GTA redux and

After some discussion this spring, the contributors to Grand Text Auto (including me) decided to make a change. We noticed that while Nick Montfort had kept up a steady pace of interesting contributions to the blog, the rest of us (four of whom have become parents in the last two years) have been blogging at a much more occasional pace, to the extent that it was no longer really fair to call it a group blog, since Montfort was pulling most of the weight. Nick started his own blog, Post Position, a couple of months back. This does not however mean the end of GTxA altogether. The format of the group blog has changed, and now has begun life as an aggregator of our individual blogs, including this one. Many thanks to Josh McCoy for doing a lot of work under the hood to make this possible. We’re also keeping open the possibilities of doing other things as a group, such as the exhibition that was recently at the U of I and previously at the Beall, creative projects or distribution of creative projects, symposia and such. And I think the change from a group blog to an aggregator will be interesting. In the past I’ve used this space in a different way from my posts to GTxA. Maybe more idiosyncratically, or personally. The new GTxA will likely be a mash-up of individual blogging styles. I hope that, if nothing else, the new arrangement will inspire me to blog here more than once or twice a year. I should at least be sharing some of the awesome links I share with my friends at facebook.

I’m also going to contribute, occasionally, to a brand spanking new group blog at The new blog is focused specifically on electronic literature and digital poetics. The ringleader of the effort is digital poet Jason Nelson, who has pulled together a diverse group of poets, writers, and scholars, including Alan Bigelow, Brian Stefans, Chris Funkhouser, Davin Heckman, Hazel Smith, Jaka Železnikar, Jason Nelson, John Cayley, Juan Gutierrez, Kenneth Sherwood, Laura Borras, Lori Emerson, Mark Amerika, Mez Breeze, Michael J Maguire, Rui Torres, Sandy Baldwin, Scott Rettberg, Stephanie Strickland, and Talan Memmott, to start with. Each contributor agrees to post at least five times a year, which seems like a manageable commitment. I think it will be a great way to stay in touch with the many ongoing activities of the international electronic literature community.

Visionary Landscapes: Electronic Literature Organization 2008 Conference

The ELO has just announced a call for papers and works for a major electronic literature conference next May in Washington state. I have posted the announcement below. The conference website is not yet online, but will be available on in August.

Visionary Landscapes: Electronic Literature Organization 2008 Conference

Thursday, May 29-Sunday, June 1, 2008
Vancouver, Washington
Sponsored by Washington State University Vancouver & the Electronic Literature Organization
Dene Grigar & John Barber, Co-Chairs
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I recently made a contribution to TAGallery, a project of The project is an experiment in using to collaboratively tag interesting sites related to new media art and literature. Each curator/participant is contributing a short “exhibition” of ten links on a theme. Predictably, I suppose, I contributed a collection of electronic literature links.

Electronic Literature in the Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a multimedia piece on electronic literature including an article (archive), a video piece, and a podcast interview with N. Katherine Hayles. Look for video link under the screenshot of the Electronic Literature Collection, and the audio interview off to the right. The Chronicle covered the Open Mouse/Open Mic reading at the ELO’s recent “Future of Electronic Literature” Symposium in College Park Maryland. Although the preoccupations of the reportage are a bit noob-ish (the video reporter mentions that the reading was plagued with technical difficulties when in fact it was a comparatively glitch-free evening in comparison to others, and many of the reporters’ questions were focused on the fact that there is not a massive popular audience for electronic literature rather than more interesting concerns — Who is the Stephen King of electronic literature? Well, ahem . . . King is a tough one but Robert Coover is sort of our Oprah . . .), it is nonetheless great see this esteemed weekly showing an interest in electronic lit, and Hayle’s audio interview is well worth the price of admission (particularly if you already subscribe to the Chronicle).

E-poetry 2007 Paris Cellfone Video Documentary Extravaganza

First of all, let me point in brief to networked_performance for Simon Biggs’ very good report on the E-poetry 2007 Festival in Paris. I agreed with him that Robert Simanowski’s close reading of “Listening Post” was probably the best of the academic papers presented during the conference. I was also a fan of Jim Carpenter’s presentation, in which he talked in a clear and pragmatic way about best practices for writing good code for epoetry, including distributing source code so that others can learn from it. Carpenter recently released a new version of his poetry engine, which will write some pretty good poems for you. There were many other papers and panel discussions as well, though this festival was primarily about the poetry. For four nights in a row, there were three to four hours of poetry readings. The E-Poetry scene is much more performance-oriented than other venues for electronic writing, and some of the performances were much more video art or performance (for example one work allegedly about the objectification of women included the performer disrobing on stage — providing the Festival with an early controversy, which all such gatherings require) than they were electronic writing as it is usually understood. That was fine with me. Overall, I appreciated my first experience of this very vibrant scene that exists between visual, conceptual, performance, computer, and writing. I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet many writers I have worked with and communicated with extensively online in person, in addition to spending time with old friends in one of the world’s great cities. Rather than a more formal report, I offer you this cellphone video extravaganza — short clips of 30 seconds to a minute of many readings from the festival. Forgive the quality — it was my phone used in dark crowded rooms filled with poets drinking in the poetry, after all.

A Brazilian epoet setting fire to her poems onstage, a la Jimi Hendrix.
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ELC UK Launch Report

The Electronic Literature Collection UK Launch event I attended Thursday night in Leicester, England went very well. About 40 people turned up for the salon, including many of the former trAce regulars, interested local people, and people who took the train up from London. I gave a short introduction to the Collection, and Kate Pullinger, Jon Ingold, and Chris Joseph, read from the work. In his introduction, John Cayley discussed the context of electronic literature with the traditional literary world and the art world, showed a bit of Translation, and asked us to think about whether this form of literary art was literature or something else entirely. Jon Ingold gave what was possibly the best short introduction I have yet heard interactive fiction, in particular the brutality of the constraints involved in writing IF, before guiding the audience through a short reading of All Roads. In her presentation of her work with Chris Joseph on Inanimate Alice and other projects, Kate Pullinger raised questions about the economic models for electronic writing, and discussed how Inanimate Alice is in part an experiment in developing a commercial model for e-lit. She also discussed iStories, a project she is working on with Chris to develop a commercial toolset of electronic literature applications that would enable authors with little design or programming experience to more easily develop works in Flash. Donna Leishman also sent in a prepared text which a De Montfort Ph.D. student, Jess Laccetti, read to the crowd while Chris demonstrated a bit of Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw. We had a short but spirited panel discussion afterwards, discussing the differences between teaching elit as creative writing and teaching it as literature, economic models for electronic lit, and other things. One of the encouraging things about this event was that a number of readers who had never before encountered e-lit were in the audience, were clearly actively interested in what they saw and heard. I also met a Polish Ph.D. student who is currently living in London and writing his dissertation about e-lit, and overheard a couple of people from London say that they heard about the event at Grand Text Auto ; ). It was a very good evening, and I’m grateful to the Institute for Creative Technologies, particularly Chris Joseph for putting it together. Jess has also blogged the event, and posted short videos of Kate Pullinger’s and Jon Ingold’s readings.

ELO’s Future of Electronic Literature Symposium

Glow in the Dark AudienceThe Electronic Literature Organization’s Future of Electronic Literature Symposium last week at MITH at the University of Maryland, College Park, was a great event, bringing together e-lit writers, scholars, and an interested public together for an open mouse/open mic, a daylong symposium, and an ELO board meeting. Highlights included Katherine Hayle’s keynote (nicely summarized at jilltxt), considering the idea of “literary” vs. “literature” and providing very intelligent close readings of a variety of works of electronic literature, readings from new works by Stephanie Strickland, Rob Kendall, Nick Montfort, Deena Larsen, and others, as well as three very good panel discussions. The process-intensive panel (also very GTxA-intensive) looked at the idea of process from several different angles ranging from process-intensive collaboration, to natural language interface processing, to story generation. The international panel featured demonstrations of electronic literature from around the world, including works in Spanish, French, Catalan, and Nordic languages, and also highlighted the fact that electronic literature is a global movement — ELO isn’t the only organization concerned with this work, but has shared interests and opportunities for collaboration with organizations including nt2, Elinor, Hermeneia, and others. The Future of Electronic Literature panel was also an engaging discussion of how new technologies might effect electronic literature, and how new ways of organizing material and collaborating might effect the way that we shape the field. I hope my compatriots will fill in some of the details at Grand Text Auto. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of the goingson: flickr sets posted by me, Jason deVinney, and Laura Borras.

International Prize for Digital Literature

Submissions are open for the 3rd Ciutat de Vinaros International Prize of Digital Literature. There are three prizes in Digital Narrative (2500 Euros), Digital Poetry (2500 Euros) and a special “Vincent Ferrer Romero” Prize for the best work of Digital Literature written in Catalan (1000 Euros). This is currently the only annual prize competition with a substantial purse that I’m aware of in electronic literature, and all digital authors are encouraged to submit. The judging criteria specify:

  • Works that explore and use the possibilities of the computer as a space for creation.
  • Literary quality, seen as the renovation of poetic and narrative techniques through new means of creation.
  • Quality and accessibility of the interface design.
  • In the case of digital poetry, texts submitted may comprise a single piece of work or a compilation of poetry.
  • The jury will also take into account works that experiment with the Internet as a medium for literary creation.
  • Works entered for these prizes must be unpublished and written in one of the following languages: English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or Catalan.

The submission deadline is September 14, 2007

Edward Picot’s Review of the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One

Edward Picot recently posted a lengthy review of The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One. Picot clearly spent a good deal of time with the collection, and has both positive and negative things to say about it. I think that Picot has attempted to be fair and balanced in his discussion of the collection, and I’m grateful to him for giving the ELC such careful consideration. He is one of the first people to review the ELC intelligently and at length in English, though as usual, the Swedes are ahead of the game.

In the end, Picot finds the ELC “an essential collection,” and encourages “Anyone interested in the field of elctronic literature to get it on DVD,” though along the way he finds a few nits to pick. The collection is actually published on the web and CD-ROM (old-school) and along with Picot I encourage you to get your copy of the free, Creative Commons-licensed collection of electronic literature, and then make copies of it for your friends.

I’d like to just briefly address a few of the points Picot makes, in order to clarify my perspective as one of the editors. I hope that Nick, Stephanie, and Kate will also jump in with comments if they’d like. I’ll restrict my comments to Picot’s critique of the curatorial/editorial aspects of the project. Picot also reviews four works in the collection, two (“The Jew’s Daughter” by Judd Morrissey and “Windsound” by John Cayley) positively, and two (“MyBALL” by Shawn Rider and “Carrier” by Melanie Rackham) negatively. There are sixty works in the collection, and I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion of each of those works. None of them were included casually. Each of the four editors thought that each work merited inclusion.
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Leonardo Electronic Almanac Special Issue on Digital Poetry

LEA just released an extensive new issue on Digital Poetry. While I’ve just taken a quick look, it appears to be a terrific collection of essays on contemporary digital poetry, in addition to featuring several compelling works in the gallery. The issue edited by Tim Peterson includes essays by Loss Pequeño Glazier, John Cayley with Dimitri Lemmerman, Lori Emerson, Phillippe Bootz, Manuel Portela, Stephanie Strickland, Mez, Maria Engberg, and Matthias Hilner, in addition to works in the gallery by Jason Nelson, Aya Karpinska and Daniel Howe, mEIKAL aND and CamillE BacoS, and Nadine Hilbert and Gast Bouschet. The correlation between the essayists, authors and works reviewed in this issue of LEA and the contributors to the forthcoming Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One suggests to me that the two free publications will make a great pair for teaching. All of the essays in this edition of LEA are available both in HTML and downloadable PDFs.

Place and Space in New Media Writing

I guest-edited a just-released issue of the Iowa Review Web focused on the ways that different forms of new media writing reconfigure concepts of place and space. Another way of looking at the issue, however, is as a Grand Text Auto takeover of Iowa’s finest web journal. The issue features Jeremy Douglass’ interview with Nick Montfort on his interactive fiction Book and Volume and Brenda Bakker Harger’s interview with Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern on their interactive drama Façade. I also interview Shelley Jackson on the various manifestations of the human body in her corpus of work, and interview Jane McGonigal on alternate reality gaming. A short introduction contextualizes the various approaches that authors of electronic literature have used to conceptualize space and place. I hope that you’ll visit, read, and enjoy. Thanks to the authors and contributors and to Iowa Review Web Associate Editor Benjamin Basan for helping to put the issue together.

DAC 2007: Perth

Perth SkylineThe call for papers for perthDAC 2007 is out. The theme of the 2007 Digital Arts and Culture Conference will be “The Future of Digital Media Culture” which, I presume, leaves plenty of room for electronic literature and other GTxA type interests. The conference will be held from 15 – 18th September 2007, during the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth. There will be a double blind peer review process for papers. The deadline for 500 word abstracts is 14th August 2006, and the deadline for full papers is 4th December 2006. Although it’s a long, expensive way to go from just about anywhere else, Perth is a great city in a fantastic part of Western Australia, with great culture, food, wine, beaches, parrots, and Aussies. I was there for a couple of weeks last winter/summer and I’m looking forward to going back.


The frAme: Online Journal of Culture & Technology which published new media writing, art, interviews and essays from 1995-2004, has stopped actively publishing new work, but it’s going out with a bang rather than a whimper. Simon Mills is editing a project, framed including retrospective interviews with many of the writers and artists whose works were published in frAme. The first installment of framed includes provacative interviews with Mark Amerika, Matthew Fuller, Christy Sheffield Sanford, and Alan Sondheim. More interviews are coming soon.

Poetic and Strange

It must be national poetry month. In addition to Nick Montfort’s foray into deforestation this morning my email included note of two other strange poetic projects. William Gillespie at Spineless Books announced that to celebrate Charles Fourier’s 234th birthday and the first birthday of Joshua Corey’s Fourier Series, the winner of the Fitzpatrick-O’Dinn Award For Best Book Length Work of Constrained English Literature (2005), there has been an update to the Fourier Series web suite to include recordings of the author reading (recorded in the offices of Burning Deck Press), a PDF excerpt of the book’s inventive layout, and Fourier Electronique, a ten-minute MP3 poetry remix. The MP3 is haunting, western, and linguistically interesting, well worth a listen. Ken Tompkins also passed along a link to The Fib, a poetic form based on the Fibonacci sequence: a 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8. Although others, including Paul Braffort, have experiemented with the famous pattern before, this seems like a fun form to try on a plane, shortly before bed, or to inflict on one’s students in an Art, Games and Narrative course.

Ph.D. Fellowship at the University of Bergen

Jill Walker reports that there is a Ph.D. fellowship opportunity at the University of Bergen’s Department of Humanistic Informatics. The Faculty of Arts has seven fellowships available, and proposals are competitive among all the departments concerned. This year, UiB is advertising in English as well as Norsk, and is encouraging international applications. I’ll be teaching at UiB next year and perhaps longer. I would love to see some applicants for the position who are writing about electronic literature or some other aspect of new media in the context of the humanities. Ph.D. fellowships in Norway are richly funded, with a decent salary for four years and additional research funds for books and conference travel. Applicants must have completed an M.A. in a related subject and must prepare a short dissertation proposal. See more details in Jill’s post and in the advertisement.

Students Podcasts on the Digital Life

This semester, students in my New Media Studies course produced podcasts. Their assignment was to create a story on some aspect of their interaction with new media and contemporary communication technologies. The resulting podcasts are available on the Digital Life website. I’m pretty pleased with the results. Students covered topics ranging from music downloading, to creating an online radio show, to instant messaging, to MySpace. to World of Warcraft, to online poker, to Deviant Art, and other online manifestations of Indy Culture. In preparing for the assignment, we listened both to popular podcasts and more importantly, to well-produced NPR shows such as This American Life. Some of the better-produced podcasts borrow techniques, such as using appropriate sound effects, editing together choice bits of several interviews, creating an overall narrative arc, and integrating musical interludes, from those NPR-style talk shows. Overall I’m very pleased with their work, and with the assignment. It has both enabled them to see the relative ease with which some kinds of new media artifacts can be produced, and offers a format that really allows their individual (Jersey) personalities to shine through.

Brown E-Fest 2006

I’ve posted a set of photos from the E-Fest. Highlights of the fest included some beautiful interfaces by current Brown e-writing fellow Daniel Howe and next year’s fellow Aya Karapinska, new work by Stuart Moulthrop, an excellent ten minute presentation on Perec and Beckett by Gale Nelson, a short paper on Memory and Real Time by Wendy Chun, Jim Carpenter’s three-laptop generated poetry reading (video clip), and Brian Kim-Stefans’ absurdist sense of humor.

New From Norway

Last week I was in Norway, where I had the pleasure of speaking at the University of Bergen to Jill Walker and Elin Sjursen‘s students in the Web Design and Aesthetics course. Talan Memmott was also there to give a talk. Talan showed some interesting new e-lit work I hadn’t seen before, including some work that is not yet on the web. Memmott showed work from two different streams of his creative practice, “network phenomonology” works such as his well-known Lexia to Perplexia, and a different “history of art” stream that includes new media interpretations of the lives and works of artists such as René Magritte. Talan’s been working in particular lately in a combinatory vein, and many of his works include both combinatory text and music. Of the newer work he showed, my favorite was “The Hugo Ball,” a recombination of a nonsense poem of 78 unique words by the Dadaist poet. As you mouse over the face of the Hugo Ball, it recombines and speaks the 78 words to you as they flash on the screen and the face “speaks” the words in layers of visemes. It’s a fun, and vaguely creepy, piece. While he was there, Talan was also interviewed for Bergen Student Television. The interview is available online for your viewing pleasure.

Take the F TrainAlso new from Norway, by way of New York City, is Hanna-Lovise Skartveit’s Take the F-Train, a fun and innovative online documentary about the F-Train in NYC, and by extension, about the population of the great melting pot itself. The piece includes a mixture of drawn characters, video of the train’s interior, and interviews with riders of the F-Train, many of whom are immigrants living in New York. The documentary captures the cosmopolitan nature of America’s largest city. The project is part of a larger Digital Storytelling project funded by Norwegian Radio/TV NRK.

Wherefore Genre?

These are my notes for the talk I gave yesterday at MITH on genre in electronic literature in the context of the forthcoming Electronic Literature Collection that I’m editing along with Nick Montfort, Kate Hayles, and Stephanie Strickland. Even though much of the talk was planned the night before and on the train out, it turned out pretty well. There were about a dozen intelligent folks in the room, and I had the chance to tour MITH, which will soon be the new home of the ELO. I’m very pleased that the ELO will be housed in such a great environment. I’ll be cleaning the talk up and delivering a new version of it in a couple of weeks at Brown as part of the upcoming 2006 e-fest.

Wherefore Genre?


* “Centering moments” — 2001 E-LIt Awards, 2002 State of Arts, 2006 Collection

* Dissemination function
–Importance and meaning of creative commons
–Importance of viewing/reading works as a collection for scholarly discourse.

* Importance for writers of “place of honor” in the context of a creative culture that exists outside of any sort of traditional market economy, or real-world ftf social structures.

* Archival function

* In some cases (not flash), makes files accessible/searchable for a different kind of scholarly access (forensic) than simple web viewing

Comparison to previous “centering moments” — almost as many submissions, more of them “legitimate.” Less hypertext, more forms. Focus in our selections on representing a broad overview of different types of types. Process: combination of open submission and direct invitation. Accepted only works that would function in a standalone. Criteria for selection was unanimous agreement among the four editors. Resulting collection will include about 60 works of e-lit, out this fall.
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DAC 2005: Notes on Mateas and Montfort’s “A Box, Darkly: Obfuscation, Weird Languages, and Code Aesthetics”

They approach the podium. The screen goes dark, then blue. There is some struggling with cords and configurations. Fingers and bodies struggle with the oppressive apparatus, and conquer it. Their title and names appear on the screen. Then we begin.

Montfort, looking dapper in a trademark wrinkle-free button down blue shirt, black pants, black shoes and wearing a multiplicity of university-issued rings, began the presentation by invoking Donald Knuth’s discussion of reading the program SOAP as like “hearing a symphony.” Montfort then discussed the idea of code as having an aesthetic for human readers. He cited the observation from Maurice Black’s dissertation that while terms like “elegant” and “beautiful” flow freely in discussions of code in computer science, they have been exiled from the vocabulary of literary and cultural theory. This idea of an established notion of coding aesthetic provides a context for the discussion of the “dark side to coding,” obfuscated code, which is “contrived to foil human legibility rather than enhance it.”
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