November 30, 2005

Bot in the Gallery

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:30 pm

A voice-recognition-enhanced version of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s DiNA, a head-and-shoulders chatterbot focused on discussing current affairs, will soon be debuted as part of her show “Selected Works: 1976 – 2005” at the Bitforms gallery in New York. Here’s a NYTimes article from last Sunday briefly reviewing the history of Hershman’s pioneering work over the decades.

(Unusually, the bot’s programmer, Colin Klingman, actually gets a mention in the article. But why not get double-billing with Hershman, something I’ve argued is necessary for programmers of non-trivially interactive art?)

November 29, 2005

It’s Juul Time

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:14 am

Jesper Juul’s new book Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds is now out from MIT Press. I have not yet seen the book, but it has some basis in Jesper’s very high-quality dissertation of the same name, and I’m willing to recommend that people at least take a serious look at it for that reason alone. Jesper describes the book on his blog, The Ludologist, as being “brand new, all together nicer, more readable, more fun, and just better.” It’s evident from the companion site that he has put many new efforts into this new Half-Real.

November 28, 2005

Trib Article on Control and Reading

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:12 pm

I was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic, Julia Keller, for an article published in the Trib this Sunday, “Plugged-in Proust: Has e-lit come of age?” (archive). William J. Mitchell, head of the Media Arts and Sciences program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was also interviewed for the piece, which examines the relationship between control and reading technologies.

Pro-Banana, Pro-Magic-Castle Activists Speak Out

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:04 pm

Games need BLUE SKIES! … We want to play in a HAPPY PRETEND LAND, not a shit version of an American slum full of mixed-race gangsters wearing licensed sportswear!

Indeed, if I lived in the U.K., I’d be desperate for blue skies …

Winter Break Reading Update: Oulipo Compendium, Hayles, and Castronova

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:41 pm

I’ve gotten some sweet packages in the mail from Amazon over the past couple of weeks. My longest-anticipated purchase finally arrived from England. For the past year, I’ve had the Oulipo Compendium on order from Amazon UK. It seemed impossible to find a copy of the 1998 Compendium, edited by Harry Mathews and Alistair Brotchie, online, or in any used bookstore. I was beginning to think that the Oulipo Compendium would turn into my Holy Grail book. I searched depsondently at my favorite used bookstores. The Strand in New York didn’t have it, nor Myopic Books in Chicago. Lo and behold, two weeks ago it arrived, laden with pounds and pounds of shipping charges and great expectations. To my delighted surprise, the Compendium is not in fact the 1998 edition but a revised and updated 2005 edition. I had seen the 1998 edition and often coveted it, but I’ve recently had the pleasure of spending some fruitful hours with the new edition. The book is organized in a pleasingly cross-referenced hypertextual encyclopedia, and provides an immersive introduction to the Oulipo, both as a historical introduction to the group, its writers, and their work, and as a kind of workbook. Hundreds of Oulipan writing techniques ranging from the lipogram to the avalanche are explained and exemplified. It’s the type of book that makes you want to spend the afternoon playing with language at your keyboard. I’ll be teaching the book next semester in a new course titled “Art, Games, and Narrative.”

November 26, 2005

a resident

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:11 pm

its sunset at quarter to five out here on a 450 acre patch of land in Connecticut called ‘i-park,’ where i’m doing an artist’s residency. The sky is currently a mix of purple and deep deep blue. Several other artists are here, a ceramicist from Russia, a painter from Australia, and a sculptor from Wales at the moment. I’m pleased to be with people who are engaged with other materials unrelated to screens and cables.
It’s very quiet here.

IF Goodies for Players and Programmmers

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:08 pm

November 24, 2005

Digitial Poetics Seeds and Selections

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:00 am

I presented several digitial pieces to Charles Bernstein‘s English 589.301 / Comparative Literature 577.301 class (Modern, Modernist, Contemporary: Reading Poetry/Poetry Reading) yesterday night. I selected these to connect to existing discussion in the seminar and to make for an interesting sequence. I wasn’t trying to develop a “greatest hits” album, but a series of pieces that was interesting to show and briefly discuss for this particular group.

I think it went extraordinarily well – we not only went through enough of each of these pieces to allow everyone to see how they are operated (so that they can be pursued and read closely later on), but we even got into discussion of scriptons and textons, the Cave at Brown, and obfuscated code. Many thanks to the seminar participants who showed up the night before Thanksgiving! Here’s the lineup I came up with…

November 22, 2005

A Problem with the Free Pie, and Debian Women

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:30 pm

Hanna Wallach spoke today at Penn about women in free and open source software development. She described the pervasive nature of free software, the “four freedoms” that are referred to in the word “free,” and the distinction between the terms “free” and “open source.” Hanna also mentioned several commercial free software endeavors and many large-scale cases of free software use. She also showed a map with many Debian developers indicated, throughout the globe – at least one in Antartica.

The startling statistic that introduced Hanna’s discussion of women in free software: while 28% of proprietary software developers are female, only about 1.5% of free software developers are. This is certainly the sort of result that provokes a vigorous WTF? reaction, isn’t it?

Reading Can Be a Ball: Philadelphia Fullerine

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:21 pm

Philadelphia Fullerine, Lite Edition

I had a most unusual visitor a few weeks ago.

November 21, 2005

Openings at Georgia Tech

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:05 pm

We have a couple of tenure-track faculty openings in the Digital Media program at Georgia Tech.

Positions in Digital Media

Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Communication, and Culture is seeking to fill two (2) positions at the rank of assistant or associate professor in the emerging discipline of Digital Media. Applicants should have expertise in one or more of the fields listed below and be prepared to teach at the undergraduate and graduate level in LCC’s suite of programs in computational and digital media. A Ph.D. in an appropriate field is required, as is computational proficiency and a demonstrated capacity for significant original research/creative work. Expertise in educational technology is desirable, as is a proven record or significant potential in generating external funding.

Testing Turing

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:45 am

Turing book coverA Review of Turing (A Novel about Computation)
Christos H. Papadimitriou
MIT Press
2003/2005 paper
208 pp.
$32.00/$13.95 paper

I had been interested in Christos H. Papadimitriou’s Turing (A Novel about Computation) since I first learned about it – thanks to the book being published by MIT Press at about the same time that Twisty Little Passages came out. It was the only contemporary entry in MIT Press’s “fiction and literature” category, I believe, and had an alphabetically close title, so I kept noticing the book and wondering about it. When I found that Papadimitriou was coming to Penn, I used the excuse to finally get Turing and read it.

November 18, 2005

Following Robert Coover’s “Suit”

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:16 pm
Heart Suit title card

I’ve managed a certain ironic detachment from McSweeney’s for quite a while, but issue #16 (which includes a piece that Harry Mathews collaborated on and, in an unusual homage to Duchamp, an actual comb) has something in it that finally compelled me to deal out the asking price. This is a piece by Robert Coover, “Heart Suit.”

“Heart Suit” is printed on fifteen cards that are full of text on one side, and backed and cornered like playing cards. There is a “title” card, deuce through ace, and a joker. The instructions, which appear on the title card, read the “middle” thirteen in any order, and conclude with the joker. The tale, so shuffled, will be a story of tart theft in the court of hearts, will involve a bit of inquisition and investigation, will incude a great deal of queen-shtupping by a pack of paramours, and will conclude with a final – or perhaps not so final – meting out of punishment.

Blast modern art

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:57 pm

The recently released Curator Defense (also an IGF submission this year) puts the player in the role of a museum curator defending against rampaging hoards of modern art (it’s unclear whether this means modern art or contemporary art). Using a light, RTS-like tech tree, the player can set up various defenses, such as banisters, defense turrets, and the Venus de Willendorf, to prevent modern art from reaching the store room. Once a piece reaches the store room, it becomes part of the permanent collection, displacing one of your Old Masterpieces. You loose when your entire collection has been replaced with modern art. Thanks to Zach Pousman for this one.

Gatherings Down Under

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:46 pm

Some excellent conferences are upcoming in Australia — Interactive Entertainment 2005, Nov 23-25 in Sydney, including invited speakers Tracy Fullerton of USC Interactive Media, Mark Meadows who wrote Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, VRML creator Mark Pesce, and interactive narrative researcher R. Michael Young from NC State.

A few days later proceed to the procedural Third Iteration, the third international conference on generative systems in the electronic arts, Nov 30-Dec 2 in Melbourne. “It investigates three major themes – human-computer creativity, generative meaning systems, and the computational sublime.” (These dates directly conflict with DAC in Copenhagen. Not that it matters to me, I have no money or time to make it to any of them, sadly :-) Third Iteration includes invited speaker Casey Reas, co-creator of Processing. And a few days after that, also in Sydney, is a Creativity and Cognition Symposium on Generative Arts Practice.

November 17, 2005

Opening Book and Volume


I’m pleased to announce the release of Nick Montfort’s new interactive fiction: Book and Volume.

It’s been more than five years since Nick burst on the IF scene with the release of Winchester’s Nightmare (1999) and Ad Verbum (2000). His new piece, which I’ve had the privilege of playing in pre-release versions, is an addition to the field that will appeal to veterans and newcomers alike.

As a sysadmin in Book and Volume‘s nTopia, it’s easy to know what to do. Your computer, your pager, and your boss are constantly telling you. And you must spend your Sunday night running around rebooting servers whether you like it or not (there’s a big demo coming up!) or get fired. But there’s more to B&V than what the voice from your pager commands. In fact, part of what this story and game explores, over time, is the potential for performing actions beyond those made available most obviously.

November 16, 2005

Machinima Made Easy, Within a Tycoon Sim

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:55 pm

This has been a unusually prolific year for computer-based drama; in addition to Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy and Façade we have last week’s release of Lionhead’s much-anticipated The Movies. I haven’t played it yet (nor Indigo Prophecy), but the reviews are pretty positive (1 2), and users are already madly uploading thousands of their user-created movies to Lionhead’s community server.

From what I’ve read so far about The Movies, it’s primary gameplay is as a tycoon sim, about running a movie studio. While that gameplay is reportedly decent, the more interesting activity is the game-within-a-game of shooting your own movies — ostensibly as a task for succeeding in the larger tycoon sim game, but more enjoyably just for fun, as a tool of self-expression, the product of which (2-3 minute video files) you can share with your friends on the online community. (In fact you can go to “sandbox” mode and skip the tycoon sim game altogether, to just author little movies.)

How self-expressive can you be? Well, looks like you pick from an extensive pre-built library of cinematic shots and character types, that cover about five cinematic genres — horror, action, love story, sci-fi, etc. From what I can tell from the reviews, you may not have much control over behavior of the characters within a shot, but you can dub whatever dialog you like into these shots (by recording your voice), change lighting, wardrobe and makeup (huge variety), actors’ facial features (and plastic surgery), backdrops (huge variety), camera angles and perhaps focus / depth of field, add titles, subtitles and credits, and edit the timing of the shots in a simplified video editor. And, the system renders the “film” in a variety of styles, from more old-time cinema with lots of scratches and grain to modern.

Very impressive. Looks like they pulled off something great here. Here’s some screenshots, and an excerpt from the Gamespot review:

11th IF Comp Results Are In

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:56 am

Vespers by Jason Devlin is the winner of this year’s IF Comp – the Wall Street Journal called it. There is a tie for second place: Beyond, a game by Italian authors Roberto Grassi, Paolo Lucchesi and Alessandro Peretti, and A New Life by Alexandre Owen Muñiz, which was also mentioned in the Journal article. Here are the full results. Congratulations to Jason, Roberto, Paolo, Alessandro, Alexandre, and all the other winners!

Dan Shiovitz has already posted an essay with some general observations about this year’s comp, and the usual deluge of reviews on seems to be beginning, too. Check ’em out – and, of course, check out the games.

November 15, 2005

Journal: “Fans Write New Adventures”

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:02 pm

Vauhini Vara’s Wall Street Journal Online article on interactive fiction is out. Sure, the headline, “Keeping a Genre Alive,” suggests Terri Schiavo more than a compelling creative practice. But still, it’s a short, decent piece describes IF and the “cult group of gamers,” members of whom “post their own text-only adventures online for free, and meet in chat rooms dedicated to the craft.” The article mentions Photopia and Shade and eschews the usual suspects for quotations. (I will mention, but not complain about, being interviewed but not quoted. I think several people are in the same inflatable boat; Vara seems to have done a good amount of research on the phone for this piece.) The article even ends with a quote from Steve Meretzky – albeit the least funny one I’ve ever read.

November 12, 2005

chess queens unite!

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:52 pm

I’m reading Marilyn Yalom’s book _Birth of the Chess Queen_, which documents the game of Chess in several incarnations. Yalom conducted original research on many continents trying to discover a) when ‘Queen’ pieces were introduced to the board (prior to the introduction of the Queen, the spot was occupied by the King’s vizier), and b) how religious, social, and cultural changes coincided with this shift. It’s a fascinating survey of medieval history, especially Spanish history, where changes to the chess board were particular interesting given the mix of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds there.

November 11, 2005

First Person Paperback

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:18 am

Following the re-launch of the First Person thread on ebr (with excellent new additions noted by Nick), I’m pleased to announce that the book version of First Person will also be arriving in a new form. With a bound book date of February 3rd, 2006, and a cover price of $22 (so, about $16 at the online discounters), the First Person paperback might make the perfect addition to some Spring syllabi…

November 10, 2005

SLSA 2005

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:10 pm

I’ll be giving a talk this evening on Implementation in the contexts of Situationism, Fluxus, and sticker art campaigns this evening at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Conference in Chicago. For the first time this year, the conference includes a stream of presentations on electronic literature. The conference will also include a stream for ecocriticism; a stream for the conference theme of cognitive science and emergence; and a stream for work in the visual arts. The plenary speaker is Gerald Edelman, winner of the Nobel Prize. Invited Artists inclue Eduardo Kac, Warren Neidich, Allison Hunter, Eve Andree Laramee, Daniel Wenk, Zane Berzina.
Keynote panels will match invited artists and prominent critics, among them Cary Wolfe, Barbara Stafford, and N. Katherine Hayles.

November 8, 2005

Facade Talk at USC

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:29 pm

We’ll be giving a talk tomorrow at 6pm at USC’s Interactive Media program about the creation of Facade. If you’re in the LA area tomorrow and have some free time, perhaps we’ll see you there!

November 7, 2005

Airport Insecurity is Out

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:11 pm

Airport InsecurityCalling all those with Java-capable mobile phones! Airport Insecurity, the mobile phone game made to be played while waiting in an airport security line, is now out. It costs less than $4, a price that wouldn’t even make Crazy Frog blink. Airport Insecurity is by Persuasive Games, behind which you’ll find Ian Bogost, who blogs at Water Cooler Games. You may remember this game from my writeup of Ian’s talk “Designing for Reproach.”

First Person from First Principles

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:23 am

The new issue, phase, or manifestation of ebr (Electronic Book Review) is here, and there’s some really great stuff in it. Writing by John Cayley and Lori Emerson is part of that, but I have to call special attention to two responses to the book First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, edited by GTxA’s own Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. The two responses are by Brian Kim Stefans and (again, our very own) Scott Rettberg. These aren’t just interesting comments on First Person; they at the very least powerful defenses of the literary. Perhaps they are manifestoes for computing and literature as well.

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