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

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

Categories:  electronic literature, interview, performance writing
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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

A Non-Linear Timeline of Twenty Years Online

Categories:  conference, electronic literature
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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.

. . . and by islands I mean paragraphs.

Categories:  electronic literature, exhibition, launch, Writing Coastlines
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. . . and by islands I mean paragraphs casts a reader a drift in a sea of white space extending far beyond the horizon of the browser window, to the north, south, east and west. Navigating (with mouse, track pad, arrow keys, or touchscreen) reveals that this sea is dotted with islands… and by islands I mean paragraphs. These paragraphs are computer-generated. Their fluid compositions draw upon variable strings containing fragments of text harvested from a larger literary corpus – Deluze’s Desert Islands, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Bishop’s Crusoe in England, Coetzee’s Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule. Individually, each of these textual islands is a topic – from the Greek topos, meaning place. Collectively they constitute a topographical map of a sustained practice of reading and re-reading and writing and re-writing islands. In this constantly shifting sea of variable texts one never finds the same islands twice… and by islands, I do mean paragraphs.

...and by islands I mean paragraphs

…and by islands I mean paragraphs will launch at Les littératures numériques d’hier à demain, an exhibition of digital literature to take place at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in conjunction with Chercher le texte, Paris, France, 24 September – 1 December 2013.

Chercher le texte Virtual Gallery

View …and by islands I mean paragraphs

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing

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A print extract and brief description of my computer-generated narrative dialogue TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] has been published in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, a new anthology from &NOW Books.

&NOW AWARDS cover

The book has two front covers (though one looks more front-like than the other). It can be read from either direction. The introductions to both sides state: “There are two ‘sides’ to the book. These ‘sides’ mirror each other, except when they do not.”

The page numbers don’t quite bear this out, but somehow I suspect I have Nick Montfort to thank for my inclusion in this anthology. Roughly the other side of the book from TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is Nick’s contribution to the volume – a page each of output from the Latin and Cyrillic versions of “Letterformed Terrain,” from Concrete Perl, a set of four concrete poems realized as 32-character Perl programs. The source code of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is adapted from another of Nick’s pieces, The Two, so whether intentional on the part of the editors or not, these two pieces are engaged in a conversion of sorts.

In any case, I’m delighted to see print anthologies endeavoring to represent experimental digital literature, and I’m honoured to be included in this book, in such great company.

Here’s what the publishers have to say:

This second volume of The &Now Awards recognizes the most provocative, hardest-hitting, deadly serious, patently absurd, cutting-edge, avant-everything-and-nothing work from the years 2009–11. The &NOW Awards features writing as a contemporary art form: writing as it is practiced today by authors who consciously treat their work as an art, and as a practice explicitly aware of its own literary and extra-literary history— as much about its form and materials, language, as it about its subject matter. The &NOW conference, moving from the University of Notre Dame (2004), Lake Forest College (2006), Chapman University (2008), the University at Buffalo (2009), the University of California, San Diego (2011), and Paris (Sorbonne and Diderot, 2012)—sets the stage for this aesthetic, while The &Now Awards features work from the wider world of innovative publishing and serves as an ideal survey of the contemporary scene.

&NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing is edited by Davis Schneiderman. It will be available for purchase from Northwestern University Press and from Amazon as of 25 May 2013.

More information about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Notes on the Voyage: From Mainframe Experimentalism to Electronic Literature

Categories:  electronic literature, lecture
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I’m giving a talk at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) on Thursday, 7 February. The title on the poster is: Notes on the Voyage: From Mainframe Experimentalism to Electronic Literature. But somehow or other, my first slide is of the via Appia antica. Roman roads are among the best examples we have of classical networks, after all. Don’t worry. It only takes 14 slides to arrive at an image of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper working with the UNIVAC computer, which she helped develop. The first UNIVAC shipped on March 31, 1951. The first experiment with digital literature and digital art of any kind was carried out one year later by Christopher Strachey, working on the Manchester University Computer, for which, Alan Turing wrote the manual. And so on. Come by if you can.

Thursday February 7, 2013 | Room 595 | 12:30–1:30 PM

ALBERTA COLLEGE OF ART + DESIGN 1407 14TH AVENUE N.W. CALGARY WWW.ACAD.CA

J. R. Carpenter || Visiting Artists Talk || ACAD || February 2013

Here’s what it says in the text on the poster that is probably too small to read:

JR Carpenter has been using the internet as a medium for the creation and dissemination of experimental texts since 1993. In this lecture she will explore much earlier works of Electronic Literature dating back to the 1950s, setting a critical and historical context for the vibrant and experimental field that we find today. She skilfully excavates layers of computer/ communication/network history to oer insight into contemporary practices. Through commentary, analysis, historical images, and examples new and old of computer-generated texts and other non-traditional forms of writing, speaking, and interacting, this talk takes a practice-led approach to navigating the ever shifting creative, critical, and political terrain of this fast-growing form of digital-expression.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, exhibition, launch
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Announcing Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, a brand new work of web-based computer-generated digital literature created especially for “Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature,” curated by Dene Grigar & Kathi Inman Berens. The exhibition will be held in conjunction with the MLA 2013 Convention in Boston, 3-5 January 2013, but the website – containing links to 30 new born digital works and a plethora of resources pertaining to born digital literature – is online now: Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature

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

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, persons, places or texts is entirely intentional. Details from many a high sea story have been netted by this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of sea voyages into the unknown North undertaken over the past 2340 years. At the furthest edge of this assemblage floats the fantastical classical island of Ultima Thule and the strange phenomenon known to the Romans as sea lung. The main characters are sprung from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. A lazy and somewhat laconic owl and a girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined, have set sail toward this strange sea in a boat of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through collects the particularities of a number of fluid floating places – as described or imagined in sources as diverse as Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries and the children’s poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod – and reacontextualizes them in an obviously awkward assemblage of discontinuous surfaces pitted with points of departure, escape routes, lines of flight.

For more information on the source texts, maps, and codes pillaged for this work, please see Notes on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl.

Along the Briny Beach included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, launch, poetry, publication
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My web-based computer-generated narrative / poem / performance machine, Along the Briny Beach, is included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature, edited by Maria Engberg, Talan Memmott, and David Prater. The anthology officially launched with the distribution of USB drives at the ELMICP conference Remediating the Social, which took place in Edinburgh, 1-3 November 2012, and is now available online: http://anthology.elmcip.net

ELMCIP Anthology USB

Of Along the Briny Beach, the ELMCIP Anthology editors have this to say:

Using scripts both generative and performative, the work is a continuous rewriting of itself. Though much of the text is appropriated from other sources –Conrad, Carroll, and Charles Darwin – we can still call Carpenter the author of the work due to the intentional selection of appropriated texts and their rearrangement, or reconfiguration as Along the Briny Beach. From the consistency in selected works – all have to do with the sea – to the sea foam green color palette; Carpenter presents text as integration between writing, function, and design.

The ELMCIP Anthology contains works by 18 authors, as well as a selection of videos, essays, syllabi, and other teaching materials pertaining to Electronic Literature. For more information about ELMCIP, visit: http://elmcip.net/

CityFish – A Coney Island of the Google Maps

Categories:  CityFish, electronic literature
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I have recently (and admittedly repeatedly) posted about my web-based story CityFish being shortlisted for The New Media Writing Prize 2012. Prior to the shortlist announcement, CityFish had been on my mind for other reasons. CityFish is set in New York City. As the below image indicates, there is a Google Map satellite view of Coney Island embed in CityFish which – for now – shows the beach, boardwalk, amusement park, and bordering residential neighbourhoods in pristine condition. As I hope most people are by now aware, the Coney Island neighbourhood was among those heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy at the end of October 2012. It will take months if not years for these communities to recover, and just as long if not longer for Google’s satellite images to be updated to reflect the effect of climate change on the eastern seaboard.

CityFish || J. R. Carpenter
CityFish || J. R. Carpenter

Although CityFish is intrinsically about dissonance – between past and present, fact and fiction, home and away – I am not sure yet how to reconcile this new dissonance – between the lines of the story I wrote and the new lines of this coast. In particular, I am concerned with the harsh economic dissonance underlined by the response (or lack there of) by FEMA, the Red Cross, the New York City Housing Authority, the mainstream press, and the general public to those hardest hit by Sandy. According to this article by Daniel Marans posted to the Huffington Post yesterday, 12 November 2012 – Occupy Sandy Volunteer Sounds Alarm on ‘Humanitarian Crisis,’ Near-Complete Absence of Government Aid in Coney Island Projects – 30-40 public housing buildings in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn remain without power, and often without water and necessities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Accounts of these conditions have been corroborated in the New York Daily News (5 November 2012).

CityFish || J. R. Carpenter
CityFish || J. R. Carpenter

I relate these concerns out of love for and frustration with the city that half raised me, and half made me crazy, a city that – for as long as I’ve known it – has been sharply divided between have and not. It is my understanding, on the basis of the 21 hours or so a day I spend on Twitter, that the #ocupysandy movement is doing great things on the ground in Coney Island, Red Hook, the Rockaways, and other hard-hit coastal neighbourhoods of New York City. To donate to the Occupy Sandy relief effort, visit OccupySandy.org

CityFish short-listed for The New Media Writing Prize 2012

Categories:  CityFish, electronic literature
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My web-based story CityFish has been short-listed for The New Media Writing Prize 2012. This international prize, now in its 3rd year, aims to raise awareness and provoke discussion about new forms of writing integrating a variety of digital media.

CityFish || J. R. Carpenter

CityFish is a hybrid word, title of a hybrid work, tale of a hybrid creature. Part classical parable, part children’s picture book, CityFish is a web-based intertextual hypermedia transmutation of Aesop’s Town Mouse Country Mouse fable. Winters, a Canadian girl named Lynne freezes in Celsius in the fishing village of Brooklyn, Nova Scotia (Canada), a few minutes walk from a white sandy beach. Summers, she suffers her city cousins sweltering in Fahrenheit in Queens, New York (USA). By now Lynne knows everyone knows it’s supposed to be the other way around. Lynne is a fish out of water. In the country, her knowledge of the city separates her from her school of friends. In the city, her foreignness marks her as exotic. Meanwhile, the real city fish lie in scaly heaps on long ice-packed tables in hot and narrow Chinatown streets. CityFish represents asynchronous relationships between people, places, perspectives and times through a horizontally scrolling browser window, suggestive of a panorama, a diorama, a horizon line, a skyline, a timeline, a Torah scroll. The panorama and the diorama have traditionally been used in museums and landscape photography to establish hierarchies of value and meaning. CityFish interrupts a seemingly linear narrative with poetic texts, quotations, Quicktime videos, DHTML animations, Google Maps and a myriad of visual images. Combining contemporary short fiction and hypermedia storytelling forms creates a new hybrid, a lo-fi web collage cabinet of curiosities. The story of Lynne and the city fish unfolds in this strange horizontally scrolling world of absences and empty spaces – furious, intimate, and surreal.

Based at Bournemouth University in South Eastern England, The New Media Writing Prize offers a Student Prize, a main Jury Prize and a People’s Choice Prize. The short-listed works this year are:

Window by Katharine Norman
CityFish by JR Carpenter
A Duck Has an Adventure by Daniel M Goodbrey
Hobo Lobo of Hamelin by Stevan Zivadinovic
Living Will by Mark Marino
Pentimento by Jerome Fletcher
Hurst (aka @Karen Barley) by Kristi Barnet

To vote for CityFish in the People’s Choice category, click here. Votes, likes, shares, and tweets are much appreciated, and also… it would be great if you could spend some time with this work. CityFish