October 30, 2007

Scott Turner on Minstrel

Last year I posted a series of thoughts about two story generation systems: Minstrel and Universe (1 2 3 4 5). I had some critical things to say about the Minstrel system, but they were based on my reading — I hadn’t yet been in contact with the system’s author, Scott Turner. This month I finally connected with Scott, and yesterday he sent me the following thoughtful response to the issues raised by our previous discussion on Grand Text Auto.

I’m particularly happy about this because Scott has graciously offered to try to respond to any further questions in the comments for this thread. Also, I’ll be paying close attention to the conversation, given I’m writing about Minstrel in my forthcoming book. Below are Scott’s thoughts.

I haven’t worked in AI for many years, but I was delighted when Noah contacted me and I had a chance to read the discussion on this blog of my dissertation work. At the time I did this work there was no Internet as we know it today, and in some sense I worked virtually in isolation. No one else was working on computer storytelling, creativity or related subjects such as interactive fiction. The best that I could hope for in the way of a community of interest was occasionally meeting up with folks like Michael Lebowitz at a conference. I can’t help but think that if I were doing my work today, the feedback I could get through the Internet would greatly improve my results. The Internet is truly wonderful in the way it can bridge space and economics to bring together similar interests in ways that could never happen in the physical world!

After Noah pointed me towards this blog I read through the discussion of Minstrel and found it very thought provoking. I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some insight into how Minstrel came to be and discuss some of the issues that Noah raised.

October 29, 2007

If ATANLZ Was a Blog Post

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:05 am


October 28, 2007

Tale Spin at “Smart Machines”

Smart Machines at Boston Computer Museum

From my earlier post on James Meehan’s Tale-Spin (now with a new comment from Scott Turner, author of Minstrel) some may remember that there are three versions of the system that I know about. First, the full Tale-Spin, created by Meehan at Yale, then pursued further at UC Irvine. Second, Micro Tale-spin, created as a pedagogical example by Meehan (and translated into Common Lisp by Warren Sack). Third, the version created by Meehan for “Smart Machines” — an exhibition at the Boston Computer Museum in 1987.

I find the original Tale-Spin a fascinating system. Unfortunately, it seems completely lost. Meehan (now at Google) has been through his garage on my behalf, with no luck. Chances of archives remaining at Yale or UCI seem slim.

Micro Tale-spin, while instructive, is so simplified that it loses much of what was compelling to me about the original.

This leaves us with the version created for “Smart Machines.” According to Meehan, it existed at a level of complexity between that of the full and micro versions. For the past year I’ve been hoping to find it.

October 25, 2007

Vectors: ThoughtMesh

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:11 am
ThoughtMesh logo

It’s time to get hands-on with the future of scholarship. This is the message of ThoughtMesh, one of the intriguing projects in the new “Difference” issue of Vectors. I decided to give it a try.

October 24, 2007

The Sound of Writing

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:23 pm

MIT students compose literary texts on Dymo label makers.

October 23, 2007

Personal Fire Update

I know we don’t often make personal posts here, but people have been asking about the fires and how I’m doing. This is a quick note to say I’m still at home, the fires aren’t (yet) near where I live in San Diego, and they’ve asked us to stay off the roads and our cellphones (to keep capacity free for emergency personnel). I’ve been getting my fire updates from KPBS via Twitter and the local paper via Blogspot.

Letters that Matter: Review of the Electronic Literature Collection in ebr

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:04 am

John Zuern offers a detailed and insightful review of the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1 in ebr. Among other aspects of the Collection the review addresses is whether or not the difference between print and electronic literature is anything other than trivial?

October 22, 2007

Dead IF Lies Dreaming

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:35 pm

Commonplace Book Project In The Commonplace Book Project that “dead” medium, interactive fiction, is used to give shape and machinery to unborn works by everyone’s favorite author of the ancient and eldritch, H.P. Lovecraft. The project began during April-June of this year. There are now seven games in three languages (English, Spanish, and French), which are sure to make for delicious snacks if one has not been sated by the IF Comp that is currently underway. But in the Lovecraft universe … games snack on YOU!

October 21, 2007

20th Century Communication

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:37 am

A Communications Primer A Review of A Commuications Primer
By Charles and Ray Eames
Running time 0:21:29
Internet Archive (Prelinger Collection)

I recently made time to view an important short film made by Charles and Ray Eames. This influential American husband-and-wife team were designers who applied their art to many forms: furniture, film, exhibitions, books, toys. Their house provided an early example of the use of industrial elements in a domestic space. I find that their chairs enhance the viewing of A Communications Primer and many other media experiences.

The Eames’ best-known film is the 1977 Powers of Ten, the zooming visual explanation of scale which has no doubt been shown in more than 10^4 classrooms and 10^2 science museums. In their much earlier film A Communications Primer they describe the application of Claude Shannon’s model of communication to familiar media experiences, along with some that aren’t very familiar nowadays, such as telegraphy. There are very nice iconic images deployed, as well as shots of media technologies in use.

October 20, 2007

Art Machines

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:09 pm
Jean Tinguely, Méta-Matic No. 6, 1959

I thought we’d already seen The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age — but if I could make it to Frankfurt I’d certainly drop in on Art Machines Machine Art, running now through January 27th.

October 19, 2007

The Netherlands’ Annual Cinekid

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:41 pm

I just gave a presentation today at The CineKid Festival, an annual Film, Television and New Media Festival for Children that is held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (with approximately 30 satellite festivals held in cities all over the Netherlands).

The New media programme consisted of the great Cinekid Media Lab (which had both art installations as well as popular software and hardware such as Wiis), and seminars.

Our all-afternoon seminar, “New Media: Make way for play” featured

October 18, 2007

More on GTxA the Show

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:49 pm

I thought the opening of the Grand Text Auto group show at the Beall Art+Tech gallery went very well, especially when you consider how elaborate the three large installations were. All of the artworks worked, installations and otherwise! And they were physically arranged to fit nicely in a somewhat small space, without feeling overly cramped. Thanks again to all those who put so much time into organizing and setup. (I wasn’t one of them. ;-)

As I hoped would happen, I found it really interesting to experience our various literary and ludic works together in one place.

GTxA Symposium: Future Directions

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:45 pm

Each of us gave a “future directions” presentation at the GTxA symposium, held the day after the group show opened. Here is the text of mine, pre-written as a blog post, in the spirit of the show being borne from the blog.

Future directions… well, this show feels like some kind of funky vision of the future. Giant mutated joysticks… VR cave texts… a novel physically pasted around the world… a first real taste of the Holodeck… I’ve never seen such a cross-section of games/art/literature in one space. Many thanks to the Beall Center for hosting the show, and for Noah for organizing and curating it. It’s truly exciting, and I’m honored to be part of it.

Oulipian Larding

Nick turned Grand Text Auto into a platform for literary gameplay with his post on When Musicians Play Interactive Fiction. Then a recent email query from Mike Alber reminded me of one of my favorite Oulipian literary games, much less well known than “N + 7”: larding. I suggest we give larding a try here on GTxA.

The process of larding, also known as “line-stretcher’s constraint” (after 19th Century writers who were paid by the line) creates a very simple game. From a given text, pick two sentences. Then write another sentence in the interval between them. Then write another sentence in each of the two available intervals of the new text (between first and second, between second and third). Then write another sentence in each of the four available intervals, and so on until the desired length is reached.

October 17, 2007

SuperEgo Games

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:06 am

There’s a new character-driven episodic-content company on the block… SuperEgo Games, based in NYC, has announced Rat Race, “an action-comedy title set in a dysfunctional office, tasking players with just getting through the day amid a cast of difficult characters”. They’re using writing and voice talent from the TV industry in NYC, going for a sitcom-flavored game.

Our goal is to give you the feeling of ‘playing’ inside an episode of your favorite TV show. Sometimes we describe Rat Race as an interactive sitcom, but that doesn’t do it justice. There’s more to the experience than funny dialogue. Along the way you’ll sneak, sprint, solve puzzles, eavesdrop, steal, and even ‘neutralize’ that lab monkey.

October 16, 2007

Cultures of Virtual Worlds

Cover of Coming of Age in Second Life

Tom Boellstorff, author of the eagerly anticipated Coming of Age in Second Life (expected next spring), sends word of a UC Irvine / Intel Research workshop on the Cultures of Virtual Worlds. There’s an abstract deadline December 1st, graduate student submissions are particularly encouraged, and there are even some travel funds to support grad student participation.

Koster on Metaplace, MUDs, MMOs, More

I’ve been talking with Raph Koster about using Metaplace for a graduate workshop I’ll be teaching at UCSD. I’ve had conversations with a number of PhD and MFA students who are excited by the potential — and I’m looking forward to it myself.

Recently, on Raph’s website, I came upon a link to a large (three part) interview about Metaplace on MMO Gamer. It’s wide-ranging and generous, delving into the history from which the project grows, its future goals, and its current state. If you’re hungry for a discussion of the future of virtual worlds that talks more about things like DikuMUD, open architectures, and community experimentation than World of Warcraft and Second Life, this interview is for you.

October 15, 2007

Second Person, Twice

At GTxA we’ve already mentioned two reviews of Second Person (by Emily Short and Bijan Forutanpour) and recently two more have caught my eye, by two Davids: Dave Thomas and David Cox. One is from Games for Lunch, a quirky review site that plays a game for an hour, gives a stream-of-consciousness overview of that hour, and then asks the all-important question: “Do I want to keep playing?”

From Paris: International Media Poetry Contest

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:25 am

The Paris-based International Poetry Bienniale has announced a media poetry competition to be judged by luminaries in digital poetics. The prize is an expense-paid trip to the Poetry Biennale in Paris.

From Jean-Pierre Balpe
BIPVAL (Biennale Internationale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne)

For its tenth edition (May 2009), the International Poetry Biennial is
pleased to announce an International Media Poetry Contest.

Works considered “media poetry” are those that place contemporary
technologies at the service of poetry, be it within the framework of a
performance or in that of a recorded and projectable work. Among the many
forms accepted are included videopoetry, digital poetry, multimedia poetry,
sound poetry, interactive poetry, and poetic installations in physical space
or on the Internet. Works that illustrate a poem will not be considered
(these are works that use sound or images to represent or complement a poem,
for example). There are no restrictions regarding the form or content of the
media poems submitted.

October 13, 2007

Beall Guest Book

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:29 pm

One of our goals for the Grand Text Auto show at the Beall Center for Art and Technology is to create connections between the blog and the gallery. This Guest Book is one of them, which Ivan Rosero and Noah put together.

A Hewlett Packard DraftMaster II sits in the Beall gallery, right now.

Moving Advice?

Since moving from http://grandtextauto.gatech.edu to http://grandtextauto.org, I’ve noticed some problems. Technorati, for example, thinks the two URLs point to two different blogs — and, even after “claiming” both on Technorati’s site, I can’t find a way to tell it they’re the same blog. We also had some serious trouble getting Google to pay attention — and now I notice we’re often not one of the top Google hits for our own posts, even after doing a “301” permanent redirect of all our old pages. Anyone out there have advice or experience with these sorts of issues?

Big Joy Stick, Big Baggage

UCI sign, AnteaterUCI sign, Grand Text Auto exhibitionUCI sign, Exhibition dates Oct 4th to Dec 15th

I’ve enjoyed reading a couple rather different responses to the Grand Text Auto show at the Beall Center for Art and Technology. One appeared in New University, the campus paper at UC Irvine. The general take of “Big Joy Stick, Big Fun at the Beall Center” is probably clear from this sentence:

Anyone expecting guns and violence because of this title might be disappointed, but any student who is interested in the future of video games, digital literature or technology or their impact on culture will be pleasantly surprised.

October 12, 2007

Audiatur 2007 Experimental and Sound Poetry Feast

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:46 am

I had little rest during the five days I spent in Bergen, Norway in between DAC in Perth and the Grand Text Auto Exhibition in Irvine. Tempting as the bed seemed during my interphase jetlag, I was pulled out into the Bergen International Theater for Audiatur 2007. For four days at the end of September, it seemed that Bergen became the international capital of innovative poetry. The Audiatur Festival, in its third biennial iteration, featured a multilingual performance including many of the leading lights of the international sound and constrained poetry scenes. Christian Bök opened the festival with an energetic performance of Kurt Schwitter’s Ursonate and closed the festival with a reading that included highlights of his works Crystallography, Eunoia, and The Cyborg Opera. The talented multicultural Caroline Bergvall was on hand to present cross-cultural prose and poems. I had the pleasure of sitting at a table with Jaques Robuad of the Oulipo who read several of his highly amusing prose works, poems, and a presentation on the work of the Oulipo. Finnish poet Leevi Lehto gave a great performance of a few Finnish classics along with his sound and procedural poetry. The performances of Japanese sound poet and musician Tomomi Adachi were another highlight of the festival. The majority of the performances were recorded, and are available for your listening pleasure. The festival organizers also produced a very impressive 800-page Katalog, which may be the most extensive anthology of contemporary experimental poetry I’ve seen in any language, and certainly in Norwegian.

October 11, 2007

Writers Guild Recognizes Game Writing

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:29 am

From Gamasutra via USC IMD:

The East and West organizations of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have announced the creation of the WGA’s inaugural Videogame Writing Award to be presented for the first time ever at the Los Angeles ceremony of the 2008 Writers Guild Awards … The new award was developed by the WGA and spearheaded by the guild’s New Media Caucus “to encourage storytelling excellence in video games, to improve the status of writers, and to begin to encourage uniform standards” within the gaming industry.

October 10, 2007

Playing Scalable City and The Night Journey

Scalable City, as installed at SIGGRAPH 2007

One of the pleasures of SIGGRAPH 2007 was the art gallery, clearly back in full glory — with installations, wall pieces, monitor-based works, papers, panels, and even performances. Personally, I was particularly excited that the gallery provided the opportunity to finally play, myself, two experimental games I’d previously only read about and seen demonstrated: Scalable City and The Night Journey. In their gameplay and installation forms I found them two very different approaches to the experimental art game, an impression deepened by my conversations with the lead designer of each project.

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