May 30, 2004

trAce New Media Article Competition

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:52 am

Congrats to the winning authors of trAce’s New Media Article competition.

Review category – “A Bad Machine Made of Words” by Nick Montfort
Opinion category – “Are cell phones new media? Hybrid communities and collective authorship” by Adriana de Souza e Silva
Process category – “Writing 4 Cyberformance” by Karla Ptacek & Helen Varley Jamieson
Editor’s Choice Award – “Show Me Your Context, Baby: My Love Affair with Blogs” by Kate Baggott
Honourable Mention – “Postcards From Writing” by Sally Pryor

May 26, 2004

Breaking Up, Broken Down

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:16 pm

Continuing the theme of AI systems that use language: here’s a new paper by Rob Zubek at Northwestern, who has been thinking hard about how to make robust, richly interactive conversational characters. His PhD research is focused on building an architecture for structuring conversations as vast collections of reactions to player input, arranged in hierarchies, that compete to understand and respond to the player. Multiple possible threads of conversation all are listening simultaneously to what the player says at any time, and they each update their local probabilities of where they believe they are in the conversation. Assuming enough content is authored, this allows the conversation to have a variety of believable responses at any time, at varying levels of coherence. Thus the system can fail gracefully and perhaps move the conversation forward when the system has trouble understanding the player, or doesn’t have a good response.

May 24, 2004


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:06 am

The Futurefarmers collective has released the online game Antiwargame. Like the controversial September 12 (GTxA discussion: 1 2), Antiwargame explores the politics of the war on terror via a game simulation. In Antiwargame you take actions such as setting your budget, sending troops overseas and manipulating the media, with the goal of maintaining a popularity high enough to remain president.

Via Rhizome

Update: More on the simulation rhetoric operating in Antiwargame can be found in the comments.

May 22, 2004

Open Knowledge Projects Win at Ars Electronica

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:51 pm

This year the Prix Ars Electronica honored two projects that have helped to make vast amounts of human knowledge available and legally accessible. Wikipedia, the free, community-built encyclopedia, was awarded the Golden Nica for Digital Communities. Creative Commons won the Golden Nica for Net Vision.

May 20, 2004

Art Nets Awards

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:06 pm

The 2004 Turbulence Competition results have been announced: five project proposals for were awarded $5000 each.

Even interactive fiction is in da (mystery) house, and on the list: One of the winners is a project I proposed with Dan Shiovitz and Emily Short. Thanks to Noah for reminding us about the deadline for this contest.

May 19, 2004

Great Blogs of Fire / Todos los blogs el blog

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:52 pm

There’s a new interactive fiction blog y uno de estos blogs sobre relatos interactivos tambien. The site IFLibrary.Com has just relaunched, today, as a (currently empty) locus for interactive fiction bloggers – let Dave Cornelson know if you’d like a blog there. Meanwhile, Al-Khwarizmi, dhan, and JSJ have started a Spanish-language blog on the topic, using the title “Relatos Interactivos” (interactive stories) rather than “Ficción Interactiva” (interactive fiction) or “Aventuras Conversacionales” (conversational adventures) – but welcoming, with Borgesian allusions, all with an interest in the form, whatever they call it.

May 18, 2004

What Hypertext Is

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:55 am

I’m working on a short paper for ACM Hypertext 2004, which will be at UC Santa Cruz this August (and where Matt Webb and I will be offering a tutorial on blogging). The short papers deadline is the 28th of this month. The working title of my paper is “What Hypertext Is” and my goal is to provide a 2-page answer to the old chestnut “What is Hypertext?” I want to give a much, much better answer than you find in many places — such as the current everything2 entry, which begins: “Hypertext is nothing more than the inclusion of links within a body of text.”

I’m including a draft below, and would definitely appreciate comments. I can’t make it any longer, but I could substitute, clarify, reconsider, etc. Here’s a preview:

We can now, based on our examination of Nelson’s texts, provide a relatively concise definition of hypertext appropriate for a world familiar with the Web: “Hypertext is a term coined by Ted Nelson for textually-focused forms of hypermedia (new media that branch or perform on request). Examples include the link-based ‘discrete hypertext’ (of which the Web is one example) and the level-of-detail-based ‘stretchtext.'”

May 17, 2004

Reversing the Spam Cannon

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:07 pm

Traditional methods for combating spam on blogs – for instance, obfuscating links and thus decreasing the PageRank and usefulness of blogs, using censorship methods known as blacklists – are a disservice to public communication, albeit often in ways that are minor at first. If these are used exclusively, they will eventually lead to the ruin of the Internet as a public space and a public conversation.

Instead, we should encourage technical and legal measures that actively counterattack spammers and assailants of blogs. Spambots – here I refer to the sorts of programs that communicate on IRC to coordinate the defacement and destruction of blogs – attempt to turn channels of public communication and conversation against themselves. Spambots should themselves be sabotaged so that they are made to perform useful tasks, at the very least, notifying end users and network administrators that their computers have been compromised, but perhaps also implementing DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on rogue, spamming machines. Additionally, spammers should certainly be publicly identified and then ostracized, bankrupted, and in some cases physically incarcerated, but there are powerful technical methods that could be available to us, too, and it’s worthwhile to spur on the development of these.

The problem with comment spam is not that blogs link to things or that blogs allow unconstrained communication by commenters online; the problem is the abuse of blogs as a channel of communication and the attempts of spammers to destroy the blog as a popular forum and to render the Internet a wasteland of speech. The appropriate response is not to cripple blogs, but to target abusers and the abuse and attacks they visit on our new communication systems and conversational spaces.

May 14, 2004

Subtle Technologies

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:07 am

The 7th annual Subtle Technologies Festival of art and science takes place at the University of Toronto from May 27th to May 30th. “Subtle Technologies’ mandate is to blur the boundaries between art and science, presenting symposia, exhibitions and performances that juxtapose cutting-edge artistic endeavours and scientific exploration.” In addition to the symposium, there will be a performance and workshop by Pamela Z in partnership with Deep Wireless Festival and InterAccess Media Arts Centre. InterAccess will also host an installation, “Infrasense” by Robert Saucier and KIT. DeLeon White Gallery is hosting an installation, Champions of Entropy #3, by Brandon Vickerd. The full schedule of presentations, performances and installations is available on the website.

May 11, 2004

Computational Creativity Workshop

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:52 pm

The submission deadline for the Computational Creativity Workshop at the 7th European Conference in Cased-Based Reasoning has been extended to May 17th. We have often discussed how AI-based approaches to interactive media can support a level of generativity, and thus support a depth and breadth of interaction, not possible with non-AI approaches. For AI-based art and entertainment, the AI subfield of Computational Creativity is particularly relevant as it explicitly focuses on systems that generate novel configurations out of raw material given to the system. Such systems could be used to generate novel character behaviors, story pieces, text, visual imagery, etc. in response to interaction.

Artifactual eWriting meets Embodied Agents

In the ewriting world, the “artifactual” tradition is made up of work that presents itself as fictional digital artifacts. So, for example, Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse is a 1993 work presented as a box of items inherited from your uncle — floppy disks with “his” files, audio tapes of “his” recordings, etc. Email narratives and blog fictions (which have both gotten some press attention of late) are artifactual uses of the network. And now we have a game that’s an artifactual use of the console.

Lifeline (Wired News, GameSpot) is a relatively new game that transforms a console, controller, microphone, and television into, well, a console, controller, microphone, and television. You’re a survivor of a space station catastrophe, trapped in the old security station, and using your controllable display to guide another survivor through the steps needed for those who remain to keep living. You guide the other survivor by talking with her over your microphone.

May 9, 2004

A Few Links

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:56 pm

I’ve been enjoying two relatively-new blogs from cool folks: Michelle Higa and Jenny Cool. Also, Jonathan Phillips (who I saw at 040404 and Nick and I saw at Digital Narr@tive) is a busy guy, as two of his collaborative projects show — in the last month the Scale journal has had a new issue and a new call, and the open source SVG editor Inkscape has had a new release. And the speakers for Incubation3 have been announced, including Ted Nelson and Mark Amerika. Finally, don’t forget that the ALT+CTRL deadline is June 1, and May 28 is the short papers deadline for Hypertext 2004 (where the keynote speaker will be Doug Engelbart).

HotWired, Suck, and Pathfinder Will Be out of Cryogenic Suspension to Join You in a Moment

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:56 am

The Spot Book I thought Slashdot’s story must have been posted on April 1 mod Something, but no – the original reality-based Web site, the Web’s first soap opera, is back: The Spot.

Well, people will have something to do now that Friends is over. And maybe this will fetch something on eBay.

Update: Why not read a recent article about Web-soap phenomenon The Spot? In a popular Web daily?

May 7, 2004

Harry Mathews at Penn

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:24 pm

Harry Mathews did a wonderful reading last night at Penn at the exhibit Composing. I got to introduce Harry. There was a great turnout, which included – besides the usual suspects from around campus and the friends of the library – Fernando Pereira, the chair of the computer and information science department; Scott, who came in from New Jersey despite grades being due today; Marie Chaix, Harry’s wife; artist Trevor Winkfield, who also was publisher of Harry’s first book, The Ring; and Tina Packer, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare and Co.

Teaching Interactive Narrative

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:01 am

This Spring I taught Interactive Narrative. In this class, through a mixture of readings and projects, we survey the landscape of interactive narrative, examining the theoretical issues, debates and design issues that arise around different conceptions of interactive narrative. As I’ve discussed previously, the class is organized around technical genres (e.g. interactive fiction, author-based story generation, interactive drama), where a technical genre consists of a community of practice (history of work and criticism) organized around specific computational and design commitments.

The class is heavily project-based – 6 weeks of the class are spent in two 3 week design cycles, including in-class critique, in which students design and implement an interactive narrative. For these projects, students are free to explore/invent any form that interests them, as long as they can articulate in what sense it is interactive and (harder) in what sense it is narrative. We actually look at works along four design dimensions, in terms of interactivity, narrativity, segmentation and representation (as I discussed earlier).

I do spend some time in the class exploring the ludology/narratology debate.

May 6, 2004

Cyberdrama @ ebr

First Person has just made its online debut, with the Cyberdrama section appearing on electronic book review this week. The material online includes essays by Janet Murray, Ken Perlin, and GTxA’s own Michael Mateas, as well as response material from Espen Aarseth, Bryan Loyall, Will Wright, Victoria Vesna, Gonzalo Frasca, Brenda Laurel, and the essayists.

One reason that Pat Harrigan (my First Person coeditor) and I are excited to be working with ebr is that they’ve been quite successful at growing meaningful academic exchanges around their past publishing projects. Of course, the blogsphere has some interesting tools as well (as our recent thread on narratology and game studies demonstrates) but ebr creates a space for somewhat less rapid-fire dialogues, which grow into shapes different both from those that develop in glacial print publication and in hyperheated comment threads. I hear that Jane McGonigal and Mark Barrett are already working on responses to Cyberdrama. Hopefully some GTxA readers will decide to jump in as well!

Look Familiar?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:54 am

Return to Dark Castle screen

A beta version of a demo of Return to Dark Castle, for OS X, is now out. It’s from Delta Tao. (The original Dark Castle is an excellent 2D platform game, in black and white, for the Mac, published by Silicon Beach in 1986, developed by Mark Pierce and Jonathan Gay. It doesn’t run on modern Macs, as it only runs in two-color mode.)

May 4, 2004

Unconscious Thinking

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:45 pm

I’ve been thinking about chatterbots, as well as the recent discussion about poetry generation using statistical methods. I’ve thought about what these systems do, and what they don’t do.

I recently played with and read up on ALICE, a state-of-the-art text-based chatterbot. Primarily authored by Richard Wallace, ALICE has twice won an annual Turing test-like competition called the Loebner Prize. To create ALICE, Wallace developed AIML, a publicly-available language for implementing text-based chatterbots.

Gnoetry has been discussed several times here on GTxA, most recently here. From its website, “Gnoetry synthesizes language randomly based on its analysis of existing texts. Any machine-readable text or texts, in any language, can serve as the basis of the Gnoetic process. Gnoetry generates sentences that mimic the local statistical properties of the source texts. This language is filtered subject to additional constraints (syllable counts, rhyming, etc.) to produce a poem.”

In my experience with them, ALICE and Gnoetry are entertaining at times, sometimes even surprising. They clearly have some intelligence.

But something feels unduly missing about these artificial minds. I decided to try to understand, why do I have trouble caring about what they have to say? What precisely would they need to do, beyond or instead of what they currently do, to make me care? (Is it just me? :-)

May 3, 2004

Must Programmers be Depressed Asocial Geeks?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:57 pm

Following the advice of Matt Kirschenbaum, I’ve recently read The Bug, Ellen Ullman’s tale of obsessive programming, and the deterioration of a programmer in his year-long quest to fix an elusive bug. Matt includes The Bug on his list of Software Studies readings, and suggested it during our earlier discussion of my class Computation as an Expressive Medium (aka programming for artists). The book does a great job describing how software systems consist of layer upon layer of abstraction, describing the debugging process, and providing a visceral feel for all the computational work that goes into maintaining the abstraction of a graphical interface, all within an engaging story. The book also encapsulates the two cultures battle within the microcosm of a 1980s software company, with highly educated humanists in low-status testing jobs on one side, and narrowly technical, often self-taught (or possessing mere bachelor’s degrees), high-status programmers on the other. The book could nicely complement The New Media Reader readings and Java programming we do within the class.

News in Brief

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:40 pm

First, the human interest story: Happy birthday to, which is finally out of its terrible twos. Also, The Unknown has been safely archived at The Internet Archive. Finally, a slew of new content unrolls onto the Web: The first of First Person has launched on ebr. Film at 11, but I couldn’t wait to mention it.

And the forest fires of discussion are still not out over in the blog’s Midwest and Southwest regions…

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