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.
I will be reading from and discussing three recent books this Thursday at 7pm the Harvard Book Store here in sunny Cambridge, Massachusetts. These are:
Counterpath Press, Denver
a book of programs & poems (pronounced “shebang”)
Bad Quarto, Cambridge
a computer-generated novel
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
MIT Press, Cambridge
a collaboration with nine others that I organized, now out in paperback
These all express how programming can be used for poetic purposes, and how
new aesthetic possibilities can arise with the help of computing. Also,
some portions of these (which I’ll read from) are quite pleasing to read
aloud and to hear.
I would love it if you are able to join me on Thursday.
I’m reading at the Harvard Book Store on September 18 – a week from now, on Thursday. The reading is at 7pm.
I’ll be presenting and reading from my latest book, #! (pronounced “shebang”), which is a book of programs and poems, published by Counterpath Press in Denver.
I’ll also discuss my previous two books, one of which is World Clock. I developed this for National Novel Generation Month last November; it’s a computer-generated novel. Cleverly enough, it’s been translated into Polish via translation of the underlying program.
The other recent book is 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, which I organized and wrote with nine others. This one, an MIT Press book, is just out in paperback. This is a critical, scholarly study of a one-line program, and although it is an academic book of this sort, it of course has a strong relationship to the code-generated World Clock and the programs-and-poems #!.
The programs behind #!, by the way, are all available online as free software at my site, nickm.com. The book is there as an example of how this particular material form can represent the code and the output, and how page differs from screen, sometimes in very interesting ways.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Harvard Square often, please do come by to the reading. I will do my best to make it fun and provocative, and to provide some additional insight into computing and how it interacts with language.
Two professors page through, scroll through, search through the history and contemporary existence of the book to disrupt the opposition between computing and print-based, codexical practice.
GOTO80 tipped me off that the NYPL is experimenting with using PETSCII (the character set used on the Commodore 64 and other Commodore computers) to generate covers for e-books that don’t have them. There is also a cover generator under development that uses illustrations.
The PETSCII generator is specificaly inspired by 10 PRINT, and of course, it leads leads me to ask … will they use this system to generate a cover for the e-book version of 10 PRINT?
Just out: Introduction to Game Analysis, a book that covers many different approaches to understanding games, and particularly (although not exclusively) videogames. (Check the availability of the book online.) It’s by Clara Fernández-Vara, now on the faculty at the Game Center at NYU, who did one of the first digital media PhDs at Georgia Tech and was for many years my colleague here at MIT – I’m glad she was also part my of lab, The Trope Tank, for some of that time. Fernández-Vara is a scholar of games and an award-winning maker of games as well, and in both cases her emphasis has been on adventure games.
It’s been valuable to learn, over the years, how to view games as we would literature or film, and how to bring specific individual approaches to bear in understanding them. Now, Introduction to Game Analysis offers numerous methods of analysis that each treat games as games. These approaches are systematically organized and well thought out, too. Anyone in game studies or digital media should find this book compelling; A person who is coming to video games from another field, or who has been in the field and is looking to teach an introduction to video games, will find it essential.
I was delighted to see that my latest book, #!, a book of programs & poems, made the July Poetry bestseller list for Small Press Distribution. SPD is the distributor for my press, Counterpath, along with many other fine presses that publish poetry. #! (which is pronounced “Shebang”) came in at lucky number 13 last month.
It’s particularly nice to see since the book was just becoming available online and in bookstores around the middle of the month, and given that if you search for the book by title on Amazon.com you get 47,921,926 results, presumably due to the title having no letters or numbers. (You can search for it using my name.) There’s also the issue that the book consists entirely of short computer programs and their outputs, which I think is very neat, but which some believe to be a bit esoteric. Actually, I hope the book is rather intelligible and fun, by connecting some of the popular programming of the 1970s and 1980s to contemporary conceptual writing and poetry.
By the way, if you are having trouble getting the book from a local store or online, you can order it directly from SPD.
While I read some from #! in Michigan recently at the Postscript symposium and exhibit, I’ll be beginning to do readings in earnest next month. The first one is planned for September 18, 7pm, at the Harvard Book Store. More on that soon…
latest Drawn & Quarterly publication is a formidable follow-up to Big Questions. The accordion book holds the human stories of forgotten (and current) gods, told in text and striking silhouettes.
If you’ve been looking for my latest book, #!, and are looking to buy it online, check isbn.nu. At the moment of posting, it’s available from three sellers, one on pre-order. Barnes & Noble is the bookseller with the lowest price and fastest delivery; Amazon.com offers to get it to you 3-4 weeks later.
In Cambridge, I have yet to see the book on shelves, but I know copies are at least on order (if not readied for purchase) at the MIT Press Bookstore and the Harvard Bookstore. And, Grolier Poetry Book Shop also had a few copies.
Update, July 17, 5pm: The local place to get a copy of #!, at the moment, is the MIT Press Bookstore. That’s at 292 Main Street, right outside the Kendall T stop. This is the MIT Press Bookstore, not the MIT Coop, and in the “Faculty Authors” section they do currently stock copies of my latest book.
Update, July 18, 1pm: B&N no longer has the book listed for whatever reason. It can be obtained online, right now, from Small Press Distribution, though.
My new book of programs/poems, #! (pronounced “Shebang”), has just been published by Counterpath.
Read all about it on the press’s page for #!.
The book consists of poetic programs and their outputs. The programs in the book are all free software, and in case you don’t want to type them in, the longer ones are all available in my “code” directory.
I hope you’ll get a copy at your local independent bookseller.
Thanks to Golan Levin’s “atypical, anti-disciplinary and inter-institutional” FRSCI lab, the CMU Computer Club, and ROM hacking bit-boy Cory Archangel, several instances of previously unknown visual artwork, done by Andy Warhol on the Amiga 1000 in 1985, have been recovered.
Warhol’s use of this classic multimedia system is but one of the many surprising, rich aspects of Amiga history that are carefully detailed by Jimmy Maher in The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga. An early topic is the launch of the first Amiga computer at the Lincoln Center, with Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry in attendance and with Warhol producing a portrait of her on the machine during the festivities. Maher also writes about how Warhol’s attitude toward the computer was actually a bit retrograde in some ways: Rather than thinking of the screen as a first-class medium for visual art, he wanted better printers that could produce work in a more conventional medium. The discussion of Warhol’s involvement is but one chapter (actually, less than one chapter) in a book that covers the Amiga’s hardware development, technical advances, relationship to image editing and video processing work, and lively demos — from the early, famous “Boing Ball” demo to the productions of the demoscene. The Future Was Here is the latest book in the Platform Studies series, which I edit with Ian Bogost.
With these images surfacing now, after almost 30 years, the age-old question “soup or art?” is awakened in us once again. Do we need to print these out to enjoy them? To sell them for cash? Did Warhol invent what is now thought of as the “MS Paint” style, back on the Amiga 1000 in 1985?
Note, finally, that there is a detailed report on the recovery project provided in PDF form.
Acting on a tip from The Kelly Writers House at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, I recently learned about, and then read, Alan Light’s book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah.” This intrigued me as an admirer of this song in particular, Leonard Cohen’s songwriting and singing generally, and other aspects of his literary art (particularly the incredible novel Beautiful Losers). It also appealed to me as an entire book written about a single, short work. In this case, the work isn’t a Commodore 64 BASIC program – as in the book collaborators and I wrote, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1));: GOTO 10 – but a popular song with many lines and many covers, one that has been used in a wide variety of contexts.
The author discusses those many contexts well, covering the original release, the famous Jeff Buckley cover, and many other versions. There’s discussion of Shrek, the VH1 9/11 memorial video, manifestations on Idol and X Factor TV shows, and uses in religious ceremonies. The book is not really a deep dive into the music or the lyrics, although the etymology of the world “Hallelujah” and the differences in how the term is used in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles are discussed. Cohen declined to be interviewed, so the book also doesn’t spend too much time on origin myths, just recounting a bit from previous interviews. The book works to tease out the many things the song has meant to people and how it has managed to have all of these meanings.
It’s quite a different book from 10 PRINT, both in methodology and because the BASIC program is quite a bit different, culturally, than the song. I found it a quite enjoyable read.
I’m quoted in this article on the origins of ebooks, published today in The Guardian. The news hook is the exhibition of Peter James’s Host in its 1993 floppy-disk edition.
… is today’s comic.
And it’s true, Randall probably did not know about _World Clock_ (book, code). Maybe he didn’t even know about my inspirations, Harry Mathews’s “The Chronogram for 1998” or Stanislaw Lem’s _One Human Minute._
In that case it’s an unwitting answer.
In any case, it’s a nice one.
MIT Press has just launched the BITS series of excerpts from the press’s book publications. They are offered as DRM-free e-books, and come with a 40% discount on the purchase of the entire print or e-book from which the excerpt comes. I’m glad to see a collaborator and a colleague topping the list, and I’m also pleased that one of the first selections featured is from my and Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam.