New online issue of CIAC’s magazine

The CIAC is the Centre for International Contemporary Art in Montréal. They publish on the net a long-running magazine, now edited by Paule Makrous, that features web art, interviews, reviews, and other work. The most recent issue (38) features poetry by some of the victims of Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp for women. And an interview with Gregory Chatonsky. And an interview with me by Paule. And other work.

Sound Resolution

Now what I’m going to tell you you already know back in some primitive part of your brain. Digital sound doesn’t sound as good as many analog recordings. Here’s why.

Digital sound is typically 44,100 samples per second. That sounds like a freakin lot of samples per second but it’s too low and that’s the problem. Really high quality sampling of sound takes place at 2,822,400 samples per second. This is known as SACD (Super Audio CD) developed by Sony and Philips. That’s 64 times greater than 44,100 samples per second. Currently, the best digital audio recordings have a sample rate twice as high as SACD. Or 128 times the typical 44,100 sample rate.

The problem is that CDs don’t hold enough information to be able to support SACD. You’d only get a couple of minutes or less of such audio on a CD. That is probably the historic rationale for commercial audio being typically 44,100 samples per second: the file sizes are not too big.

When I listen to typical digital audio, what I notice, if I crank it up–and I like to crank up music, typically–is that there’s no presence to the recordings. Some vinyl albums I had, when played on decent stereos–the stereos didn’t have to be top of the line, but they had to be OK–sounded pretty much ‘live’. They had presence. But digital audio, it can’t break through from the other side, as it were.

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Digital Fiction iPad Project: the Good and Bad Stuff

I thought it might be interesting to reflect on how we’re finding the iPad as a development platform regarding our latest digital fiction project ‘Changed‘, bearing in mind that we’re not using the Apple SDK or exporting an App from Flash CS5 to produce this piece.

Changed is an atmospheric story set beneath a roadway tunnel. It’s based on a script by Lynda Williams (see Grace, a short film which Lynda wrote, here). It contains a mix of text, video, audio and some elements of interactivity. It’s self-reflective and strongly visual, the tunnel itself forming the ‘canvas’ onto which all other aspects of the story unfold.

The work is being designed as a ‘Web App’, which means it can be found on Mobile Safari on the iPad, bookmarked, and then added to the iPad’s Home Screen as if it were a native App. Theoretically, once downloaded, it should run offline where no internet connection is available. We’re also looking to try and keep it compatible with desktop computers/browsers.

It’s a bit of an experiment into what’s possible – but here’s what we’ve liked and disliked about the iPad development part thus far:

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NHL Brain Trinket

What I’m going to tell you—I warn you—is of no consequence whatever. And it won’t even be of interest to you unless you’re an NHL hockey fan. And, worse, it’s going to test your algebra skills. The only thing I can say in favour of saying it at all is that you just won’t ever read anything else about hockey like what I’m going to tell you right now. It just doesn’t happen. This is the unicorn of hockey writing. Right here, right now.

It’s so messed up to be telling you this at all that I have to give you something to get you to read it. What I’m going to give you is like something you’d get out of a bubble-gum machine. But maybe the best such thing you’d get. Cuz it’s an idea. It’s from the bubble gum machine of the mind. I figured it out myself. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else. I’m going to give you a little brain trinket. It’s a formula. The formula tells you how many points a perfectly average NHL team should have after they’ve played N games. That’s it. That’s all this is about. The only use it has is to be able to tell if a team is above or below average. Think of this as a peculiarly Canadian gift. It’s a way to think a little bit more clearly about something that is barely worth thinking about at all. But, you know, in Canada, we think about hockey. It’s more pleasant than thinking about the mess we’re in.

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Shoes red as wounds

Performing at Inspace and my Underbelly Cabinet of Curios

For my performance of Underbelly in Edinburgh, UK, on Halloween at Inspace no one can hear you scream I intend to wear shoes as red as wounds. Why? Because Underbelly, my work of playable media fiction, is an exploration of women’s bodies in relation to the land – past and present, inside and outside, above and below ground – and shoes, especially red ones, are loaded with associations.

I’m tempted to say more but instead, it might be more fun to point you to my Underbelly Cabinet of Curios. It’s a digital collection of some of the sources, influences and catalysts that gave rise to Underbelly, and a peek at one stage of the process of writing and structuring the piece. Within the cabinet, you’ll also find some connections and contextual curios, creative works by others in other media that struck a chord with me in relation to the themes I explore in Underbelly… and, if you follow the merry dance, the significance of red shoes.

Since I spend so much of my time stuck at my desk in front of a computer, I’m really looking forward to stepping out and into performer’s shoes – not least because there’s such a fantastic line-up of other artist-performers at Inspace on Halloween:

48 hours | Inspace no one can hear you scream

Sunday 31st October 2010, 7.30 for 8pm.
Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

As part of the third International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, we present an evening of language in digital performance with works by Martin John Callanan, JR Carpenter & Jerome Fletcher, Donna Leishman, Maria Mencia, Netwurker Mez, Stanza and Christine Wilks.

Issue on digital poetry from Journal of Electronic Publishing

Aaron McCollough is guest-editing an issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing on digital poetry. Below is the email he sent to the Poetics list requesting submissions for that issue.

From: Aaron McCollough
To: Poetics List
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 7:56 AM
Subject: CFP: Journal of Electronic Publishing (Digital Poetics/Poetries)

I’m writing today in my capacity as guest editor for The Journal of Electronic Publishing, which has been a pioneer in responding critically to digital technologies’ impact on “publishing” as both a notion and a semiotic distribution system since 1995 (before there was even a google to google-sculpt with!).

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News from the Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria

Since 2003, Catalan artist Antoni Abad and I have been working on a series of projects dealing with overlooked communities around the world expressing and sharing their views and opinions the Web. So far, we have worked with taxi drivers in Mexico City, young gypsies in Lleida and León (Spain), street prostitutes in Madrid, people with reduced mobility in Barcelona and Geneva, Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica, motorcycle couriers in Sao Paulo, displaced and demobilized people in Colombia and, more recently, young women living in the Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. In these projects, the participants are able to upload images and sounds directly from a mobile phone to a web page, allowing them to publish all sorts of stories on-the-fly.

The young women living in southern Algeria, who come from different camps, get together periodically and discuss the topics they would like to publish on the page. So far, their interests have concentrated on subjects such as children, women, work, health or education. They are aware of the power of sharing their views on the Internet, and see it as a way of raising awareness about their current situation: even if the pictures do not depict the conflict directly, every image refers to it implicitly. Each of the images they publish is tagged using an appropriate word, creating thus a folksonomy that reveals which are the most interesting topics for the group.

Participants of canal*SAHARAUI

Participants of canal*SAHARAUI

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Canadian Psycho

Colonel Russell Williams

During the third week of October, 2010, the Canadian media covered the case of Russell Williams like no other news story. Williams, prior to his February 7, 2010 confession of murders, rapes, and scores of panty burglaries, was a colonel and decorated pilot in command of the Canadian military air base in Trenton, Ontario, the country’s largest and busiest military airbase. The case of this sado sexual serial killer with transvestic fetishism on the side is unusual in the annals of crime for three reasons: he was a very successful man, even a prominent authority figure; and he started his crime spree relatively late in life, breaking bad at the age of 44. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this otherwise dark, twisted and sad tale is his confession: the confident, powerful colonel goes into the interview with the investigator on a Sunday afternoon voluntarily, not in the least suspecting that he will be talked into confessing his depravities four hours later. The police work to catch Williams and get a confession out of him is a hard-boiled egg of Canadian heroism, really.

Not one person has indicated even the slightest suspicion of “the colonel” prior to his arrest. Not his wife, not his best friend, none of his colleagues or people of lower military rank who served him—no one. He was, by all accounts, simply an exemplary officer. Impeccable. Admirable. Diligent. Fair-minded. Active in community matters. A good liaison between the surrounding community and the air-base. His best friend, who has known him since the early eighties when they were undergraduates in University together, paints a picture of a long-time close friend with nothing more dangerous than the prankster in him. He was even an animal-lover and was observed checking his lawn for frogs before mowing it to ensure he slew no frogs.

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Gregory Chatonsky’s Generative Narratives

Gregory Chatonsky is a French/Canadian artist who has created a significant body of net art. Here are a couple of pieces of his I found that still work and are compelling:

The Revolution Took Place in New York (2002)

The Revolution Took Place in New York is a fictional story generated in real time from an internet source. A text generator gives shape to an infinite novel bearing close resemblance to the work “Projet pour une révolution à New York” written by Robbe-Grillet in 1970: Ben Saïd walks on the streets of the American metropolis and plots something. Some words are associated to video fragments, others to sounds gleaned on the network and others are automatically translated into images using Google. The structured association of these heterogeneous elements generates a narrative flow simultaneous with the network flow.”

Each time I’ve opened this piece, it’s been different. What surprised and charmed me most about this piece was how the narrative made sense, often, and kept me interested in where it was going. That is very unusual indeed in generative works. I’m referring to the text itself. But, also, the way the text goes with the images was also, often, quite interesting.

. Read the rest of this entry »

New Media Writing Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the Poole New Media Writing Prize includes Christine Wilks (who is on netartery), Katharine Norman (whom I invited to be on netartery), Alan Bigelow (whom I should invite to be on netartery), and myself. That’s because one of the judges is Andy Campbell, who is on netartery!

Seriously, though, it’s nice to see this competition up and happening. Competitions in art are highly problematical, of course, but one thing they are good at is getting some attention to the work itself. So thanks, Andy, and everyone involved in it.

Typing the Dancing Signifier: Jim Andrews’ (Vis)Poetics

Greetings Netartery,

When Jim invited me to join the group back in May, I had just successfully defended my dissertation. I decided that I didn’t want to jump into the conversation until it was available online, so I could share my research freely. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the postings and am thrilled and honored to be a part of this group blog.

My dissertation is titled “Typing the Dancing Signifier: Jim Andrews’ (Vis)Poetics” and is now available for free download at the Digital Repository at the University of Maryland: If you’d like to know more about me and my work, here’s a link to my blog:

What is my dissertation about? The title should be enough of a hint, but here’s the abstract.

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Text Generators

Beach boy poetry engine

Edde Addad put together an interesting post concerning poetical text generators on The post describes and links to quite a few online resources including ePoGeeS by Addad. Additionally, it describes and links to historical systems such as Christopher Stratchey’s Love Letter generator from the early 50’s. Stratchey and Turing were students together, and Turing wrote the manual of the Manchester computer that Stratchey used to create what some see as the Ur program of digital poetry.

Chris Funkhouser didn’t include Stratchey’s work in Funkhouser’s book on the history of digital poetry, though. Probably because Stratchey doesn’t call his work poetry. Funkhouser’s study starts with the work of Theo Lutz (1959). In any case, David Link seems to be covering Stratchey’s work adequately.

Addad is a doctoral student in Computer Science who did undergrad work in Creative Writing.

Amy Winehouse links

I’ve been listening to Amy Winehouse’s blue-eyed soul music (though hers are brown) recently, watching interviews and reading articles about her. I thought I’d post the best of those links. Of course, there’s quite a bit of twitter about her drug problems, but I wasn’t interested in that as much as the music.

She’s an extraordinary singer and songwriter. She’s such a Londoner but she’s also so deeply influenced by USAmerican jazz and soul. She’s extremely expressive in her singing. Expressive without emphasizing volume or power/strength of voice; the power and strength of her singing is mainly in expression, not so much in vocal athleticism. Though there can be a fine line between being expressive and simply being ornately mannered. Sometimes jazz can just have ‘too many notes’.

The profundity of the UK/USA musical bond is nowhere so evident as in Winehouse.

In prominent ways, her work is retro, but she is not simply a nostalgia act. She characterizes her music (I think she means her first album named Frank) as a combination of jazz and hip hop. Back in Black, her second album, is strongly 60’s soul and R&B and also has several ska tunes on it. Also, the producers she works with are artists in their own right. They’re not doing nostalgia. And Winehouse’s lyrics are far saucier than the jazz from the fifties and sixties; as Holly Combe points out in one of the linked articles, “she actually comes across as a tough-minded, libidinous woman wanting a tough-minded, libidinous man”.

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Nightingale’s Playground

From Nightingale's PlaygroundIt’s raining in 1989. Teenage schoolboy Carl lives with his grandmother on an anonymous housing estate and spends his time hanging out with Alex, an oddball kid obsessed with pseudo- philosophy and computer games. When Alex disappears for no apparent reason, things begin to change: Carl finds weird objects in his gran’s sideboard; his science fieldwork book reveals mysterious numeric codes; and none of his other friends even remember Alex.

Created by Dreaming Methods authors Andy Campbell and Judi Alston, Nightingale’s Playground is an ambitious work of digital fiction divided into four interlinked parts: an atmospheric browser based experience; an interactive virtual book with pages you can turn with the mouse; a short eBook download; and an immersive 3D game-like application that takes the written word into strange new dimensions.

It’s raining in 1989. Teenage schoolboy Carl lives with his grandmother on an anonymous housing estate and spends his time hanging out with Alex, an oddball kid obsessed with pseudo- philosophy and computer games. When Alex disappears for no apparent reason, things begin to change: Carl finds weird objects in his gran’s sideboard; his science fieldwork book reveals mysterious numeric codes; and none of his other friends even remember Alex.

Created by Dreaming Methods authors Andy Campbell and Judi Alston, Nightingale’s Playground is an ambitious work of digital fiction divided into four interlinked parts: an atmospheric browser based experience; an interactive virtual book with pages you can turn with the mouse; a short eBook download; and an immersive 3D game-like application that takes the written word into strange new dimensions.

Instant Poetry Patents

About a year ago, John Cayley made a post on NetPoetic entitled “An Edge of Chaos”. In it he delimits a constraint-based networked-writing process: “Write into the Google search field with text delimited by quote marks until the sequence of words is not found. Record this sequence….”

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the idea of making a poem composed entirely of lines that returned no search results. “Wow”, I thought to myself, “what a great idea”. I had forgotten it was John’s idea.

If this situation occured in 2014 (for example), and on waking I told the idea to my girlfriend, perhaps the instant-speech-checking algorithmically-networked microphone next to our bed might have immediately alerted me to my potential plagiarism. As it is, my memory had to slowly percolate John’s prescient precedent to the surface of my mind like a splinter.

Neuronal latency in the 21st century data avalanche is a vestigial design flaw that needs to be technologically cauterized.

Imagine that (while typing / while speaking), footnotes, bibliographies and source attributions immediately auto-generate, links sprout around text, and areas of uniqueness are spontaneously (and perhaps effortlessly) patented. The race to network becomes a race to brand segments of communication, to demarcate phrases of language, to colonize conjunctions of text in the same way attributions of authorship emerged from the book.

A writer becomes a sewer (sic pun) of uniqueness. Instead of quotation marks, a new grammar of overlapping links allow the subtlety of appropriated text’s multiple inheritances to Xanadu off towards diverse sources. Instead of Flarf, context-specific algorithmic-grammars differentiate between semantically meaningful units of language and word-salad collage-spew net-wrack.

Dsytopic singularity theories aside, an era of instantaneous as-you-type network-search is arriving. Google Instant is just one stride in the sprint toward word-processing software that automatically checks writing for repetition and rewards writing that is both meaningful and unique.

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Sign After the X

David Clarke has created a new work of net art called Sign After the X in collaboration with Marina Roy and Graham Meisner. Sign After the X is structurally similar to some of Clark’s earlier works such as A is for Apple and 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein. The form of these works is one that Clark has been developing for some time now; A is for Apple, the first of them, was published in 2002.

The nodes or chapters/sections of these hypermedia works are done in Flash. They’re multimedia approaches to a subject. We hear a voice reading a text about Freud or Lacan or Wittgenstein or X (etc) while Clark’s animated visuals improvise with/on the text–in the sense that the visuals illustrate or explicate/explore/expand/riff/noodle on the text’s meaning. Sign After the X is organized into five categories: Mind, Body, Land, Language, and Law. Each of these contains anywhere from four to thirty nodes/Flash works.

The putative subject of Sign After the X is “the letter X and it’s multiple meanings in our culture“. And, yes, I can see it in some of the material presented. But it seems there’s more going on than that.

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Sufferrosa an “interactive movie”

Sufferrosa is an “interactive movie” by Dawid Marcinkowski. Here’s a video about it. It’s quite extensive, as these things go. And it looks like some money was spent in the production of it.

Auntie Georgie

It’s only been over the last few years that, suddenly,  just about all the folks in my family as old as my parents have all passed away. My mother and her four siblings have all died. On my father’s side, only his older brother is still alive; his three sisters are dead.

My mom was the executor of her older sister Georgie’s estate. And Georgie never had any kids. So mom ended up with a lot of photos and things from Georgie. Scrapbooks of at least a thousand obituaries; diaries; old cheques; divorce papers; marriage certificates; things like that.

I inherited the house from my parents, and have been going through 40 years of stuff. Mom found it hard to throw stuff out. I have to throw a lot of it out. But I was very fond of Georgie, and have tried, over the last few months, to put together something in her memory. I’m not sure how interesting it will be to people who didn’t know Georgie, but she was quite remarkable, really, in several ways. takes you to 170 pictures of Georgie arranged from birth to near the time of her death. takes you to something I wrote about Georgie.

I also wrote the software that displays the photos.

Got a Grant from the Canada Council

I recently got a senior grant from the Canada Council’s ‘Spoken Word and Storytelling’ program to do a specific project described at

Basically, the idea of the project is to scream my fool head off while playing Jig-Sound and dbCinema as instruments.

You’ve seen musicians play an instrument while they sing. Well, this is similar. Only I’ll be telling a story between (or perhaps during) screaming bouts. And the instruments I’ll be playing are Jig-Sound, which is sonic, and dbCinema, which is visual.

The first job is to fix dbCinema. It’s um temporarily out of order. Google changed some image search stuff, so dbCinema’s google image search stuff isn’t working. Am about half way done that fix.

Should be quite the shriek fest.

Impossible Journal

Celebrating 10 years of digital writing, Impossible Journal is Dreaming Methods’ first magazine-style publication and features a series of stories-behind-the-stories from our ambitious digital fiction projects.
Impossible Journal

Impossible Journal

Presented through – a leading-edge virtual publication portal – the first edition of Impossible Journal includes dream-inspired prose and fiction set amongst striking graphic design – plus an atmospheric soundtrack – Music In The Shape of Eleven – created by sound artist Matt Wright.

From a man who one day decides to violently attack his neighbour (an epilogue to Floppy) to a pair of schoolboys intent on burying their science fieldwork books to increase their authenticity (an extract from our forthcoming work Nightingale’s Playground), Impossible Journal offers new insights into Dreaming Methods expansive digital fiction portfolio that has been online and growing since 2000.