May 30, 2008

Cycles, Links, and Caves

by Nick Montfort · , 11:24 am

I just heard some great talks here at the ELO Visionary Landscapes conference.

David Benin presented a collaboration he and Chris Calabro did at UCSD: Hors Catégorie, an experiment in affective, embodied interactive fiction. The piece deals with the Tour de France doping controversy, among other things. (Because the UCSD computer science server doesn’t have MIME types set correctly, clicking on the “story file” link may net you a browserful of special characters. Just save the result and you should have a z5 file.) Benin took some of my discussion in Twisty Little Passages as a point of departure, seeking to distinguish the possible from the potential and characterizing IF as offering possible narratives and a gift of open-ended engagement that provokes thought.

Fox Harrell and Kenny Chow talked about their project “Generative Visual Renku: Linked Poetry Generation with the GRIOT System.” The project extends Harrell’s poetry generation system, GRIOT, to create new sorts of multimedia polypoems and to engage concepts of modularity. The idea is to change affect rather than to simulate, as IF usually does – although the goal of the project just presented is an exception. The Renku system, which was demonstrated, can traverse visual links of different sorts, relating iconic images. The iconic nature of Chinese characters informs the system, as does the tradition of generative art. Abstract human representations appear in the iconic landscape that is generated.

Damon Loren Baker, curator at UIUC’s Krannert Art Museum, spoke on “Cavewriting: Spatial Hypertext Authoring System” – the platform he helped to develop at Brown for literary writing in their virtual environment there. The system allows writing work to be done outside the expensive, limited-access room, and allows work done in the Cave to be shared in other contexts, such as non-Caves and other virtual environments. Baker showed the Cave Text Editor, a Java-based editor.

Unfortunately, Sandy Baldwin, Rita Raley, and Alan Sondheim were speaking at the same time, so I missed their panel on “logging on” – certainly an appropriate topic for the timber-laden Pacific Northwest. I hope I’ll hear some about it soon.