Electronic Literature & the Nonhuman

Electronic Literature & the Nonhuman
Saturday, September 29th, 5-7pm
201C of the Frontier Airlines Center
Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts 2012 Conference

This Saturday, at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Milwaukee, ELO is sponsoring a reading entitled, “Electronic Literature & the Nonhuman,” featuring performances from an exciting mix of artists and works, from ARGs to single-line programs.

The presenters for the electronic literature reading at the SLSA conference include:

Jeremy Douglass
Katherine Hayles
Patrick Jagoda
Patrick LeMieux
Clarissa Lee
Amy Letter
MD Coverley
Mark C. Marino
Eric Meyer
Nick Montfort
Stuart Moulthrop

The jury for this reading were Sandy Baldwin, Davin Heckman, and Jessica Pressman.  The evening will be hosted by Mark C. Marino and Stuart Moulthrop.

Please join us for this event in room 201C of the Frontier Airlines Center.

Detailed works and Bios:


“in cells so even” by Jeremy Douglass

The piece is an anagrammatic animation about the forces and technologies that divide and connect our bodies at the micro and macro level, and about the connection between tile display technologies, tumors and testaments. It uses 13 letters in an 8×5 grid of image tiles. The piece was developed specifically for large tile displays walls and physical projection mapping installations. One reading takes about 4-5 minutes. It runs on a custom quartz / javascript animation system I created called “Cell Precessor” that is specifically designed for grid animation of character-based texts.


Jeremy Douglass is a researcher in games and playable media, electronic literature, and the art and science of data mining and information visualization. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara.  He is active in the Software Studies and Critical Code Studies research communities, which study software society and the cultural meaning of computer source code. Douglass is a founding member of Playpower, a MacArthur/HASTAC funded digital media and learning initiative to use ultra-affordable 8-bit game systems as a global education platform, and a participant in an NSF grant exploring creative user behavior in virtual worlds. His recording room for gameplay research includes systems spanning over three decades.



Speculation: An Alternate Reality Game by Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick LeMieux

Speculation is a science fiction game  that explores the greed-driven culture of Wall Street investment banks and the 2008 global economic collapse. Speculation belongs to the genre of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs).

ARGs are not bound by any single medium or hardware system. Instead, these games use the real world as their primary platform. ARGs incorporate a range of media, including text, video, audio, phone calls, email, social networks, original software, and even live performance. Their stories tend to be broken into discrete pieces that players actively rediscover, reconfigure, and influence through their actions. Player networks created around ARGs are inherently social and tend to include collective problem-solving and participatory storytelling.

The Speculation ARG was launched on April 1, 2012 and only recently concluded after accumulating over 2,500 site visits and nearly 800 player posts. This transmedia game featured 8 narrative sci-fi episodes and 64 ludic challenges. These mini-games included stock trading simulations; live “brain training” sessions based on EEG interfaces; interactive meditations on microtemporal trading algorithms; matchmaking games about the naturalization of credit; textbased adventure games set in investment bank offices; an interactive mini-narrative distributed across craigslist posts; swarms of cryptographic puzzles from Caesar shifts to Vigenère ciphers; double-encoded slow-scan television transmissions; a GPS hunt for dead-dropped USB drives in three different cities; a co-written epic poem fragment; a Facebook image challenge; an extended brainstorm about alternatives to Wall Street “brain drain”; collaborative speculations about the future of finance; encoded narrative documents; a two hour climactic chat with the game’s protagonist; and more.

Our SLSA performance would include narrative prose, audio, and video from the Speculation game as well as live interaction. Instead of merely summarizing the game, however, this presentation will itself serve as a “rabbit hole” for a second execution of the game that will run online for approximately a month beginning on October 11, 2012 (10/11/12).

Katherine Hayles is professor of Literature at Duke University. Her book How We Became Posthuman won the Rene Wellek Prize for the Best Book in Literary Theory 1998-99, and Writing Machines won the Suzanne Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Her most recent book is How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis.

Patrick Jagoda is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. His publications appear in such journals as Critical Inquiry, Social Text, Post45, and Neo-Victorian Studies. He is also a co-editor of Critical Inquiry. Jagoda’s creative practice focuses on transmedia games, including Speculation (vimeo.com/39947942), Stork (vimeo.com/44155896), and Oscillation (vimeo.com/26438531).

Patrick LeMieux is an artist, game designer, and Ph.D. student in the Department of Art, Art
History, and Visual Studies at Duke University. Two recent projects include Open House (noplace.
org), a telematic artwork for virtually squatting the US housing collapse, and Speculation
(speculat1on.net), an alternative reality game based on finance capital and the culture of greed on
Wall Street.


Quantum Genesis by Clarissa Lee

Quantum Genesis, a multimodal novel-in-progress that enables multiple timelines, narratives and worlds to operate in the overlaps of the micro and the macro. This performance will feature a stream of data, through the spoken-word and visual movements.

Clarissa Lee is a PhD Candidate with the Program in Literature who works in the intersection of science, literature, and new media. She is writing a dissertation that is tentatively titled Speculative Physics. Her research blog is modularcriticism.blogspot.com and her more miscellaneous writings can be found on scandalousthoughts.wordpress.com.

“Life in Pink (The Singing Ape)” by Amy Letter with Mark Franz and Brad Paul Lewter

“Life in Pink (The Singing Ape)” is an audiovisual performance of digital poetry/narrative. This experimental performance uses animation and figurative imagery to help illustrate the chaotic psyche of a character who is equal parts woman, machine, and beast. Text and imagery are performed by making choices regarding rhythm and context, in real-time, in order to depict the non-linear and abstract nature of the character’s thought process.  The performance includes making decisions about content that is cued using a custom program written in the Processing language.  Live sound, composed specifically for the piece, accompanies and supports the performance. Text written by Amy Letter, program written & designed by Mark Franz, animations by Brad Paul Lewter; performed by Amy Letter.


Amy Letter is a writer and artist whose stories have appeared in journals including Quarterly West, PANK, and Fringe, as well as gallery spaces including the Jaffe Center for Book Arts and the 18 Rabbit Gallery. Letter teaches fiction and new media at Drake University. http://www.amyletter.com/


Mark Franz’s video and sound work explores contrasts between technology and nature.  His work has been exhibited worldwide at venues including International 18!, Hollyshorts Film Festival, Bagasbas Beach International Eco Arts Festival, and Pixelerations.  As an assistant professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University, Franz teaches courses in animation, interactivity, and history and theory of electronic media. http://marklfranz.com


Brad Paul Lewter is an artist and filmmaker whose mixed media painting and animated films focus on the meeting of archetypal and transhuman forms.  His work has been exhibited at international venues including SIGGRAPH, FDG Bordeaux, and the Savannah Intl. Animation Festival.  Brad teaches courses in animation, compositing, and production for interactivity as assistant professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University


The Beauty of Loulan by MD Coverley

In the remote Tarim basin, near the Peacock River, 4000 years ago, lived a woman who has come to be named The Beauty of Loulan.  When she was buried, she wore a middy skirt, fur boots, a woven cloak, and a felt and wool hood topped with a decorative feather.  Since she can no longer tell her whole story, we must imagine one for her.  This piece is inspired by the complex weaving strategies of the ancient people of the Taklamakan Desert – the elaborate long-hop twills, the weft looping, the tablet tapestries.  The reader, using a touch screen, can follow the weft through the warp of centuries to recover the fabric of the life of The Beauty of Loulan.

Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink writes hypermedia fiction as M.D. Coverley.  Her full-length interactive, electronic novel, *Califia* (2000), is available on CD-ROM from Eastgate Systems. Her most recent work, *Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day* was published in 2006.  Coverley’s current work-in-progress is *Tin Towns and Other Excel Fictions.* She has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA from UC Irvine.  Luesebrink is a Professor at Irvine Valley College.  She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Literature Organization.http://califia.us

Living Will by Mark C. Marino

Living Will is an interactive narrative in the form of the legal document governing the bequests of ER Millhouse, a contemporary British imperialist in the Congo, who made his fortune primarily through mining Coltan, a conflict ore at the core of modern-day devices from mobile phones to laptops.

Taking the role of one of his four beneficiaries, readers can explore the document and through it, the life of Millhouse. However, that exploration comes at a price, as each click leads to more legal and medical fees.  Readers can choose to accept their lot or take the inheritance of their fellow heirs, amassing fortunes that will ultimately decide the fate of Millhouse himself.  An exploration of modern-day colonialism and meditation on the complicity of our clicks in international exploitation, Living Will reflects on the legacy of a first-world technological inheritance.

My performance would be a dramatic reading of the will. which seems only fitting, allowing the audience to choose the character and other choices after the fashion of “The Unknown,” albeit without the bell and a little tamer.  Actually, the piece reads much like a dramatic monologue, so this should suit the format well. In ten minutes, I can set up the piece and offer a few alternative paths through.

Mark C. Marino’s works include Stravinsky’s Muse, a show of hands, and Marginalia in the Library of Babel.  He currently teaches at the University of Southern California where he directs the Humanities and Critical Code Studies (HaCCS) Lab.  His portfolio can be found here: http://markcmarino.com


The Obsolete Book in a Post-Obsolete World, as Represented by a Post-Obsolete Book About Dance: An Archival Rhizome Ecology in Ten Parts, and A Reflection on the Obsolescence of Obsolescence, Documented on the Cloud, and Open-Sourced as a Defense Against Post-Post-Obsolescence.” by Eric Meyer


The work exists online as hypertext, but the performance brings in layers of interactive ritual and dance, nonhuman text-to-speech voice-over, a human automaton, strange video, overhead transparencies, party hats, whiskey, and a book. A real book. You remember books? We use one of those. This is a piece about obsolescence.


Eric A. Meyer is a multimedia artist specializing in collaboration, writing, and performance. He is a cofounder and web developer with OddBird; multi-instrumentalist and poet with Teacup Gorilla; and sucker with Vicious Trap. Previous positions include Artistic Director at New World Arts and Technical Director at The LIDA Project.


One-line Programs by Nick Montfort
I propose to silently present non-interactive, computational, concrete poems that are realized as one-line programs. To do so, I will connect the projector to my notebook computer. Neither audio nor an Internet connection will be necessary.My presentation will begin with a terminal window and with the four 32-character Perl programs in “Concrete Perl.” For each program, I will present the title by typing, e.g., “clear;echo;echo All the Names of God;echo”. Then, I will type the program as an argument to the “perl” command, press Enter, and let it run for a while. If I make a mistake in typing in a program I will retype it or correct it.My presentation will conclude with my opening a Commodore 64 emulator, entering “10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10”, and entering “RUN” to execute this program.Each program can be entered, run, and viewed in about a minute, so there will be time for these five and (even allowing for some delays) a few more. If I develop one or two additional one-line programs that generate concrete poems — in Perl, Commodore 64 BASIC, or some other programming language — and wish to present these, I will do so between running the “Concrete Perl” program and showing “10 PRINT.”http://nickm.com/poems/concrete_perl.html


Nick Montfort is associate professor of digital media at MIT and president of the Electronic Literature Organization. He develops text generators and interactive fiction and has participated in dozens of literary and academic collaborations. Montfort co-edited The New Media Reader and The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 and wrote Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (with Ian Bogost), and Riddle & Bind. His next book, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, is a collaboration with nine other authors about a one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program.

Was That R Us: oR, the staRt of paRcriture by Stuart Moulthrop

In 2007, Michael Joyce published a “novel of Internet,” with the sublimely appropriate German title Was,  as in, Was ist dieses Ding?  What is a “novel of internet?”  Alien-ontologically, what does it do?  Alien-cinematically:  what does it want?
Having decided that a novel of internet does not want to be read, in the pre-structuralist sense, or writerly read,  in the post-sense — that it instead wants to remain in a process of writing — it becomes necessary to invent some new program, or writing-forward: of which the three instances I will briefly show are facets, parts, or symptoms.

I begin with WISE MARX, an automated remix or mashup of Was and some of its tributary or adjacent Web discourses;
This is followed, glancingly, by WET SWEATER, a refiguration of the novel in Twitter;
and finally, we will have one POEM OF INTERNET OF NOVEL: one of a series of flarf poems created by feeding Was back into its search-ingenious source.
I conclude, time permitting, with brief remarks on paRcriture and why it has already changed the world of tomorrow.


Stuart Moulthrop is an acclaimed author and critic, best known for his Victory Garden and Reagan Library, which appeared in the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1. More recently, Moulthrop has been awarded the international Vinaros Prize for 2007 in two categories: Deep Surface in the Narrative category and Under Language in Poetry.
Neither work has been published yet. Deep Surface began its descent at Brown last March. A late beta of Under Language made its debut in Bergen last August. Both pieces can be played at Stuart’s site: His portfolio of literary work is now www.smoulthrop.com/lit. (Non-literary and scholarly pieces remain on the IAT server at University of Baltimore.) Moulthrop is currently a Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee