Weizenbaum devised a startling invention in the mid-1960s: the first computer character. When Eliza system that he built ran his script, Doctor, it could simulate a Rogerian psychotherapist in a way that was, if nothing else, highly amusing and enjoyable. Eliza/Doctor is the first “chatterbot,” and has remained available through the decades, since Weizenbaum documented the system well enough for it to be re-implemented.
Laurence Sterne (1713-68) wrote The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandyin Shandy Hall, Coxwold, York, in the 18th Century. The innovative nonlinear novel is often cited by contemporary new media writers as an influence on their creative practice. It was recently announced that Shandy Hall will now house Asterisk*, a center for the study and development of narrative. Rather than simply developing the site as a museum dedicated to Sterne’s life and works, the center will be dedicated to innovation in both old and particularly new work. Asterisk* will support residencies for artists, “we envisage that these residencies will take forward current practice in a variety of narrative engagements: with diverse media, non linearity, digression, interactivity and audience participation, particularly (though not exclusively) where these intersect with technology.” The center will also commission new works, host exhibitions and performances, lectures and events, and a web forum. Last year hypertext author Deena Larsen completed a short hypertext, Shandean Ambles, during a three-day residency at the site. Asterisk* is now accepting applications for two three-week residencies this fall, one intended for a new media artist and the second for a writer with minimal technical background interested in integrating new media into his or her practice. Asterisk* also intends to gather an extensive library of innovative interactive literature at Shandy Hall.
The first successful alternate reality game, this project never had an official name or website, but involved writing and work in other media being distributed across the Web on thirty sites; on other Internet servies; via phone, fax, USPS, bathroom walls, and live events; as well as on TV. It never advertised itself as a game and in fact declared “this is not a game.” Microsoft developed this non-game, which centered on the mystery of the death of Evan Chan, to promote the movie A.I. Thousands worked to solve what came to be called “The Beast” â€” which involved interpreting nearly 4,000 documents (in four languages), constructing a nightmare database, decrypting from the WWII Enigma code, and so on â€” a feat only possible with many readers cooperating online.
The encyclopedia hypertext novel The Unknown tells the story of a group of successful authors (who call themselves “The Unknown” and happen to be named William Gillespie, Scott Rettberg, and Dirk Stratton) on a drug-crazed cross-country book tour. The Unknown has been publicly read more than three dozen times, in readings where the audience is invited to interrupt and take things in a different direction whenever linked text is read. See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.
Entries for the 2nd Annual Independent Games Competition at Slamdance are due October 24 and require a $40 fee (or submit by Sept 30 to save $10). The competition, held in January in Park City, Utah alongside the Slamdance and Sundance film festivals, includes a category for student work. Check out last year’s finalists and winners.
While a game competition may seem an unusual news item for the ELO website, this year’s rules make it clear that Slamdance is particularly interested in literary forms such as interactive fiction and drama. The rules also make clear what “independent” means in this context. To wit:
Developer(s) cannot have sponsorship money exceeding $25,000.
Games published or distributed for profit before the final deadline of October 24, 2005 are ineligible.
Innovative and unusual formats, such as interactive fiction and drama, are encouraged to apply. Games must display interactivity, and be in an electronic format to be considered for the competition.
London: Wednesday, 28 September – Saturday, 1 October 2005
E-Poetry 2005 is both a conference and festival, dedicated to showcasing the best talent in digital poetry and poetics from around the world. E-Poetry combines a high-level academic conference and workshop (examining growing trends in this young art form) with a festival of the latest and most exciting work from both established and new practitioners.
The festival is scheduled to take place at Birkbeck College, University of London, with performances at the ICA, Tate Modern, and other important London venues. There will be performances by numerous leading digital poets with guest appearances from major literary figures, as well as installations and exhibits throughout the week. The festival organizers are Loss PequeÃ±o Glazier & Piers Hugill, with the assistance of John Cayley.
The author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics has invented several new comic forms for the Web. In “The Carl Comics,” McCloud offers an “expandable” comic and a “Choose Your Own Carl” that branches and recombines at numerous points, offering different horizontal and vertical paths. More than a thousand readers offered suggestions, participating in developing this “fully interactive, multiple path, reader-written, death-obsessed comics extravaganza.”
ELO President Thom Swiss will be at the University of Queensland’s St. Lucia campus on Tuesday, August 9th, to give a talk on “New Media Literature and Art: A Writer’s Perspective”. Swiss will discuss “the possibilities for literature offered by the electronic convergence of words, images, and sound.” For complete information on this event, visit the University of Queensland’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies. This event is free and open to the public.
Editors Jim Kalmbach and Cheryl Ball invite submissions of essays and new media texts for a collection entitled Reading (and Writing) New Media. The anthology seeks to interrogate the act of reading in the context of digital new media texts. The selected new media texts, as well as selections from texts discussed in essays, will be published in an accompanying CD.
Topics to be addressed may include:
–What does it mean to read new media?
–How have digital spaces changed the act of reading?
–How does reading digital texts–including games, instant messaging, digital art and music, etc.–enlarge our conception of what a text is?
–Is there a digital canon forming, and what are the consequences of such a move?
–What happens when writing morphs into composition or design?
–What sorts of composing processes inform the creation and reading of new media texts?
–What teaching possibilities lie at the intersection between reading and composing new media texts?
Read the full call at http://cball.usu.edu/research/raw/
Following up on its pamphlet Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature, ELO has released online Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature by Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merrilee Proffitt, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Part of a continuing series of publications by ELO’s Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination (PAD) initiative, Born-Again Bits is a white paper that presents a conceptual, technical, and institutional framework for imagining how electronic literature — more experimental and harder to preserve than many other kinds of digital materials — can follow standards-based paths of migration into future technical environments. Two main kinds of migration strategies are addressed under the titles: “Interpreter Initiative” and “X-Lit Initiative.” (For a printed copy of this publication, contact Carol Wald at ELO.)