Mark Marino (of the Barthian and bachelor bots) sends word of Global Interface, a yearlong, interdisciplinary workshop on cyberculture that is just starting up with a talk from Kate Hayles on Monday, Oct 4. Meatspace meetings will happen monthly at UC Riverside. as is explained in the proposal. The diverse set of participants includes faculty from music, dance, and computer science. “The interface serves as the nexus between artist, viewer, programmer, technology, and industry,” the blog for the workshop declares. Mark and the other organizers hope that this blog will foster intersections and conversation online, too, and there’s a plan to post extensive notes on all the talks.
September 29, 2004
September 28, 2004
Commodore International is about ready to roll out the new C32 (to be marketed as the VIC 40 in Europe), the world’s first hardware implementation of Infocom’s Z-Machine. There’s only one piece missing: Dave Bernazzani needs you to write interactive fiction for its 32kb Z-Carts.
Simultaneously-opening shows at the MIT List Center and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts will be the first major exhibition of the work of Cerith Wyn Evans in the U.S. There’s a reception at MIT next Thursday (the 7th) and artist talks on the following Saturday (the 9th). As the MIT press release states, these “site-specific projects explore the complex relationships between image and word, poetry and science, divination and earthly communication, and spoken and written language.” (More details follow.)
September 27, 2004
of him who knew the most of all men know
who made the journey; heartbroken; reconciled;
open the copper chest with the iron locks;
the tablet of lapis lazuli tells the story.
(tr. David Ferry)
Apropos of only a few things digital, today I held and examined, illiterately, several 4,000-year-old Sumerian texts and one that was slightly more recent: one of the surviving tablets of clay upon which is written, in cuneiform Akkadian, part of the first known epic, Gilgamesh.
“ALT+CTRL: A Festival of Independent and Alternative Games” will be at UC Irvine’s Beall Center for Art and Technology from October 5th to November 24th. I’ll be around to be part of a panel of First Person contributors on October 5th, and also for the opening on October 7th. I’m looking forward to seeing folks there! (More info follows.)
September 26, 2004
I went out toward Atlantic City this weekend to hear William Gillespie and Talan Memmott read. On Friday, they kicked off Scott’s Digital Arts and Electronic Literature Series this semester at Stockton, as promised. It was great to hang out and talk shop with those three throughout the weekend; I also enjoyed getting to talk to Stockton and community attendees at the reading who were interested in e-lit. The longer format allowed Talan to take us through some of several pieces, including a good bit of his in-progress piece dealing with René Margritte, one that joins visual transformations and 3D-like spaces (somewhat like those seen in Lolli’s Apartment) with the art-critical vein of his writing (seen also in The Berth of V.ness and Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)]). William read from and discussed Table of Forms, The Unknown, 2002, and Trade Names, also talking about the form of 20 consonant poetry that he invented. I’ve heard Talan and William read many times before, sometimes in blitzkrieg readings (which I’ve been guilty of organizing). The short showcases have their uses, but it was good to hear these two go through some of their work in more depth out at Stockton, where I got a better sense of the overall questions, structures, and themes that their work engages.
September 25, 2004
Scott is quoted in Sunday’s New York Times in a story by Samantha Storey on sticker art:
Scott Rettberg, a scholar in new media, attributes the resurgence of stickers to low-cost inkjet printers and “the ubiquity of the global network.” “Cheap printers give artists the ability to mass-produce work intended for public consumption,” he said, “and stickers are easier to place than traditional graffiti.”
I’m mighty proud for my Implementation coauthor. More details are on the Implementation site. The nice links to sticker art sites from the story will remain available there after the Times pulls the story from the Web and Lexis-Nexizes it even deeper into inaccessibility.
September 24, 2004
I just got off the phone with Linda Lauro-Lazin, Chair of the SIGGRAPH 2005 Art Gallery. We had a very interesting conversation.
As many GTxA readers are aware, 2002 saw a number of disastrous decisions for SIGGRAPH. During the planning for SIGGRAPH 2003 the panels program was killed and interactive art was deleted from the art gallery. Most of the rest of my top reasons for attending SIGGRAPH (art and culture papers, artist talks, etc) disappeared.
Apparently, that’s all changing for 2005. Linda wants to bring back interactive art in a big way. And she’s recruiting committee members and jurors who are interested in experimental narrative forms, game art, and other work of interest to GTxA folks.
For the third time in the past five years, the chatterbot ALICE has scored highest and won the Bronze at the annual Loebner Prize competition, held this week in New York City. Jabberwacky came in second place.
September 23, 2004
Recommended reading: “Descriptions Constructed” by Stephen Granade, a just-posted close-up look at IF output text, and “Crimes Against Mimesis” by Roger Giner-Sorolla, a broader essay from 1996 on what can go right or wrong in IF, still worth a read today. More on these two below…
September 22, 2004
The exhibit Michael Winkler: Word Images 1982-2004: A New Visual Orthography opened today in the Rosenwald Gallery on the 6th Floor of the Van Pelt Library Center here at Penn. Winkler has based his work on an alternate way of representing words made up of letters in the Roman alphabet; he connects lines within a circle of 26 points, the vowels spaced evenly; “IS,” for example, is a single line between the spot corresponding to “I” and the spot corresponding to “S.” (The image here is worth a thousand words of description.) This new orthography doesn’t correspond one-to-one with existing spellings; reversible pairs words, like “mood” and “doom,” have the same representation, as do “ban” and “banana.” The exhibit includes stone tablets, installation materials bound in a large book, paintings, and a large set of cards with each words a long passage in “normal” and new renderings. Winkler told me at the opening that he was contemplating a computer piece that would go through all the words in a large dictionary (and that he manually did all of the “A” words) but, in the end, he wanted people in this exhibit to be able to look more deeply at the figures of single words. These works reminded me of the different, but related, takes on language and letter in John Maeda’s Tap, Type, Write and in Diana Slattery’s Glide. Of course, Winkler’s procedure for generating his main figures from words is purely algorithmic, even though he doesn’t use an electronic computer to do it. The exhibit is up through December 10.
Douglas Irving Repetto’s SineClock is a wonderfully elegant piece. It’s well worth downloading it and spending at least a few hours (maybe a few weeks) listening to it. I like the concept of the computer application incarnation of the piece better than the “hardware” version, since it replaces, or at least pushes aside, the precision of the computer’s displayed clock with its ambient sound, giving a sense of the change of time and the difference in times of day that is strange but promises to be decipherable. Download here; thanks to Clive Thompson for the link and for his comments on the piece, which are worth reading.
After being tarred with the Republican brush for mentioning Take Back Illinois, an email came across my inbox that fortuitously allows me to reestablish my liberal credentials. Steffi Domike, one of my collaborators on Terminal Time, sent me a link to a book excerpt appearing on the (far) right-wing site FrontPage Magazine. In an excerpt from the “expose” 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Charitable Giving, the authors chastise her for (via the Heinz foundation) supporting, among other things, Terminal Time. While I certainly got a good chuckle out of this, I was disappointed to see them refer to Terminal Time as a video. Given my work in AI-based generative art, I would never create a mere video, but only machines that can generate countless videos. Also, the writer misses the point that Terminal Time operationalizes radical, monomaniacal ideologically biased reasoning; indeed, the excerpt looks like it could have been generated by Terminal Time.
Over at watercoolergames, Ian Bogost has announced Persuasive Games’ latest political game Take Back Illinois, a four part game commisioned by the Illinois House Republican Organization. The game explores four Illinois state political issues, medical malpractice reform, education, participation, and economic development. Currently, only the medical malpractice reform game is active - the other games will be released during the coming weeks.
September 21, 2004
Hi all, after a busy robot-filled weekend, I greet you! and send you this link to somebody’s great little synopsis movie featuring some of the work. I was very pleased to have been a part of it.
Tomorrow I’m off to U Maine for the Code and Creativity 3.0 Event in which a group of troublemaker artists are venturing off-concrete.
“This conference tackles the tension at the heart of war/gaming and explores alternative design strategies in the company of some of the top game design artists working today.”
Here are a few snaps to go with the video. I thought the show was great. I went with my cousin Michael, who teaches middle school science in the Bronx. He said that he got about 3 months worth of ideas for projects for his 7th grade students from the show. Great work, Mary et al.
Sisyphus by Bruce Shapiro
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the interactive fiction, by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky), as promised, has been re-implemented and (partially) illustrated and is now available online. It’s quite fascinating to see the first release of the new edition, not only because it demonstrates the continued vitality of 20-year-old IF, but also because I’m in the middle of a similar project. Here’s information on playing the new HHGTTG, on the making of the new edition, on how to submit illustrations that they may use to expand the edition, and on the making of the original 1984 Infocom interactive fiction. The last page links to a video clip of Adams discussing the game. As Richard Harris writes there, “There was a time when computer games didn’t have graphics. … Then graphics games came along and the computer using portion of the human race forgot all about 500,000 years of language evolution and went straight back to the electronic equivalent of banging rocks together - the point’n'click game.”
Update, 9:45 pm: Evin Robertson posts on rec.games.int-fiction that the BBC “are running the original Infocom game through a modified interpreter running on their server. The server communicates to the flash interface using some XML,” with ID numbers that tag items in inventory, locations, and the like. This is a clever way to: (1) ensure the original text exchange is maintained exactly, (2) enable a new illustrated interface, and (3) prevent people from downloading their own copy of the game, which resides on the server. Google Groups took many hours to show the new newsgroup posts, but here it is.
September 20, 2004
I may be turning into an intellectual property law geek, but I found Mark A. Lemley’s Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding (click on “Go to Document Delivery” for full text) engrossing. Lemley rehearses some of the ground that Jamie Boyle and Lawrence Lessig cover about the origin of the idea of intellectual property law and the “tragedy of the commons,” explains some of the benefits of leaving room for “free-riding” in the distribution of intellectual property, questions whether property is an apt metaphor for what’s come to be known as intellectual property, and explores some other analogies that might be more appropriate.
One wonders if intellectual property law might have a different place in our culture if we referred to it simply as “idea law.”
The deadline for entries in the Life 7.0 art and artificial life competition is Wednesday, November 3, 2004.
Announcing the sixth edition of the competition on “art and artificial life” sponsored by the Telefonica Foundation in Madrid. We are looking for outstanding electronic art projects employing techniques such as digital genetics, autonomous robotics, recursive chaotic algorithms, knowbots, computer viruses, wetware, embodied artificial intelligence, avatars, evolving behaviours and virtual ecosystems.
An international jury — Chris Csikszentmihalyi (US), Daniel Garcia Andujar (Spain), Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexico/Canada), Jose-Carlos Mariategui (Peru), Fiona Raby (UK) and Nell Tenhaaf (Canada)– will grant four cash awards totaling 20,000 Euros.
September 19, 2004
I remember there was a cave, or some sort of underground area, and you could move around in it and do things by typing compass directions and stuff.
September 17, 2004
From November 10-12, in Bergen, Norway, I’ll be joining Howard Rheingold, Torill Mortensen, Lisbeth Klastrup, Cory Doctorow and others at the Digital Og Sosial Conference, dedicated to mobile, wireless, and handheld technologies and their connections to the social. I’ll be giving a talk on “The Network Novel,” and leading a collaborative writing workshop. The conference is also the first gathering of Elinor, the newly minted Nordic sister organization of the Electronic Literature Organization. Find further details on Jill’s blog.
The call for papers for the next DIGRA conference is available. Abstracts are due November 30th, 2004.
In contemporary commercial game design, natural language interaction is avoided like the plague. If the player needs to “talk” to characters in the world, designers typically employ menus (either dialog trees containing explicit dialog, or flat dialog action menus containing actions such as flirt, insult, etc.) or simply can the entire conversation by providing a talk command. Barring occasional experiments with limited speech recognition (e.g. Lifeline, Seaman, Babyz), developers are skeptical of natural language understanding (NLU), remembering the frustrations of the well-known parser failures of text-based interactive fiction, and noting that NLU requires human-level AI to solve in the general case.
Ultimately, however, in order to create adult experiences containing rich characters addressing complex themes, games will have to use language, and thus will have to tackle NLU. Players will want and need to communicate a large set of possible meanings to the characters (and of course the characters, as well as the large scale structure of the game, should be responsive to those meanings). Any explicit choice approach to conveying this large range of meanings (e.g. dialog menus, discourse act menus, constructive interfaces that let you put together sentences out of parts) introduces a number of problems, including foregrounding the boundaries of the experience (the player immediately sees the full range of possibilities), making all choices appear equally salient, and making action selection unwieldy (and potentially unmanageable).
September 16, 2004
Future Boy! is by Kent Tessman’s The General Coffee Company Film Productions. Kent and the company also made Apartment Story, a feature film that was aired on Bravo!, and developed Hugo, a powerful interactive fiction development system with multimedia capabilities, which just reached version 3.1. (See the IF Archive for the new version, which should appear there shortly.) Future Boy! is written in Hugo, which is quite cross-platform, so the demo, like the game itself, will run out of the box on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, BeOS, Palm OS, and Pocket PC; source code is available for porting to other platforms, too, or you can use a Hugo interpreter that has been ported. Future Boy!, in development since 2000, employs comic-style art, voice talent, and natrual langauge input … where have I heard of such things being used before … but the framework is that of a traditional adventure game. Although I’ve only played the demo briefly as yet, it looks amusing and looks like it integrates text and images (and animated images) in a very interesting way.
September 15, 2004
A special panel discussion, “Interdisciplinarity and the Humanities,” kicked off this year’s Graduate Humanities Forum meetings at Penn. Sheldon Hackney — history professor, former president of Penn, former chair of the NEH, and hero of the culture wars — described how, early in his academic career, he programmed a mainframe computer to manipulate data about votes in the Alabama legislature, only to find that political scientists had been done similar work, and discovered similar formulas, already. (A danger of interdisciplinary work, indeed.) Liliane Weissberg, professor of German and comparative literature, discussed how institutions related to fields of inquiry, describing how many current academic departmental boundaries arose in a 19th-century European political context. Gary Tomlinson, professor of music, talked about how ethnomusicology and the study of popular music arose to challenge traditional European musicology. He also talked about how his own work, which he was free to do as a tenured professor, might not be a good model for students who needed to seek entry-level academic jobs. Moderator Wendy Steiner, professor of English, discussed her work and its relation to visual art studies and English, mentioning several methodologies or approaches that enabled interdisciplinary practice: semiotics and narratology, for instance. (Ethnography, mentioned in Tomlinson’s discussion of ethnomusicology, seems to also be in this category.) Further comments from panelists were also insightful — I enjoyed hearing from Prof. Hackney about what might seem like a tedious administrative topic, for instance: how Penn’s institutional structure, with graduate groups separate from departments and the possibility of instituting programs and seminars, allowed for more flexible, if less well-funded, interdisciplinary discussion and inquiry. The discussion in Q&A was lively and interesting, too.
Representatives from Electronic Arts and the University Of South California’s School of Cinema-Television have unveiled the EA Game Innovation Lab at USC’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, located in downtown Los Angeles. The lab has been created to act as a state-of-the-art research space and think tank for game design and creation.
Also I’ll throw in a link to what looked like an interesting talk today at USC, by Michael Lew of Media Lab Europe, discussing �What is happening to the film form as the medium becomes computational?� Lew presented Office Voodoo, “an algorithmic film with a realtime editing engine” (pdf), built into an interactive installation for two. (Sounds cool, but by default I’m skeptical towards what may be a design-heavy, AI-lite approach to interactive narrative, as well as concern for overly-coarse-grain sized story content. Perhaps someone who has seen the piece can let us know more about it.)