickland is a print and hypermedia poet who, in addition to having written the digital poems mentioned above, has published five books: Zone : Zero, V: WaveSon.nets / Losing L’una, True North, The Red Virgin: A Poem Of Simone Weil, and Give the Body Back.

March 29

JEREMY FREESE

Violet is an interactive short story about romance and procrastination in which the main character is struggling to complete his dissertation. The things that happen in the simulated graduate student office are narrated to the player by the (imaginary) voice of the main character’s Australian girlfriend. Violet won several XYZZY awards in 2008, including the award for Best Game, and was the winner of the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition.

Jeremy Freese is a professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Communication, and Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

EMILY SHORT

Alabaster is a fractured fairy tale by John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, and Ziv Wities, illustrated by Daniel Allington-Krzysztofiak. This interactive fiction is an experiment in open authorship. The introduction to the story was written and released by Short in 2008. The game is implemented in Inform 7 using a conversation system, developed by Short, that will be released for general use by Inform 7 developers. There are eighteen possible endings to Alabaster.

Emily Short is author of or collaborator on more than two dozen interactive fictions, including Galatea (winner of Best of Show in the 2000 IF Art Show) and Savoir Faire (XYZZY Award for Best Game and in other categories, 2002) and Floatpoint (winner of the 2006 IF Competition) along with other XYZZY award-winning games: Metamorphoses (2000), Pytho’s Mask (2001), City of Secrets (2003), and Mystery House Possessed (2005). Short, who is a classicist and a scholar of attic drama, has worked on the development of Inform 7, has reviewed dozens of games, and writes the column “Homer in Silicon” for GameSetWatch.

April 28

The Readers Project is a collection of distributed, performative, quasi-autonomous poetic ‘Readers’ — active, procedural entities with distinct reading behaviors and strategies. We release these Readers onto inscribed surfaces that may be explicitly or implicitly, visibly or invisibly, constituted by their texts. Over time, the Readers will address themselves to a wide range of material — from conventional found texts, through poetic reconfigurations of appropriated (fairly-used) sources, to original compositions by the project’s collaborators, and so on.

Designed to support the creation of novel works of digital literature, Howe’s RiTa library, in which The Readers Project is implemented, provides a unique set of tools for artists and writers working in programmable media. Combining features of natural language processing, computational stylistics, and generative systems, RiTa enables a range of tasks, from statistical methods, to grammar-based generation, to linguistic database access (e.g., WordNet), to text-mining, to text-to-speech, to image, audio, & animation, all in real-time. RiTa is free and open-source and integrates with the popular Processing environment for digital arts programming.

JOHN CAYLEY

John Cayley writes digital media, particularly in the domain of poetry and poetics. Recent and ongoing projects include The Readers Project with Daniel Howe, imposition with Giles Perring, riverIsland, and what we will. Information on these and other works may be consulted at http://programmatology.shadoof.net. Cayley is a visiting professor at Brown University, Literary Arts Program.

DANIEL C. HOWE

Daniel C. Howe is a digital artist and researcher whose work explores the intersections of literature, computation, and procedural art practice. He recently received his PhD (on generative literary systems) from the Media Research Lab at NYU and was awarded a ‘Computing Innovations’ fellowship from the National Science Foundation for 2010. He currently resides in Providence, RI where he teaches at Brown and RISD, and is a resident artist at AS220. His site: http://mrl.nyu.edu/~dhowe/

Marina Bers Speaks in Purple Blurb, Monday 11/30

Tuesday 24 November 2009, 4:22 pm   //////  

On Monday (November 30) at 6pm in MIT’s room 14E-310,

The Purple Blurb series of readings and presentations on digital writing will present a talk by

Marina Bers.

Marina Bers

associate professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and adjunct associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University.

Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote positive youth development. At Tufts, Bers heads the interdisciplinary Developmental Technologies research group. Bers received the 2005 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding investigators at the early stages of their careers. She also received a five year National Science Foundation (NSF) Young Investigator’s Career Award and the American Educational Research Associations (AERA) Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies. Over the past fourteen years, Bers has conceived and designed diverse technological tools ranging from robotics to virtual worlds, from tangible programming languages to storytelling environments. She conducted studies after school programs, museums and hospitals, as well as schools in the US, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Costa Rica and Thailand. She teaches seminars on learning technologies for educators and does consulting on ways to use technology to promote positive youth development. Her book “Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom” has been published by Teacher’s College Press in 2008. Bers is from Argentina and did her undergraduate studies in Social Communication at Buenos Aires University. In 1994 she came to the US where she received a Master’s degree in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University and a Master of Science and PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory, where she worked with Seymour Papert.

Mary Flanagan Speaks in Purple Blurb, Monday 11/2 6pm

Thursday 29 October 2009, 11:42 pm   ///////  

On Monday (November 2) at 6pm in MIT’s room 14E-310,

The Purple Blurb series of readings and presentations on digital writing will present a talk by

Mary Flanagan.

Mary Flanagan

author of Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press, 2009)

Mary Flanagan is the creator of [giantJoystick], and author of [theHouse] among other digital writing works. She is Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth, where she directs Tiltfactor, a lab focused on the design of activists and socially-conscious software.

Flanagan investigates everyday technologies through critical writing, artwork, and activist design projects. Flanagan’s work has been exhibited internationally at museums, festivals, and galleries, including: the Guggenheim, The Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, and The Banff Centre. Her projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Flanagan writes about popular culture and digital media such as computer games, virtual agents, and online spaces in order to understand their affect on culture. Her co-edited collection reload: rethinking women + cyberculture with Austin Booth was published by MIT Press in 2002. She is also co-author with Matteo Bittanti of Similitudini. Simboli. Simulacri ( SIMilarities, Symbols, Simulacra ) on The Sims game (in Italian, Unicopli 2003), and the co-editor of the collection re:skin (2007).

Flanagan is also the creator of The Adventures of Josie True, the first web-based adventure game for girls, and is implementing innovations in pedagogical and values-based game design.

Using the formal language of the computer program or game to create systems which interrogate seemingly mundane experiences such as writing email, using search engines, playing video games, or saving data to the hard drive, Flanagan reworks these activities to blur the line between the social uses of technology, and what these activities tell us about the technology user themselves.

A representative from the MIT Press bookstore will be at the talk offering copies of Flanagan’s books for sale.

Purple Blurb – Digital Writing, Fall 2009

Tuesday 8 September 2009, 5:17 pm   ///////  

Once again, Purple Blurb offers readings and presentations on digital writing by practitioners of digital writing. All events are at MIT in room 14E-310, Mondays at 6pm. All events are free and open to the public. The Purple Blurb series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin.

September 14 — Noah Wardrip-Fruin is author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies (MIT Press, 2009), co-creator of Screen (among other works of digital writing), and assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mary Flanagan.

November 2 — Mary Flanagan is author of Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press, 2009), creator of [giantJoystick], and author of [theHouse] (among other digital writing works). She is Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth.

D. Fox Harrell.

November 16 — D. Fox Harrell is the creator of the GRIOT system for computational narrative and author of several works in this system, including Loss, Undersea and The Girl with Skin of Haints and Seraphs. He is assistant professor of digital media in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Marina Bers.

November 30 — Marina Bers is author of Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom (Teachers College Press, 2007) and creator of the system Zora. She is associate professor in the Department of Child Development and adjunct professor in the Department of Computer Sciences at Tufts University.

Rafael Pérez y Pérez to Speak at MIT

Thursday 9 July 2009, 4:55 pm   //////  

Next week, the Purple Blurb series offers a second special summer talk by a leading researcher in creative text generation. Rafael Pérez y Pérez will speak on …

MEXICA: A Computer Model for Plot Generation of Prehispanic Stories

MEXICA is a computer model that generates plots for short stories about the Mexicas, the old inhabitants of what today is México City, based on the engagement-reflection cognitive account of writing. During engagement MEXICA generates material guided by content and rhetorical constraints, avoiding the use of explicit characters’ goals or story-structures. During reflection the system breaks impasses, evaluates the novelty and interestingness of the story in progress and verifies that coherence requirements are satisfied. In this talk I will explain the main characteristics of the system, I will show how emotions are employed to progress a story in a coherent way and generate novel situations, and how the dramatic tension of the story in progress might be employed to evaluate its interestingness. I will present results showing how story generation is affected by various model parameters and I will compare MEXICA with other story-generators programs. Finally, I will mention how we are employing MEXICA as starting point for new research projects.

Pérez y Pérez will speak on Wednesday July 15, 6pm-7pm, at MIT in room 14E-310. This is in the same location as Pablo Gervás’s talk in May, and just one more floor up the stairs from the Trope Tank, where other Purple Blurb events were located. The talk is (as with all Purple Blurb presentations) open to the public.

Rafael Pérez y Pérez.

Rafael Pérez y Pérez, creator of the MEXICA story system.

Rafael Pérez y Pérez earned a BSc. in Electronics and Computers at Universidad Iberoamericana in México City, a MSc. in Knowledge Based Systems and a DPhil. in Artificial Intelligence at Sussex University in England. His research has focused on computer models of creativity. He and his students have developed programs that write short stories, compose music, and solve geometry problems, among other things. In 2006 he organised the Mexican Creativity, Cognition and Computers research group (MCCC) which aims to gather together a multidisciplinary group of researchers and students interested in computational creativity. He has published different papers in the area and has participated as a PC member and co-chair in international events related to computational creativity. Currently he is a researcher and lecturer at The Autonomous Metropolitan University (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana or UAM) in México City and an invited Lecturer in the MSc and PhD programs in Computer Science at The National Autonomous University of México (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México or UNAM).

Pablo Gervás to Speak at MIT

Thursday 14 May 2009, 11:30 pm   //////  

Next week, the Purple Blurb series offers a special talk by a leading European researcher in creative text generation.

Pablo Gervás (center) keeps his head above water.

Pablo Gervás (center) keeps his head above water.

Pablo Gervás works as associate professor (profesor titular de universidad) at the Departamento de Ingeniería del Software e Inteligencia Artificial, Facultad de Informática, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He is the director of the NIL research group and also of the Instituto de Tecnología del Conocimiento.

His research is on processing natural language input, generating natural language output, building resources for related tasks, and generating stories. In the area of creative text generation, he has done work on automatically generating metaphors, formal poetry, and short films.

He will speak on Wednesday May 20, 6pm-7pm, at MIT in room 14E-310. The talk is (as with all Purple Blurb presentations) open to the public, and (as with all Purple Blurb presentations so far) will be in English.

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