January 23, 2009

Chronicle Articles Get with the Program

by Nick Montfort · , 10:10 am

It’s a pleasure to read even one article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses the confluence of computation and programming with cultural and humanistic studies. Matt Kirschenbaum has written two, which are just out and well worth reading – and would be even if one didn’t offer us lavish praise, calling Grand Text Auto “the single must-read blog for the field.”

The longer article, “Hello Worlds,” makes the clear and powerful argument that humanities students should learn to program and to understand computation. While singing the praises of Adventure as the first virtual world and of modeling as a special ability of the compter, the article also sketches the idea of procedural rhetoric. This isn’t the first position paper on the subject – there is one from Michael Mateas for instance, and educators at Dartmouth were taking this position decades ago, and teaching the students as well. But this article is a well-developed and well-stated case for educating humanists to compute and to understand computing, and it comes at the right time and in the right context.

“When Computer Science and Cultural Studies Collide” surveys the many ways that CS and CS (or disciplines and fields like them) are being brought together to address new questions in new ways: “Game studies, software studies, critical-code studies, even platform studies …” Check out the full glowing review of our blog, too:

… Put another way, software studies and its kin are the collision of computer science and cultural studies.

That collision happens on a daily basis at one of the busiest crossroads in academic new media, a group blog called Grand Text Auto (http://grandtextauto.org). Its authors, Mary Flanagan, Michael Mateas, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, Andrew Stern, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, are all hands-on developers and creators of new media like interactive fiction and games, as well as critics and theorists. In the five and a half years since it’s been online, Grand Text Auto has become the single must-read blog for the field.

I won’t stop quote there, since platform studies series is also covered in the article, in the next paragraph:

The MIT Press, which has an extensive list in new media, last year published Software Studies: A Lexicon, edited by Matthew Fuller and featuring contributions by a number of key critics and thinkers. The MIT Press is also launching a series in platform studies, edited by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost (http://platformstudies.com). According to Montfort and Bogost, “Platform studies investigates the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems.” …

As some of you know from our presentations and announcing, Ian Bogost and I collaborated to write the first book in the series, Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System. But more about that in a bit.