AUTO_MATIC_BIO_GRAPHIC

I will present a workshop tomorrow at In the Regions of Utopia, the second symposium of the Imaginaries of the Future network, taking place in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, 28-30 June 2015.

This workshop facilitates an interrogation of place-based identity by calling into question the persistent notion that ‘home’ is necessarily a place. Further, this workshop challenges the inward-facing tendencies of autobiography by employing a computer program to create a collectively authored quasi-autobiographical narrative which is at once dynamic, inclusive, variable, and provisional.

This workshop begins with an exercise prompted by a quotation from Anne-Marie MacDonald’s novel As the Crow Flies (2003), in which the author suggests we may come from events rather than places:

If you move around all your life, you can’t find where you come from on a map. All those places where you lived are just that: places. You don’t come from any of them; you come from a series of events. And those are mapped in memory. Contingent, precarious events, without the counterpane of place to muffle the knowledge of how unlikely we are. Almost not born at every turn. Without a place, events slow-tumbling through time become your roots. Stories shading into one another. You come from a plane crash. From a war that brought your parents together.

With this example in mind, participants are invited to complete the sentence: “I come from…” with statements pertaining to events rather than places. “I come from a plane crash.” “I come from a war that brought my parents together.”

Participants are then invited to complete additional stock autobiographical sentences in ways which challenge the primacy of place. For example, the sentence: “I was born…” may describe a time rather than a place. “I was born on the night shift.”

Each question is asked several times, allowing participants’ responses to riff off each other.

The responses are entered into a computer program as they are given. This program randomly selects one response to each statement and outputs a story. Individual participants’ responses are thereby shuffled into a collectively authored quasi-autobiographical narrative which may be endlessly refreshed. The notion of autobiographical veracity further undermined by leaving key gender signifiers such as Mother/Father to computational chance.

Participants will be invited to speak these narratives aloud in various ways (separately, as a group, in a round). As we consider what sort of stories emerge from this generative, variable, collective, event-driven mode of autobiographical authorship, we will propose new questions by altering the source code. How does our story shift if the statement “I wish…” is changed to “I need…”? How does our conception of regionality or locality shift if we think in terms of coming from shared events rather than places? As we experience events unfolding in real time online, how might we come from a plane crash in Manhattan, or a protest in Hong Kong, or the Occupy movement?

The source code of the AUTO_MATIC_BIO_GRAPHIC program is based on a 1k story generator created by Nick Montfort in 2008. Examples of stories generated by a previous iteration of the AUTO_MATIC_BIO_GRAPHIC program were included in my print book GENERATION[S], published by Traumawien in 2010. Feel free to download the source code and replace the variables with your own life events.

Walks from City Bus Routes – new work published in The New River

Walks from City Bus Routes is a web-based computer-generated guide ‘book’ which perpetually proposes plausible yet practically impossible walking routes through the city of Edinburgh and its environs using JavaScript developed by Caden Lovelace and images and text culled from a City of Edinburgh Transport Map published by the Edinburgh Geographical Institute in the 1940s and a pamphlet called Walks from City Bus Routes published by Edinburgh City Transport in the late 1950s.

Walks from City Bus Routes || J. R. Carpenter

Walks from City Bus Routes has been published in the Spring 2015 issue of The New River – a long-standing online journal of digital writing & art founded by Edward Falco with help from Len Hatfield in 1996. The New River posts new issues twice a year in December and May, and is currently hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Digital Discourse and Culture. This Spring 2015 issue is edited by Arian Katsimbras & Emily Dhatt and contains work by Alan Bigelow, J. R. Carpenter, Chris Joseph, J.P. Sipilä, Aaron Oldenburg, Jody Zellen.

Readers keen on web-based bookish-drifting-wander-walking may also be interested in Wanderkammer: A Walk Through texts, a web-based collection of hyperlinked quotations from great writing on walking. Wanderkammer first appeared Walk poems: A series of reviews of walking projects edited by Louis Bury Corey Frost published on Jacket2 in 2011.

A Handmade Web

I’m headed to Bath Thursday 26 March 2015 to participate in a one-day symposium on Slow Media hosted by the Media Futures Research Centre at Bath Spa University’s Corsham Court campus. I will be speaking about a A Handmade Web. The term ‘handmade’ usually refers to objects made by hand or by using simple tools rather than machines. The result may be homely — as in a child’s clay ashtray — or exquisite — as in a pair of bespoke brogues. I will evoke the term ‘handmade web’ throughout this presentation to refer to web pages coded by hand rather than by software; web pages made and maintained by individuals rather than by businesses or corporations; web pages which are provisional, temporary, or one-of-a-kind; web pages which challenge conventions of reading, writing, design, ownership, privacy, security, or identity.

I’ve made a hyperlinked version of my presentation available online here: http://luckysoap.com/statements/handmadeweb.html

Fishes & Flying Things || J. R. Carpenter, 1995

The above image is from Fishes & Flying Things, my first web-based project, Fishes & Flying Things, made entirely by hand in 19995.

For more information on Slow Media, see: The Origin of Slow Media: Early Diffusion of a Cultural Innovation through Popular and Press Discourse, 2002-2010, by Jennifer Rauch (2011).

Slow Media, Thursday 26th March 2015, Bath Spa University, UK

Slow Media Symposium Draft Programme (PDF)

#slowmediabathspa

Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library

I’ve been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Eccles Centre for North American Studies at the British Library. Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowships are intended to help support scholars wishing to visit London to use the British Library’s collections relating to North America and are basically a rare book and old map lover’s dream come true.

the region of Atlantic Canada where I was born
the region of Atlantic Canada where I was born, in Champlain’s map of 1607

I am applied for an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship in order to undertake further research into the writing (and erasing) of Atlantic Canadian coastlines toward the publication of a monograph tentatively titled ‘Writing Coastlines: On the Composition of Atlantic Canada’.

By ‘Writing Coastlines’ I refer both to cartographic and textual writing about coastlines, and to the writing and erasing of physical coastlines through erosion and accretion, wave actions and storm events. Rather than presenting a historiographical narrative in which the coastlines of the ‘New World’ emerge through a linear progression of discoveries, I aim to frame the writing of these coastlines as an ongoing compositional process. To demonstrate this argument, I intend to draw upon a wide variety cartographic, archival, and literary materials held at the British Library, with an emphases on foundation documents of Canadian history produced in England and France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

This research will build upon portions of my recently completed PhD thesis, Writing Coastlines: Locating Narrative Resonance in Transatlantic Communications Networks. During this research I made extensive use of the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Maps collections at the British Library. This Visiting Fellowship will allow me to spend more time with the documents I have already consulted and, critically, will allow me to identify and study secondary sources including lesser-known maps, sea charts, ship’s logs, cosmographies, diaries, letters, arguments, treatises, and discourses for discovery. Through a comparative cartographic and textual analysis of these material texts I aim to show how the coastlines of Atlantic Canada have been written and re-written, drawn and re-drawn, formed and transformed, altered and erased by successive generations of fishers, sailors, explorers, settlers, soldiers, captains, navigators, cartographers, politicians, journalists, and literary authors. These coastlines have been composed through centuries of dead-reckoning, careful surveying, and sounding, as well as less than perfect navigation and charting techniques; through willful misrepresentation of dangers and distances; through the transposition of European place and family names onto places which already had names, whether assigned by earlier explorers or by native peoples; through subsequent mishearings, misspellings, translations, and adaptations of these names over the course of centuries of habitation; and though literary re-imaginings of first encounters with the natives, animals, and climatic conditions of these coasts.

During the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship I will begin work on a new chapter, ‘Arguments to Prove a Passage,’ focused on distortions of Atlantic Canadian coastlines perpetrated in material texts written to elicit support for voyages Northwestward, traces of these voyages written in place names (Davis Inlet, etc), and arguments made to prove a Northeast Passage.

Performing Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl at the British Library

I’ll be performing my web-based computer-generated narrative Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl at the British Library Thursday 5 February 6-8:30 PM, as part of Trapped in the Ice, Frozen in Time, an evening of performances and talks hosted by the British Library’s Interactive Fiction Writer-in-Residence Rob Sherman.

The event will feature Rob Sherman exploring themes arising from his research into the Franklin expedition of 1845-6, Nancy Campbell (artist and writer, whose latest book ITOQQIPPOQ is included in the exhibition Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage on now at the British Library), and novelist Kate Pullinger.

The event is free, but booking is required. For more information: Trapped in the Ice, Frozen in Time

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual events, locals, persons or texts are entirely intentional. These notes conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of sea voyages into the unknown North undertaken over the past 2340 years or so. The ever-shifting computer-generated portion of this narrative is composed from fragments of stories of fanciful, fluid, and quite possibly fictional floating places described or imagined in such diverse works as Tacitus, Agricola (97-98), Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries (1589–1600), and Eugene Field, Wynken, Blynken and Nod (1889). The characters of Owl and Girl are borrowed from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy Cat (1871). In my version, a girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined and her lazy friend the owl set out, set sail, sail away toward a strange sea in a boat, craft, raft of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through is a confusion of islands and soundings from Scotia Bay and the South Orkney Islands (1967), and my own photographs from Nova Scotia (2008-2011). Of the horizontally scrolling texts which annotate this mythical, implausible, impossible voyage toward seas unknown, the northern lights, the fountain of youth, the text in grey which begins “7 May: departed from Dartmouth” is an erasure poem based on The second voyage attempted by Mr John Davis with others, for the discovery of the Northwest Passage (1586). The Morse Code quotes a line from a Peter Høeg novel. All the other notes are composed by me. By me, of course, I mean the girl.

Publishing my PhD thesis last page first – the acknowledgements page

Since defending my PhD thesis last month a number of kind, optimistic people have asked if it will be published. All of the creative and most of the critical practice-led research outcomes have already been published, performed, or presented in some way. The website containing links to all of the supporting materials referenced in the thesis is online here: http://writingcoastlines.net

Writing Coastlines
[ it’s hard to take an attractive photo of a PhD thesis]

The thesis itself is broad and overtly interdisciplinary in scope. I have some thinking to do about what kind of press to approach with this strange mix of theory and practice, print and digital, technology and literature, cartography and narrative. I’m certainly open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I would like to begin by publishing the last and possibly best page first. Here then is page 437 – the acknowledgements:

This research has been generously supported by a full studentship from Falmouth University and by the Research Network of the University of the Arts London. I am indebted to the patience, pragmatism, and great good sense of my Director of Studies Doctor Phil Stenton. Many thanks also to Falmouth University Research Student Officer Jemma Julian, and Postgraduate Research Student Foundation Programme Director Doctor John Hall.

Aspects of this research have been furthered by engagement with individuals and events associated with the following organisations:

Alberta College of Art and Design, Arnolfini, Dartington College of Art, The Banff Centre, Electronic Literature as a Model for Creativity in Practice, Electronic Literature Organization, E-Poetry, Inspace, Labex Arts H2H, Obx Labs, The Sharpham Trust, and Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre.

The following archives and collections have been a delight to spend time in:

British Library – Maps, Manuscripts
Bodleian Library – Maps, Marconi Archive, Strachey Papers
Cambridge Library, Kings College – Turing Papers
The Telegraph Museum Archives

The following are but a few of the many friends and colleagues who have (often unwittingly) asked good questions, answered questions thoughtfully, led by example, lent logistical support, recommended readings, offered invaluable words of encouragement, or in other ways inspired me over the past four years:

Annie Abrahams, Celia Bannerman, Sandra Barry, Elisabeth Belliveau, Kathi Inman Berens, Sam Bleakly, Philippe Bootz, Laura Borràs, Barbara Bridger, Serge Boucherdon, Jason Camlot, Andy Campbell, cris cheek, Rod Coover, Sym Corrigan, Mark Daniels, Yra van Dijk, Linda Rae Dornan, Lori Emerson, Markku Eskelinen, Chris Funkhouser, Alison Gibb, Tom Harper, Carla Harryman, Mervyn Heard, Rozalie Hirs, Susan Hitch, Peter Jaeger, Mark Jeffery, Alice van der Klei, Edward Klein, Daniel Takeshi Krause, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Kurtis Lesik, Donna Leishman, Jason Lewis, Mary Loveday-Edwards, Caden Lovelace, Judy Malloy, Netwurker Mez, Nick Montfort, Judd Morrissey, Stuart Moulthrop, Camilla Nelson, Jussi Parrika, Maggie Pitts, James Purdon, a.rawlings, Arnaud Regnauld, Scott Rettberg, Ariane Savoie, Alexandra Saemmer, Jörgen Schäfer, Jeanie Sinclair, Steven Ross Smith, Lisa Somma, Brian Stefans, Sian Stenton, Stephanie Strickland, Neil “X” Thompson, Steve Tomasula, Fred Wahrus, Christine Wilks, and Nanette Wylde.

Finally, this research would not have been possible without the love, patience, curiosity, enthusiasm, good humour, bad jokes, beach walks, and total commitment of my two best friends – my husband Jerome Fletcher and my step-daughter Aphra Kennedy Fletcher. Thank you both.

J. R. Carpenter (2014) Writing Coastlines: Locating Narrative Resonance in Transatlantic Communications Networks, University of the Arts London, http://writingcoastlines.net

Writing Coastlines: Locating Narrative Resonance in Transatlantic Communications Networks

Yesterday, 11:11-1 11/11/14, I successfully defended my PhD thesis. Pending the addition of two paragraphs and the correction of a few typos, I will be a Doctor as well as a Carpenter. In the meantime, here are a few fun facts.

I sent my application to Dartington College of Arts. I received a full studentship from University College Falmouth. My PhD will be awarded by University of the Arts London. It took three years and nine months to complete, from start to submission. My thesis weighed in at 83,400 words, plus thirty-two figures, four appendices, and twenty-four pages of bibliography for a grand total of 437 pages. All of the creative and many of the critical practice-led research outcomes to have emerged from this research have already been published, performed, or in other ways publicly presented. For an abstract and links to all of these research outcomes, please visit: http://writingcoastlines.net/

Remembering Daniel Dion

I am mourning the passing of my dear friend, collaborator, and mentor Daniel Dion. Daniel was a new media artist, and the co-founder and long-time co-director of Oboro Gallery and New Media Lab in Montreal. He died of cancer in Vancouver on Sunday 28 September 2014, surrounded by love.

Daniel has been an inspiration to me since the day we met – over eighteen years ago now. He gave me my first job out of art school. I was the website designer and computer technician at Oboro 1996-1997. We had one computer – a Quadra 650 – and I was in charge of it. Then Daniel bought another computer on his own credit card – a Power Mac 7100 – and TechnOboro, as we called the Oboro New Media Lab in those days, was born.

In those early days of what would become the rest of my life Daniel gave me confidence, and hope, and space, and time to work as an artist. For a number of years, Daniel, his long-time partner Su Schnee, their old friend Hank Bull, and I collaborated on a series of multi-site performances using video phones. One was between Montreal and Tokyo. Even more mind-boggling to me now than the video phones part, or even the Tokyo part, is how open such long-time friends and collaborators were to inviting a young person in.

One winter Su and Daniel invited me to the chalet of another friend of theirs in the Laurentians. On our way there, the car went into a ditch. But it was a small car, so we all got out and lifted it onto the road again. This now seems emblematic of the way Daniel approached problems great and small, but maybe I’m reading too much into things.

In 2005 I returned to Oboro as an artist-in-residence at the New Media Lab. One day I asked Daniel if he would go for a beer with me, outside the building. We made it to a bar a whole block and a half away. He laughed, said people didn’t often ask him to leave the building. Why didn’t we all ask him out for beer all the time? Because he and Su were always inviting us in.

In 2006 Daniel commissioned me to make a new work for the 50th anniversary of the Conseil des arts de Montreal. Why me? There were way bigger better known names to choose from. Someone gives you a chance like that you try to do your very best. The work I made – Entre Ville – has since been shown and taught widely. I don’t know if Daniel ever knew that, thanks to him, students around the world have caught glimpses of the secret life of Montreal’s back yards and alleyways.

Daniel saw potential where others saw none, he had patience where I for one would not have. He had great faith in people, put trust in people. He had vision. Never have I met a more gentle, less cynical soul. Yet never have I met a greater leader. He led with strength rather than power. He practiced and did not preach. Transparency. Honesty. Peace.

From 2006-2010 I served as president of the board of directors of Oboro. The whole time I felt I got more than I gave. I left the board when I left Montreal. For the past five years I have missed Daniel and the whole Oboro family keenly. Yes, family.

Earlier this month my partner and I spent two weeks in Montreal. We attended the first Oboro opening of the season. It was exquisite to be in the proximity of loved ones again. It turns out I can’t write anything more present tense than that at this moment in time except to say that my heart is with you all right now, around the big table.

Daniel Dion et Su Schnee

Daniel Dion et Su Schnee, Oboro, 2007.

For information on memorial services, visit the Oboro Website.

Print iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl published in Fourteen Hills

Fourteen HillsNotes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (2013) has been published in print Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review, 20.2. The web iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl was first presented in “Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature”, curated by Dene Grigar & Kathi Inman Berens, at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Convention in Boston, MA, USA, in January 2013.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual events, locals, persons or texts are entirely intentional. This computer-generated narrative conflates and confabulates characters, facts, and forms from accounts of voyages into unknown seas undertaken over the past 2340 years. This ever-shifting text is composed of fragments of stories of fanciful, fluid, and quite possibly fictional floating places described or imagined in such diverse works as Tacitus, Agricola (97-98), Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries (1589–1600), and Eugene Field, Wynken, Blynken and Nod (1889). The title characters Owl and Girl are borrowed from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (1871). In my version, the passive Pussy-cat has been replaced with a Girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl || J. R. Carpenter

Girl and her lazy friend Owl set out, set sail, sail away toward a strange sea in a boat, craft, raft of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through is an assemblage of fluid floating places – discontinuous surfaces pitted with points of departure, escape routes, lines of flight. Five horizontally scrolling texts annotate this mythical, implausible, impossible voyage toward seas unknown, the northern lights, the fountain of youth.

Following the launch of the web-based iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, I pillaged the JavaScript-generated narrative and four of the horizontally scrolling lines of text to create a script for live performance, which has since been performed during In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge at The Banff Centre, Banff, Canada, February 2013, and ELO 2013: Chercher le texte, Le Cube, Paris, France, 26 September 2013. The piece published in Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review, 20.2 is based on this script.

This print text comprises two distinct sections: narrative and notes. The opening ‘narrative’ section undermines the authority of an authorial voice by interrupting the linear narrative flow of its sentences with incoherence, indecision, vagaries, possibilities, and multiplicities by inserting some but not all of the variables contained in the JavaScript variable strings. For example, the first sentence of the ‘narrative’ section:

An owl and a girl most [adventurous’, ‘curious’, ‘studious’] [‘set out’, ‘set sail’, ‘sailed away’] in a [bottle-green’, ‘beetle-green’, ‘pea-green’] [‘boat’, ‘sieve’, ‘skiff’, ‘vessel’]; a [‘beautiful’, ‘ship shape’, ‘sea worthy’] [‘craft’, ‘raft’, ‘wooden shoe’], certainly, though a [‘good deal’, ‘wee bit’, ‘tad’] too [‘small’, ‘high in the stern’] to suit the two of them.

In the ‘notes’ section, fragments from the horizontally scrolling texts have been heterodyned, or forced together, into one long text. On the page, the different lines of Girl’s notes remain differentiated by indentation, which, alas, is not easily representable in blog formatting. You’ll just have to take my word for it. By my word, of course, I mean the girl’s.

For more information on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, take a look at Poetry Connection: Link Up with Canadian Poetry, an initiative of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah (2013) aimed at making experimental writing practices accessible to a wide audience through the distribution of YouTube video recordings of readings and PDFs containing discussion topics, writing ideas, and other pedagogical aids. Here is a video description and performance of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (YouTube). And here are discussion topics and writing ideas based on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (PDF).

Performing Etheric Ocean at The Museum of Water

Saturday 21 June 2014 I will re-sound the uncanny islands, wireless signals, jellyfish drones, and found nautical field recordings of my new underwater web-based project Etheric Ocean in a live poly-vocal performance with poet Alison Gibb as part Amy Sharrock’s Museum of Water exhibition at Somerset House, London, 6-29 June 2014.

Penned in the Margins has curated a packed programme of water-themed poetry and performance. Join us in the spoken word room for nautical field recordings, durational water performances, and poems inspired by rivers, estuaries, sewers and the sea.

Performances will run from 12pm – 5.30pm. Alison and I go on at around 4:30pm.

Etheric Ocean || J. R. Carpenter

Etheric Ocean is an underwater web art audio writing noise site. It is an imprecise survey of sounds both animal and mechanical, and of signs both real and imaginary, of distortions born of the difficulty of communicating through the medium of deep dense dark ocean. Like stations dotting a radio dial, murky diagrams, shifting definitions, appropriated texts, nautical associations, and wonky word plays are strung along a very long, horizontally scrolling browser window. This is a world of inversions. Sounds are deep harbours, or are they depths? Sounds purposefully unfold. Out of its element, uncannily airborne, a flying jellyfish drone wobbles about. Noises are made. Islands are Heard.

Etheric Ocean is commissioned by Electronic Voice Pheneomena, an experimental literature and new media project exploring contemporary approaches to sound, voice, technology and writing, brought to you by Mercy and Penned in the Margins, Liverpool and London UK.

Saturday 21 June
12pm – 5.30pm

Somerset House
Strand, London
WC2R 1LA