TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] || J. R. Carpenter TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a computer-generated dialogue, a literary narrative of generations of transatlantic migration, a performance in the form of a conversation, an encoded discourse propagating across, beyond, and through long-distance communications networks. One JavaScript file sits in one directory on one server attached to a vast network of hubs, routers, switches, and submarine cables through which this one file may be accessed many times from many places by many devices. The mission of this JavaScript is to generate another sort of script. The call “function produce_stories()” produces a response in the browser, a dialogue to be read aloud in three voices: Call, Response, and Interference; or: Strophe, Antistrophe, and Chorus; or Here, There, and Somewhere in Between.

Strophe sets out from east to west on a treacherous mission, across high seas and frozen wastes, in search of a Northwest passage, in hopes of trade routes, and fountains of eternal youth. And Antistrophe returns from west to east with scurvy, captive natives, and furs. Neither ever arrives. Both only just barely finish leaving. Likewise a reader can never quite reach the end of this TRANS.MISSION. Mid-way through a new version is generated. The sentence structures stay the same, but all their variables change. Relations shift as time passes, so that we have immigrants now, where once we had explorers; a persistent tap eclipses a strange whir; a message instead of a passage; Nova Scotia in place of Scotland; a submarine cable replaces a shipping network. How different is the narrative of one journey from the next?


TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a transmutation of Nick Montfort’s The Two, a narrative text generator written in Python and then translated to JavaScript by Montfort in 2008. The decision to hack rather than craft code anew was a deliberate one. Though the nature and form of Montfort’s narrative were substantially transformed in the creation of the Python version of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE], and then further in the translation of the transmutation into JavaScript, something of the uncanny twinning of characters at work in The Two underpinned Something of the uncanny twinning of characters at work in Montfort’s The Two underpinned my process production; my hack transforms Montfort’s source code into a code medium, sending and receiving dialogue on and through media haunted by generations of past usage.

Speaking of past usage, TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] was first performed live at Aesthetic strategies as critical interventions, followed by a discussion panel chaired by Rita Raley. This event took place at Perdu Theater, Kloveniersburgwal 86, Amsterdam, 10 December 2011, in conjunction with an ELMCIP Seminar on Digital Poetics and the Present, hosted by University of Amsterdam, 9-10 December 2011

A short performance of and research paper about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] will be presented at Network Archaeology, hosted by Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA 19-21 April, 2012.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] will be included in an upcoming retrospective of my work presented by Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, in conjunction with the Electronic Literature Organization Conference, at The Art Museum of West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 20-23 June 2012.

More information about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] may be found in this artist’s statement.

View the work online here: TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

800 characters on Monfort & Strickland’s The Sea and Spar Between

MCD #66 This beautiful bilingual issue #66 of the French Magazine MCD (musiques & cultures digitales) is dedicated to Writing Machines: literature, performance and media in the digital age. It was edited by Emmanuel Guez and contains articles by and/or about Annie Abrahams, Serge Bouchardon, Philippe Bootz, Laura Borràs, Peter Ciccariello, Katherine Hayles, Jorg Piringer, Alexandra Saemmer, Brian Stefans, and many many more.

Somewhere in there is a teeny tiny text I wrote about The Sea and Spar Between by Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland. Adhering to Guez’s strict stipulation that the text be no longer that 800 characters – including spaces – was quite a challenge. The Sea and Spar Between is a poetry generator which defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. That in the world there now exists a French translation of an 800 character text that I wrote about a generator Montfort and Strickland made using words from Emily Dickinson’s poems and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick confounds and delight’s me.

“en avant! / car la mer est sans repos”
“dash on / for pauseless is the sea”

It is possible to buy a PDF copy of MCD #66 Machines d’écriture / Writing machines online, but buy the paper copy. It’s is really very nice.

CAPTA: Conversations with poets about technology

Freaky genius digital poet David Jhave Johnston has been roving around North America engaging practitioners and theorists of digital literature in conversation and uploading the unedited videographic data captured in these sessions to his site: CAPTA: Conversations with poets about technology.

The first conversation in the series is with John Cayley, who reads and discusses his poem PENTAMETERS TOWARD THE DISSOLUTION OF CERTAIN VECTORALIST RELATIONS (which examines the effect of Google on language and poetics) with discursive and conversational interrupts from Jhave. That is a pretty hard act to follow. But that’s okay, because the second CAPTA conversation is with Chris Funkhouser, author of two books on digital poetry: Prehistoric Digital Poetry & New Directions in Digital Poetry. He can hold his own. Pity the poor poet who has to follow those two. Because, alas, it’s me.

Jhave is a lively interlocutor and a lovely human being. The conversation we had was a pleasure in its unfolding, so I’m not too embarrassed to share it with you here.

CAPA #3: J. R. Carpenter

JR Carpenter from David (Jhave) Johnston on Vimeo.

Recorded at the Banff Centre on Feb. 21st 2012.

To view these three conversations, and to sign up for email notifications announcing future conversations with Steve McCaffery, Loss Pequeño Glazier, Christian Bök, Ian Hatcher, D. Kimm, Charles Bernstein, Andrew Klobucar, Fred Wah and Jhave, visit: