Lance Olsen in Purple Blurb, Mon 5:30pm

Sunday 6 April 2014, 12:36 pm   //////  

“Lance Olsen is at the center of every discussion I have about the contemporary landscape of innovative and experimental writing.”

-Bookslut

Lance Olsen

Lance Olsen

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.

Read the Bookslut interview about Lance Olsen’s [[ there. ]].

More on the Purple Blurb series.

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.

How to “Train” as a Writer

Wednesday 12 March 2014, 11:10 pm   ///  

After a pilot program (or perhaps that should be “engineer program”?) in which one writer was gifted with a round-trip train ride, Amtrak recently announced that they will begin a larger-scale residency program which “will allow for up to 24 writers to take long-distance trains to work on their projects.”

The Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet, was all over this, but they soon posted about how problematic the official terms of the application are. This was originally pointed out at The Outlet.

For instance:

In submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties.

There is also a note that applications will not (actually, “NOT”) be kept confidential. This seems like pretty standard fare for a corporate contest, actually, which doesn’t mean that it’s right, that all writers should agree to it, or that any should agree to it without understanding the terms.

Since applications aren’t going to be kept confidential anyway, here’s mine, or at least my at-most-1000-character answers to the two main questions. They mention some other issues that I have with the “Official Terms,” although these do not keep me from being interested in the residency:

Why do you want an #AmtrakResidency?

My work is computational, has many layers of meaning, and is often collaborative, and so much of it is prohibited by the #AmtrakResidency Official Terms, which disallow submissions that “Contain executable programming of any kind,” “Contain … encoded messages,” and “Contain content not created by and original to Applicant.” If awarded a residency, I’ll continue to defy official concepts of writing. Since this opportunity exists to promote Amtrak on social media, I’m also interested in showing how social media isn’t limited to this moment’s corporate systems. I can do this well, as I have been a blogger for more than 10 years, have served as president of the Electronic Literature Organization, and am a professor of digital media at MIT. Finally, the sequential, systematic qualities of trains relate to aspects of my writing process. Although I am not personally inclined to record their arrival and departure times, trains do appeal to me in ways that aren’t just nostalgic or romantic.

How would this residency benefit your writing?

I would have the opportunity to focus on writing work and to do one or more trip-specific digital poetry projects which would be made available for free on the Web. Network access is not important to me for work of this sort, and there is even some advantage to not being online. I’ve already written a great deal on Northeast Corridor trains, did some of the editorial work for The New Media Reader on a train to Chicago, and generally find train travel conducive to many types of writing, including creative digital work. I’ve done one collaboration in which we used Amtrak trains as a meeting place and point of departure: Three Rails Live, a computational video installation documented (in English and in French translation) at http://revuebleuorange.org/bleuorange/07/threerailslive/three_rails/index.html. I mention this here rather than submit it as a writing sample because it is one of my many collaborative projects. More digital poems of mine are at the “Supporting Link.”

Purple Blurb’s Digital Writing Events this Semester

Tuesday 11 February 2014, 8:35 pm   ////////  

Purple Blurb, MIT’s digital writing series organized by Prof. Nick Montfort of the Trope Tank, powers on, thanks to the four excellent writers/artists who will be presenting in Spring 2014. All events this semester will be held Mondays at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310.

Purple Blurb presenters Spring 2014

March 10, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Páll Thayer
Microcodes

Short Perl programs that are also artworks, presented for viewers to read, download, and execute. Thayer will trace some key steps showing how he went from his background in painting and drawing to presenting code as his artwork.

Páll Thayer is an Icelandic artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source-code for his projects is always released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world with solo shows in Iceland, Sweden and New York and notable group shows in the US, Canada, Finland, Germany and Brazil (to name but a few). Pall Thayer has an MFA degree in visual arts from Concordia University in Montreal. He is an active member of Lorna, Iceland’s only organization devoted to electronic arts. He is also an alumni member of The Institute for Everyday Life, Concordia/Hexagram, Montreal. Pall Thayer currently works as a lecturer and technical support specialist at SUNY Purchase College, New York.

April 7, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Lance Olsen
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.

April 28, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Scott Rettberg
Videos & combinatory videos

Produced in collaboration with Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and others, including: The Last Volcano, Cats and Rats, Three Rails Live and Toxicity.

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, Toxicity and others. 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, The Krannert Art Museum, and elsewhere.

May 5, 5:30pm in 14E-310:

Jill Walker Rettberg
Selfies

With examples from her own work as well as from photobooths, older self-portraits, and entries from others’ diaries, in her talk “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to Understand Ourselves.”

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.

From Finnegans Wake as Read by Samuel L. Jackson

Monday 20 January 2014, 2:03 pm   ///  

Now by a commodious vicius of recirculation – go the fuck to sleep.

Curious Conflations of Performance and Writing

Sunday 19 January 2014, 8:46 pm   /////  

In Nashville, Husky Jackal Theater has presented Terminator the Second, which enacts the story of Terminator 2 with a text composed entirely of lines from Shakepeare’s plays. Video is available.

Also, I have been watching a certain TV show set during the Korean War with a certain fan fiction author, and I believe the guys making passes at guys, wearing dresses, mugging with guys, etc. have suggested a new possible genre of writing that would have to be called S*L*A*S*H.

The Firewall .. is Us!

Wednesday 11 December 2013, 7:06 pm   //////  

Slavoj Žižek did not write a twine game, but Alan DeNiro did. It’s called We Are the Firewall, and it has more rodents than Rat Chaos. It twists and communicates with the whole category of Twine games quite well, and the writing is quite compelling, and it’s well worth reading/solving.

DeNiro, by the way, is the author of (in addition to short stories and novels) the uncanny interactive fiction Deadline Enchanter, which I also recommend.

Video of Nanowatt Online

Tuesday 3 December 2013, 2:55 pm   ///////  

A single-loading VIC-20 demo (3583 bytes) presented on November 30, 2013 at Récursion in Montréal. By Nick Montfort, Michael C. Martin, and Patsy Baudoin (nom de nom, mcmartin, baud 1). This video is of the demo running in the Trope Tank at MIT on December 3, 2013.

Tagged on YouTube as Commodore VIC-20, Samuel Beckett, Electronic Literature, Computer (Musical Instrument), and Demoscene. See also the fuller story about Nanowatt with links to executable code.

NaNoGenMo Wraps Up and Prints Out

Monday 2 December 2013, 7:26 pm   //////  

There are some things I absolutely must mention at this point, to highlight certain of the many interesting outcomes from NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month):

Alice’s Adventures in the Whale, one of two novels created by Leonard Richardson by computationally replacing all the dialog in one novel with the dialog in another:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “Can’t sell his head?–What sort of a bamboozingly story is this you are telling me?” thought Alice “Do you pretend to say, landlord, that this harpooneer is actually engaged this blessed Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around this town?”

Presently she began again. “Ka-la! Koo-loo!” (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at all the right word) “Stand up, Tashtego!–give it to him!” (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke–fancy CURTSEYING as you’re falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) “Stern all!”

“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, “we have been stove by a whale.” cried Alice, with a sudden burst of tears, “NARRATIVE OF THE SHIPWRECK OF THE WHALE SHIP ESSEX OF NANTUCKET, WHICH WAS ATTACKED AND FINALLY DESTROYED BY A LARGE SPERM WHALE IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN.”

CHAPTER V. Advice from a Caterpillar

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

“I say, pull like god-dam,” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “There she slides, now! Hurrah for the white-ash breeze! Down with the Yarman! Sail over him!”

Leonard’s other submitted novel used Pride and Prejudice (and Through the Looking Glass). Along similar lines, you may be interested in seeing what Pride and Prejudice looks like without any dialog.

Early in the month, Zarf (Andrew Plotkin) submitted a generated novel that is entirely dialog: Redwreath and Goldstar Have Traveled to Deathsgate.

Ian Renton generated Doctor Who fan fiction using the technique of Bayseian poisoning, which is popular in spam generation. It’s only the only fanficlicious novel; see the generated Austenesque novels of jiko.

I was implicated in inspiring Nif, a palindromic 50,000-word+ novel, the second generated novel submitted (early in the month) by catseye. A remixed and extended version was done by Michael Paulukonis.

Don’t miss Aaron Reed’s Agressive Passive, which details conversation between six housemates about maintaining the cleanliness of their domicile.

And finally, my entry is World Clock, which briefly describes something happening, at some location around the world, at each minute of a day.

The overall “site” for NaNoGenMo, which was the fervent brainchild of Darius Kazemi, is, by the way, this humble GitHub repository.

Nanowatt

Saturday 30 November 2013, 10:18 pm   ////////  

At Récursion (the Montréal demoparty), we (Nick Montfort, Michael C. Martin, and Patsy Baudoin) released Nanowatt, a single-loading VIC-20 demo.

You can download it and run it using a VIC-20 emulator (or, of course, an actual VIC-20). I run it in VICE on my Ubuntu system by typing “xvic nw” from the directory that contains the “nw” file. If it’s more convenient, you can also download a d64 disk image with Nanowatt on it and load “nw” from there.

It produces 8 KB of English text quoted exactly from Samuel Beckett’s second novel, Watt.

And it produces 8 KB of French text quoted exactly from the French translation of Samuel Beckett’s second novel, Watt.

And the entire demo (including two songs, sound system, code for decompression and display of text, and explanations and greetings at the end) is 3.5 KB: 3583 bytes.

When possible, I will upload a video of the demo running.

This rather esoteric demo was awarded 2nd place (out of 3 entries).

I also got 4th place (out of 5) for my one-line BASIC program that was done as a fast demo, based on today’s theme: “weaving.”

Demoscene.

UPDATE: You can run Nanowatt without leaving the comfort of your browser. First, copy this URL into your copy-and-paste buffer: << http://nickm.com/poems/nw >>. Then, go to the page for JS VIC-20. Select the “Storage” menu from the top and choose the option at the bottom of the list, “Carts/Programs,” and choose the top option, “Load Cart from URL.” Finally, paste in the URL that you copied and watch the demo run.

‘NOTHER UPDATE: Video of the demo running on a VIC-20 has been posted.

World Clock

Saturday 30 November 2013, 12:10 pm   /////  

This is my contribution to NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month), written in about four hours on November 27. (Messing with the typesetting took a bit more time.)

Source code in Python. Requires pytz.

World Clock, the generated novel presented as a 246-page PDF.

Page 1 of World Clock

Michael’s Narrative Candy Store

Tuesday 15 October 2013, 11:51 am   //////  

Michael Mateas gave the keynote today at Intelligent Narrative Technologies 6. With reference (early on) to the Hero’s Journey, he presented a sort of “developer’s journey,” noting that indie developers (as seen at Indiecade) have been turning away from concern with structure and mechanics and toward narrative. He similarly encouraged those working in AI and narrative to turn from structuralist narratology and look at concrete traditions of narrative based in communities of practice.

I thought his repudiation of structuralist narratology was in some ways similar to someone in computer graphics objecting to the pixel or the polygon becuase pixels and polygons do not provide any guidance as to how to create beautiful images. He’s right, and if people are missing this, it’s worth pointing out. But the core problem is with one’s expectation for structural understanding. If people are interested (as Michael is) in modeling “internal processes and conflicts” mapping to “external conflicts” … what are these external conflicts made of? Aren’t they made of events? And wouldn’t it be great to have a solid model of events so more complex narrative phenomena can be built up out of them?

Michael gave us an array of options for work motivated by specific poetic ideas, and these (in keeping with his practice) were extremely grand plans, with a panpoly of dissertations needed to make real progress. His suggestions were that we build huge AI systems, implementing Beckett, Boal, detective novels, flash fiction, and the levels of intentionality in Virgina Woolf. I don’t object to attempting to deal with goals of this sort, but this tour of the interactive narrative candy store seemed to be proposing 23 different manned space missions.

My idea: Why not create & compose simple models of narrative aspects that are indeed culturally grounded and for which there is a poetics, but which seem lower-level (or easier to start on) than the ideas Michael has – aspects such as repetition (seen in Beckett, of course), ellipsis (and its relationship to suspense, as treated in Michael Young’s research), and the like?

These sorts of questions seem to have easier starting points and offer the potential to generalize to some extent across genres, while yielding specific insights as well.

A repetition or ellipsis system would be as culturally grounded as any one that Michael suggested, and it too could be “fully realized” and produce outputs.

My very simple system “Through the Park,” described in “Small-Scale Systems and Computational Creativity,” is an attempt to show how low the stairs are for those interested in investigating ellipsis. Although extremely simple, it is a real model of an aspect of narrative and has been useful to me in thinking about it.

Ian Horswill pointed out in the discussion after the talk that understanding repetition may not be easier than generating romance novels, flash fiction, or work like that of specific authors. This is true, but with repetition there are more concrete starting points. One can certainly start with a lightweight simulation of the world, and of narration, and then elaborate.

Richard Evans mentioned that the repetition in The Odyssey and in Beckett’s plays doesn’t have much in common. I would say that this is true, but that they have something in common – creating a coherent and distinctive texture of language. On the other hand, even within the same work, or work by the same author, there will be different types of repetition that do different things. That’s what makes this aspect of narrative (or, really, textuality) a rich one. It seems to me that these different uses, within a single work or across different works, could be understood analytically and modeled computationally in useful ways. The focus on a single aspect, rather than a genre or community of practice, would make this more tractable and offer a foothold.

Upstart

Wednesday 9 October 2013, 5:51 pm   ////  

Will compounding words lead to compounding interest? Check out my word/name generator, Upstart, and see what you think.

Upstart, a company name generator

As always, you should feel free to develop a modified generator or name your company one of these terms.

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.

New bleuOrange Revue with Three Rails Live / Trois rails sous tension

Friday 27 September 2013, 2:46 am   //////  

Except for its celebratory nature, it may ultimately have little to do with the New Zoo Revue, but the latest issue (number 7) of the French-language bleuOrange revue, from Figura and Laboratoire NT2, has now arrived. The issue publishes the results of a competition to translate electronic literature into French.

In this issue there is a rich selection of new translations, including translations of work by by J. R. Carpenter and Mark Marino, who are here with me now at the 2013 ELO conference Chercher le texte. One of these, too, is the translation of Three Rails Live by Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and Scott Rettberg. The translation is entitled Trois rails sous tension and is by Carolyne Ouellette and Jordan Tudisco, with the voices of Serge Bouchardon and Laetitia LeChatton. For now, there is video documentation of our piece and its translation, as the piece was developed as an installation. Next year a Web version of the video generator, the combinatory database narrative film, will be published on bleuOrange in English and French.

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.

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.

&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.

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