January 31, 2007

Digital Art Gives the Finger, Gets Blown Up

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:32 pm

LED art A piece of LED art, referring to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, seems to have been “neutralized” by a Boston police bomb squad. Police have found several other devices, presumably the same Lite-Brite-style artworks. And it seems they now have declared the devices part of a hoax that is “not funny.” A caption in that last article claims that at least of the devices was “detonated.” The news about this one came to me from Joe Shaw.

Farewell, Sweet Bunnies

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:00 am

Liberty Arcade is a collection of interactive games that illustrate fundamental concepts from the social sciences. These games are designed to provide you with a better understanding of the underlying processes at work in modern, complex societies. Play the games, have fun and, by all means, think for yourself!

Tragedy of the Bunnies Very well! Let’s check out the quarterless arcade of The Institude for Humane Studies, “a unique organization that assists undergraduate and graduate students worldwide with an interest in individual liberty.” The game from Liberty Arcade that I’ll look at now is a simple but telling one, Tragedy of the Bunnies. It was created in 2004; the author doesn’t seem to be credited anywhere obvious. This exceedingly straightforward Flash game comes complete with an explanation of the “Moral of the Story,” so that if people don’t learn through gameplay, they’ll still be able to discover that…

As any economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. If there’s a valuable resource lying about in a commons—picture a pizza at a frat party—people will try and grab as much of that resource as they can before the resource is depleted. This response is natural—it’s an example of people responding to incentives. In other words, in a zero-sum game, you need to “get while the getting is good”. The more other people get, the less there is for you.

February is Create-a-Thing-a-Day Month

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:46 am

Eyebeam passes along word of The Creative Act, a collaborative project which has declared February “Create-a-Thing-a-Day Month. Participants in the project will make something creative each day during the month of February, choosing a different theme for each week. The project has some interesting constraints, such as that thing should take no less than 20 minutes and no more than 1 hour to make. Participants then post text, or a photo, or some other documentation to the group blog.

January 30, 2007

Media Machines

Earlier this month I posted an excerpt from my in-process manuscript — currently titled Expressive Processing — on the topic of process intensity. Interesting discussion ensued, I decided to post further excerpts, and I realized what excerpt I’d post next: the part of the book that comes just before the section on process intensity.

This is a central passage for the book. I’m laying out my basic perspective — what it is that draws me toward examining processes — and starting to work through the practice-oriented part of that perspective.

I appreciated the comments from people last time (they’ve already resulted in manuscript revisions) and I’ll be interested to hear any thoughts on the moves this excerpt makes.

Media Machines

A computer is a strange type of machine. While most machines were developed for particular purposes — washing machines, forklifts, movie projectors, typewriters — modern computers are designed specifically to be able to simulate the operations of many different types of machines, depending on the computer’s current instructions.

This is why a computer can simulate a movie projector: showing a set of image frames in quick succession. It’s also why a computer can act like a tape player: reading and amplifying a stream of sound data.

And it is for this same reason that computers can be instructed to act like previously-impossible types of machines.

January 29, 2007

Erica 3 Stirs

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:29 pm

Jim Carpenter, poet-smith and blogger of The Prosthetic Imagination, has placed an early version of Erica T Carter, version 3 online. This is a poetry-generating machine that is the (beta) successor of Jim’s earlier ETC/Erica T. Carter/Electronic Text Composition projects, which have been discussed on here and at Autostart, exhibited at the Slought Foundation, and read as part of the MACHINE series and at Brown’s E-FEST.

The interface for ETC 3 is quite clever: The user is invited to type in a “topic” (perhaps a single word, perhaps a phrase?) and then generate a poem based on this. The difference between this sort of a system and one that generates poems with the click of a button is like the difference between the Oracle of Delphi and a guy babbling in the street. By accepting some topic T, the reader’s thoughts shift immediately from the skeptical posture of “does this text make any sense?” to the more inquisitive “how does this text relate to and comment upon topic T?” Even if the system were throwing away the input, this would be an interesting direction for the interface. However, it isn’t discarding it (at least, not always), as topic-words sometimes end up directly in the output text. For the casual Web user who wants to strap on an imagination, the simple interface also has some advantages over the complex settings of the earlier ETC systems, but perhaps an “advanced poem” page could be made available if there are other underlying parameters to vary.

Pleo, Eno, Kudos and More

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:32 am
  • Journalist extraordinaire Clive Thompson (1 2 3 4 5) has a new Wired article about Pleo, a next-gen robotic pet, created by Caleb Chung, the creator of Furby. The Pleo website is rife with cheesy pronouncements — “Can the seemingly impossible… be possible?”, “Can the subtleties of nature be… re-created?”, “Now is the time to bring magic to life”, and “Pleo is the first truly autonomous Life Form capable of emotions that allow personal engagement” — yet, Pleo does looks interesting. Although the YouTube video in the Wired article, to me, is a rather stiff, mild demo — in fact the Wikipedia page suggests that demo was rigged — I assume there will be more exciting behaviors in the final product. How big it will sell at $250 is a question; at that price, it probably can’t become the phenomenon Furby did.
  • Brian Eno will be composing generative music for Spore!
  • Don’t miss GameTunnel’s list of 2006’s top 10 indie games, including the oddly abstract-looking life simulator, Kudos.

January 28, 2007

Curating Ambiguity

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:20 pm

I did a short interview with Franz Thalmair about the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One, that has just been published by the Austrian webzine CONT3XT.NET. It will also be published next week by the UK-based new media collective furtherfield.org.

Net Rete Red Art

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:06 am

newmediaFIX, in collaboration with Turbulence, presents three (or nine, depending upon how you look at it) new critical essays about some of the prodigious net art work that has been hosted in past years on the Turbulence site. The essays, at 3 X 3: New Media Fix(es), are each available in English, Italian, and Spanish. They are “The Body in Turbulence” by Josephine Bosma; “Narrating with New Media: What Happened with Whatever has Happened?” by Belén Gache; and “Turbulence: Remixes + Bonus Beats” by Eduardo Navas. They offer very interesting threads of thought, and also provide a good excuse to ply Turbulence’s archive of online art.

January 27, 2007


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:20 pm

Not that Roland! The one with the sword. Vika Zafrin has linked to the latest version of RolandHT (with instructions) for use on Firefox or some other XSLT-capable browser, if there is one. (OS X Opera seems to work, too.) Her project – not fully loaded with lexias as yet – is a humanities computing project that promises to have wide appeal to the casual reader as well as disciplinary use. It allows the hypertext reader to compare different texts, by different authors, and see how literature has engaged Roland as a character. This sheds new light on how the the loveable, muslim-fighting paladin went from his starring role in The Song of Roland to become, as the font of all encyclopediac knowledge says, “a ‘pop icon’ in medieval minstrel culture.” There’s some more background about the project online, and for those who really must skip the instructions, here’s the direct link.

January 25, 2007

SCMRPG, Slamdance, Victory

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:27 pm

SCMRPG on Google News: 162 articles
Slamdance on Google News: 155 articles

Slamdance hasn’t yet posted news of who won their games competition, which half of the games competition’s teams, including me, withdrew from. But congratulations go to the overall press winner, Danny Ledonne, whose game has become, by some counts, more popular than the entire Slamdance Film Festival. (This, even though one film there caused a melee in the street outside.) I hope that some of the interest in independent games outlasts this controversy, and that the other finalists – who put in so much work to offer beauty, fun, and various sorts of engagement with our world – will get at least some amount consideration from the public. And thanks to Arthouse Games, which reviewed all the games that were freely available or had downloadable demos.

January 20, 2007

Encyclopedia, LA, tonight

Earlier I posted about the publication of the Encyclopedia Project‘s first volume, Encyclopedia: A-E. Well, now Encyclopedia launch events have come to So Cal. Last night’s event in San Diego was a blast (and standing room only) so I’m looking forward to tonight’s — at Betalevel in Los Angeles — and I encourage folks to join us.

January 18, 2007

Second Person for Sale

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:33 am
Second Person cover

After the enthusiastic response to First Person, many people suggested that we create a sequel — and we acted on that idea. Today Pat Harrigan and I are happy to announce the publication of a new edited volume: Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (table of contents, Booksense link, ISBN.nu link).

Like First Person, Second Person takes an unusually broad look at our field — and, in order to do so, discusses topics rarely given their due in previous scholarly publications. These range from tabletop role-playing games to improvisational theater, from political games to procedural authorship. The approach is to begin with specifics, and from there build up the insights of game designers, artists, writers, computer scientists, and scholars.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about Second Person in the future. But now, for those interested, I’ll include the book’s introduction below.

January 16, 2007

New Media Memory at Berkeley

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:48 pm

This Thursday, January 18, the Archiving the Avant-Garde project’s New Media and Social Memory symposium is taking place at Berkeley. The symposium is public and free, but the organizers ask you register online. The topic, preserving digital art, is an important one that the Electronic Literature Organization’s Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination project has been working on for a while, but which is really rather neglected overall. Although I’ve put some effort into the ELO’s work myself, and I think that effort is important, it seems to me that no single person or organization is going be able to provide all the answers and do everything that’s needed to bear digital media into the future. We simply can’t put all the eggs in one basket or books in one library if we’re looking for them to survive. Because of this, the sort of meeting that is coming up at Berkeley is particularly important for allowing the intersection of and cross-pollination between Archiving the Avant-Garde: Documenting and Preserving Digital/Media Art (with its museum and visual art emphasis), the literary perspective of the ELO, the dead media mental muscle of Bruce Sterling, and thinkers from Wired Magazine and the Long Now Foundation.

January 15, 2007

AIIDE Reminder and Agent Workshop CFP

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:23 pm

Just a reminder that the papers for AIIDE (Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment), originally blogged here, are due in a week, Monday, Jan. 22.

Also, I’m co-organizing a workshop at this year’s Automous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems conference (held this May in Honolulu, Hawai’i) on Agent-based Systems for Human Learning and Entertainment. The workshop will bring together people who are interested in autonomous characters for education and training with those interested in autonomous characters for games and interactive drama. Papers are due February 5. The workshop will be held May 14th or 15th. The full CFP is below.

January 14, 2007

Art Barter for Book and Volume

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:52 pm

Book and Volume USB flash drives I have 30 hand-labeled USB flash drives that contain my 2005 interactive fiction Book and Volume – they also contain a silly promotional video for Book and Volume and a press kit. These are material artifacts that store some of my free digital literary work. To be clear: you do not need one of these to play the game. Anyone can download Book and Volume for free. These USB drives are also not technological artifacts you’d want for their own sake. They hold only 32MB.

Nevertheless, would you like one of these? I will send one to anyone who sends me some material art object or creative document along with a return address. I don’t mind, of course, if the artwork you send is mass-produced – no “aura” is required. It could be, for instance, a book you wrote, a poem (written, printed, recorded), a print, a tape, CD, or DVD of yours, or some computer media with your work on it. You could send a bumper sticker you created, a Fluxus box, or documentation of one of your performances, installations, or exhibits.

January 12, 2007

‘Panoramas’ in Philadelphia

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:13 pm

Panoramas and Other Circular Stories
Esther M. Klein Gallery
3600 Market St, Philadelphia
January 12- March 31, 2007

Opening reception 5:30pm-8:30pm Friday January 12

[Sorry for the late notice about the opening, which starts in little more than an hour. The show is up until April, though!]

Circularities, repetitions and technological breakdowns are the themes of Roderick Coover’s multimedia show, comprised of six video works that incorporate layered photographs, audio, language and manipulated video recordings. Playing with text/image relationships, these works create strange stories that loop upon themselves and examine the ideas of travel and time in order to evoke ways that technology permeates the modern imagination.

January 11, 2007

Introducing Process Intensity

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:41 am

I’m currently working on the first chapter of a book manuscript, trying to find the right way to introduce a number of concepts that will be key for understanding the chapters that follow. Recently I’ve been trying to find a concise way to introduce Chris Crawford’s 1980s concept of “process intensity” — while also arguing for a view of the concept updated for our current circumstances. My current draft is below.

We might think of Pong and many other early computer games (e.g., Tetris) as being authored almost entirely in terms of processes, rather than data. An “e-book,” on the other hand, might be just the opposite — a digital media artifact authored almost completely by the arrangement of pre-created text and image data. In an influential 1987 article, game designer and digital media theorist Chris Crawford coined the phrase “process intensity” to describe a work’s balance between process and data (what he called its “crunch per bits ratio”).

CFP: Supple Interfaces

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:26 am

(I’m overly late posting this call for papers, since they’re due tomorrow, but perhaps the organizers are open to time extensions if needed.)


Supple Interfaces: Designing and evaluating for richer human connections and experiences

This workshop aims to create a common language for discussing research challenges and progress made in designing and evaluating “supple” interfaces. Supple interfaces aim to build richer connections between people as well as deeper emotional experiences through interface. Examples include affective interactive systems, games, and relationship-building systems. For these kinds of applications, the CHI community

January 9, 2007

Book and Volume Withdrawn from Slamdance

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:34 pm

stand up, withdraw

I have withdrawn Book and Volume from the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, for reasons discussed in the open letter I and other finalists sent to the festival.

January 8, 2007

From Slamdance Games Finalists

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:59 pm

Dear Slamdance festival organizers,

In recent years, the Slamdance film festival has become a major gathering for independent gamemakers. We were honored to have our games selected as finalists for this year’s Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, and were looking forward to meeting our fellow gamemakers, filmmakers, and other festivalgoers in a context where our work was seen as legitimate, artistic, and meaningful.

Recently, the festival has made the decision to remove one of the finalists, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne, from the competition – after this game was solicited by festival organizers, chosen by a jury, and publicized as a finalist. We have been unable to find mention of any other film, game, or screenplay that has been pulled from Slamdance at any point in the past, making this an unfortunate first for the festival.

We object to this decision and strongly urge the festival organizers to reinstate the game in the festival. It is legitimate for games to take on difficult topics and to challenge conventional ideas about what video games can do. No game should be rejected for moral or other reasons after a panel of judges has found the game to be of artistic merit and worthy of inclusion in the festival. We find it very unlikely that a similar decision would have been made about a jury-selected film, and see this decision as hurting the legitimacy of games as a form of expression, exploration, and experience.

January 7, 2007

An Open Letter to Slamdance

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:58 pm

An Open Letter to Organizers of the Slamdance Film and Game Festival, from Last Year’s Grand Jury Prize Winner for Games

January 7, 2007

We recently learned of the decision of the president and founder of the Slamdance Film and Guerrilla Game Festival, Peter Baxter, to pull one of the game festival finalists, “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!”, from this year’s competition. As reported in the Rocky Mountain News on January 5th, Baxter “made a ‘personal decision’ based on moral grounds and concern for the future of the organization.”

As recipients of last year’s Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance game festival for “Façade”, we wish to express our strong disapproval of Baxter’s decision, and urge him to reconsider allowing “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!” to rejoin this year’s competition.

January 6, 2007


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:56 am

Since the beginning of time, pure silence has been available only in the vacuum of space. Now conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has digitally generated a span of silence, four minutes and thirty-three seconds in length, portable enough to be carried on a cellphone. His silent ringtone, freely distributed through special arrangement with Start Mobile, is expected to bring quiet to the lives of millions of cellphone users, as well as those close to them.

January 5, 2007

Door Slams Shut on Super Columbine RPG

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:19 pm

Kotaku is reporting, and Water Cooler Games confirming, that Super Columbine RPG, accepted as a finalist for the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, has been pulled from the copetition by festival organizers under pressure from sponsors. Apparently this is a first for any film or game that has been accepted to Slamdance. Oddly, the game was actively courted by Slamdance before submissions were due. See the comments at GamePolitics.com, too.

Update (January 6): Two-time Slamdance finalist Ian Bogost says the decision was personal, not a business move, and declares the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition dead.

January 4, 2007

US Government Worst of Net 2006

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:59 pm

A missile Liz Losh has handed out the un-prizes for the incompetence of government agencies and policy makers in the area of digital media, now named the Foleys. For instance, the Defense Intelligence Agency Calendar [PDF], which had the most phallic imagery of any government-produced calendar this year, was among the recognized media artifacts.

January 3, 2007

The Fog of Blog

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:29 pm

Matt Kirschenbaum has been massing blog entries for days, and has been massing wargaming board games for many years. This textual scholar by day has stepped out of the phone booth wearing a game studies suit and in command of a new blog, Zone of Influence. Matt announces:

Zone of Influence, a new game studies blog I created to combine my academic interests in modeling, simulation, and technologies of representation with my hobbyist interests in games, particularly board wargames.

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