March 28, 2009

The Society for Textual Scholarship Plays the Changes

by Nick Montfort · , 7:50 am

Last week (March 18-21) I was at the Society for Textual Scholarship conference in New York City, at NYU. I took a few notes on the talks that seemed like they’d be of most interest to GTxA readers:

From the panel “Textual Studies and Video Games”

Matt Kirschenbaum: Preserving Virtual Worlds

The project takes a broad view of virtual worlds, from Zork to Doom to Second Life. They are fun, economically important, and platforms for creativity – and threatened, hard to preserve. Companies don’t preserve their own IP. DRM hinders preservation. Funded by NDIIPP. UIUC, Maryland, Stanford, RIT, Internet Archive, Linden Labs. Research preservation problems and approaches. Strategies: store, migrate, emulate, reinterpret. We deal with software, not data, and there’s a strong argument for emulation, as with facsimiles. Use OAIS Reference Model with SIP, AIP, DIP. Determine what to preserve, who is the community, what representation information to store. What are the boundaries of the game as object or experience – OS, hardware, mods, fanfic? The case of Adventure… OAIS representation diagram for the game. FRBR standard: work, expression, manifestation, item. See

Nick Montfort: The Atari Video Computer System and Platform Studies

No notes here, but there’s a video of me speaking about Racing the Beam and these topics at the Berkman Center.

Steven E. Jones: Editing the Universe in Spore

(A push-media presentation.) The meaning of games emerges in performance, improvisation. Improv has developed theater games. Facade based on improv, has AI and natural language input. Magic 8-ball is a game-like object and joke a within. Games involve seeking out intelligent life – a connection with Spore. Players should feel “more like George Lucas than Luke Skywalker” -Wright. Evolve creatures, open into space exploration. A search for Wright’s intelligence behind the game, in part. Hybrid model where all can build and share, no risk of others destroying your planets. What if text were at the core? Digital humanities could learn about continual re-editing from Spore. HRIT, markup-agnostic scheme.

From the panel “Theorizing Digital Textuality”

Matt Kirschenbaum: Stephen King’s Wang

(Photo of Norman Mailer’s laptop, behind glass at the HRC.) SK did have a Wang word processor and wrote a story about one where insertions and deletions would change the world, “Word Processor of the Gods.” [Sounds like he was ripping off that season one Twilight Zone episode “A World of his Own,” the one with the dictaphone!] Other early Wordstar and word processing references in fiction. Interviews have references in mid-1980s. Didion: writing became less like painting, more like sculpture. Almost all literature is now born digital. Have to deal not only with material on physical media; there’s also the cloud. But data is persistent, too. Many writers have digital materials in archives: Four of Rushdie’s laptops. How much data should scholars be allowed to see? MP3 playlists? High scores? Porn? DFW’s deleted and recovered drafts? Many opportunities and dangers. SK’s Wang, by the way, was sent to California for repair and never returned.

Laura Mandell: Encoding and Visualizing Poetry

A tool for visualizing poetry, a collaboration with artist Ira Greenberg, who wrote a book on Processing. Background: Tukey’s exploratory analysis. Snow’s visualization of the Cholera outbreak. Organization of the Poetess Archive. In digital media, a wheel might replace the TOC. After some work on poem analysis and correlation, moved to visualize poems instead: Several examples. 19th-century model of scholarship is still current, and rejects the ludic and aesthetic. Berger’s Ways of Seeing has given the impression that visual images are propaganda.

Joseph Viscomi: Blake’s Oddest Book

The Song of Los. Text pages and plates differ by 4cm in width. Most radical experiment Blake had done in combining painting, text, and printmaking. Oblong format in earliest version. Order we thought we had was wrong. A two-column copper plate was masked to print two pages. Blake used a sort of lithographic process five years before lithography. Digital reconstructions of various sorts, some on screen and some facsimiles, make the case that the book was originally imagined in this unusual format, then printed as we know it.

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