Publishing my PhD thesis last page first – the acknowledgements page

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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

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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/

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

Categories:  electronic literature, poetry, print, publication, writing, Writing Coastlines
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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

Categories:  electronic literature, performance, performance writing, Writing Coastlines
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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

## READ WRITE GARDEN ## – an erasure poem un-written in RUBY code comments

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Nearly a year ago the American book-artist Karen Randall invited me to contribute to an an international anthology of poems involving computer languages, especially the RUBY language, in honor of the Millay Colony‘s ruby anniversary. The result is The Ill-Tempered Rubyist, pictured below. I can safely say that this is the most physically beautiful book I’ve ever been a part of.

The Ill-Tempered Rubyist
- photo by Karen Randall

The cover collage was created in PhotoShop, then transferred to polymer, and printed by letterpress. The text is printed on Reich inkjet paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer. The volume is bound using the Japanese side-slab method. The finished book is housed in a clamshell case covered in red cloth.

## READ WRITE GARDEN ##
- photo by J. R. Carpenter

When Karen first wrote to me I happened to be ensconced on a water-lily farm in the south of France. I had gardens on my mind. The only bit of RUBY code on hand I had on hand was written by Cornwall-based performance writer and programmer Caden Lovelace. Struck by the repeated mention of gardens in Caden’s extensive code comments, I began carving out the following erasure poem. Note that in real life, as in code life, this poem has a fairly strict system of indentation. In blog life, however, these indentations seem determined to disappear.

## READ WRITE GARDEN ##

# erasure by J. R. Carpenter
# source by Caden Lovelace

$dir = File.dirname(__GARDEN__)

def read_texts()
return Dir[$dir+"/texts/*.txt"].map do |garden|
File.read(garden)
end
end

#### we want to split
#### our text into units
####
#### punctuation marks allow us
#### to treat them as words
####
#### consider the ellipsis
#### for example
####
#### spaces
#### on either side of certain

def tokenize_texts(texts)
return texts.map do |text|
text.gsub!(/(\w)([,.:;\/?!]|\.\.\.+)(\W)/i, ‘\1 \2 \3′)
text.split(‘ ‘)
end
end

#### words often come
#### after other words
####
#### we walk through our garden
#### counting pairs

def generate_frequency_table(tokenized_texts, n)
frequency_table = {}
tokenized_texts.each do |text|
text.each_with_index do |word, i|
if i+2 < text.length
# is there a word after this one?

end
end

#### we write by deciding
#### which path to take
####
#### say we have three words
#### say we know their probability
####
#### [‘walk' => 3, ‘garden’ => 2, ‘words => 4]
####
#### we sum these numbers
#### we pick a lesser number at random
####
#### is the probability of ‘walk’
#### greater than random?

last_word = last_words.join(‘ ‘)
if freq.has_key?(last_word)
# have we any paths to take?

#### here we separate
#### the punctuation
####
#### make it a word
#### put it back

def fix_punctuation(text)
return text.gsub(/ ([,.:;\/?!]|\.\.\.+) /, ‘\1 ‘).gsub(/ ” /, ‘” ‘)
end

#### here we use all
#### we’ve written there

frequency_table = generate_frequency_table(tokenize_texts(read_texts()), 2)

# here ’2′ means word-pairs

#### here we set our seeds

seeds = ["I know", "I was", "I have", "but I", "if we", "of his", "that she", "allow us", “the text”, "the other", "the same", "what is", "on the", "of the", "in the", “through the”, “we have”, “we know”, “the probability”, “the frequency”, “a word”,­­­­­­ “here we”, “we sum”, “we set”, “our seeds”, “we want”, “we walk”, “we separate”, “we run”, “we read”, “we write”, “our garden”].map {|seed| seed.split(‘ ‘) }

seeds.each do |seed|
10.times do

end
end

In addition to being stunningly beautiful, The Ill-Tempered Rubyist contains contributions and collaborations from an impressive list of well-known code poets, performers, and authors of digital literature from around the world:

Contributors

HAROLD ABRAMOWITZ WITH DAN RICHERT
mIEKAL aND
MEZ BREEZE
J.R.CARPENTER WITH CADEN LOVELACE
CLAIRE DONATO
NATALIA FEDOROVA
CHRISTOPHER FUNKHOUSER
ANGELA GENUSA
SAMANTHA GORMAN WITH DANNY CANNIZZARO
JHAVE
JEFF T. JOHNSON
DEENA LARSEN WITH ROBERT LAVETT SMITH
GRACIE LEAVITT
ALVIN MWIJUKA
JOYELLE MCSWEENEY
NICK MONTFORT
JÖRG PIRINGER
JONATHAN SCHOENFELDER
ALAN SONDHEIM
CHRISTINA STRONG

###

Etheric Ocean – an underwater web art audio writing noise work commissioned by Electronic Voice Phenomena

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Announcing Etheric Ocean – an underwater web art writing noise work by J. R. Carpenter 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.

Etheric Ocean || J. R. Carpenter

Ether is a hypothetical medium – supposed by the ancients to fill the heavens, proposed by scientist to account for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation through space. The notion of ‘ocean’ was once as vague. Aristotle perceived of the world as a small place, bounded by a narrow river. Columbus believed the Atlantic was a much shorter distance across than we now know it to be. Even as early electromagnetic telegraphic and wireless transmissions propagating over, under, and through oceans collapsed distances between ships and shores, they revealed vast new oceans – oceans of static, oceans of noise.

Etheric Ocean 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.

For more information about Etheric Ocean, see the Electronic Voice Pheneomena website, and follow @jr_carpneter @_EVP and search for #ethericocean on Twitter.

Many thanks to Nathan Jones, Lisa Robertson, and all the other authors, audio artists, oceanographers, and mad inventors whose words and sounds I borrowed. A link to a fuller list of sources can be found within the work:

Etheric Ocean, J. R. Carpenter, 2014.

#ethericocean

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore – a new article published in Performance Reserch Journal

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Performance Reserch JournalThe latest issue of Performance Research Journal, On Writing & Digital Media, edited by Jerome Fletcher, includes an article written by me called: The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore. This articleemerges from my practice-led PhD research at Falmouth University in association with University of the Arts London. It has developed over the course of a number of conference papers presented in France and the UK over the past two years. I am very happy to see it out in the world in this format.

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore, by J. R. Carpenter, reflects upon The The Broadside of a Yarn, a multi-modal performative pervasive networked narrative attempt to chart fictional fragments of new and long-ago stories of near and far-away seas with nought but a QR code reader and a hand-made print map of dubious accuracy. The Broadside of a Yarn was commissioned by ELMCIP for Remediating the Social, an exhibition which took place at Inspace, Edinburgh, 1-17 November 2012. The Broadside of a Yarn remediates the broadside, a form of networked narrative popular from 16th century onward. Like the broadside ballads of old, the public posting of The Broadside of a Yarn signified that it was intended to be performed. Embedded within the cartographic space of this printed map are QR codes which link to web pages containing computer-generated narrative dialogues, performance scripts replete with stage instructions suggesting how and where these texts are intended to be read aloud. As such, these points on the physical map point to potential events, to utterances, to speech acts. The stated intention in creating this work was to use the oral story-telling tradition of the sailor’s yarn, the printed broadside and map, the digital network, and the walk-able city in concert to construct a temporary digital community connected through a performative pervasive networked narrative. Through the process of composition the focus shifted away from the temptation to lure people on walks through a city tagged with links to stories of the sea, toward a desire to compel people to collectively speak shifting sea stories ashore. This paper reflects critically upon this shift, toward an articulation of The Broadside of a Yarn as an collective assemblage of enunciation.

This is my first experience with publishing in an academic journal barricaded behind a paywall. If you are a student or a faculty member of a university with access to Shibboleth, you should have no problem accessing the contents of Performance Research Journal online. If not, try this link: The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore. If that doesn’t work, drop me a line, I’ll see what I can do.

A Few Views on Interviews

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I’ve been interviewed by some really very clever people lately, enough so to prompt me to finally create an INTERVIEWS page for my website. Here are a few highlights:

Last Friday the Montreal-based online journal Lemon Hound published Elvia Wilk in Conversation with J. R. Carpenter, the latest installment in an ongoing conversation Berlin-based writer and editor Elvia Wilk and I have been having since first meeting at In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge at The Banff Centre in 2013. Elvia and I met up in London last autumn to dissect various (misleading) terms in the fields of art, net art, literature, and electronic literature. Our conversation ranged over projects both new and old. We discussed code as performance writing, and ending up on the topic of islands as topos, possible only in literature…

Back in January I answered questions from Andrea Zeffiro for J.R. Carpenter: Object-Oriented Interview by Andrea Zeffiro, an interview published by the Media Archaeology Lab at University of Colorado at Boulder. We called it an object-oriented interview because of its focus on, well, objects – including but not limited to slide projectors, cameras, photocopy machines, Roman ruins, geology, process, pragmatics and more… with many thanks to Lori Emerson and team at the Media Archaeology Lab in Boulder.

In November of last year Illya Szilak interviewed me for Huffington Post Books. Here is the resulting article: Reorienting Narrative: E-lit as Psychogeography.

And here’s a video Interview David Jhave Johnston did with me at The Banff Centre about two years ago as part of the series Conversations with Poets about Technology (CAPTA).

JR Carpenter from David (Jhave) Johnston on Vimeo.

Many thanks to all of these interviewers and publishers. For more see: http://luckysoap.com/interviews.html

TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE]

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, launch, Writing Coastlines
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At an excellent international conference on Translating E-Literature, which took place at Université Paris 8 in June 2012, I presented a paper which situated the process of adapting Nick Montfort’s 1k story generator story2.py (2008) into my web-based work TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] (2011) in terms of an extended notion of translation.

An adaptation of that paper is available for download here: Translation, transmutation, transmediation, and transmission in ‘TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]‘ (PDF)

TRANS.MISSIONTRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a computer-generated dialogue, a literary narrative in the form of a conversation, a discourse propagating across, beyond and through long-distance communications networks created and necessitated by generations of transatlantic migration. 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. Each time this JavaScript is called, the network, the browser, and the client-side CPU conspire to respond with a new iteration. The mission of the JavaScript source code is to generate another sort of script, 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. This multi-site-specific dialogue resonates in the spaces between places separated by time, distance, and ocean, yet inextricably linked by generations of immigration.

Although the translation of natural languages was not my focus in the paper I presented at Translating E-Literature, the inextricable association between language and nation necessitated the question: Were this work translated into French, would the location of memory also be translated, or re-placed, to reflect generations transatlantic migration from France to Nouvelle France? Would Cornwall be replaced with Bretagne, Nova Scotia with Acadie?

In 2013 TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] was translated into French by Ariane Savoie, a PhD student at Université Québec à Montréal, for a special translation issue of bleuOrange, a Montreal-based online journal of ‘littérature hypermédiatique,’ which launched at the Electronic Literature Organization conference Chercher le texte in Paris 23-26 September 2013. Here is a direct link to Ariane Savoie’s truly remarkable translation: TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE].

Ariane Savoie presenting her translation of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] at Chercher le texte in Paris, September 2013
IMAGE: Ariane Savoie presenting her translation TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE] at Chercher le texte, Paris, September 2013

In personal correspondence Savoie shared certain thoughts on her process, which I synthesise here. A strict translation of all the English variables into French equivalents would have resulted in subject-verb gender disagreements, the resolution of which would require considerable modification to the source code, which, Savoie felt, would have diminished the variability of the generator and the structure of the piece. Instead, Savoie elected to respect the structure of the source code. Gender conflicts were avoided by the population of strings with variables from only one gender, letting go of any variables that didn’t have the exact equivalent in that gender in French. Initially, this resulted in an eradication of the gender variable altogether. Eventually, a compromise was reached in which two versions of certain variable strings were created, that both masculine and feminine proper nouns might be called at different points in the script.

Although the gender variable represented by the string var heshe=['he','she']; is not carried over into Savoie’s translation, something of the either/or binarism of that string endures, both through the introduction of gender variables through other means, as cited above, and through the variable string var place=, in which, the location of each place named is either on one side of the Atlantic or the other: Canada or England, Acadie or France, the new world or the old, home or away.

Many thanks et merci to Ariane Savoie, Alice van der Klei, et toute l’équipe de bleuOrange, and to Yves Abrioux and Arnaud Regnauld, co-organisers of Translating E-Literature.

LINKS:

Nick Montfort (2008) story2.py

Nick Montfort (2008) The Two

J. R. Carpenter (2011) TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Ariane Savoi (2013) TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE]

J. R. Carpenter (2012) Translation, transmutation, transmediation, and transmission in ‘TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]‘ (PDF)

A Non-Linear Timeline of Twenty Years Online

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November 2013 will mark twenty years since I got my first UNIX account. Things have changed a lot since then. The more proprietary, predatory, and puerile a place the internet becomes, the more committed I am to using it in poetic and intransigent ways. Over the next few months I will be looking for ways to use this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the dialectic between how far we’ve come, and how very far we have to go.

The following non-linear timeline of twenty years online is an expanded version of my contribution to “Aura in the Age of Computational Production,” a roundtable discussion with with Kathi Inman Berens, J. R. Carpenter, Leonardo Flores, David Jhave Johnston, Jason Edward Lewis, Erik Loyer, and Nick Montfort, to be held at Chercher le texte, ELO Paris 2013.

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

July 1993. The New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner depicting a dog sitting at a computer informing another dog sitting on the floor that: On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

November 1993. I got my first Unix account in order to participate alt.arts.nomad, the USENET component of an exhibition by Ingrid Bachmann called Nomad Web: Sleeping Beauty awakes, which was the first networked-art project in Canada, as far as I know. On the internet, nobody knew I was a fiction writer. Not even me.

May 1995. I graduated from Concordia University, in Montreal, Quebec, with a BFA in Studio Art, with a concentration in Fibres and Sculpture, with distinction, approximately 1.1 months after Netscape Navigator 1.1 was released.

November 1995. I made my first web art writing project during a thematic residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts, as The Banff Centre was then known. The theme of the residency was Telling Stories: Telling Tales. I told them I was a writer, and they believed me. The web piece I made there was called Fishes and Flying Things. It remediated a paper zine printed from a QuarkExpress file stored on a 44 MB SyQuest cartridge which I still own but the contents of which I can no longer access. The images were digital scans of photocopies of borrowed books no longer in my possession. The text was based on the title of an installation art exhibition I had work included in Montreal at the time, of which, other than an event poster, no physical or documentary evidence remains. Upon my return from Banff to Montreal, my artist friends informed me that web-based work was elitist, because so few people could access it, and my writer friends assured me that the internet would never catch on. Fishes and Flying Things is still online and it still works.

November 1998. I gave an artist’s talk called A Little Talk About Reproduction at a web art exhibition called Maid in Cyberspace – Encore!, hosted by Studio XX, a feminist artist-run centre for technological exploration, creation and critique founded in Montreal in 1996. This talk reflected on the formal transition I’d made from zine to web, from the vast perspective offered by the passage of three whole years. On the internet, nobody knows how far we’ve come.

February 2010. I gave an artist’s talk called A Little Talk About Reproduction at In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge, a gathering held at The Banff Centre. The first talk had been prognostic, to use Walter Benjamin’s term. By the time of the second, we might say that everything expected of the future had long since transpired. Except, we had no idea what to expect. We might say that in the age of computational production longevity lends aura to a work. Except. On the internet, nobody knows how far we have left to go.

June 2008. I made a web-based work called in absentia with the support of Dare-Dare, an artist-run centre which, at that time, was operating out of a trailer in a vacant lot in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. The launch event was a six-hour outdoor neighbourhood block party attended by over a thousand people. The work was projected on the underside of a viaduct. There were DJ’s and bar-tenders and Port-o-Let portable toilets rented especially for the occasion. The police came six times. No arrests were made.

November 2012. Alexandra Saemmer suggested, in Evaluating digital literature: social networks, selection processes and criteria, a paper presented at Remediating the Social, Edinburgh, that in absentia“>in absentia can be considered part of the cannon because it is contained in certain academically-funded collections of digital literature. Which lends more aura to a digital work, a canonical status inferred from inclusion in collections, or hired Port-o-Lets and a police presence?

At 4:40PM on 1 April 2012. Andy Campbell tweeted a link to a blog post called The closed circles of elit in which he wrote: “I can’t see how electronic literature can really evolve though without being exposed to an audience outside of academia.”

At 4PM on 2 April 2012 I tweeted: “as an author of web-based #elit I’ve always assumed my audience to be people at work who are supposed to be doing other things“. William Gibson @GreatDismal re-tweeted this, to his 100,000 followers.

On the day I sat down to write this timeline, I Googled “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” On the internet, it says this is the most reproduced New Yorker cartoon of all time. Steiner has earned over $50,000 from its reprinting.

Endnote: The title “Aura in the Age of Computational Production” refers to Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935). As the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone of this timeline may suggest, I find the question of whether or not a work of digital literature can have “aura” to to be a non-nonsensical one. is computationally produced a new each and every time it is called upon for display on screen. The We can say a digital work may gain “aura” by virtue of its ‘spreadability,’ a concept put forth by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green in Spreadable Media, but we won’t mean what Benjamin meant.