Developing new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language.

Comparative Media Studies & Writing
People's Republic of Interactive Fiction
Purple Blurb
Joe Haldeman’s Olympia SG-3 typewriter
Lydia Davis’s Kaypro 2 computer
The Trope Tank hosts postdoctoral and undergraduate researchers, student visits from various classes, codefests, and other sorts of events and collaborations. The monthly meetings of the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction take place in The Trope Tank. The Purple Blurb series of presentations of digital writing originated in the modest space of the Trope Tank. The series became established as an official activity of, initially, MIT's Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and is now part of MIT's Comparative Media Studies & Writing section. Some examples of specific projects include:
Logo for the Renderings project The Renderings project (2014-) involves translating computational literature into English. We not only employ established literary translation techniques, but also consider how computation and language interact. Literary and computational experts worldwide participate. The first phase of the project (13 works, 6 languages) was published in Cura in 2014. The project is not currently active, although we have several additional translations that we hope to publish eventually and hope to return to this work in the future.
Logo for the Heftings project The Heftings project (2016-2017) involved making attempts, often many different ones, at translating conceptual, constrained, concrete & visual, and other types of literary art that are generally considered to be impossible to translate. An online platform facilitated collaboration between translators worldwide and allows for source texts, and translation attempts, in any language. We hope to continue developing new radical translations, and collaborations, stemming from the Heftings project.
In addition to these two projects, the Trope Tank supports a variety of research, teaching, and creative production. The lab undertook considerable work on the international collaboration Slant (2013-2014). A component of this project was Curveship, an interactive fiction platform for narrative variation.
The lab is directed by Prof. Nick Montfort and located in the Massachusets Institute of Technology in room 14N-233. There were brief annual reports produced for 2013-2014 and 2012-2013.
Home computers and videogame systems ready for use in the Trope Tank
Home computers and videogame systems ready for use in the Trope Tank
Prof. Nick Montfort standing by the Asteroids machine in the Trope Tank
Prof. Nick Montfort in the Trope Tank · Photo by Steve McLaughlin


In-house researchers from semesters past:

Renderings phase I collaborators, 2014

Slant collaborators, 2013–2014

Racing the Beam and Platform Studies series collaborator, 2007–

The Deletionist collaborators, 2011–2013

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 collaborators, 2010-2013

Tools for the Telling collaborators, 2007-2008

Purple Blurb guest organizers:

"Trope Report" Series of Technical Reports

  1. TROPE-12-01 - The Trivial Program "yes" (Nick Montfort)
  2. TROPE-12-02 - XS, S, M, XL: Creative Text Generators of Different Scales (Nick Montfort)
  3. TROPE-12-03 - Creative Material Computing in a Laboratory Context (Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova)
  4. TROPE-12-04 - Carrying across Language and Code (Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova)
  5. TROPE-13-01 - Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings (Clara Fernández-Vara)
  6. TROPE-13-02 - Videogame Editions for Play and Study (Clara Fernández-Vara and Nick Montfort)
  7. TROPE-13-03 - No Code: Null Programs (Nick Montfort)
  8. TROPE-14-01 - New Novel Machines: Nanowatt and World Clock (Nick Montfort)
  9. TROPE-14-02 - Stickers as a Literature-Distribution Platform (Piotr Marecki)
  10. TROPE-15-01 - Textual Demoscene (Piotr Marecki)
  11. TROPE-17-01 - Heftings: A Preliminary System to Support Impossible Translation (Chris Kerich and Nick Montfort)
  12. TROPE-17-02 - 256-Byte Creative Programs (Sofian Audry, Angela Chang, Chris Kerich, Milton Läufer and Nick Montfort)


A catalog of materials in the Trope Tank (hardware & software) is now avaialable.

Hardware and software catalog

Researchers interested in computer and video games, electronic literature (including interactive fiction, hypertext fiction, and digital poetry), home computing and hobbyist programming, or related topics are welcome to contact Nick for access to the collection of materials, computers, and video game systems that is housed in the Trope Tank.


The Trope Tank, MIT
77 Massachusetts Ave, Room 14N-233
Cambridge, MA 02139


The Trope Tank is at MIT in Building 14, the same building that is the home of the Hayden Library. The room number is 14N-233; this is in the north wing on the second floor. After finding building 14, come in — the entrance on the northeast side, next to the large black steel Calder sculpture, is the closest one to the Trope Tank. Once inside, take the stairs or elevator up to the second floor. The Trope Tank is not inside the library; it is in the wing across the courtyard from it.