MITH Digital Dialogue on William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

MITH’s (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanites) first Digital Dialogue of the spring 2006 semester will be a discussion of William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition (2003), on Tuesday, Feb. 7th at 12:30 P.M. in the MITH seminar room.

Pattern Recognition has been widely received as Gibson’s most significant and prescient work since he coined the term “cyberspace” in Neuromancer in 1984.

Our discussion will be the basis for three additional Digital Dialogues, to be held at intervals throughout the semester, each of which will explore the general theme of “pattern recognition,” a heuristic for much of MITH’s current research, in varied contexts.

MITH is located in McKelden Library on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. Click here for map and directions.

Beautiful Portrait

Beautiful Portrait“Beautiful Portrait” is featured in a recent issue of Born Magazine. In keeping with the mission of the magazine to combine designers and writers, the poem itself is written by Thom Swiss and the Flash animation is the creation of Motomichi Nakamura. Although there is no written text, the Flash sequence is accompanied by a synthetic voice that delivers the poem as the reader explores a grid pattern of accented silhouettes. The action of the reader escalates the tone and imagery of the piece, bringing about a surprising finish. Thom Swiss, well known in critical and scholarly literature, has written new media poetry for several years — his works include “The Dream Life,” “Hey Now” (also with Motomichi Nakamura), “Shy Boy,” and “City of Bits.”

Glazier, Carpenter, Moulthrop to Read at Penn

The MACHINE reading series at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, co-sponsored by the Electronic Literature Organization, will include two programs in Spring 2006.

February 15, 5:30pm: Loss Pequeño Glazier (University of Buffalo, author of Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries, numerous digital works, and Anatman, Pumpkin Seed, Algorithm) joins Penn’s own Jim Carpenter (creator of the Electronic Text Composition system) to take the Writers House to the limits of computing and poetry. The program will be hosted by poet and critic Charles Bernstein (With Strings, My Way: Speeches and Poems, Republics of Reality: 1975-1995). The February 15 “Constructing Poets” program is co-sponsored by the Penn Creative Writing Program.

April 19, 5:30pm: Stuart Moulthrop (University of Baltimore) will read from early and recent work. For more than fifteen years Moulthrop has been writing digital works, which include Victory Garden, Hegirascope, Reagan Library, and Pax. One of the most-discussed writers from what Robert Coover called the “golden age” of hypertext, Moulthrop continues to innovate. He has developed his electronic writing in HyperCard, Storyspace, HTML, Quicktime VR, and Flash.

Both events are free and open to the public, no registration required. The Kelly Writers House is at 3805 Locust Walk on the Penn campus.

Fibonacci’s Daughter

Fibonacci's Daughter“Fibonacci’s Daughter” by M.D. Coverley (a pen name for Marjorie C. Luesebrink), published originally in New River in 2000, is a narrative and architectural puzzle. The main character, Annabelle Thompson, is the daughter of gamblers and a new-age opportunist. She sets up shop in California’s Huntington Beach Mall, where she uses numerology and Fibonacci numbers to peddle insurance policies to high school cheerleaders and football players — insurance against failure, that is. But probability is always chance, and the mystery that lurks here can be resolved in several ways. This piece is part of a larger collection, Fingerprints on Digital Glass, Web-native Fictions. Coverley is also the author of Califia from Eastgate Systems and the recently-released The Book of Going Forth by Day. See the Directory entry for more about this work and author.


Micro-TalespinJames Meehan’s Tale-Spin, created as part of his 1976 dissertation, The Metanovel: Writing Stories by Computer, was the first major project in the area of story generation. Like one of Calvino’s invisible cities, it creates an alternate landscape in which the inhabits live in a manner evocatively different from our own — with all actions the result of plans, the locations of items only learned by convincing someone to tell you, and no one feeling an emotion without knowing it. Like Aesop’s fables, Tale-Spin‘s view of human nature was communicated through the interactions of iconic animals. But unlike the worlds of Calvino or Aesop, Meehan’s world wasn’t simply described — it was made to operate. In fact, its operation, rather than its description, was Meehan’s primary work. (The text describing the world was produced by a bare-bones language generation program, called Mumble, designed primarily to fit in the small amount of memory left on the Yale AI lab’s computer system when Tale-Spin was already running.)

In 1981 a simplified version of Tale-Spin was published as part of the book Inside Computer Understanding: Five Programs Plus Miniatures. This version, Micro-Talespin, was then translated into Common Lisp (a programming language used in many artificial intelligence projects) by Warren Sack in 1992. It includes the settings for five default stories, simple text output from Micro-Mumble, and also the ability to interact with the simulated world. The ELO website now hosts Sack’s version, which requires that the computer running it have Common Lisp installed. GNU CLISP is an implementation of Common Lisp that works on Unix, MacOS, and Windows machines. To experience Micro-Talespin, start Common Lisp, load Micro-Talespin, and then, at the “?” prompt, type: (micro-talespin-demo *story1*). Next, try starting up with one of the other five stories.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of PersiaJordan Mechner is the writer and designer of groundbreaking cinematic games such as Karateka (1984), Prince of Persia (1989), and The Last Express (1997). His most recent, in collaboration with a small team within Ubisoft’s Montreal studio led by producer Yannis Mallat, is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The gameplay is based on acrobatics, spatial puzzle solving, the manipulation of time, and swordplay. This gameplay connects to the story of the Prince through the Dagger of Time, which Mechner characterizes as “at once a weapon, a receptacle, and a MacGuffin.” The story is told in past tense narration — perhaps for the first time in a video game — with a noir flavor. As one progresses through the game the situation of the narrator’s telling is slowly revealed, pointing to influences such as Thief of Baghdad and, further back, to the traditional frame tale of 1001 Nights.

Shandean Ambles

Shandean AmblesLaurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is the 18th century’s answer to Douglas Adams — irreverent, funny, and surprisingly hypertextual. Shandean Ambles (drafted at the Shandy Hall under Sterne’s imposing nose) parodies this work of nine volumes in nine short steps. Come explore indecent ghosts and sexual harrassment, quills and LCD screens, marbled papers and marble halls where the sauce and the plot never thicken.