September 30, 2008

A New Issue of Eludamos

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:11 pm

Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture is one of at least three open-access journals (without page fees) that cover digital media and computer gaming. (DHQ and Game Studies are the others that I know of.) Volume 2, number 2 is just now out. Support freedom! Read and write for unchained periodicals such as this one, flowing freely with scholarly output as they are!

IF Comp 2008 Games: Served Up

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:55 pm

There are 35 entries in this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition, and all are now proffered on a virtual plate for your consumption! The deadline for voting is November 15.

September 29, 2008

Cambridge University Press Pulls the Plug on Novelist Robert Coover

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:33 pm

Many GTA readers had a chance to view the video of Robert Coover’s excellent keynote talk from the Electronic Literature in Europe Conference, “A History of the Future of Narrative.” It is an important talk of interest both to specialists in electronic literature and to a general audience of readers interested in how contemporary technology is affecting contemporary literature. Unfortunately we have had to pull the plug, at least for the time being. The publishers of the volume “The Cambridge University Press History of the American Novel,” in which the essay will be published, have elected to deny the author permissions to allow any portion of his essay to be openly distributed, even in video form. I offered to include information about the book and the Press on the page where the video is hosted, and to provide the Press with a copy of the video for their own promotional use free of charge, but it seems that Cambridge University Press is resistant to the idea of readers being exposed to this chapter of the volume in any forum or format other than their own. The irony, of course, is that many readers might have been inclined, after watching the video, to buy the book once it is published, while those who care about the free and open exchange of academic discourse will now be more likely to avoid Cambridge University Press altogether than to support it by buying their books. One hopes that they will come to some resolution that will allow the author to read his own work outside the pages of their book and to enable the talk to be publicly distributed in new media formats, but Coover’s might simply be a voice silenced by the curmudgeonly and proprietary practices of an academic press more accustomed to the ways of the 19th Century than those of the 21st.

September 28, 2008

Charles Bernstein Announces Poetry Bailout

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:41 pm

As you know, the glut of illiquid, insolvent, and troubled poems is clogging the literary arteries of the West. These debt-ridden poems threaten to infect other areas of the literary sector and ultimately to topple our culture industry.

September 27, 2008

The Alphabet Game in 1k

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:00 pm

The Alphabet GameThe Alphabet Game:
a bpNichol Reader

Edited by Darren Wershler-Henry and Lori Emerson
Coach House Books

bpNichol was obsessed with the alphabet and its relationship to experience and, as he wrote it, thot. He drove this obsession like the engineer of a transcontinental train through the landscapes of sound poetry, the book-length and life-long poem, and even digital poetry. Nichol inked drawings and wrote for lungs, typewriter, press, television (specifically, Fraggle Rock) and Apple ][ (his remarkable poem, First Screening, is available online thanks to Jim Andrews and others). The editors of The Alphabet Game made the bold (but never procrustean) choices necessary to give a sense of the tremendous scope and depth of Nichol’s work in a single volume, and to present this work beautifully. They have started an online Nichol archive as well. For those who care about the materiality of poems, or word and image, or page and screen – and for those who love poetry and the alphabet – this book is essential.

September 25, 2008

Teens and Games

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:49 pm

Perhaps you have heard reports of the new study funded by Pew and MacArthur on video games. The survey, Teens, Video Games and Civics, was conducted with 1102 young people aged 12-17. Some are saying the results are “surprising” and even that they “shatter stereotypes” by finding that almost all US teens play games (console, mobile, online, etc) and at least half play games on a given day. Other findings include that most teens play games socially, either with others physically or online, and these games can “incorporate many aspects of civic and political life.” Interestingly, this study, with its particular look at civic engagement, found that “civic gaming experiences” (defined in the study) occurred equally among all kinds of game players without distinction among income, race, and ethnicity categories.

September 24, 2008

Coming in Early 2009: Racing the Beam

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:48 pm
Coming soon from MIT Press

E-Lit Dead, Film at 11

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:23 am

The end of electronic literature, or electronic literature without end? In today’s Guardian (a newspaper – those, of course aren’t anywhere near dead) Andrew Gallix offers a tentative eulogy for electronic literature, suggesting that it is, at best, getting inextricably mashed up with art. His piece ends by asking “Perhaps e-lit is already dead?”

September 20, 2008

Processing Creativity at IJWCC08

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:52 am

The 5th International Joint Workshop on Computational Creativity has concluded here in diurnal, delicious Madrid. This was a small and valuable gathering focused on how computers can model the creative process, but embracing a variety of different media and forms: stories, music, movies, visual art, and even interior decorating.

September 19, 2008

A History of the Future of Narrative: Robert Coover

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:48 am

“A History of the Future of Narrative”: Robert’s Coover’s closing keynote address delivered on September 13, 2008 at the Electronic Literature in Europe seminar at the University of Bergen. Video produced by Martin Arvebro.

A History of the Future of Narrative: Robert Coover from Scott Rettberg on Vimeo.

September 16, 2008

Riddles for a Naked Sailor in 1K

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:07 am

Riddles for a Naked SailorRiddles for a Naked Sailor
Mary Azrael
Pictures by Howard Kaye
Stonevale Press

“My name is small / in any tongue” offers riddle fifteen, which might also indicate the slight regard in which riddles are held. In the United States, they are particularly dismissed. Most think of riddles as no more than knock-knock jokes for children. The great American riddlemaster, Emily Dickinson, knew better. She used the form to question nature and art, to open the mind to new perceptions. While many poets drop a headless metaphor now and then into their writing, few books of literary riddles are written. (Two by May Swenson are exceptions, but even those were published as children’s books.) This collection of twenty-four riddles is pleasing, cosmological in its reach, and well-illustrated. An image of the answer is usually a crime, but the ink blots here are visual riddles themselves. The digital media connection? It’s to systems that asked to be solved, such as adventure games and particularly interactive fiction, which, like the riddle, has a surface all of text – with golden treasure hidden inside.

September 15, 2008

Events at MIT

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:00 am

If you’re in or near the Boston area, we have some great events for you at MIT. This semester’s Purple Blurb series at MIT will continue our tradition of great readers and speakers, and will be totally sweet. We have Steve Meretzky (October 6), Jesper Juul (October 27), and Jason Scott (November 17). Details follow later in this post …

Also, check out the Comparative Media Studies Colloquium Series. The speakers include Lev Manovich (November 6) and Grand Text Auto’s very own Michael Mateas (November 20).

Here are the specifics for Purple Blurb:

September 14, 2008


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:18 pm

David Foster Wallace was a great teacher, in his own particular way, and he was a gifted writer who maybe got a little hung up on things, on interiority, on the prison of his own consciousness. He could write the shit out of you. He feared and was fascinated by the twisted. He knew grammar and could speak it very well. He knew theory and didn’t want you to try and teach it to him. He was so fucking postmodern that he grew sick of contemplating his own existence. He was not moderate. He wrote long and loved footnotes but hated the fact that he felt compelled to use them. He loathed that he loathed. He told tasteless jokes about death. He managed to write a monument and then he never could quite escape its shadow. He was a genius. He used smilely faces for grades. He was greasy. He would sweat. You would smell him in the room. He was conscious of his own body odor. He would scratch at the side of his face absent-mindedly but not absent of mind, if that makes sense. He would ask you if things made sense in a way that was both sincere and dismissive. The questions primarily rhetorical. He had a great desire to be a good human being. He had acne and feared it. He was athletic. He would see you and wonder if you had once played tennis with him. He had a very intense stare, you could say piercing but that wouldn’t be quite right, it didn’t pierce, it did something else. It worked in conflict with his body language. He loved writing and was humiliated by it. He was sympathetic to any creature in pain and sympathetic to anyone who caused pain. You need to wonder if he might have been better off if he had stayed on drugs. He was large and filled a room with language. He was complex and verbose and often right. He made errors. His eyes were evasive but he would work his way to telling you what mattered. He feared middle age and deterioration. He was a man of his time and he limited it. He feared the image. He loved the idea of celebrity in reclusion. Pynchon, DeLillo, Dostoevsky. He drank those carb milkshakes that bodybuilders drink. He read self help books in order to both help himself and to see how contrived and pathetic and self-indulgent the American mind had become. He confronted each of his addictions, one at a time. He never really learned how to dress himself properly. He sometimes wished he had become a philosopher instead. He studied sentences. He edited mercilessly, but found the text grew longer with each incision, fresh trees sprouting from every wound. He hated fluorescent light, and the buzz of technology. He loved his dog. He was a precocious child, and lonely. Humanity is a difficult subject, a dying life form. He told a string of jokes about the Branch Davidians. He wanted to make you laugh and cry at the same time. He thought that was the problem, that we could no longer get past our by-now-ingrained habits of looking at our own situations from a raptor’s-eye-view of irony, of postdeconstructive psychoanalytic abstraction, from a post which would make everything cool to the touch, that it had become impossible to feel. The need to be cool. The need to be cool consuming and leading to the failure of the heart. The heart has become impossible. The need to disconnect the brain from the heart. The dread. The sound of the tapping keys, the leaky faucet tapping, the reader, the viewer. The fear of the red pen. The jailer. The purpose of the novel to disturb and entertain. The impossibility of the subject. He wished he had chosen to become a mathematician, a physicist. He was devoted to the word and lived within the claustrophobic walls of its temple. He tried to deconstruct manhood. He was trying to explain something in way that even you could understand it. He could not explain. You could not understand. This incredible awkwardness. He feared himself, reclining by a pool, dripping with sweat, completely satisfied and empty. The reductive cockroach, the expansionist lobster. The most complicated problem you could throw at him. Eating a corn dog at the state fair. Interviewing porn stars with an awkward erection. Destroying the television because you are addicted to it. Never really leaving home. He wanted to save something. He thought that life was too short, or ought to be. The desire to find a humorous way to get to something real. The desire to extend. The understanding of the psyche of the man facing the firing squad, the desire to dwell on it. The impossibility of the word love. The impossibility of ending. The metaphor of getting into the ring to fight. The desire to remove oneself from the arena. The trouble with closure. Finding a voice. Finding a note. The decision of whether or not to leave. Recognizing that voice is a sentimentality. The sense of failure. Finally just tired. Leaving a tragedy. Did he think to erase his hard drive? Probably not, you poor bastard. Given the possibility of forensics. Burning the manuscript. Throwing the pages into the fire. The eventual film. The desert. The spider, the variety of it. Diseases that eat the flesh. This move across the dark room, this groping with alien fingers. What one does after being bitten by a brown recluse. Walking in the desert. Remembering the clouds. A ligature. Suspension. Constriction. The most common method after firearms. Read the footnotes. Have you read it, and yet you still don’t get it? The very long joke. The partial weight of the body. The sense of an ending. The conditions related to the event. The argument at hand. The desire to leave a little mess for pain but not so much as to trouble your love. Your sense of love. The awareness that your body will likely shit itself. The contemplation of that shit as you tender the cord. The awareness that you are loved and yet not able to de-abstract it. The occasion an excuse. But deep. You loathe the very idea of the sublime and you want to express it. The rise and the leap. You cannot ultimately communicate. See the notes. Finding the other and still knot. You hear yourself gag and you smell everything as your nostrils flare. Time is relentless and it will not slow for you now. Agency was had. A certain type of determination. A private novel on a machine of one’s own. No intentional fallacy. Flee from me. Reaching for the cord. To pull it away. To scratch at it. The survival instinct. Merciless. Cruel. Inevitable. Brave. Cowardly. Wanting. Full stop.

September 12, 2008

Story Understanding and Generation at the Interface

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:10 pm

Deadline extended to Monday 1 December 2008 5pm US EST.

Another excellent-sounding workshop on computing and story is coming up, this time at the Intelligent User Interfaces conference. Note the extended deadline, that the workshop welcomes demos, and that all those who attend IUI are welcome.

Common Sense and Intelligent User Interfaces 2009:
Story Understanding and Generation for Context-Aware Interface Design

February 8th, 2009, Sanibel Island, Florida
An IUI 2009 Workshop

Send questions to
Organizers: Catherine Havasi, Henry Lieberman and Erik T. Mueller
Deadline: now 1 December 2008 5pm US EST

“Knowlege is stories” – Roger Schank

September 10, 2008

Electronic Literature in Europe Conference

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:37 pm

50 scholars, writers, and artists from Austria, Croatia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, and the United States will be in Bergen from September 11-13th for the Electronic Literature in Europe Seminar: two days of presentations and discussions of academic research in electronic literature, two nights of readings and presentations of works, and one day of planning a European research network for electronic literature. This seminar is organized and sponsored by the University of Bergen Faculty of Humanities Department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic Studies’ Program in Digital Culture and cosponsored by Landmark Café, Permanenten, and HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area). In addition to the presentation of papers, highlights will include two nights of readings at Permanenten (Thursday) and Landmark Café (Friday), and a closing keynote address by American novelist, electronic literature pioneer, and Brown University Professor Robert Coover.

I include the program below, and will post an update later this week. Noah is in town for the event and to show work at tonight’s reading. Although I know that most of you who are reading this can’t be here, most of the participants have posted their full papers online.

Two Tiltfactor games launch this week

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:21 am

Two games from Tiltfactor launch this week– an urban game, Massively Multiplayer Soba, and a screen-based casual game, Profit Seed. Participants are still welcome for Massively Multiplayer Soba this weekend in NYC@Conflux!

September 9, 2008

Censoring the Army?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:41 am

“Hey, hey, ho, ho – Video-game censorship has got to go” by Aaron Delwiche has recently been posted on FlowTV. The article, which focuses on the Xbox 360 port of America’s Army, calls for more critical thought about video games, and critical exploration of them through design, rather than censorship. This is an appealing position, but there seem to be some other important points to make:

September 8, 2008

Submit to The Electronic Literature Collection volume 2

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:04 am

September 30 is the deadline – coming up in just a few weeks – for submissions to volume two of The Electronic Literature Collection. Note particularly that old and new work is welcome; there is a new editorial board; there is to be similar Creative Commons licensing and publication on both disc (DVD, this time) and Web; and, documentation of an e-lit piece on video is acceptable this time around. If you want to get an idea of what counts as “electronic literature,” you can read the definition on the Electronic Literature Organization site or, probably even better, take a look at the diversity of work included in the first volume of the ELC. Here are all the details from the call on the ELO site:

The Electronic Literature Organization seeks submissions for the Electronic Literature Collection, volume 2. We invite the submission of literary works that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the computer. Works will be accepted from June 1 to September 30, 2008. Up to three works per author will be considered; previously published works will be considered.

The Electronic Literature Collection is a biannual publication of current and older electronic literature in a form suitable for individual, public library, and classroom use. Volume 1, presently available both online ( and as a packaged, cross-platform CD-ROM, has been used in dozens of courses at universities in the United States and internationally, and has been widely reviewed in the United States and Europe. It is also available as a CD-ROM insert with N. Katherine Hayles’ full-length study, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

September 7, 2008

Gaming Space at Ars Electronica 2008

This year’s Prix Ars Electronica recognized a tactile augmented reality game, a game sculpture, and the project behind an optical-illusion game that, as it happens, I spent quite a bit of time playing earlier this year (at the Game Developers Conference). Each got an honorary mention in the interactive art category. The larger Ars Electronica festival also featured something between an urban game, a flash mob, and a ritual. An engagement with space and physicality ran through them all.

Julian Oliver’s levelHead, like many augmented reality experiences, is experienced both immediately (at the site of non-augmented reality) and by looking in a video mirror (where the augmentation is visible). It’s a spatial navigation and memory game that involves moving an animated silhouette through photographic rooms of an odd, technically-oriented building (e.g., it has a “machine room”). The piece has been around since 2007, but I’ve never had a chance to play it before.

Like others I saw at Ars, drawn in from the moment they got their hands on the piece, I found it a pleasure just to hold the levelHead cube, see the image change as I tilted it, watch the figure walk, and so on. I wasn’t bothered at all by the flickering of the AR image — when I was playing I filtered it out, noticing it much more when I was a spectator (and it’s pretty evident in this video I took). However, on the other hand, I had persistent trouble with “playing in the mirror.” I didn’t make errors when I wanted to move the character side-to-side, but I kept tilting the cube toward me when I should have tipped it away (and vice versa). Obviously, given the AR nature of the interface, this isn’t something that should be “fixed” by allowing me to invert the vertical axis on my controller (this cube is no thumbstick). But I was surprised that I didn’t adapt during the period I played (which, admittedly, I would have liked to be longer, but there was a queue).

September 5, 2008

New Post

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:59 am

I’ve just taken a new position at Dartmouth College as the inaugural Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities, where I will be centralizing the development of the digital side of things on campus as they relate to the arts and humanities. The post offers flexibility and time for both studio and academic research. My teaching will involve working across departmental lines; while my academic home will be in Film and Media Studies, I am able to teach courses across campus related to gaming, art, technology studies, innovation, design, and the like, in both theoretical and practical domains. Awesome! Tiltfactor, my laboratory, is moving with me, of course.

Ars Electronica 2008 Coverage

Since I’m not liveblogging Ars Electronica (it appears I’d need a new battery or two) here are a few links to those who are giving more coverage:

Joi Ito, the curator of this year’s “A New Cultural Economy” conference (first Ars 08 post, Flickr set).

David Weinberger is doing a valiant job of liveblogging “A New Cultural Economy” (first Ars 08 post).

Rather than the conferences, the art is being discussed on the SHOWstudio blog (first Ars 08 post).

Here are more Flickr folks: pieceoplastic, Judo10, Karli2000, and fumi.

September 4, 2008

Interaction, Interactivity, Interactive Art

Ars Electronica Festival 2008

I’m in Linz, Austria for the Ars Electronica Festival — and later today I’ll be speaking at the festival’s first conference: “Interaction, Interactivity, Interactive Art – a buzzword of new media under scrutiny.” I’ll try to blog what I can, updating this post as we go along. The conference is organized by the Ludwig Boltzmann Insitute for Media.Art.Research with intellectual leadership from Katja Kwastek and institute director Dieter Daniels.

The conference is broken into three sections. The first is titled “Interactive Art – with and without media” and includes Christiane Paul (Whitney Museum), Lars Blunck (Technical University Berlin), and Suzanne Lacy (Otis College of Art and Design). Right now the introductions are happening. Dieter Daniels is explaining that the Boltzmann Insitute is engaged with history, including pre- and non-digital history, as opposed to Ars Electronica’s focus on what is happening “right now” at the time of each festival.

September 3, 2008

Literary Machines in 1K

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:47 am

Literary MachinesLiterary Machines
Theodor Holm Nelson
Mindful Press
Edition 90.1 was reviewed; 93.1 is available from Eastgate Systems

An incredible multisequential volume about inventing hypertext, reforming copyright, reimagining quotation, and reworking education and reading. It extends from the viscous soup of the politics of computing to the nuts and bolts of how a hypertext system can, for instance, represent arbitrarily large integers compactly. The systems humanist is presented as an alternative to the techie “noid” and humanist “fluffy.” Nelson proposed to reshape literacy and publishing far more profoundly than Haussman altered Paris. Although he admits that a next-generation system might be needed at some point, the general approach is to think about the problem long and hard, devise a more or less flawless system, and then just implement it, never iterating. We should be glad that Xanadu was sketched, not completed. The dynamic, incisive, and continually revised and evolving writings of Ted Nelson have participated in thought and culture in a way that no crystalline, fully armed and operational literary machine could have.

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