May 30, 2007

Digital Art Beyond Expression

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:51 am

José Manuel García-Patos, who is at work on the interactive fiction system Gesaku, called my attention to a fascinating article about player freedom by Stephen Bond, author of Ramses.

Bond points out that the camp that expects IF to provide a more or less completely blank slate upon which the player’s experience can be realized (so that IF becomes simply a “a text-based vibrator for the imagination”) is quite distant from those who expect IF authors to supply treasures, dragons, puzzles, and conventional pleasures. He offers a third idea, that of “interactive fiction as a kind of art form,” allowing expression. In Bond’s view, artmaking is “egotistical” and “[a]n artwork is a reification of the artist’s self, a subjective consciousness made objective, bravely put forth and held out for admiration.”

The ideas of pure player choice may be as uninteresting as the cave-crawl, but I don’t think this concept of art is the only alternative.

Electronic Literature in the Chronicle of Higher Education

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:09 am

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a multimedia piece on electronic literature including an article (archive), a video piece, and a podcast interview with N. Katherine Hayles. Look for video link under the screenshot of the Electronic Literature Collection, and the audio interview off to the right. The Chronicle covered the Open Mouse/Open Mic reading at the ELO’s recent “Future of Electronic Literature” Symposium in College Park Maryland. Although the preoccupations of the reportage are a bit noob-ish (the video reporter mentions that the reading was plagued with technical difficulties when in fact it was a comparatively glitch-free evening in comparison to others, and many of the reporters’ questions were focused on the fact that there is not a massive popular audience for electronic literature rather than more interesting concerns — Who is the Stephen King of electronic literature? Well, ahem . . . King is a tough one but Robert Coover is sort of our Oprah . . .), it is nonetheless great see this esteemed weekly showing an interest in electronic lit, and Hayles’s audio interview is well worth the price of admission (particularly if you already subscribe to the Chronicle).

Auto Erotica

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:15 am

From my own perspective, the quality is a bit disappointing, but it’s the only computer-generated generated description of our blog that I’ve found posted in several places online:

A group blog Grand Text Auto is about computer mediated and auto body replacement parts computer generated works of many forms: interactive fiction,, electronic poetry, …

Of course, what I think about this text doesn’t really matter. The real question is, does it help Googlebot, Yahoo! Slurp, and similar crawlers get off? We invite comments from any robots who have an opinion about this text.

May 27, 2007

E-poetry 2007 Paris Cellfone Video Documentary Extravaganza

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:13 am

First of all, let me point in brief to networked_performance for Simon Biggs’ very good report on the E-poetry 2007 Festival in Paris. I agreed with him that Robert Simanowski’s close reading of “Listening Post” was one of the best of the academic papers presented during the conference. I was also a fan of Jim Carpenter’s presentation, in which he talked in a clear and pragmatic way about best practices for writing good code for e-poetry, including distributing source code so that others can learn from it. Carpenter recently released a new version of his poetry engine, which will write some pretty good poems for you. There were many other papers and panel discussions as well, though this festival was primarily about the poetry. For four nights in a row, there were three to four hours of poetry readings. The E-Poetry scene is much more performance-oriented than other venues for electronic writing, and some of the performances were much more video art or performance (for example one work allegedly about the objectification of women included the performer disrobing on stage — providing the Festival with an early controversy, which all such gatherings require) than they were electronic writing as it is usually understood. That was fine with me. Overall, I appreciated my first experience of this very vibrant scene that exists between visual, conceptual, performance, computer, and writing. I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet many writers I have worked with and communicated with extensively online in person, in addition to spending time with old friends in one of the world’s great cities. Rather than a more formal report, I offer you this cellphone video extravaganza — short clips of 30 seconds to a minute of many readings from the festival. Forgive the quality — it was my phone used in dark crowded rooms filled with poets drinking in the poetry, after all.

Jeorg Piringer Performing at Divan Du Monde on the first night of the E-Poetry 2007 Festival in Paris.

May 25, 2007

Two New Publications from the ELO

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:36 am

The Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) is pleased to announce two new additions to its series of publications. N. Katherine Hayles’s primer, “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” and Joseph Tabbi’s “Setting a Direction for the Directory: Toward a Semantic Literary Web” are now available on the Electronic Literature Organization’s website.

N. Katherine Hayles’s “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” establishes a foundation for understanding e-lit in its various forms and differentiates creative e-lit from other types of digital materials. This primer serves the twin purposes of reaching general readers and serving students and institutional audiences by providing descriptions of major characteristics of electronic literature and reflections on the nature of the field. This piece will also appear as the introductory chapter of Hayles’s book Electronic Literature: Playing, Interpreting, and Teaching (coming from Notre Dame Press in fall 2007). The book will also include the CD-ROM of the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One — a compendium of 60 digital works of poetry and prose, published by the ELO in October 2006.

Joseph Tabbi’s “Setting a Direction for the Directory: Toward a Semantic Literary Web” outlines and analyzes the critical issues relating to the description and classification of e-lit. Tabbi describes an approach that will allow the ELO Directory and other digital resources to be more useful, maintainable, transparent, and integrated with evolving technologies. The work organizes the terms of the problem into a call for an overall strategy of editorial and community-driven discourse about e-lit that will also be dependent on metadata solutions that are convergent with those described and implemented in other ELO publications.

May 24, 2007

This Just In: Newsgames Hit the Big Time

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:22 pm

Wow! Ian and crew at Persuasive Games (and sister blog Water Cooler Games) have landed the first of a new series of their games on the op-ed pages of the New York Times website!!

Read all about it at WCG, and check out today’s NYTimes opinion page. Their first new newsgame, Food Import Folly, apparently made within this last week, addresses the FDA’s limited ability to inspect imported food. (You need to be a registered TimesSelect reader to access the game, which I already happened to be; I think you just need to fill out a one-time registration form.)

May 23, 2007

Transparency in the Behavior of and Interface to NPCs

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:28 am

This post, like the previous one asking “what do non-gamers want?”, is a spinoff from a recent discussion about natural language interfaces for games.

I find the topic of transparency in behavior and interface for NPCs particularly interesting, because it is actually a big problem for interactive drama.

May 22, 2007

What Do Non-Gamers Want?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:11 pm

With our efforts to build interactive drama and comedy, we want to reach a large audience — both as a business opportunity, so we can make our work self-sustaining, and as artists, hoping to reach out and communicate to many. We’re particularly excited about making entertainment that appeals to all those who don’t consider today’s videogames much fun. Let’s call them “non-gamers”. I think non-gamers outnumber gamers, perhaps greatly. For entertainment media, non-gamers enjoy TV, movies, books, even a bit of web, blog and YouTube surfing. We want to add interactive drama and comedy to their list. Reaching them would also have the nice side effect of expanding the expressiveness of videogames as an art/entertainment form.

What would non-gamers theoretically enjoy from videogames? I’ll speculate on this from my “it takes one to know one” perspective. Yes, I’m a non-gamer.

Dog Days in a Dog Year

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:01 am

Monk on the highway

Mature viewers with minds akimbo may appreciate the unusual photographs, suited to the premade captions, in the series 13 Months in the Year of the Dog. Thanks, inky.

May 21, 2007

Software Studies Postdoc at UCSD

I’m excited to announce an opening for a Postdoctoral Researcher to work at UCSD with Lev Manovich and yours truly. We’re developing a number of research and field-building projects in the area of software studies. The position is available immediately — and application details are below.

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

We are currently recruiting for a Postdoctoral Researcher to join a new Software Studies initiative at UCSD. The researcher will work with Dr. Lev Manovich (Professor, Visual Arts) and Dr. Noah Wardrip-Fruin (Assistant Professor, Communication), playing a key role in all projects and field-building activities.

The goals of Software Studies initiative at UCSD are:

* to foster research and develop models and tools for the study of software from the perspectives of cultural criticism, the humanities, and the social sciences;
* to help establish the new field of “software studies” that will complement existing research in cyberculture and new media;
* to develop projects that will demonstrate how next generation cyberinfrastructure can be used by humanists, social scientists, and cultural practitioners.

Po-Ex — Portuguese EPoetry

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:55 am

After a late night of epoetry readings in a smokefilled theater in Montmartre (more on that later) and the excess you’d expect, after getting lost in St. Denis (I think I wandered into one of the neighborhoods where they set cars on fire during the riots), I finally found my way to Auditorium X and have witnessed a few panels here at Paris 8. Just a quick note: Pedro Reis (of Fernando Pessoa University) gave a presentation on an upcoming publication, a collection of epoetry in Portuguese which will be published both online and on CD-ROM, the Po-Ex project.

May 19, 2007

ELC UK Launch Report

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:49 am

The Electronic Literature Collection UK Launch event I attended Thursday night in Leicester, England went very well. About 40 people turned up for the salon, including many of trAce regulars, interested local people, and people who took the train up from London. I gave a short introduction to the Collection, and Kate Pullinger, Jon Ingold, and Chris Joseph, read from the work. In his introduction, John Cayley discussed the context of electronic literature with the traditional literary world and the art world, showed a bit of Translation, and asked us to think about whether this form of literary art was literature or something else entirely. Jon Ingold gave what was possibly the best short introduction I have yet heard interactive fiction, in particular the brutality of the constraints involved in writing IF, before guiding the audience through a short reading of All Roads. In her presentation of her work with Chris Joseph on Inanimate Alice and other projects, Kate Pullinger raised questions about the economic models for electronic writing, and discussed how Inanimate Alice is in part an experiment in developing a commercial model for e-lit. She also discussed iStories, a project she is working on with Chris to develop a commercial toolset of electronic literature applications that would enable authors with little design or programming experience to more easily develop works in Flash. Donna Leishman also sent in a prepared text which a De Montfort Ph.D. student, Jess Laccetti, read to the crowd while Chris demonstrated a bit of Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw. We had a short but spirited panel discussion afterwards, discussing the differences between teaching elit as creative writing and teaching it as literature, economic models for electronic lit, and other things. One of the encouraging things about this event was that a number of readers who had never before encountered e-lit were in the audience, were clearly actively interested in what they saw and heard. I also met a Polish Ph.D. student, Mariusz Pisarski, who is currently living in London and writing his dissertation about e-lit, and overheard a couple of people from London say that they heard about the event at Grand Text Auto ; ). It was a very good evening, and I’m grateful to the Institute of Creative Technologies, particularly Chris Joseph for putting it together. Jess has also blogged the event, and posted short videos of Kate Pullinger’s and Jon Ingold’s readings.

May 16, 2007

New Interactive Drama in the Works (Part 3): NLU Interfaces

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:10 pm

In this post I’ll make a case for natural language understanding interfaces in interactive drama and comedy. This is Part 3 of what’s becoming an intermittent developer-diary series about design and technology issues in play as we develop a new commercial interactive drama/comedy project.

The previous Part 2 post from last December asked and briefly answered several questions: how to achieve content richness for non-linear, real-time interactive stories; how to create satisfying agency; and briefly, how to find funding for this kind of work. Most of the discussion in the comments focused on business plans and funding, which impact the design and technology issues, because resources and time in the production schedule are needed to achieve the design and technology goals.

In this post the primary questions I’d like to address are:
What are the pros and cons of having an open-ended natural language interface for an interactive drama/comedy game?
Is natural language the right choice right now?

Related questions left over from the previous post include,
How well did the natural language interface work in Façade?
Can the failures of the natural language interface in
Façade be overcome?

May 15, 2007

Buy phentermine.

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:49 pm

We are four. We can now speak. And yet we still have no idea what phentermine actually is, or what it does. Sure, we can Google it, but we stop ourselves, and we do not research, and we do not buy it. I feel guilty because, I’ll be the phirst to admit, phentermine is my greatest phan. Phentermine has left comments on posts I wrote several years ago that even I have never read. Phentermine is thine. Phentermine has mine in it. I feel that I somehow own it, and yes, I miss you too, phentermine. And yet. At the same time I feel a certain distance from you phentermine. I have heard though I am not sure that it is true that you cause syphilis in monkeys and that you are related to anorexia in children. I don’t believe it about the monkeys but I believe it about the kids. I know that just by naming you you will clog up my filters, but please say something phentermine. Please explain. Or let’s just break it off here. Let’s start phresh. I’ll be honest, your name creeps me out, it makes me think of graveyards and comic book heroes and long lost loves and valentines I never sent. I don’t know what I can’t do without you so I will go on, phentermine.

May 10, 2007

We’re Four

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:59 am

Today was the fourth birthday of Grand Text Auto! yay!

ELO Future of Electronic Literature Symposium

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:38 am

Glow in the Dark AudienceThe Electronic Literature Organization’s Future of Electronic Literature Symposium last week at MITH at the University of Maryland, College Park, was a great event, bringing together e-lit writers, scholars, and an interested public together for an open mouse/open mic, a daylong symposium, and an ELO board meeting. Highlights included Katherine Hayle’s keynote (nicely summarized at jilltxt), considering the idea of “literary” vs. “literature” and providing very intelligent close readings of a variety of works of electronic literature, readings from new works by Stephanie Strickland, Rob Kendall, Nick Montfort, Deena Larsen, and others, as well as three very good panel discussions. The process-intensive panel (also very GTxA-intensive) looked at the idea of process from several different angles ranging from process-intensive collaboration, to natural language interface processing, to story generation. The international panel featured demonstrations of electronic literature from around the world, including works in Spanish, French, Catalan, and Nordic languages, and also highlighted the fact that electronic literature is a global movement — ELO isn’t the only organization concerned with this work, but has shared interests and opportunities for collaboration with organizations including nt2, Elinor, Hermeneia, and others. The Future of Electronic Literature panel was also an engaging discussion of how new technologies might effect electronic literature, and how new ways of organizing material and collaborating might effect the way that we shape the field. I hope my compatriots will fill in some of the details here. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of the goingson: flickr sets posted by me, Jason deVinney, and Laura Borras.

May 6, 2007


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:43 am

Currency, a series of four one-minute videos, designed for looping, has been exhibited in a Philadelphia gallery and screened at the Philadelphia Film Festival. The four pieces are now available on YouTube. They are collaborations between Roderick Coover and Nick Montfort. We iteratively developed the video and text of each of the pieces under various textual, shooting, and collaboration constraints.

From Currency (Fillip a Guinea)
Three Lions
Fillip a Guinea

May 2, 2007

Intelligent Narrative Technologies Deadline Extended

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:36 am

fyi, the submission deadline for the AAAI 2007 Fall Symposium on Intelligent Narrative Technologies has been extended to May 15.

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