CityFish is a hybrid word, title of a hybrid work, tale of a hybrid creature. A big fish story swallowing a small tale’s tail. A rhizome, a fable, an urban legend. Like an old wives’ tale, it’s long been told and never quite finished. Part classical parable, part children’s picture book, part literary fiction, part collage, part web art, a brand new hypermedia incarnation of CityFish can now be found online at:
CityFish || J. R. Carpenter
CityFish is very loosely based Aesop’s Town Mouse Country Mouse fable. Winters, 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). 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.

CityFish was presented in Beta at Archive & Innovate, The 4th International Conference & Festival of the Electronic Literature Organization, at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, June 3-6, 2010, and was presented as a work-in-progress at Interventions: Literary Practice at the Edge: A Gathering at The Banff Centre, in Banff, Alberta, Canada, February 18, 2010. The Coney Island videos were shot on location in 2005 and edited during the “Babel Babble Rabble: On Language and Art” thematic residency at The Banff Centre in 2006. A very, very, very early web-based version of CityFish was presented in an exhibition called IßWAS, at the Bavarian American Hotel in Nuremberg, Germany, July 1998. That version incorporated photographs shot on 35mm film in Chinatown, Toronto, circa 1996, a line drawing made around the same time, and a very short story of the same name written in 1995 from the first-person point of view of a fish.

CityFish is a work of fiction, the fish and I swear. Any resemblance to any mothers, uncles, aunts or cousins anywhere may be attributed to the common craziness of all families everywhere.

In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge: a residency program specializing in new writing practices at The Banff Centre

I am thrilled to announce, support, facilitate, encourage applications to and endorse in every way this ground-breaking new residency program offered by The Banff Centre. In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge offers a rare opportunity to writers specializing in new writing practices, including digital literature, collaboration, hybridity and new narrative to meet each other, to exchange ideas and influences across genre boundaries and to research and develop new and ongoing work.

In(ter)ventions Residency

This residency emerges from and aims to build upon the many conversations, connections, debates, exchanges, challenges and questions raised at In(ter)ventions — Literary Practice At The Edge: A Gathering held at The Banff Centre in February 2010. I had the great good fortune to be involved in the planning of that event. In December 2008, Steven Ross Smith – Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre – invited Marjorie Perloff, Lance Olsen, Fred Wah and me to Banff for a three-day think tank on bringing new practices to the the Literary Arts program. The incredible diversity of practice, knowledge and experience at that table was both humbling and exhilarating. It has been wonderful watching the many names, works, issues and ideas from a vast array of literary practices we discussed coalesce into, first, a dreamboat conference agenda and now, this new residency.

In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge is accepting applications until November 15, 2010. The program will run from February 14, 2011 – February 26, 2011. Successful applicants will receive up to %60 funding. Technological, reflective, and collective resources will be available as needed. Guest speakers will be presented. Resident writers will work with faculty to develop new or current work.

Faculty: Fred Wah – collaboration and hybridity, J. R. Carpenter – digital literature, Lance Olsen – new narrative

Guest speakers: Debra Di Blasi, Darren Wershler, Erin Moure and Oana Avasilichioae

Application deadline: November 15, 2010
Program dates: February 14, 2011 – February 26, 2011
Participants should plan to arrive in Banff on Sunday, February 13, 2011, and depart on Sunday, February 27, 2011.
For more information and to apply: In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge


Computer systems produce an unprecedented wealth of text, only the smallest part of which is contributed by users. Protocols, listings, algorithms, programmes, source codes, universal binary codes – the background operations of the systems themselves write a massively larger share. These text units – produced, read and transmitted by computers – internalize transcodability and transliterality as the computer system’s basic underlying operating principle. The emerging forms of text take place between writing systems and text generators. They produce a new kind of analphabetism, as most of their consumers cannot read nor write them, yet they are involved in our thoughts and actions.

Vienna-based publishers TRAUMAWIEN perceives these new structures of text as literature — a system of virtualization in imagination, always describing breaking points in our perception of world.

TRAUMAWIEN considers the paradox of transferring late-breaking digital aesthetics into book form, as new media narrative snapshots of literary genres otherwise quickly lost in the immense output produced by web every second.

TRAUMAWIEN book publications help to highlight technological innovations while at the same time questioning imminent issues of text production in virtual space.

THRAUMAWIEN’s range includes networked texts, algorithmic texts, interfictions, chatlogs, codeworks, software art and visual mashup prose. They also research possible touch points between the book as an object and virtual space in the form of, for example, hybrid books (augmented reality) the first of which will be published in July 2010.

TRAUMAWIEN publications are understood as schemes in which the author remains, but already is marginalized as a producer. The author – in a prototypical trauma book – remains exchangeable by the form of possible writing, writing systems, generating genre.

J. R. Carpenter GENERATION[S]

Schema 2.1 J.R. Carpenter, Montreal / Generation[s]. Code Narrative

Schema 2.2 Ivan Monroy Lopez, Mexiko / Git2Pod. Poetry

Schema 2.3 Audun Mortensen, Norway / Surf’s up (2010). Poetry

VIP schema2 / Barbara Anna Husar. Corpus Sublingual. Raw nd unplugged

Hybrid 1 Philip Hautmann / Yorick. Hybridbuch

Story Generation(s) Launching at PW10, Arnolfini, Bristol

Sotry Generation(s) - J. R. CarpenterI am pleased to announce the launch of Story Generation(s) at PW10 Performance Writing Weekend at Arnolfini, Bristol, May 8-9, 2010. Story Generation(s) are a series of short fictions generated by Python scripts adapted (with permission) from two 1k story generators written by Nick Montfort: .

I began tinkering with these story generators in June 2009. There are currently three stories in the series: Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, I’ve Died and Gone to Devon and Auto-Autobiography. This will be their first public exhibition.

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR documents my adventures with Ingrid Bachmann’s hermit crab Pookie, also known as Pookie 14, during June of 2009. Of Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, Nick Montfort writes:

“J. R. Carpenter, author of Words the Dog Knows, Entre Ville, The Cape, and other fine works of e-lit, print, and xerography, has delightfully re-purposed one of my 1k story generators to have it tell stories involving her and a hermit crab named Pookie. The program has grown to about 2k, but it uses the same simple (and surprisingly effective) method as my first generator does: It simply removes all but 5-9 sentences from a sequence, eliding some of what’s been written. Sometimes the reader is left to wonder who the hermit is.” Nick Montfort,

In July 2009, NYC-based artist/programmer Ravi Rajakumar ported the Python script into Javascript to create this web browser friendly version of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Here’s a screenshot from the Rajakumar iteration:

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR


I’ve Died and Gone to Devon re-purposes the same Python script as Excerpts from theChronicles of Pookie & JR to tell (and retell) the story of an arrival and first impression of Devon. Most of the sentences in this story were adapted from Twitter posts written during a five-week visit to Devon, August – September, 2009.
Here is one example of a story generated byI’ve Died and Gone to Devon:

I’ve died and gone to Devon.

In North America, roads this narrow wouldn’t even count as driveways.

If this is the wrong side of the road, I don’t care what’s right.

If this is the driveway, then I can’t wait to see the house.

We can’t hear the river from the house, but we can see it.

Everybody insists we’re by the seaside. I can smell but not see the sea.

Flotsam on a tidal river is a strange mixture of oak leaves and seaweed.

This is an achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.


Auto-Autobiography adapts a different Python story generator script by Montfort to generate a quasi-autobiographical story by segments. This script chooses sentences from pools of stock autobiographical statements: “I was born…” I come from…” “In retrospect…” This format was suggested to me by a passage from Anne-Marie MacDonald’s novel, As The Crow Flies:

“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.”
Anne-Marie MacDonald, As The Crow Flies, Toronto: Knopf, 2003, page 36.

The notion of autobiographical veracity is undermined in Auto-Autobiography, by leaving key gender signifiers such as Mother/Father to computational chance.
Here is one example of a story generated by Auto-Autobiography:

Here is my story:

I was born in wedlock – for some reason, this surprises me.

I come from a war that brought my parents together.

My mother had a long memory and a short fuse.

I live in a wonderful house.

I work hard at not having to work too hard.

I wish I’d said that differently.

My best friend kept insisting I learn to play guitar.

In retrospect, she read way too many Russian novels.

I love it when we lie in bed plotting the downfall of our enemies.

Next year, let’s forget every single thing we learned this year.

In future, we will know many beginnings and no ends.


Viewing Instructions:

Download the python file to your desktop and unzip. On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a Terminal Window, typing “cd Desktop”, and typing “python”. Hint: look for Terminal in your Utilities folder. These Python story generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: version 2.6.5. Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press ENTER a new version of the story will appear.

Darting Stories Remix

As E-Writer-in-Residence at Dartington College, in Devon, England, this fall, I led a workshop on electronic literature with a concentration on literary mapping with first year Performance Writing Students. Over the course of the workshop students generated short texts for zines, postcards, epitaphs, blog posts and web maps. Though written separately, these texts explored common themes of place, mapping, the River Dart, Dartington and the past occupants (fictional or otherwise) of Dartington Hall. The workshop exercises and the texts they produced are archived on a group blog: Darting Blog. These texts are presented collectively as a final project on a Google Map: DARTING: A Collective Story Map

The last session of the workshop focused on remixing. I created a Darting Stories Remix by taking sentences from the various (and varied) texts archived on the Darting Blog and fed them into one of Nick Montfort’s Python story generators. I had used this same method earlier in the year to create Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR.

For the purposes of this Darting Stories Remix, I shortened some of the sentences or selected excerpts from longer sentences to fit into the Python story generator format, and changed them all into the present tense and first person. Otherwise, these remain sentences written separately by separate authors remixed by a Python script to make collectively authored stories.

To read the Darting Stories Remix, download this file to your desktop and unzip: On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a Terminal Window, typing “cd Desktop”, and typing “python”. Hint: look for Terminal in your Utilities folder. This Python story generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: version 2.6. Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press Return a new version of the story will appear. For example:

Here are a few more examples of stories generated by this script:

Darting Stories:
How do I write an epitaph about myself in the first person?.
Through the depths of the water I reflect far and wide.
Hadrian’s Wall might have mostly come down, but it’s there in spirit.
Mad, that’s what they call me.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Striving to connect with something natural.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
At the start, I look for the lights.
What do names matter when worlds whirl together?.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I pass out in the dirt-floored cellar most nights.
Sunlight barely reaches the stone floor.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
The sea is a place I understand is rather nice.
Introvert, extravert, ingreen.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I stride up hill holding hands with a friend named for the greatest flower.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I scare their dogs by trying to speak with them in their own language.
Graceless truths of tears clutch at the mirage in my room.
The ponies look more listless and less majestic.
It gets so muddy here; no wonder all the cows around here are brown.
The wind gives the landscape something of a facial peel.
Splash water into mud, trip me.
Smouldering timber and melancholy permeate my lungs. I stick to the path.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
On this hill the world as we know it collided.
Intoxicating tongues speak of Giants, Merlins, Padfoots and Beasts.
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s accounts are unfounded, possibly fabricated.
The clay on the wheel beneath my fingers, whirling a world on its axis.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Fear and bliss live with me and the room contains me.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
Black looms in the distance, the air thick with distaste.
The Waters of the Dart run across stones fallen from foreign clouds.
Map the most important places around the River Dart.
Exmoor, outmore, out the door, more doors.
More floor, less flaws, less cause, pour, pore, sweat, regret.
Skip over Kandinsky pavement, follow the water.
Flotsam on a tidal river is a strange mixture of oak leaves and seaweed.
To be continued…
. . . . .

To See The Sea

On a clear day, and there aren’t very many of those, from a spot at the top of the drive you can see south to the sea. This is confusing, because the sea appears to float above a wave of hills. A thin strip bluer than the sky.

Lower down the drive, a view of the River Dart opens north to Totnes. I would say this driveway boasts the best views in England, but so far it’s the only driveway in England I’m familiar with.

[The Dart from the Sharpham Drive, North to Totnes]

Sometimes I lie awake and think about the river carving its path through the night, north to Totnes, south to Dartmouth. North to the Dartmoor, south to the sea.

Amanda said, For some reason I imagine if you’re thinking about it you can hear it and the thought of the sound of a river makes me happy today.

Linda said, I went for a walk by the ocean yesterday, the sound and smell makes me happy, too.

I can’t hear the river from the house, but I can see it from the bedroom. Last week there were gale force winds and rain for two days. When the storm stopped in the night the silence was so sudden it woke me. I lay awake and thought about the rain-swollen river opening its muddy mouth to the sea.

On Sunday I said, I’m going to the seaside to see the sea.

Sonia said, Please do sell some sea shells.

I confessed to Sonia that I was sorely tempted to wheel a wheelbarrow through streets wide and narrow singing cockles and mussels alive alive oh. But, this being Devon, there were no streets wide, only narrow.

Nora said, How bout a beautiful pea-green boat?

There are Owls roosting all up and down the River Dart. But no Pussycats.

And I am a Carpenter, after all. As such, I assured Nora, when the Walrus said, “The time has come to talk of many things,” I immediately brought up the subject of the beautiful pea-green boat, but he kept going on about shoes and ships and sealing-wax, cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

[The sea at Blackpool Sands, South to Slapton Ley]

This photo of Blackpool Sands came out kind of dark. Possibly because the beach has black in its name. And, although the sun was shining on the sea, shining with all his might, this was odd, because it was the middle of the night.

The Walrus and I were wearing wellingtons and walking close at hand; we wept like anything to see such quantities of sand.

Nora wondered, as did the Walrus, ..if seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year, do you suppose that they could get it clear?

Wait, I said to Nora. Is one of those maids my Bonnie? My Bonnie lies over the ocean, and, if you’ve seen her, could you please bring back, bring back, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me?

The Bonnie bit may seem a bit tacked on after that Walrus and Carpenter bit, but Amanda, Linda, Sonia and Nora all lie over the ocean, and that’s what made me think of it.
. . . . .

The Saga of Pookie & JR Continues

Back in June I adapted Nick Montfort’s 1k Python story generator to document my adventures with Ingrid Bachmann’s hermit crab Pookie in The Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Nick went on to post about it on his blog, Post Position: As Nick astutely notes,

Sometimes the reader is left to wonder who the hermit is.

Now NYC-based artist/programmer Ravi Rajakumar has ported the Python script into Javascript to create this web browser friendly version of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Here’s a screenshot from the Rajakumar iteration:

Every time you click “To be continued…” a new version of the story is generated.
. . . . .

A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows at MiT6, April 24, 2009

I will be presenting a paper called “A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows” at MiT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, an international conference taking place at MIT April 23-27, 2009. In this paper I will trace the paths that select portions of my first novel, Words the Dog Knows, have traveled: from ear to eye to pen to paper to computer to printer to publisher to video to audio to web to eye to ear and back to pen again, with the novel’s precursive zines and web-based iterations as visual aides.

J. R. Carpenter, A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows
Friday, April 24, 2009, 2:30-4 room 66-168 (campus map).

MiT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, MIT April 23-27, 2009.

In his seminal essay “The Bias of Communication” Harold Innis distinguishes between time-based and space-based media. Time-based media such as stone or clay, Innis agues, can be seen as durable, while space-based media such as paper or papyrus can be understood as portable, more fragile than stone but more powerful because capable of transmission, diffusion, connections across space.

Speculating on this distinction, Innis develops an account of civilization grounded in the ways in which media forms shape trade, religion, government, economic and social structures, and the arts. Our current era of prolonged and profound transition is surely as media-driven as the historical cultures Innis describes.

His division between the durable and the portable is perhaps problematic in the age of the computer, but similar tensions define our contemporary situation. Digital communications have increased exponentially the speed with which information circulates. Moore’s Law continues to hold, and with it a doubling of memory capacity every two years; we are poised to reach transmission speeds of 100 terabits per second, or something akin to transmitting the entire printed contents of the Library of Congress in under five seconds.

Such developments are simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. They profoundly challenge efforts to maintain access to the vast printed and audio-visual inheritance of analog culture as well as efforts to understand and preserve the immense, enlarging universe of text, image and sound available in cyberspace. What are the implications of these trends for historians who seek to understand the place of media in our own culture?

What challenges confront librarians and archivists who must supervise the migration of print culture to digital formats and who must also find ways to preserve and catalogue the vast and increasing range of words and images generated by new technologies? How are shifts in distribution and circulation affecting the stories we tell, the art we produce, the social structures and policies we construct?

What are the implications of this tension between storage and transmission for education, for individual and national identities, for notions of what is public and what is private?

The first Media in Transition conference was held in 1999 and marked the launch of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies. Since then, four bi-annual conferences have been held, co-sponsored by CMS and the MIT Communications Forum, with each new conference generating a more internationally diverse audience than its predecessor.

I have presented at two previous Media in Transition conferences:

MiT4: the work of stories (2005)

MiT5: creativity, ownership and collaboration in the digital age (2007)
. . . . .

in absentia launch party under the Van Horne Viaduct

When Dare-Dare first accepted in absentia for their 2008 season, I was hoping it would launch sometime very late in the season. I had already committed to launching Tributaries & Text-Fed Streams in the spring and Words the Dog Knows in the fall so already 2008 was looking like a crazy year. But, as fate would have it, just as Dare-Dare was sending out notification that they’d accepted my project on gentrification in the Mile End, they received notification of their own eviction from the parc sans nom that has been their home in Mile End for the past few years. They had to be out by July 1st so it made sense to launch my project at the end of June as a farewell to the neighbourhood. When Dare-Dare proposed launching “in absentia” on June 24th, Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, I thought: What the hell – the national holiday thing will distract everyone if the work isn’t quite done.

Stéphane came home from work on Saturday and said: Hey, there are posters with your name on them all over the neighbourhood. Posters, I said. What a good idea. I had proofed a draft of a poster, but it hadn’t quite occurred to me that someone would then post the posters and that people would see them. Dare-Dare has been great to work with. By tacit mutual agreement, we don’t pester each other with details. They do their part and I do my part and somehow it all gets done. Stéphane said: Your event is being billed as the neighbourhood Saint-Jean Baptiste Day party. That’s a big deal, he assured me. One poster was in the exact location of one of the stories in absentia. Many dear friends of mine have lived in the building directly across the street over the years, and all have been evicted now.

Monday afternoon I took the long metro ride east to Pix IV for an interview on CIBL’s 4á6 show. CIBL is also a big deal, according to Stéphane – the last word in community radio in this town. Not only had I never heard of it, somehow I’d managed to live in Montréal for nearly 18 years without ever doing a live radio interview in French. How embarrassing. How terrifying. How did it go? Well, fine I think… but then how would I know? It was fun, at least. And there was a Village des Valeurs next door. After the interview went shopping for an outfit to wear to the launch party and with thrilled to find this four-dollar skirt.

Tuesday’s forecast called for 40% chance of showers. There were showers for 40% of the day. As I was leaving the apartment for tech set up at 2PM I said: It had better rain now and get it over with. It started to rain within seconds. After about twenty minutes it was over with and we had clear skies for the rest of the night.

Arriving at the sans nom the first thing I noticed was that a porto-pottie had been set up next to the Dare-Dare trailer. I was glad that they’d thought of it, I certainly hadn’t. I’ve never had a launch event large enough to require the procurement of a porto-pottie before. This career high was mediated somewhat by the realization that in absentia would be displayed throughout the launch event on two antique iMac computers. “They’re are already in the museum of 20th century design,” Dare-Dare director Jean-Pierre assured me as we set them up on a picnic table outside the Dare-Dare trailer. We had to run network cables out to them, because they were built before wireless networks existed. But the piece ran amazingly well on them, and really, what better computers to withstand nearly 12 hours outdoors in sun, wind, blowing grit and hundreds of beery users?

Hundreds did indeed show up. They came in waves, so at first I didn’t notice how the scale of the thing kept changing. I just drifted from one conversation to the next. The NT2 polka dot crew represented and team OBORO came out in force. “in absentia” guest authors Daniel Canty and Alexis O’Hara were present as were many other dear friends. Over all I only knew a fraction of the people there. The crowd was mixed: kids, dogs, punks, artists, friends, locals and a few friendly local mentally insane folks. I took their presence as a huge complement. If the local mentally insane know that your party is THE Saint-Jean Baptiste Day party to be at you have really made it in this town. Many people were unaware of what the party was for or about other than that it was about having a party, which was certainly one of the things this party was about. Other people were acutely aware of what the work that prompted the party was all about. Stories of evictions from Mile End abounded. Someone on the Dare-Dare selection committee told me that Dare-Dare hadn’t yet been evicted from the parc sans nom when they accepted “in absentia” but he and a number of the other Dare-Dare members had already been forced to move. One guy came up and told me he’d been at home packing when he’d heard about the project and the party on the radio and decided to come check it out. Wow.

The police came three times on account of noise complaints, which totally eclipsed the on-site porto-potties as my new career high. The bicycle cops have the shapeliest legs. The programming director of Dare-Dare gave “in absentia” postcards and I merrily introduced myself to each and every officer as “the artist” which confused the heck out of them. It’s pretty hard to argue with a Saint-Jean block party, especially considering it would be Dare-Dare’s last party every in the parc sans nom. I mean, what were the police going to do, evict us? Everybody remained peaceful, the police left us in peace and people went on dancing until 2AM.

The official cocktail of the evening was the mojito, which was also the official cocktail of my wedding. This was pure coincidence as I had so little to do with the party planning I didn’t even know there would be an official cocktail. All the bartenders were volunteers, as were all the dj’s: Julie d, Tommy T, Rustic, Backdoor, Dirty Boots, papa dans maman, catherine lovecity, alakranx, cristal 45 et FSK1138 & jason j gillingham. FSK1138 & jason j gillingham did some kind of crazy live set using sounds extracted from the blue and red values of photo data taken from images of in absentia. The sound data was extracted using ‘BeepMap‘ a flstudio image synth. A few days later FSK1138 dropped off a CD of these sounds in my mailbox. A few days later FSK1138 popped a CD of these sounds in my mailbox. Thank you guys, so much.

I’m blown away by the generosity of all these volunteers and mightily impressed by the hard work and dedication of the Dare-Dare community. All night the programming director of Dare-Dare worked crowd control with a super grounded zen like calm, negotiating with the police and the locals and the drunks and the crazies and me the artist and picking up empties and taking photos and restocking the bar with beer. At some point I said to someone, “Man, can you imagine being the guy in charge of all this?”

At some other point in the evening I was sitting with a group of friends watching the masses dancing, casting wild elongated shadows on the underside of the Van Horne Viaduct when it hit me that there were more people at this party than there had been in my entire elementary school. I tried to explain how overwhelming this was. Someone said: “What did you go to a Montessori school or something?” No, I just grew up in a place where there were that few people! When I was a kind in rural Nova Scotia most folks scoffed when I said I was going off the big city to study fine arts in university. When I started making art on the Internet most folks scoffed and said: “The Internet’s just a fad, it will never catch on.” So I found it beautiful that a web-based fiction project could bring so many real people together in a physical space.

At some very late point in the evening I was standing on the steps of the Dare-Dare trailer taking night photos each on more surreal than then next yet not quite able to capture the scene when artistic director Jean-Pierre passed by and asked me if I was enjoying my party. My party? “It’s bigger than all of us,” I said. One of the stated aims of in absentia is so “haunt” the neighbourhood with the stories of its former tenants (fictional or otherwise) who have been forced out by gentrification. If my night photos are any indication than yes, I think my plan is working.

in absentia is now online: I will continue to add new stories over the course of the summer until November 2008. It will take at least that long for all of the ramifications of this project to sink in. If you have stories of gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End feel free to add them as comments to this post or summit them via the comment box within the piece.
. . . . .

in absentia – a new web project by J. R. Carpenter

in absentia is a new web-based writing project by J. R. Carpenter that addresses gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. In this work J. R. Carpenter uses HTML, javascript and the Google Maps API to create an interactive non-linear narrative of interconnected “postcard” stories written from the point of view of former tenants of Mile End forced out by gentrification. This project features new fiction by J. R. Carpenter with guest authors: Lance Blomgren, Andy Brown, Daniel Canty and Colette Tougas. New stories will continue to be be added throughout the summer and into the all of 2008.

in absentia is a Latin phrase meaning “in absence.” I’m drawn to the contradiction inherent in being in absence. In recent years many long-time low-income neighbours being forced out of Mile End by economically motivated decisions made their absence. So far fiction is the best way I’ve found to give voice these disappeared neighbours, and the web is the best place I’ve found to situate their stories. Our stories. My building is for sale; my family may be next. Faced with imminent eviction I’ve begun to write about the Mile End as if I’m no longer here, and to write about a Mile End that is no longer here. By manipulating the Google Maps API, I am able to populate “real” satellite images of my neighbourhood with “fictional” characters and events. I aim to both literally and figuratively map the sudden disappearances of characters, fictional or otherwise, from the places, real or imagined, where they once lived; to document traces people leave behind when they leave a place, and the stories that spring from their absence. in absentia is a web “site” haunted by the stories of former residents of Mile End, a slightly fantastical world that is already lost but at the same time is still fully known by its inhabitants: a shared memory of the neighbourhood as it never really was but could have been.

Themes of place and displacement pervade my fiction and electronic literature, yet place long remained an abstract, elusive notion for me. Perhaps because for many years I wrote about long ago places attempting to inhabit pasts that could never be mine. Mapping the minutia of my most immediate surroundings has made my notion of place less abstract and more socially engaged. Writing about my neighbours has made me aware that I write from amongst them, thus engendering a “we” point of view. Increasingly, my work is collaborative. In in absentia (June 2008) I join a cast of writers from my neighbourhood to pen “postcards” to and from former tenants, fictional or otherwise, displaced by gentrification and it’s erasures.

in absentia also marks the end of DARE-DARE’s Dis/location: projet d’articulation urbaine in the Mile End’s parc sans nom. The mobile office will leave the vacant lot that was its home for two years and move towards Montréal’s dowtown, in Cabot Square, corner Sainte-Catherine and Atwater.

J. R. Carpenter is a two-time winner of the CBC Quebec Short Story Competition and a Web Art Finalist in the Drunken Boat PanLiterary Awards 2006. Her novel Words the Dog Knows is forthcoming from Conundrum in the fall of 2008. Her short fiction and electronic literature have been published and exhibited internationally and can be found on

in absentia projet web de J.R. Carpenter inauguré le 24 juin au parc sans nom
DARE-DARE avec nouvelles oeuvres de fiction signées J. R. Carpenter, avec auteurs invités: Lance Blomgren, Andy Brown, Daniel Canty, Alexis O’Hara et Colette Tougas La réalisation du projet se poursuivra jusqu’au 30 novembre 2008.

in absentia est un projet d’écriture sur le Web qui traite de la gentrification dans le quartier Mile-End de Montréal et des disparitions qu’elle entraîne. J.R. Carpenter utilise le HTML, le JavaScript et les cartes API-Google pour créer une narration interactive non linéaire constituée d’histoires « cartes postales » écrites selon le point de vue d’anciens locataires du Mile-End forcés de quitter leur logement à cause de la gentrification. Le projet débutera le 24 juin et se poursuivra au cours de l’été et de l’automne 2008.

« L’expression latine in absentia signifie “en l’absence de”. Au cours des dernières années, plusieurs de mes voisins à faible revenu qui habitaient le Mile-End depuis longtemps ont été forcés de quitter le quartier en raison de décisions d’ordre économique prises en leur absence. À ce jour, la fiction s’avère le meilleur moyen pour raconter l’histoire de mes voisins disparus et le Web, le meilleur endroit où afficher leur histoire. Notre histoire. L’immeuble que j’habite est à vendre; ma famille et moi subirons peut-être le même sort prochainement. Menacée d’expulsion, j’ai commencé à écrire sur le Mile-End comme si je n’y étais plus et à écrire sur le Mile-End qui n’est plus. En manipulant les cartes API-Google, il m’est possible de peupler de personnages fictifs les “vraies” images satellites de mon quartier et d’inventer des situations. Je cartographie – au sens propre et figuré – la disparition soudaine de personnages fictifs ou non, des endroits où ils ont habité véritablement ou dans l’imaginaire. Je documente les traces que les gens laissent derrière eux lorsqu’ils quittent un endroit ainsi que l’histoire qui émerge de leur absence. in abstentia est un “site” Web hanté par les histoires d’anciens résidants du Mile- End, un univers quasi-fantastique déjà disparu, mais pourtant bien connu de ses habitants: la mémoire commune d’un quartier tel qu’il n’a jamais vraiment été, mais qui aurait pu être. »

« Mes oeuvres de fiction et de littérature électronique baignent dans les thèmes du lieu et du déplacement et pourtant, le lieu est longtemps demeuré un concept abstrait et imprécis à mes yeux. Peut-être parce que j’ai longtemps écrit au sujet de lieux qui n’existaient plus, tentant de m’inscrire dans des passés qui ne pouvaient pas être les miens. »

« Cartographier les menus détails de mon univers immédiat a fait en sorte que je conçois la notion de lieu de façon moins abstraite et avec un plus grand engagement social. En écrivant sur mes voisins, je me suis rendu compte que je me situais parmi eux pour écrire et que, par conséquent, j’adoptais une écriture au “nous”. Je travaille de plus en plus en collaboration. Pour in absentia, je me joins à une équipe d’auteurs de mon quartier pour écrire des “cartes postales” destinées à ou provenant d’anciens locataires, qu’ils soient fictifs ou non, déplacés par la gentrification et les disparitions qu’elle entraîne. »

in absentia marque également la fin du présent volet de Dis/location: projet d’articulation urbaine – ainsi que de la présence de DARE-DARE dans le parc sans nom du Mile-End. La roulotte quittera le site inoccupé où elle était établie depuis deux ans, en route pour le square Cabot au centre-ville de Montréal, à l’angle de Ste-Catherine et Atwater.

J. R. Carpenter est deux fois lauréate du Concours de nouvelles de CBC Quebec et finaliste au volet Web Art pour le prix Drunken Boat PanLiterary 2006. Son roman Words the Dog Knows paraîtra à l’automne 2008 aux éditions Conundrum. Ses oeuvres de fiction et de littérature électronique ont été publiées et présentées ici et à l’étranger et sont disponibles en ligne au
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