November 4, 2016

New Computational Media M.S. and Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz

UCSC logoComputational Media is all around us — video games, social media, interactive narrative, smartphone apps, computer-generated films, personalized health coaching, and more. To create these kinds of media, to deeply understand them, to push them forward in novel directions, requires a new kind of interdisciplinary thinker and maker. The new graduate degrees in Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz are designed with this person in mind.

January 29, 2016

Two more faculty jobs at UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz has two more faculty jobs in games and computational media. One is an Assistant Professor in game design (apply by February 1st) and the other is a Teaching Professor position in computational media available for applicants at any level of seniority, and open to a wide range of specialties (apply by February 23rd).

The game design position is for one of the founding faculty of the new BA in Art & Design: Games & Playable Media. The ideal applicant is a designer with experience pushing games in new directions, working with innovative design and technology approaches. This position is in the Arts division.

October 27, 2015

Four Jobs at UC Santa Cruz

UCSC logo

I’m happy to announce that UC Santa Cruz is currently searching for four jobs in areas of computational media (and we expect to announce two more soon). Two of the currently-advertised positions are in Engineering and two are in Arts.


Generative Methods – Assistant Professor

June 29, 2015

Seeking Program Director for Professional Games MS

UCSC logo

Interested in working on innovative games, with passionate people, in an academic position in Silicon Valley?

We’re seeking a leader for the UC Santa Cruz professional MS in Games and Playable Media. The MS is offered through our Silicon Valley campus, now expanding into a new building (with about 5000 sq ft dedicated to the program) and in active planning to shift to a two year program.

The position will include working both with our current game faculty and with new personnel hired specifically for the program. The degree is focused on expanding the possibilities for games — and on helping students build the skills and connections they need for what they want to do next.

June 24, 2015

Curing Games’ Amnesia with NLP


Video game playing is plagued by amnesia. One reason is that there are no good tools for finding related video games across time. Everything is focused on the present or future. Yet if you are fascinated by a certain game, the best next games to investigate are not necessarily the other ones featured in Amazon’s “bought together” display.

May 4, 2015

Donald Brinkman on “Tin Cupping for Plutonium” (Media Systems)

How can people embedded in large, for-profit companies find a way to direct some of the present expertise and resources to make a positive difference? In this talk from the Media Systems gathering, Donald Brinkman describes how he has worked to do this within Microsoft. In particular, he describes Microsoft’s role in enabling the digital projects engaging the AIDS Memorial Quilt that were also discussed in Anne Balsamo’s talk.

April 20, 2015

Pamela Jennings on “Field Building” (Media Systems)

In an emerging, interdisciplinary area, how can those getting started understand the possible paths forward? One way is through looking at the (often wending) paths taken by pioneers. In this week’s Media Systems talk from Pamela Jennings (recently-appointed director of the Center for Design Innovation) she provides insight into how she became a field leader, as well as into the work she has done to help the nascent field find its way. Jennings has been a key figure in much of the field development of recent decades, including recent successes such as the NSF’s CreativeIT program and the founding of the SEAD network. (Some related reflections can be found in the Media Systems talks of Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray.)

April 13, 2015

Ken Perlin on “Interdisciplinary Media Technology Research” (Media Systems)

I am happy to announce that we are publishing the final four videos from the Media Systems gathering — and that the final report, “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media,” is now available through print-on-demand!

November 24, 2014

Faculty Job in Games Research at UCSC

I’m pleased to announce that the newly-formed Computational Media department at UC Santa Cruz is advertising an open-rank faculty position in interdisciplinary computer games research. As the official job flier puts it, our ideal candidate is someone “connecting novel technology research with practices of design and/or interpretation.”

I’m excited by the great community we’re building around games research, and computational media broadly, at UC Santa Cruz. This includes two key hires in the Arts this year (Robin Hunicke and Susana Ruiz) and the founders of the new MS in Games and Playable Media (Brenda Romero and John Romero) hired last year, as well as the pre-existing CM faculty (Arnav Jhala, Michael Mateas, Sri Kurniawan, Marilyn Walker, Jim Whitehead, and yours truly) and other faculty in the Center for Games and Playable Media (e.g., Brenda Laurel, Soraya Murray).

March 22, 2014

GDC 2014: U.S. National Investment in the Future of Games?

At the just-concluded 2014 Game Developers Conference I organized and spoke in a session titled, “U.S. National Investment in the Future of Games?” I was joined by William S. Bainbridge (Program Director for the National Science Foundation), Elaine Raybourn (Principal Member of the Technical Staff in Cognitive Systems at Sandia National Laboratories, on assignment from to the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense), and Jason Rhody (Senior Program Officer for the Office of Digital Humanities in the National Endowment for the Humanities). I’m posting here my slides and notes from the session introduction and my talk, the latter of which focused on three recommendation areas from the Media Systems final report that would benefit from joint effort by federal agencies and the game development community.

March 21, 2014

GDC 2014: Game Grants for Scholars, Librarians, and Artists

This week at GDC I gave a talk as part of the session “Federal Opportunities for Game Faculty and Students.” I was joined by William Bainbridge (Program Director, National Science Foundation) and Jason Rhody (Senior Program Officer, Office of Digital Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities). My presentation focused on my experiences as a Principle Investigator on a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The slides and my talk notes are below. I hope they’re helpful!



March 19, 2014

New Publication: “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media” (Media Systems)

Media Systems logo

Today we are publishing the final report of the Media Systems project — including a set of 12 key recommendations for building the future of computational media.

This report is the result of bringing more than 40 field leaders together for a meeting made possible by an unprecedented set of organizations: the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research. We followed the meeting with more than a year of additional analysis, conversation, and writing.

February 15, 2014

March 3rd Deadline: Intelligent Narrative Technologies @ ELO

Call for Participation


• (int)7 Submission deadline: March 3, 2014
• Workshop: June 17-18, 2014, Milwaukee, WI

(int)7 & ELO registration information is now available:

The Intelligent Narrative Technologies (INT) workshop series aims to advance research in artificial intelligence for the computational understanding, expression, and creation of narrative. Previous installments of this workshop have brought together a multidisciplinary group of researchers such as computer scientists, psychologists, narrative theorists, media theorists, artists, and members of the interactive entertainment industry. From this broad expertise, the INT series focuses on computational systems to represent, reason about, adapt, author, and perform interactive and non-interactive narrative experiences.

November 25, 2013

Janet Kolodner on “Cyberlearning: Transforming Education” (Media Systems)

What can transform a field? Janet Kolodner argues, in her talk for the Media Systems gathering, that individual projects are not enough. But programs do potentially offer a route to transformation — by being larger, integrative efforts.

November 5, 2013

Chad Greene on “Creating Believable/Immersive Content” (Media Systems)

While critics may now say a film’s action scenes “seem like a video game,” it doesn’t just seem like film and games are borrowing from each other. It is not only happening stylistically, but also at a deep technical level. At the Media Systems gathering, Chad Greene from Microsoft Studios discussed how the common basis of computation is leading to transformations in film and games, enabling borrowing between the two, as well as both borrowing from academic research.

October 29, 2013

Bill Gaver on “Guidance and Evaluation Methods” (Media Systems)

Bill Gaver’s group — The Interaction Research Studio — does design as a means of research into people and technology. At the Media Systems gathering he used examples from their work to illustrate a number of approaches to one of our major topics: “… guidance and evaluation methods from arts, design and the humanities.”

October 25, 2013

Fox Harrell on “Matching Methods” (Media Systems)

In computer science, we often guide and evaluate work by metrics such as efficiency (of execution, of task performance, of maintenance, etc). But such metrics do not make sense for many types of computational media work. Fox Harrell’s talk at the Media Systems gathering, “Matching Methods: Guiding and Evaluating Interdisciplinary Projects,” suggests that, rather than there being one answer to evaluating computational media research, part of the work is in identifying values and goals, which can then point to the methods that might be appropriate.

Fox Harrell on “Matching Methods” (Media Systems)

In computer science, we often guide and evaluate work by metrics such as efficiency (of execution, of task performance, of maintenance, etc). But such metrics do not make sense for many types of computational media work. Fox Harrell’s talk at the Media Systems gathering, “Matching Methods: Guiding and Evaluating Interdisciplinary Projects,” suggests that, rather than there being one answer to evaluating computational media research, part of the work is in identifying values and goals, which can then point to the methods that might be appropriate.

October 15, 2013

Anne Balsamo on “Designing Culture” (Media Systems)

What would it mean to have “big” projects — bigger than a single investigator, lab, or even institution could handle — that are not arranged by science and engineering concerns, but by cultural concerns? In this talk from the Media Systems gathering at UC Santa Cruz, Anne Balsamo gives the shape of two major, ongoing digital humanities projects of this sort: the AIDS Memorial Quilt Browser and FemTechNet.

October 8, 2013

Mary Lou Maher on “Curious Dances” (Media Systems)

We can build a computer system that could generate a surprising event, and we can build a computer system that would recognize it.

When Mary Lou Maher said these words at the Media Systems gathering at UC Santa Cruz, she wasn’t talking about hypothetical systems working in sterile domains like block stacking. She was talking about the already-demonstrated power of computational models in rich areas of human creativity, like music and humor… creative domains in which strong expectation is key to our experience.

September 24, 2013

Ian Bogost on “Procedural Rhetoric” (Media Systems)

As Ian Bogost explains in this video from the Media Systems gathering at UC Santa Cruz, his work in procedural rhetoric is not “operationalizing” particular rhetorical tropes (the way Nick Montfort’s work operationalizes elements of Genette’s Narrative Discourse) but rather:

It’s a theory or a design philosophy. It’s a way of making things. A way of thinking about the process of translating systems in the world into representations of those systems in the computer…. It gives you a framework through which to ask questions about what a particular situation might demand.

September 18, 2013

Nick Montfort on “The Art of Operationalization” (Media Systems)

Among those doing computational media work, the concept of “operationalization” — as Nick Montfort discusses in this video from the Media Systems gathering at UC Santa Cruz — involves the formalization of theories from the humanities, arts, and social sciences and the implementation of these in a computational system, where they can be effective in new ways and “tested” in certain senses. This has proven a very powerful approach. For example, the entire field of 3D graphics could be seen as operationalizing arts knowledge about visual perspective and other knowledge from the visual arts. Or, more specifically, Facade (generally seen as the first interactive drama) is explicitly operationalizing concepts from arts and humanities theories of dramatic writing.

September 11, 2013

Alex McDowell on “World Building” (Media Systems)

In this video from the Media Systems gathering at UC Santa Cruz, Alex McDowell — one of the most influential designers in the world today — talks about how computational media are transforming storytelling. We are moving from the linear, auteur-oriented storytelling model of the printing press and industrialized film production to a collaborative, non-linear approach he terms world building.

September 4, 2013

Ian Horswill says “Interdisciplinarity is Hard” (Media Systems)

One goal sometimes pursued by interdisciplinary programs is to move beyond the arbitrary divides in knowledge represented by the schools and divisions of universities. One way of accomplishing this is to report to multiple deans, or to no dean at all (perhaps directly to the provost level). This sounds appropriate in theory, but at the Media Systems gathering we discussed the difficulties such models of interdisciplinary organization have presented for pioneering programs such as Animate Arts at Northwestern and Arts, Computation, and Engineering (ACE) at UC Irvine.

August 28, 2013

Janet Murray on “Lessons Learned” (Media Systems)

At the Media Systems gathering Janet Murray made a clarion call for deeper fundamental research in computational media, moving forward interdisciplinary understanding through the creation of new genres:

There has to be someplace where you say, “How do we reconfigure knowledge?” Because that is what happens when you have a new medium of representation, as with the printing press. And we’re not making fast enough progress there, because nobody’s getting rewarded for it, nobody’s being paid to do it.

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