February 6, 2007

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

A wonderful, brief introduction to technologies of writing, online media technologies, and Web 2.0, by Michael Wesch.

[via Jill]

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August 4, 2005

Sweet Dreams

The title essay to Sweet Dreams by Johanna Drucker is online. Read away.

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July 15, 2005

Half-Blood Prince

I should note that while my wild guessing was dead wrong before (as the comments so politely reveal), here is my prediction, one day before the true revelation of the Half-Blood Prince:


EDIT: Alas, I'm not so good at this guessing game.

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December 24, 2004

Half-Blood Prince

Anyone want to take bets on who the Half-Blood Prince is?

My vote after the fold.

Neville. Do we even know who his parents are, except for the fact that they were killed by He Who Must Not Be Named?

Pure speculation, by the way. Not that you hadn't figured that out already.

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July 16, 2004

Cosmopolis: Plowing the Pattern

Geoffrey Rockwell, Matt K., and I have been discussing Delillo's Cosmopolis, Gibson's Pattern Recognition, and Power's Plowing the Dark on and off over the past few weeks. I wanted to keep track of the conversation since it has dipped into Geoff's archives (note to self: a useful blog tool would let you easily keep track of one's conversations in other blogs, without creating an entire post about it to Trackback).

Feel free to join in the comments - I know many of those (2 or 3 people) who read Misc. have read at least one of the above novels...

Related Misc. Posts (wherein one or more of these books is discussed, with no guarantee of thoughtfulness or relevancy):

(second blog-tool question: is there any way, without creating annoyingly specific categories, to autocreate a "related entries" list based on keywords or something?)

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March 24, 2004

Green Valley Book Fair

In the spirit of JBJ's post, I offer the Green Valley Book Fair. Right near my alma mater JMU, nestled in the Shenandoah valley in Virginia, the GVBF offers some great deals on books covering a wide range of subjects, styles, and genres.

The GVBF is open 6 times a year for a 2 week stretch (3 total weekends). While I usually recommend getting there for the first weekend, you still have two weekends left during this 2 week open period (March 20 thru April 4).

Booklovers beware. You will spend more than you can afford. L and I put ourselves on a budget now whenever we go.

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February 22, 2004

Mental Note

Gary Alan Fine. Shared fantasy : role-playing games as social worlds. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1983.


Beyond Role and Play, edited by Markus Montola and Jaakko Stenros, product of the Solmukohta nordic role-playing convention.

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February 5, 2004

"Online, Anyone Who Types Can Be a 'Writer.' In Theory, That Is."

A friend clipped the following article for me from last Sunday's Washington Post (ah, clipped ... how lovingly old school): iT was a dark stormy Nite . . . (TechNews.com @ Washpost) by Linton Weeks, a WashPost Staff Writer. The article is presumably about "Neterature: writing on and for the Internet," where (as the subtitle states) "Online, Anyone Who Types Can Be a 'Writer.' In Theory, That Is."

And I hate to be nasty (no I don't), but I kept checking the date, because I would swear that this article, except for its references to blogging, was written in 1998. The article's list of "Neterature's" attributes?

  • Not always in complete sentences.
  • Often with bullets.
  • Not a lot of punctuation but a great deal of self-exploration you know
  • case often lower when should be upper and Vice Versa.
  • Rife with misteaks -- easily corrected but mor often not.
  • Full of attitude and not always kind. Sometimes sinister and fraught with swear words. Othertimes saccharine and spangled with winking, smiley-face emoticons.

i maen isnt That jst Nsane you know?!?!?? ;) ;) :) :-o

Seriously. Even though the article references some popular blogs (such as William Gibson's), the example quoted is by a 20-year-old GW student, described as:

a recent excerpt -- errors and all -- labeled "The State of Our Union Is Lousy"

I don't object to focusing on the student's blog, but it seems to be used precisely to support the article's bullet points of what constitutes "Neterature." Bad spelling, full of errors, someone mouthing off, and terribly unsophisticated. Sophomoric.

Which is, in terms of representation of the whole, one ink splatter on a large Pollock canvas.

Other representations of Neterature in the article, from e-poetics to fan fiction, all get the same type of crappy example. Here's the fan fiction piece Weeks uses:

Here is a short story -- bad punctuation and spelling included -- based on the mindless computer game Minesweeper:

-The Tale of Joe - By Nazi Janitor One day, Joe Schmo, decided to quit his job of being a taco salesman. But, he had no idea what to be. Then he saw an ad in the paper: "DUDE BECOME A MINESWEEPER AND SWEEP MINES. NOTE: YOU MIGHT DIE BUT WHO CARES?!?!?!?!".

"Hyuck hyuck hyuck, this is thuh kinda job I'm looking for, hyuck." Joe said to himself.

Joe was hired. But sadly, he was killed buy a mine because he selected the wrong box. And because he was a smiley, his eyes turned into X's and his face exploded because he sucks at life. The End.

Linton Weeks shows an amazingly sophisticated lack of knowledge about writing online. He could have talked about the technologies that allow bloggers to create social networks, report on wars (did he miss the whole warblogging thing?), and hold discussions on special topics. Or, perhaps, he could have spoken to the increased complexity of interactive fiction and organizations that feature IF, like the ELO, Rhizome, or trAce. Instead of looking at Astonia, perhaps he might have thought to discuss Everquest and its subscribers that number in the hundreds-of-thousands?

The article concludes with the type of fear-driven hype that was, again, typical in 1998.

So even if we want to read -- or write -- more textured, complex prose, we may not be able to. The result is slapdash, small-vocab, shallow, callow writing that seems to be devolving with the technology rather than evolving.

Beware folks - technologies of writing will cause you to write shorter, shallow prose. We're doomed. Oh no.


On one side of the equation, today's engineers have made it eerily easy for writers to write -- certainly more rapidly and, some would say, more creatively and innovatively.

On the other, maybe the easier we make it to write, the worse some of the writing gets.

I didn't realize that engineers had also made it easier to get unsophisticated, ignorant articles published on the front page of Sunday's Style section. I guess at the Washington Post "Anyone Who Types Can Be a 'Writer.' In Theory, That Is."

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January 15, 2004

Scattered Thoughts

Such is my mindset right now (we're 'in the window' - the baby's due date isn't for another 17 days, but this subset of the rhody clan is rarely on time).

Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature edited by Jan VAN LOOY and Jan BAETENS
[via GTA]

Other close readings: a great group of essays from Matt K.'s graduate class last semester is available at Rob Kendall’s Word Circuits site.

Also, a reminder: the Games Research Bibliography Database, with over 500 entries and an invitation for submissions.
[via GamesNetwork listserv]

Belated thanks for the review of Misc. by a member of Scott Rettburg's class. The link seems to be down right now, but I wanted to make a mental note, before I completely forgot. More once I can look at the review again.

Cheap@$$Gamer is a blog that posts good deals on games at various online and concrete retailers (and I changed the middle word not b/c I'm a prude, but because I like to avoid setting off flags at the office when checking Misc.).

Need to update our installation of MT to fix a few security issues, as well as implement some antispamming techniques (although some might not work well for Herders - more thoughts on why later). Here's a link to the description of the recent patch [thanks George], as well as what's coming in version 3.0.

Personal reminder to backup the database before the update. I also encourage any herders reading to occasionally back up their blogs through the MT interface. Our hosting providers provides backups and I do a database backup every once in a while, but redundancy's never struck me as a bad idea.

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September 25, 2003

electronic paper


Two fascinating developments with electronic paper. The first was reported today; the second was in May 2003. Notice that in the second article, they were trying to increase the speed. Amazing what happens in a few months.

Electronic paper reaches video speed: Colour movies might soon be playing on single sheets.

Slim screen can be rolled but not folded: Ultra-thin display brings e-newspapers a step closer.

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August 14, 2003

Literary Deja-Vu

Matt's recent post points to the joys of rereading - of coming upon again those passages that left you breathless the first time you read them. While I enjoy those moments, I've also found myself encountering more disconcerting scenarios - when I am reading a book for the first time and find myself reading something that I know I've read before. These moments of deja-vu render my reading eyes helpless - they begin to frantically scan the page trying to figure out how in the world I've read this before, the brain fully aware that this is the first time I've picked up this book.

I experienced this just the other day as I was reading DeLillo's Underworld on the Metro. Prior to this, I read Paul Auster's Book of Illusions, and prior to that DeLillo's Cosmopolis. I peppered these with three George Pelecanos Nick Stefanos detective novels set in DC and surrounding areas (it is super cool, by the way, to see the names of bars you've frequented as the local hangout for main character Nick when he visits PG County). In the odd swirl that is my mind, these texts began to meld, mesh, and combine, which is all well and good until a passage in DeLillo's Underworld sent me on an hour long mind-crushing bender trying to figure out how in the world a passage in a book I've never read seemed so damn familiar to me. The matrix was changing. I had read this dialogue (or something eerily like it) before - a conversation between Marvin, a baseball paraphernalia collector, and garbage expert named Brian. Marvin, mainly, spoke on baseball, the Cold War, and the premonitions to be found in Gorbachev's Latvia-shaped birthmark. And it was all terribly, eerily, familiar. I swore I read the same dialogue in one of the other books ...

The best answer I could come up with to sooth my mind was that I had, at some point, picked up the book and flipped through the pages, spending enough time reading that entire section (my mind rationalizes) that it seemed terribly familiar, while the actual exercise of flipping was so mundane that it completely slipped my mind. The book as Random Access Memory and Amnesia.

An aside (as I love them so): I have found myself wanting to criticize DeLillo's recent dialogue for sounding: 1. the same, regardless of character; and 2. affected and odd - "No one," I thought, "talks like that."

So last night I'm having a beer with Brian and I say "You're saying this to me? You said this?" and I think to myself, "Damn. DeLillo's right." Or maybe just infectious?

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August 6, 2003

Books of Interest

URLs available where appropriate, forthcoming books have dates in (parentheses). This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list; hopefully one day I'll post a full bibliography. Oh, and don't expect an order. There is none currently.

First Person New Media as Story, Performance, and Game

Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
(November 2003)

Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
(October 2003)

Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media

Edited by Mary E. Hocks and Michelle R. Kendrick
June 2003

Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction

Nick Montfort
(January 2004)

The Video Game Theory Reader

edited by Mark J. P. Wolf , Bernard Perron
(August 2003)

ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces

Edited by Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska
Dec. 2002

Video Games: A Popular Culture Phenomenon
Arthur Asa Berger
Transaction Publishers - October 2001

Handbook of Computer Game Studies
Goldstein and Raessens, eds.
MIT Press (Forthcoming)

Understanding Digital Games
Bryce & Rutter, eds.
Sage (Forthcoming)

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture
by Johan Huizinga
Routledge, 1980

Man, Play, and Games (2001 reprint of 1961 edition)
Roger Caillois, Meyer Barash (Translator)

Digital Play
Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greig de Peuter
McGill-Queen's University Press - June 2003

Video Game Bible,1985 - 2002
Andy Slaven
Trafford Publishing, July 2002

What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literracy
James Paul Gee
Palgrave Macmillan, April 2003

Game On (based on the Barbican exhibit)
Lucien King
Universe Books, August 2002

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August 5, 2003

media notes

Interesting "Media Notes" column on washpost: Persuaders or Partisans (washingtonpost.com).

The part that really captured my attention was the following description of how online newspapers are now using Google's advertising service to match up their readers with appropriate (or, in this case, not so appropriate) ads:

"The technology is not yet foolproof. The online edition of The New York Post, which is owned by the News Corporation, ran an article last month about a murder in which the victim's body parts were packed in a suitcase, and Google served up an ad for a luggage dealer."
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July 9, 2003

Summer Read #2

Dungeons & Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture From Geek to Chic

Once upon a time, I thought about writing my dissertation about cyberpunk, the 'hacker' figure, and traditions of the hero. Potential title: From Geek to Chic: Hero Figures and Protogonists Who Wear Pocket Protectors. Alas, I would have been scooped (at least in title).

In any case, the number of books coming out on computer gaming culture is growing, which makes this dissertator happy (hey, they *do* publish books on gaming) and a touch nervous (call me Scoop ... or Scooped?).

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July 8, 2003

June 20, 2003

embodied interaction

found a review of a book - Paul Dourish. Where the Action is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT/Triliteral, 2001. - at PURSE LIP SQUARE JAW by
Anne Galloway
(an interesting blog in itself that I found while rummaging through some folks' blogrolls)

Seems to be in line with ideas I want to work through regarding the body's role in (so-called) "interactivity".

So many books to read... and Harry Potter just might get in the way of it all.

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June 6, 2003


Tis the season for nostalgia, apparently. Matt's recent post had me thinking about my early computing memories - playing Choplifter on an Apple IIc, with its tiny green and black screen. Playing Zork on our new IBM-clone with my dad, as I typed the commands and he carefully drew maps on graph paper. Or the many hours I spent on Prodigy message boards while listening to The Connells' Darker Days over and over again. Listening to that album brings me back to the little computer study every time, in an odd Bergsonian memory shift.

While reading through the blogs this morning, I came across Newly Digital: A distributed anthology of early computing experience, which I saw on the MT devs' company website - Six Apart - as I was reading about their forthcoming TypePad. If blogging has done anything for me, it has renewed my enjoyment of web surfing (and since this has become a post of asides), although not for the term "surfing" itself. I always feel more like skulker than I do a surfer, as I peer around the corners of a link.

In any case, I was surprised when I came across Newly Digital after reading some posts and reactions to Matt's entry. Nostalgia isn't uncommon, of course, but in my experience it tends to come in waves (or, maybe I just find it that way). Waves of nostalgia and memory sweep across the various gaming message boards I read - for months the boards will be crowded with trade offers, OT (off-topic) randomness, l33t sp34k, and PK smack talking, but then someone will post a memory of the "early days," which in turn creates a wave of "Do you remember..."-type threads. Recall that several of the graphical Massively Multiplayer games been around almost four to six years (to say nothing of the years of text-based games before that). Asheron's Call started beta test in late 1999 (release was Nov. '99). Everquest was available about 9 months prior to that, and Ultima Online's adventures began in 1997. That's quite a lot of time to build memories.

I often think about the future of these games - what happens when they cease to be profitable? What will we make of the ruins of these worlds, if at some point we recover them? Or will gamers simply continue their quests on their own, running hacked code on pieced-together hardware? Will people figure out a way to save their character, frozen in an odd stasis, world-less?

One of my favorite passages on nostalgia is from Richard Powers' Plowing the Dark. Chapter 16 starts with the first lines of ADVENTURE blinking on a character's screen, late at night, sent anonymously across the network from one of the eighty-six users logged in from a variety of facilities on the west coast:

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building.

The passage is a beautiful composition of collective and individual memory, shifting between Jackdaw's childhood recollections and the eight-six users' shared nostalgia:

His eyes took in the summons of the words. His hands on their keys felt the fingertips of that seventh-grader still inside them. He stared at the sentences and saw his father, one Saturday morning in 1977 when young Jackie had been acting out, taking him to the office and parking him in front of a gleaming Televideo 910, hooked up to a remote main-frame through the magic of a Tymeshare 300-baud modem.

All a trick, Jackdaw saw in retrospect, an elaborate diversionary tactic to fool a boy into - of all things - reading.

The chapter begins like a small wave, foreshadowing a crescendo comprised of Jackdaw's childhood memory blended with collective recollection as the eighty-six users type subsequent lines from the game to one another over the network. The experience is a carefully crafted commentary on individuality - a playful negotiation between the second-person, non-specific "you" of the game, the collective "we" of the shared nostalgic experience, and the personalized individuality of Jackdaw's recollections of, and gratitude towards, his now-deceased father. The chapter ends softly, like a receding wave:

... the broadband conference drifted into static, releasing its system resources, relinquishing the moment of brief coalescence, dispersing all participants to chip away again at their various private galleries, their maze of tunnels spreading through the unmappable hive.
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June 5, 2003

Read On

Came across an electronic version of Chris Crawford's The Art of Computer Game Design while browsing a book list recommended by Adrian Miles. Also found this one intriguing:

In Palamedes' Shadow: Explorations in Play, Game, & Narrative Theory By: R. Rawdon Wilson Abstract: This is a work of narrative and literary theory that explores the parallels between literary texts and games. It also provides a nice, introductory overview of the main theories of play in the Western philosophical tradition. Published: 1990

Good thing I'll soon have all that reading time riding the DC metro in to work.

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May 9, 2003


Neal Stephenson's new book, Quicksilver, has a release date of September 23. As reported on Slashdot.

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April 24, 2003

Oh, to be accepted

Just got word that a conference panel on multiplayer gaming that I co-authored with D. Synder was accepted for aoirtoronto: broadening the band. The conference runs October 16-19. The AoIR (association of internet researchers) maintains a very active listserv - great for people interested in that sort of thing.

P.S. I'll get back on the Materiality conversation after the weekend (in response to George's comment below).

P.P.S. George sent me a nice read on the local Kansas City comic scene.

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April 21, 2003

Nebula and Hugo Awards

Alas, another quick "link and run," but as reported by slashdot, the winners of the 2002 Nebula Awards and the nominees of the 2003 Hugo Awards.

Neil Gaiman's book American Gods won the Nebula best novel (I read this a while back and thought it was a fine read, but I was not overwhelmed by it). Of course, Gaiman is perhaps best known for his Sandman series.

I was pleased to see that the Buffy season 7 episode "Conversations with Dead People" was nominated for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Category. This was an amazing episode co-written by Jane Espenson (one of my favorite scriptwriters) & Drew Goddard.

Sadly, Buffy ends May 20. I will wear black.

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April 18, 2003

Video Game Theory Reader

from Matt:

Video Game Theory Reader

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April 10, 2003

"interactive" books

Pop-up and Movable Books [and a related site]

I suspect an overlooked genre when discussing "interactive" fiction... hopefully more links soon.

History of the Book, interesting links:

Is it a book?, part of The Book Arts Web

Super cool! TouchGraph GoogleBrowser V1.01 - Find out where you are in the Netaverse! (it's amazing the stuff you come across when researching)

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April 4, 2003

First thought that popped into my head this morning:

If there is magical realism, are we shifting to technological naturalism? I'm thinking here of a variety of works, none necessarily "science fiction" per se, because of the contemporaneous nature of the writing (side note: has science fiction become historical fiction?). The most substantial example that comes to mind immediately is Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" - his history of early computing during World War 2 combined with a late 90s push to build a data haven. No Case's here, no Hiro Protagonists who virtualize, but plenty of cowboys with carpal tunnel and a laptop. Cyberspace juxtaposed with physical geography, "black ice" becomes trapped mountains that get hacked to boil forth beautiful gold, vivid descriptions of jail cells (confinement), bowel movements, physical punishment and torture. The danger of surveillance, the government, and multinational corporations replace (or at least exist alongside of) unfeeling, manipulating determinism. Survival of the fittest? Scary ex-roomates (Andrew Loeb always struck as a bizarre mutation of Marcus Schouler from Norris' McTeague) or ex-partners as certain foes.

And always, always, always, the media mind, the telemarketers' meme, the ubiquity of technology. Who needs nano when we have omnipresent?

Why is this even coming to mind? I've been struck lately by a shift (or perhaps just an attribute, depending) I've seen in some writers I follow. Cyberpunk is in some ways a historical "now" - subdued, current, but still, in lay person's terms, far out, unbelievable (Gibson's Pattern Recognition, for example or Stephenson again - the difference between Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon is telling). All of it leading you to ask - that's not possible now... is it? Echelon, Russian mafia, global travel, online love, arrows and land mines, submarines and sub-mountainous gold?

Other possibilities for inclusion, off the top of my head: Delillo's "White Noise"; Ellis' "American Psycho";

Maybe: Richard Powers' "Plowing the Dark" (less naturalism, more realism?); Tad Williams "Otherland"

There must be others in this vein. I had some in mind, but promptly forgot. Definitely time for morning coffee.

Edit: Possible film inclusions: PI ; Fight Club (haven't read the novel)

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March 18, 2003

Pattern Recognition

Finished William Gibson's latest novelPattern Recognition yesterday (kindly loaned to me by Matt). Overall, I enjoyed it - I find contemporary "sci-fi" fascinating. I've read several novels in the past year more interested in contemporary and historical technology than in projecting futures. Gibson's PR is set in the aftermath of September 11th, although he had started writing the novel prior to that date. Already, aspects of the novel strike me as dated, obsolete in a quickly changing world. On the other hand, I read novels like this, or something like Power's Plowing the Dark (set around the fall of the Wall), or Stephenson's Crytonomicon and they feel an odd blend of being paradoxically historical and futuristic. Even something like Delillo's White Noise strikes as so fundamentally apocalyptic in some senses so as to see like it's a projection rather than (now) a throwback. A shift in the gernsback continuum.

In any case, PR is a good read, although I'd suggest waiting for paperback (or a friend's copy).

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