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The Fan’s Desire and Technopower

Whether they fret over Ziggy Stardust or the condition of posthumanity, fans and scholars share, argues Harvey Molloy, a few habits of mind. The Fan’s Desire When I teach my course in Writing and Critical Thinking, I try, like every other teacher of composition, to awaken in my students a sense that they should approach their writing as a valuable exploration of an interest, instead of as an obligatory duty that must be performed in order to complete an assignment. As a model of passionate writing, we review a number of fan sites and Web logs on the Web. The […]

The Florida Research Ensemble and the Prospects for an Electronic Humanities

In works such as Applied Grammatology, Teletheory, and Heuretics, Gregory Ulmer has rigorously advocated a shift from critical interpretation of culture to theoretically-charged cultural invention. His articulation of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theories informs not merely a composite system of textual criticism but an expansive method of artistic creation. Ulmer’s theories of invention have vitalized his collaboration with the Florida Research Ensemble, a diverse group of artists and scholars who have worked for over ten years to counter the instrumentalist tendencies of new media. Instead of suggesting immediate ways to fix social problems, the FRE attempts to describe the psychological undercurrents […]
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A Project for a New Consultancy

Gregory Ulmer describes his current work, not as scholarship or critical writing, but as a “project for a new consultancy.” And it was partly for advice that I initially contacted Ulmer to request an interview for the electronic book review. I wanted to see whether Ulmer’s ideas about electronic literacy (“byteracy”) could be of use in designing an online review of books and media. Also, since I happened to be organizing an ebr forum around Michael Bérubé’s article, The Politics of Selling Out, I thought that Ulmer might help me to extend Bérubé’s arguments to electronic economies. I reasoned: the […]

The Revolution May Not Be Computerized

A colleague recently remarked to me, “I don’t want to write essays on paper any more. It’s so much easier to manipulate a document in hypertext. I mean, if it’s on paper, it may as well be engraved in stone.” Though I quickly pointed out the limits to this line of thinking, shuddering to imagine my graduate school thesis about comparative mimesis in eighteenth-century narratives placed on par with the acclaimed ten-part essay dictated to Moses, I began to ponder the implications of these new malleable texts in this “late age of print.” The quotation is from J. David Bolter, […]

who is michael bérubé and why is he saying these terrible things about us?

part i: macaroni and meatballs everywhere i turn these days – the new yorker, harper’s, the voice, the chronicle of higher ed., not to mention the academic presses – i seem to run into either a piece of writing by or a reference to michael bérubé, proof-positive that he’s attained academic superstar status of the kind enjoyed during the turn-of-the-eighties by andrew ross… and now i have before me yet another of bérubé’s institutionally-centered ruminations, cultural criticism and the politics of selling out… sheesh… this one reads at times like an apologia, with bérubé self-consciously quoting himself by way of […]
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A Preliminary Poetics

Introduction Interactive drama has been discussed for a number of years as a new AI-based interactive experience (Laurel 1986; Bates 1992). While there has been substantial technical progress in building believable agents (Bates, Loyall, and Reilly 1992; Blumberg 1996, Hayes-Roth, van Gent, and Huber 1996), and some technical progress in interactive plot (Weyhrauch 1997), no work has yet been completed that combines plot and character into a full-fledged dramatic experience. The game industry has been producing plot-based interactive experiences (adventure games) since the beginning of the industry, but only a few of them (such as The Last Express) begin to […]

Victoria Vesna responds

Computer games are clearly a distinct form of media, with an emerging history and place in entertainment and increasingly in the arts. At this particular juncture, there is much misunderstanding of this new genre primarily because games are played through established technologies such as televisions and computers. At the same time, games display characteristics that are, at least superficially, similar to existing media forms, which creates possibilities and confusion at the same time. The numerous recent attempts to develop games as extensions of profitable movies have resulted in abject failures and rare, weak successes. This, in my opinion, is due […]

John Cayley’s response

Stuart Moulthrop’s concerns in addressing networked and programmable ludology are strongly inflected by issues and values in the ethics and politics of “new” media, summed up for me in his reminder that “cyberspace is not a book or a moving picture but a complex virtual environment that should never be allowed to become second nature.” Inclinations such as these are heartily welcome and always salutary, especially given Mouthrop’s engaged stance and engaging literary persona, but here his chief counterpoint, Markku Eskelinen, represents a consciously theoretical approach to the game at hand. This leaves Moulthrop to speculate on mights, woulds, and […]

Card Shark and Thespis

Hypertext Fiction and Its Critics Although games, visual art, and textual experiments had long been areas of academic research, the first artistically convincing explorations of literary computing appeared in the late 1980s. It was only in these years that computers became sufficiently commonplace that a computational creation could realistically hope to find an audience. Of equal importance was the gradual acceptance of Ted Nelson’s thesis (Nelson 1976) that computers could be tools for artistic expression, for even in 1982 the title of Nelson’s Literary Machines was meant to shock and surprise. The final and critical step, first taken by an […]

Game Design as Narrative Architecture

The relationship between games and story remains a divisive question among game fans, designers, and scholars alike. At a recent academic Games Studies conference, for example, a blood feud threatened to erupt between the self-proclaimed ludologists, who wanted to see the focus shift onto the mechanics of game play, and the narratologists, who were interested in studying games alongside other storytelling media. The term “ludology” was coined by Espen Aarseth, who advocates the emergence of a new field of study, specifically focused on the study of games and game play, rather than framed through the concerns of pre-existing disciplines or […]

Introduction to Game Time

The following sketches a theory of time in games. This is motivated by: (1) plain curiosity; (2) theoretical lack: much work has been done on time in other cultural forms, but there is very little theory of time in games; and (3) the hope that a theory of game time may help us examine specific games, help trace the historical development of games, connect to the big question of how a game feeds player experiences, and generally serve as an analytical tool for opening other discussions in game studies and game design. Most computer games project a game world, and […]

White Noise/White Heat, or Why the Postmodern Turn in Rock Music Led to Nothing but Road

I. “White Noise/White Heat,” or Why the “Postmodern Turn” in Rock Music Led to Nothing but Road – A Preface (of sorts) TEN YEARS BURNING DOWN THE ROAD I wrote “White Light” near the end of the 80s, which had surprisingly proved to be perhaps rock music’s most fertile and innovative decade. I originally wrote the essay as a feature article that appeared in American Book Review in the Spring of 1990 (McCaffery, “White Noise”). I was aware that ABR readers were book-lovers not rock fans, and my main goal in developing the essay that way – i.e., presenting an […]
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A Remediation’s Remediation?

In Remediation: Understanding New Media (Bolter and Grusin 1999) proposed a theory on media evolution that attempted to break with the myth of the newness of new media and the linear supersession of older media by newer ones (their main target, although this is not the explicit program of the book, is definitely Marshall McLuhan, whose teleological Understanding New Media is clearly meant to be remediated by a more nuanced and more powerful theory). Coining the notion of Remediation, they argued that each new media refashioned at least one older medium. This process of refashioning, however, does not obey a […]

Optical Media Archaeologies

Two histories of optical media have recently been produced in Germany, and at first glance they would seem to be complementary texts. They both cover roughly the same time period – from the origins of linear perspective to the development of virtual reality – and both authors were clearly familiar with each other’s work. Oliver Grau’s Virtual Art is a revised and translated edition of his earlier book Virtuelle Kunst in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Virtuelle Strategien (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Press, 2001), which was itself an expanded version of the dissertation he completed at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1999, and […]

From Virtual Reality to Phantomatics and Back

The technologies and speculations associated with “virtual reality” and cognate terms (such as “cyberspace”) have recently made it possible for scores of journalists and academics to develop variations on a favorite theme – the newness of the new, and more specifically, the newness of that new and wildly different world-historical epoch, era, or Zeitgeist into which we are supposedly entering (and on some accounts, have already entered) with the creation of powerful new machines of simulation. The innovative powers of the machines of virtual reality are so extensive, it would seem, that they are even supposed to be able to […]
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Unusual Positions

All forms of “interactive text” demand a physical body with which to interact. When we use the now-common interface that consists of a mouse and keyboard as input devices, and the computer screen as display mechanism, it is easy to forget the body whose eyes perceive the screen, and whose hands and fingers manipulate the mouse and keyboard. In her book How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles (1999) has eloquently explored how “information lost its body.” Hayles investigates the theoretical, historical, and literary maneuvers through which modern society has dissociated information from a body or medium. The consequent elevation […]

Adrianne Wortzel’s response

Praise for the body art of Camille Utterback, and commentary on controls. Early on in the feature film Superman, reporter and professional victim Lois Lane falls from a helicopter dangling from the roof of a New York skyscraper. Plummeting to her certain death, she is rescued in mid-air by Superman (aka: a man made of steel [and, for all we know, in some instances, of bits and bytes]), in his first appearance both in Metropolis and in the film. Such is his innate tenderness and his fine-tuning as a deus ex machina that he alters his ascending velocity to her […]

Camille Utterback responds in turn

First, thank you to both respondents for their insightful and kind comments! To respond: Matt Gorbet critiques my implication that “poetic” interfaces do not allow users to maintain control of the interaction, stating instead that it is precisely the simplicity and clarity of this control that allow my examples to be successful. I agree that whether a work is artistic or purely functional, the connection between a user’s actions and these actions’ effects on the system must be clear and immediate. If a user cannot easily understand how his or her actions affect an interactive system, then the interactivity is […]

Bill Seaman responds in turn

Body politics and mouse use scroll through the scene. (To Diane Gromala) 1) “Textuality — an open, infinite process that is meaning-generating and subverting.” Yes. This is one of the forms of textuality that I am interested in. Yet I want to go beyond the logocentric – the analogy of the text in discourse – somehow even in the extended sense of writing that Derrida describes (probably because he is a writer), he seems to bring us back to the way “writing” and/or “text” operate to understand that extension. The central issue is this – I do not believe we […]

Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics (sidebar)

Sidebar images from “Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics – Media-Element Field Explorations.” 19.sidebar.4-8. Examples of The World Generator in use. 19.sidebar.9. Control panel display for The World Generator. back to Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant […]
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