Grand Text Auto

January 28, 2007

Curating Ambiguity

by scott @ 4:20 pm

I did a short interview with Franz Thalmair about the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One, that has just been published by the Austrian webzine CONT3XT.NET. It will also be published next week by the UK-based new media collective

Net Rete Red Art

by nick @ 1:06 am

newmediaFIX, in collaboration with Turbulence, presents three (or nine, depending upon how you look at it) new critical essays about some of the prodigious net art work that has been hosted in past years on the Turbulence site. The essays, at 3 X 3: New Media Fix(es), are each available in English, Italian, and Spanish. They are “The Body in Turbulence” by Josephine Bosma; “Narrating with New Media: What Happened with Whatever has Happened?” by BelĂ©n Gache; and “Turbulence: Remixes + Bonus Beats” by Eduardo Navas. They offer very interesting threads of thought, and also provide a good excuse to ply Turbulence’s archive of online art.

January 27, 2007


by nick @ 12:20 pm

Not that Roland! The one with the sword. Vika Zafrin has linked to the latest version of RolandHT (with instructions) for use on Firefox or some other XSLT-capable browser, if there is one. (OS X Opera seems to work, too.) Her project - not fully loaded with lexias as yet - is a humanities computing project that promises to have wide appeal to the casual reader as well as disciplinary use. It allows the hypertext reader to compare different texts, by different authors, and see how literature has engaged Roland as a character. This sheds new light on how the the loveable, muslim-fighting paladin went from his starring role in The Song of Roland to become, as the font of all encyclopediac knowledge says, “a ‘pop icon’ in medieval minstrel culture.” There’s some more background about the project online, and for those who really must skip the instructions, here’s the direct link.

January 25, 2007

SCMRPG, Slamdance, Victory

by nick @ 11:27 pm

SCMRPG on Google News: 162 articles
Slamdance on Google News: 155 articles

Slamdance hasn’t yet posted news of who won their games competition, which half of the games competition’s teams, including me, withdrew from. But congratulations go to the overall press winner, Danny Ledonne, whose game has become, by some counts, more popular than the entire Slamdance Film Festival. (This, even though one film there caused a melee in the street outside.) I hope that some of the interest in independent games outlasts this controversy, and that the other finalists - who put in so much work to offer beauty, fun, and various sorts of engagement with our world - will get at least some amount consideration from the public. And thanks to Arthouse Games, which reviewed all the games that were freely available or had downloadable demos.

January 20, 2007

Encyclopedia, LA, tonight

by noah @ 3:16 pm

Earlier I posted about the publication of the Encyclopedia Project’s first volume, Encyclopedia: A-E. Well, now Encyclopedia launch events have come to So Cal. Last night’s event in San Diego was a blast (and standing room only) so I’m looking forward to tonight’s — at Betalevel in Los Angeles — and I encourage folks to join us. (more…)

January 18, 2007

Second Person for Sale

by noah @ 12:33 am
Second Person cover

After the enthusiastic response to First Person, many people suggested that we create a sequel — and we acted on that idea. Today Pat Harrigan and I are happy to announce the publication of a new edited volume: Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (table of contents, Booksense link, link).

Like First Person, Second Person takes an unusually broad look at our field — and, in order to do so, discusses topics rarely given their due in previous scholarly publications. These range from tabletop role-playing games to improvisational theater, from political games to procedural authorship. The approach is to begin with specifics, and from there build up the insights of game designers, artists, writers, computer scientists, and scholars.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about Second Person in the future. But now, for those interested, I’ll include the book’s introduction below. (more…)

January 16, 2007

New Media Memory at Berkeley

by nick @ 11:48 pm

This Thursday, January 18, the Archiving the Avant-Garde project’s New Media and Social Memory symposium is taking place at Berkeley. The symposium is public and free, but the organizers ask you register online. The topic, preserving digital art, is an important one that the Electronic Literature Organization’s Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination project has been working on for a while, but which is really rather neglected overall. Although I’ve put some effort into the ELO’s work myself, and I think that effort is important, it seems to me that no single person or organization is going be able to provide all the answers and do everything that’s needed to bear digital media into the future. We simply can’t put all the eggs in one basket or books in one library if we’re looking for them to survive. Because of this, the sort of meeting that is coming up at Berkeley is particularly important for allowing the intersection of and cross-pollination between Archiving the Avant-Garde: Documenting and Preserving Digital/Media Art (with its museum and visual art emphasis), the literary perspective of the ELO, the dead media mental muscle of Bruce Sterling, and thinkers from Wired Magazine and the Long Now Foundation.

Update: Matt Kirschenbaum has posted detailed notes from the symposium.

January 15, 2007

AIIDE Reminder and Agent Workshop CFP

by michael @ 8:23 pm

Just a reminder that the papers for AIIDE (Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment), originally blogged here, are due in a week, Monday, Jan. 22.

Also, I’m co-organizing a workshop at this year’s Automous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems conference (held this May in Honolulu, Hawai’i) on Agent-based Systems for Human Learning and Entertainment. The workshop will bring together people who are interested in autonomous characters for education and training with those interested in autonomous characters for games and interactive drama. Papers are due February 5. The workshop will be held May 14th or 15th. The full CFP is below.

January 14, 2007

Art Barter for Book and Volume

by nick @ 6:52 pm

Book and Volume USB flash drives I have 30 hand-labeled USB flash drives that contain my 2005 interactive fiction Book and Volume - they also contain a silly promotional video for Book and Volume and a press kit. These are material artifacts that store some of my free digital literary work. To be clear: you do not need one of these to play the game. Anyone can download Book and Volume for free. These USB drives are also not technological artifacts you’d want for their own sake. They hold only 32MB.

Nevertheless, would you like one of these? I will send one to anyone who sends me some material art object or creative document along with a return address. I don’t mind, of course, if the artwork you send is mass-produced - no “aura” is required. It could be, for instance, a book you wrote, a poem (written, printed, recorded), a print, a tape, CD, or DVD of yours, or some computer media with your work on it. You could send a bumper sticker you created, a Fluxus box, or documentation of one of your performances, installations, or exhibits. (more…)

January 12, 2007

‘Panoramas’ in Philadelphia

by nick @ 4:13 pm

Panoramas and Other Circular Stories
Esther M. Klein Gallery
3600 Market St, Philadelphia
January 12- March 31, 2007

Opening reception 5:30pm-8:30pm Friday January 12

[Sorry for the late notice about the opening, which starts in little more than an hour. The show is up until April, though!]

Circularities, repetitions and technological breakdowns are the themes of Roderick Coover’s multimedia show, comprised of six video works that incorporate layered photographs, audio, language and manipulated video recordings. Playing with text/image relationships, these works create strange stories that loop upon themselves and examine the ideas of travel and time in order to evoke ways that technology permeates the modern imagination.

The works in this exhibit are the result of unique collaborations between the artist and authors Deb Olin Unferth and Nick Montfort. Please join us the night of the opening for a special reading by featured writers.

More information is available at and

January 11, 2007

Introducing Process Intensity

by noah @ 10:41 am

I’m currently working on the first chapter of a book manuscript, trying to find the right way to introduce a number of concepts that will be key for understanding the chapters that follow. Recently I’ve been trying to find a concise way to introduce Chris Crawford’s 1980s concept of “process intensity” — while also arguing for a view of the concept updated for our current circumstances. My current draft is below.

We might think of Pong and many other early computer games (e.g., Tetris) as being authored almost entirely in terms of processes, rather than data. An “e-book,” on the other hand, might be just the opposite — a digital media artifact authored almost completely by the arrangement of pre-created text and image data. In an influential 1987 article, game designer and digital media theorist Chris Crawford coined the phrase “process intensity” to describe a work’s balance between process and data (what he called its “crunch per bits ratio”). (more…)

CFP: Supple Interfaces

by andrew @ 10:26 am

(I’m overly late posting this call for papers, since they’re due tomorrow, but perhaps the organizers are open to time extensions if needed.)


Supple Interfaces: Designing and evaluating for richer human connections and experiences

This workshop aims to create a common language for discussing research challenges and progress made in designing and evaluating “supple” interfaces. Supple interfaces aim to build richer connections between people as well as deeper emotional experiences through interface. Examples include affective interactive systems, games, and relationship-building systems. For these kinds of applications, the CHI community (more…)

January 9, 2007

Book and Volume Withdrawn from Slamdance

by nick @ 11:34 pm

stand up, withdraw

I have withdrawn Book and Volume from the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, for reasons discussed in the open letter I and other finalists sent to the festival.

January 8, 2007

From Slamdance Games Finalists

by nick @ 11:59 pm

Dear Slamdance festival organizers,

In recent years, the Slamdance film festival has become a major gathering for independent gamemakers. We were honored to have our games selected as finalists for this year’s Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, and were looking forward to meeting our fellow gamemakers, filmmakers, and other festivalgoers in a context where our work was seen as legitimate, artistic, and meaningful.

Recently, the festival has made the decision to remove one of the finalists, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne, from the competition - after this game was solicited by festival organizers, chosen by a jury, and publicized as a finalist. We have been unable to find mention of any other film, game, or screenplay that has been pulled from Slamdance at any point in the past, making this an unfortunate first for the festival.

We object to this decision and strongly urge the festival organizers to reinstate the game in the festival. It is legitimate for games to take on difficult topics and to challenge conventional ideas about what video games can do. No game should be rejected for moral or other reasons after a panel of judges has found the game to be of artistic merit and worthy of inclusion in the festival. We find it very unlikely that a similar decision would have been made about a jury-selected film, and see this decision as hurting the legitimacy of games as a form of expression, exploration, and experience. (more…)

January 7, 2007

An Open Letter to Slamdance

by andrew @ 11:58 pm

An Open Letter to Organizers of the Slamdance Film and Game Festival, from Last Year’s Grand Jury Prize Winner for Games

January 7, 2007

We recently learned of the decision of the president and founder of the Slamdance Film and Guerrilla Game Festival, Peter Baxter, to pull one of the game festival finalists, “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!”, from this year’s competition. As reported in the Rocky Mountain News on January 5th, Baxter “made a â€?personal decision’ based on moral grounds and concern for the future of the organization.”

As recipients of last year’s Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance game festival for “Façade”, we wish to express our strong disapproval of Baxter’s decision, and urge him to reconsider allowing “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!” to rejoin this year’s competition.

January 6, 2007


by nick @ 2:56 am

Since the beginning of time, pure silence has been available only in the vacuum of space. Now conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has digitally generated a span of silence, four minutes and thirty-three seconds in length, portable enough to be carried on a cellphone. His silent ringtone, freely distributed through special arrangement with Start Mobile, is expected to bring quiet to the lives of millions of cellphone users, as well as those close to them. (more…)

January 5, 2007

Door Slams Shut on Super Columbine RPG

by nick @ 2:19 pm

Kotaku is reporting, and Water Cooler Games confirming, that Super Columbine RPG, accepted as a finalist for the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, has been pulled from the copetition by festival organizers under pressure from sponsors. Apparently this is a first for any film or game that has been accepted to Slamdance. Oddly, the game was actively courted by Slamdance before submissions were due. See the comments at, too.

Update (January 6): Two-time Slamdance finalist Ian Bogost says the decision was personal, not a business move, and declares the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition dead.

January 4, 2007

US Government Worst of Net 2006

by nick @ 2:59 pm

A missile Liz Losh has handed out the un-prizes for the incompetence of government agencies and policy makers in the area of digital media, now named the Foleys. For instance, the Defense Intelligence Agency Calendar [PDF], which had the most phallic imagery of any government-produced calendar this year, was among the recognized media artifacts.

January 3, 2007

The Fog of Blog

by nick @ 3:29 pm

Matt Kirschenbaum has been massing blog entries for days, and has been massing wargaming board games for many years. This textual scholar by day has stepped out of the phone booth wearing a game studies suit and in command of a new blog, Zone of Influence. Matt announces:

Zone of Influence, a new game studies blog I created to combine my academic interests in modeling, simulation, and technologies of representation with my hobbyist interests in games, particularly board wargames.

As both extreme limit cases of complexity and physical systems in games, as well as “cardboard computers” aimed at the representation and simulation of complex historical events, board wargames have much to offer to contemporary academic ludology. At the same time I hope some of my game playing friends will drop by and add their perspectives to the conversation.

There are a series of opening entries, including “Welcome to ZOI” (which talks about my goals for the blog), “Anatomy of a Wargame” (useful for those who aren’t sure what I mean by the term “wargame”), and finally “Why Wargames?” which explains why I think this is a promising area for game studies.

January 2, 2007

SLSA ‘07: Code

by nick @ 11:34 pm

As I mentioned in passing in my MLA post, this year’s Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Portland, Maine is about CODE:

Code can be “wet” (genetic, organic, human), “dry” (digital, mathematical, logical), something in-between, neither, or both (linguistic, symbolic, religious, moral, legal).

I prefer my code very dry - best to just show it the vermouth. But however you like your code, and even if you are legalistically or genetically inclined, you should find plenty of good discussion at SLSA. The deadline is March 15: See the SLSA ‘07 call for papers.

Code is certainly a hot topic in digital media, as you can see from Mark Marino’s ebr essay on Critical Code Studies, Matthew Fuller’s Software Studies workshop and forthcoming book, and the work of Rita Raley, Florian Cramer, and several others. Code was the topic of the 2003 Ars Electronica, and it’s indicated as new territory in the five-layer model on the Platform Studies site. I’m hoping that I’ll make it to SLSA and that I’ll see you code-inclined folks there.

IF Vote on Jay Is Games

by andrew @ 1:00 am

The casual game review site Jay Is Games is conducting a poll for best of 2006, including a category for IF or art — I think there’s one more day to vote, in case there’s a nominated art/game there you like…

[Update: Never mind, voting is over!]

January 1, 2007

Philadelphia Survives Modern Language Association Again

by nick @ 4:07 pm

The MLA was huge and hectic this year, as it usually is, with 40 panels going on at once; interviews happening in hotel suites, mass gladiatorial arena-like settings, and lobbies; a huge book exhibit; and unofficial events of various sorts.

Thursday contained a day of programs on the sound of poetry. I missed friends Matt Kirschenbaum, Kari Kraus, and Peter Stallybrass speaking about the material history of digital and non-digital texts due to the co-occurring Canadian sonic invasion: As they gave papers, Steve McCaffrey delivered Hugo Ball’s “Karawane” and Christian Bök read his “Mushroom Clouds” and “Synth Loops.” There were also papers from Kennry Goldsmith, Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, and Craig Dworkin; Caroline Bergvall read as part of this track, too. The next day, Scott Rettberg spoke opposite his fellow Electronic Literature Collection editor Kate Hayles, the ELO had a get-together, and almost 60 people read in the MLA offsite reading.

There were two code-oriented panels on Friday. The first panel, “Cyphernetics” started at 8:30am and so was not within my safety zone for consciousness, but I heard that Wendy Chun gave a great paper there. I was also sad to miss the paper on the Oulipo that was given there. At least I’d already gotten to hear Stephanie Strickland speak on her topic for that morning at the SLSA. (The SLSA’s next meeting has code as its theme.) Next, Rita Raley chaired a session “Reading Code” with John Cayley (who talked about writing into and out of code as part of a literary practice), David A. Golumbia (who worked to situate computation in culture), and Florian Cramer (who talked about combinatorial language and other pre-electronic instances of computing with language).

I was particularly interested in what the respondent, Mark Marino, had to say. He introduced to MLA to his concept of Critical Code Studies, which follows some of the paths that Michael and I did in writing about obfuscated code and esoteric language, some of the same paths that other authors who contributed to the Software Studies handbook have pursued. (Look for the ebr article on CCS soon.) Mark was the only one to actually discuss a famous program, although it was a “Hello World” example in Lisp - not a very extensive program. John’s writerly approach to code is great from the standpoint of the literary arts, but I don’t see that it can be the basis of a new critical approach to code, helping us understand Eliza, Adventure, bpNichol’s First Screening, Racter, Bad Machine, or even John’s own The Speaking Clock and Translation. My own sense is that the discussion of code will be much easier and more productive once we start to actually discuss interesting, important, and influential computer programs and the code in which they are written, rather than mainly appealing to the concept of code in the abstract.

December 27, 2006

Haxan’s Indie Hell

by andrew @ 2:21 am

As we’re talking about the challenges of getting a commercial indie production off the ground, I thought I’d link to these (1 2 3 4 5) posts from Eduardo Sanchez of Haxan, co-creator of the 1999 indie film mega-hit The Blair Witch Project, that cost $22,000 to produce and earned an estimated $250 million at the box office.

The 5 posts are about the nightmare they’re going through with their follow-up project, Altered:

I mean, how can you go from one of the biggest INDIE successes of all time to a straight-to-DVD release? How?

Now that’s scary.

December 25, 2006

A Pixel is You!

by nick @ 10:00 am
Discussed in this post:
Adventure, Warren Robinett, Atari, Atari VCS, 1978
Qix, Randy Pfeiffer and Sandy Pfeiffer, Taito, Arcade coin-op, 1981
dotstream, Nintendo, Game Boy Advance, 2006

Video games sometimes take the minimalist approach of providing the player with an avatar, ship, or “man” that has as its visual representation a single pixel. As I briefly discuss in this post, several games in this category are totally sweet. (more…)

December 24, 2006

Santa Brings Game Studies

by nick @ 12:06 am

Game Studies 6:1 is out - Jesper tells us it’s the biggest issue yet. Here’s the list of articles:

  • Nick Montfort: Combat in Context
  • Mia Consalvo, Nathan Dutton: Game analysis: Developing a methodological toolkit for the qualitative study of games
  • Rob Cover: Gaming (Ad)diction: Discourse, Identity, Time and Play in the Production of the Gamer Addiction Myth
  • Hans Christian Arnseth: Learning to Play or Playing to Learn - A Critical Account of the Models of Communication Informing Educational Research on Computer Gameplay
  • Joris Dormans: On the Role of the Die: A brief ludologic study of pen-and-paper roleplaying games and their rules
  • Thaddeus Griebel: Self-Portrayal in a Simulated Life: Projecting Personality and Values in The Sims 2
  • Charles Paulk: Signifying Play: The Sims and the Sociology of Interior Design
  • Benjamin Wai-ming Ng: Street Fighter and The King of Fighters in Hong Kong: A Study of Cultural Consumption and Localization of Japanese Games in an Asian Context
  • Jonas Heide Smith: The Games Economists Play - Implications of Economic Game Theory for the Study of Computer Games
  • Hector Rodriguez: The Playful and the Serious: An approximation to Huizinga’s Homo Ludens
  • Jussi Parikka, Jaakko Suominen: Victorian Snakes? Towards A Cultural History of Mobile Games and the Experience of Movement
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