Judy Malloy:
Informal Notes for
the coda
and the new Prologue to
From Ireland with Letters

A writer's notebook is not a final paper but rather reflects the development of a work, in this case a work of electronic literature. In the informal yet productive practice of creating notebooks online, ideas and sources are developed and slowly emerge.

December 31, 2015 - January 1, 2016

On New Year's Eve, waiting for the arrival of 2016, this 2015 notebook closes with notes that look to the future of public electronic literature. The December 18 notes for the paper I'm writing on "Issues in Public Electronic Literature: From Ireland with Letters" have expanded to about 8,000 words, with each section being greatly enriched and with the addition of new sections, as well as details about From Ireland with Letters itself. In the process, issues of contemporary electronic literature publication models have emerged. Closing the year, I am hacking out a conclusion to this paper.

1. publishing models for electronic literature...

In the golden age of Eastgate titles, works of electronic literature were published packaged with CDs. There were liner notes, such as one would find in a recording. There were back cover blurbs. In response to this literary approach, there were reviews in places like the Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Modern Fiction Studies, and American Book Review. Importantly, readers were likely to boot up these works and spend the time to thoroughly explore them.

Today, there are signs -- Visual Editions/Google Creative Labs' forthcoming "Books at Play" series, for instance -- that publishers are beginning to devise publishing models for electronic literature. But although Eastgate has released a new version of Storyspace, and is working on releasing their titles in versions that work on contemporary operating systems, the legacy of Eastgate has yet to be replicated in the contemporary publishing industry.

2. the audience of serious readers on the Web...

Contingently, in the electronic literature community, we have not paid enough attention to the audience of serious readers on the Web. Recently I took a look at the Web stats for From Ireland Letters for November 2015. (the last full month recorded) and noted 8999 individual visitor sessions with From Ireland in the course of this one month. It is not a huge audience for a Web work. Many of my longstanding works continue to attract larger numbers of readers, but because From Ireland Letters is a work of experimental literature in progress and is currently in the editing stage, it does mean that this work is already reaching an audience outside the electronic literature community. Homer, it should be noted, would not have been unhappy with a crowd of almost 9000.

3. "...a shared life of the imagination while swerving around the dominant paradigms of economic and social space" - Noah Eli Gordon

Conversely, in a developing field, small audiences of fellow poets are also important. And as Noah Eli Gordon has observed:

"...the chapbook in its current manifestation allows poets to enter into a shared life of the imagination while swerving around the dominant paradigms of economic and social space. Whether comprised of an extended sequence, a series of short poems, or a single, longer work, the chapbook, in its momentary focusing and sculpting of the reader's attention, is the perfect vehicle for poetry." [1]


1. Noah Eli Gordon, "Considering Chapbooks: A Brief History of the Little Book", Jacket 34 - October 2007

Perhaps if we think in terms of simulating the look and feel of publishing vehicles, such as chapbooks, an intimate publishing metaphor for electronic literature could be better designed on the Web. The need for a better visual framing of the arts and humanities on the Internet is vitally important. Otherwise, all too often, we are Joshua Bell playing Bach at rush hour in a Washington DC Metro station.

4. when the World Wide Web was young - -- like the flakes of gold in the riverbed

When the Internet was young, there was a clear recognized territory for poets and story tellers, or so it seemed to me when I began to tell Uncle Roger on Art Com Electronic Network on The WELL in 1986. A few years later, in the 1990's, when the World Wide Web was young -- like the flakes of gold in the riverbed that I recorded in the Roar of Destiny --

the Internet was a widening territory-of-exploration, where treasures were occasionally encountered. At this time, in my 2004 paper, "Interactive Stories: Writing Public Literature in an Evolving Internet Environment" I wrote:

"It has been predicted that as the web becomes more of a "push" medium, large entities will throw huge streams of multimedia at docile users who visit their sites and remain there as television viewers do. Indeed, the contemporary Internet's potential to be a truly participatory medium has been partially smothered by one way information delivery. A multitude of "Forms" driven opportunities for response exist on major web sites, but they are seldom integral to the site as a whole. Ebook publishers are using Internet delivery for sequential print works rather than for works that take advantage of the medium's capability.

...Nevertheless, opportunities for many kind of public literature will emerge and evolve as web users become accustomed to wandering interactively -- discovering unusual, unexpected information in a globally distributed medium where many kinds of writing that take advantage of the computer's ability to manipulate narrative data, continue to thrive." [2]


2. Judy Malloy, "Interactive Stories: Writing Public Literature in an Evolving Internet Environment" in Heide Hagebolling, ed, Interactive Dramaturgies: New Approaches in Multimedia Content and Design, Springer, 2004.

5. ten years later in this splendid interactive territory

However, ten years later -- squarely in the 21st century web environment -- writers of experimental literature, even those whose works have the potential to cross into the territory of larger audiences, insert their works into a greatly-expanded virtual territory, where, in the wonder [3] of the contemporary Internet, readers are as likely to spend their time immersed in social media-based reality operas of the lives of friends, family, and colleagues.


3. wonder: " awe, admiration, wonderment, fascination; surprise, astonishment, stupefaction, amazement"- Dictionary.com;
wonder: "caution, flash, marvel, miracle, phenomenon, portent, prodigy, sensation, splendor" - Merriam Webster
As Gert Lovink observes in my forthcoming Social Media Archeology and Poetics: "We'd need a next to impossible alien perspective to regain the wonder of a Facebook page. ("Expanding on 'What Is the Social in Social Media?': A Conversation with Geert Lovink)

Nevertheless, in this splendid interactive territory, readers might encounter Phillipe Bootz' "petite brosse à dépoussiérer la fiction", JR Carpenter's Entre Ville, Sharif Ezzat's "Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky", Dene Grigar's "Fallow Field", Mark Marino's a show of hands, Maria Mencia's "Birds Singing Other Birds' Songs", Stuart Moulthrop's "Under Language", Andrew Plotkin's The Dreamhold, Emily Short's Bronze, Marco Williams' The Migrant Trail and Nanette Wylde's "Storyland", among many others. How online literature can enhance daily Internet experiences is important in a society that spends much of its free time online.

Indeed, any work that exists on the Internet could be called a work of public literature. The arts and humanities have in the past ten years built a web of amazing and wondrous "things", and we are probably already reaching readers from all walks of life, whether we know this or not -- which is not to say that there is not a need for a more clearly defined "cultural commons" in the contemporary Internet.

6. As Gary O. Larson emphasizes in his concluding essay to Social Media Archeology and Poetics

"So, the question remains: How do we map the nonprofit cultural sector onto an online landscape that is still evolving -- and becoming more commercial every day? The arts aren't at risk; they've existed for eons and will continue to do so. But the art that depends on the support structures that have developed around them over time, from church and court patrons in the distant past to state and private patronage today, threatens to recede farther into the margins of the World Wide Web, precisely at a time when that environment attracts increasing amounts of our time and attention. Our online access to these art forms is what is at risk in the Digital Age. The "there" we're trying to reach, however, is not simply some civilized corner of the web or even a restricted top-level domain conferred on those organizations and artists deemed to be "pqualified" in some fashion. Rather the "there" is nothing more-or less-than the acknowledgment that (1) the noncommercial arts can't really thrive in the ad-driven, box-office environment that the Internet has become; and (2) a concerted, broad-based effort is needed to preserve and promote their presence online." [4]


4. Gary O. Larson, "From Archaeology to Architecture: Building a Place for Noncommercial Culture Online", in Judy Malloy, ed., Social Media Archeology and Poetics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, July 2016)

December 18-19, 2015

I t has been my custom, since I began writing an online writer's notebooks in circa 2008, to finish the current notebook in December or early January and to begin a new notebook at the end of January. This timetable usually coincides with the ending of one work and the beginning of a new one.

As I moved from the generative coda to From Ireland with Letters, to the creation of a new authoring system for the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters, this year my writer's notebook encompassed both of these works. Next year my writing plans are to continue editing From Ireland with Letters, to add sound to more lexias in The Roar of Destiny, to reconstruct the UNIX shell script version of Uncle Roger, and to begin the research for "the whole room like a picture in a dream": Dorothy Richardson Writing

Meanwhile, due to the looming January 4 deadline for my Convergence paper: Issues in Public Literature: From Ireland with Letters, this notebook entry will preface the yearly notebook conclusion with notes for this paper.

When confronted with new thinking, it is always helpful to block it out in an informal notebook, rather than confront the blank pages of a "new" document in Microsoft Word. Additionally, and this is core to the issue of new media writing as public literature itself, it is likely that someone will read these words as soon as I write them. There is no question in my mind that this is important. I am not just talking to myself in this writer's notebook. A semi-coherent notebook approach is necessary.

Although I have written two papers on the subject of "public literature" on the Internet -- one with a preweb focus (albeit published later) [1] and one with an early web focus [2] -- just as the Internet itself has changed with the introduction of many new voices and viewpoints, the issue of electronic literature as public literature has evolved. Ten years since I last addressed this issue, there is a need to look at the practitioner's view of these earlier papers within a larger framework. This is not to say that the practitioner's viewpoint is not important but rather that the practitioner herself works now in the context of a much wider Internet and a very different audience.


1. Judy Malloy, "Public Literature: Narratives and Narrative Structures in Lambda MOO" in Craig Harris. ed., Art and Innovation - The Xerox PARC Artist-in-Residence Program Cambridge, MA MIT Press, 1999.

2. Judy Malloy, "Interactive Stories: Writing Public Literature in an Evolving Internet Environment" in Heide Hagebolling, ed, Interactive Dramaturgies: New Approaches in Multimedia Content and Design, Springer, 2004.

"Writing on the web, I think of my words as 'public literature'. I am also aware of the work's existence in the wider whole of the web. There is a powerful consciousness of the audience -- as if the energy generated by instantaneous availability and by those unseen (unless one chooses to track them) hits is inseparable from the work. The audience may not be there in the old community sense, but they are accessing the work night and day around the world. Perhaps because there is often no middleman (publisher) in Internet based electronic literature, the continual presence of this unseen audience seems palpable, sometimes even invasive."

Using my writer's notebook to document the writing of academic papers, is not my usual practice. But in this case, notebook writing is needed to clarify thinking.

Preliminary Notes: Exploring Definitions of Public Literature

1. Public Literature; the Public Library

Although there are places where poetry walks -- such as the Berkeley Poetry Walk or the Princeton Poetry Trail -- situate the written word squarely in the category of a public literature that parallels public art, "public literature" is generally not written in stone and permanently installed in a public square where it continuously confronts passersby, arousing wonder, discussion, delight, ire, or neglect.

There are wonderful instances of poets and performance artists placing words in the context of public art -- Adrian Piper's Calling Cards, Jenny Holzer's Truisms, and, (in the tradition Joshua Bell's incognito playing of Bach's Chaconne at a Washington, D.C. Metro Station [3]) Poetas en Nueva York's live reading festival on a Queens subway platform.

That said, public literature, it could be argued, is generally the role of the public library, where books lie on the shelves side by side, no one book taking precedence over another. The whole, a community-based treasure.

But the contemporary Internet -- despite, the presence of the Internet Archive and a myriad of pointer sites, (such as ELMCIP - Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice) -- is not a "place" where one can walk in the door so to speak, and know that shelf after shelf of poetry, fiction and non-fiction await catalog-guided perusal. Nevertheless, this metaphor could be replicated on the Internet -- perhaps with a graphic of library shelves where the reader could access catalogued electronic literature and ebooks by clicking on book images. This is an entrancing idea.

Meanwhile, I return to some words that I wrote 10 years ago:

"In the rapidly changing Internet environment, which has evolved in the past decade from small text-based experimental community to commercially driven graphic interfaced media, writers of electronic literature must adapt not only to the intertwined processes of writing and interface (how the writer shapes the user's communication with the work) but also to radical changes in the audience and environment.

Written (usually) in seclusion, a print work is then published and distributed to readers whose contact with either the author or the author's process is traditionally minimal. In contrast, Internet-based electronic narrative is potentially a public literature which may integrally involve the reader/user/participant in its creation and use. ("Participants", "users" -- the changed nature of the relationship between writer and reader is reflected in the vocabulary.)

How the participant is involved, the extent of audience involvement in the process, varies. The writer may be using the Internet as a public storytelling forum; and/or the writer may be offering the reader a multiplicity of choices; and/or the writer may be offering the audience the opportunity to be co-creators of the work. Sometimes (as they are in the sections of this paper) these strategies are intertwined." [Malloy, 2004]


3. Gene Weingarten, "Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out", Washington Post, April 8, 2007
"'When you play for ticket-holders,' Bell explains, 'you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence'. He was, in short, art without a frame...."

2. Postmodern Poetics

In 1978 in "Composition as Recognition: Robert Creeley and Postmodern Poetics", Robert Kern observed that "Postmodern poetry... seeks a greater openness for the poem, an openness to the world and to experience, which culminates in the ideal of the text not as a utopian structure immune to the contradictions and confusions of immediate experience, but as continuous with or an extension of such experience, the here and now of ordinary reality." [4]

Twenty years later, writing in Postmodern Culture, in 1997 Loss Pequeno Glazier explored the role of cyberspace as a carrier of poetry. Focusing on the Language Poets, he looked at "poetry's path" through alternative publication technologies -- such as small presses, hand presses, mimeograph machines, Xerox machines, and offset printing -- as a part of the system of poetics, observing about electronic poetry:

"An electronic poetics is a poetics. Like any other poetics which recognizes system -- be it breath, a controversy of texts, or a nexus of interests -- system is a determining factor. A poetics also involves a particular engagement, or set of engagements, with its issuing 'authority' and its technology. The public life of a poetics has, perhaps, been nowhere more visible, with its incessant transmission, than in the electronic poetries. An electronic poetry is a public word, projected across a public world, across systems, itself as system."[5]


4. Robert Kern, "Composition as Recognition: Robert Creeley and Postmodern Poetics", boundary2, Robert Creeley: A Gathering 6/7 (v6, no. 3; v7, no. 1) (Spring - Autumn, 1978),211-232, 215-216,

5. Loss Pequeno Glazier, "Jumping to Occlusions," Postmodern Culture 7:3 (May,1997).

3.linking work to work/linking work to information

Cyberspace is/is potentially a host for a public literature poetics that -- linking work to work/linking work to information -- speaks in the process not only to the literary community but also to anyone who stumbles on the work.

"Basically, when I was constructing the various technology links to the project, I was always thinking about the average web-surfer who is in search of possible connections between, say, narrative art and the visual or performing arts, especially as disseminated over the Net", Mark Amerika observes. [6]


6. in "Grammatron review / Mark Amerika e-terview", Rhizome, n.d.

4. Contemporary Epics on the World Wide Web

"I have long been intrigued by the performance aspects of telling a story in the Homeric tradition. When I began publicly writing Uncle Roger in 1986 on the WELL, it was in a conferencing system similar to what is now called "threads" on some web systems. Like any audience, the audience reacted. I was aware of their presence and the telling of the story was in itself interactive because audience members made comments and sometimes even contributed to the story." (Malloy 2004)

In virtual space, there are contemporary works of public literature that are analogous to ancient oral epics of sustained adventure, history, legend, and myth -- such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the Ramayana, and Beowulf -- that were originally told long ago in palaces and at public gatherings. Contemporary electronic literature works in this category include my Uncle Roger,[6a] Mark Amerika's Grammatron, Chindu Sreedharan's Epic Retold: Andrew Plotkin's Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph/Kate Pullinger and Andy Campbell's Inanimate Alice and my From Ireland with Letters.

6a, 12/24: In which it might be said that the fertile bull of the Irish epic, The Táin, becomes the stolen chip that powers the personal computer revolution.

Whether or not such works are public literature is dependent on the intentions of the writer, the platform in which they were told, the desire of the audience to experience the work, and the characteristics of the work itself.

In the Internet telling of epics, to a certain extent, the writer is a performer, playing consciously to an unseen audience -- war journalist and lecturer Chindu Sreedharan, for instance, retelling a reimagined version of the Mahabharata, tweet by tweet. The perforamance began on July 29, 2009 and lasted for 1605 days.

In the Internet telling of works with epic characteristics, the narrative is likely to be extensive, for example the length and scope of Inanimate Alice. In Episode 1, Alice is eight years old searching for her missing father in China. In episode 6, she is 19 years old in art school and working at a gas station on the outskirts of the city.

Additionally, the narrative is likely to have relevance to the virtual community in which it takes place. For instance, Uncle Roger, a Falstaffian Silicon Valley anti-hero, appears in a story first told in real-time postings in a virtual community of Silicon Valley journalists, researchers, and artists. For instance, the language of classic science fiction that pervades set-in-distant-space Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home is probably recognizable by the community that forms its core audience/users. When you take the helm, it should be noted, you are the hero, navigating there and back again as if on the "wine dark sea. You are also the audience.

Can Interactive Fiction where the audience becomes the protagonist be public literature?
Of course.

5. Serial Literature in the Domain of Public Literature

The 19th century custom of initial serialization of works of fiction, its popularity often attributed to Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, situates fiction -- before the works are hardened into books -- in the domain of public literature. There is about this once prevalent method of transmitting literature the imagined vision of the citizens of London once a month simultaneously but separately eating breakfast and reading the latest "shilling part" installment of The Pickwick Papers.

And/or, if we are looking at the community aspects of serialized public literature, we might revisit Charles Olson's "Maximus of Gloucester, to You" (and similarly titled) letters and poems, which were addressed to Gloucester citizens via the editor and pages of the Gloucester Daily Times.

Contingently, the magical appearance of Joyce Carol Oates' The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age in book form was preceded by the publication of many of the stories at various times in the New Yorker or other such places. If to a certain extent, "public literature" is defined by a writer/ community reader relationship, in Oates' case it should be noted that last month I had the pleasure of hearing her read from The Lost Landscape - A Writer's Coming of Age to a packed Princeton bookstore, where every member of the audience was entranced and enthusiastic. It should also be noted that her community reader relationship has probably been enhanced by her mastery in sharing small details of her life on Twitter

Emphasizing its status as public literature, on the Internet, on December 1 1986, when Uncle Roger was first told in serial form by co-opting a "topic" on Art Com Electronic Network on The WELL, Howard Rheingold immediately started a parallel community discussion topic on which the virtual community discussed the work, simultaneously, as it was told. From this beginning, in my own case, I have thought of my Internet-based work as public literature for many years, even occasionally addressing the reader, as in this sentence at the opening of the coda to From Ireland with Letters:

"Reader, the text in each column is produced at random. Like a painting, to which an artist daily adds new details unexpectedly in different areas of the picture plane, this unfinished Irish American song will, at the will of the computer, unfold in all columns, as long as you continue to press 'return'."

6.The Public Literature Tradition in Irish literature

As described by Eugene O'Curry in his 1873 book, Of the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, and retold by Hugh Shields in Narrative Singing in Ireland,, Anthony O'Brien, who was "the best singer of Oisin's poems that his contemporaries had ever heard", would go out on the River Shannon with a jar of whiskey and a party of his friends and lie back on the oars and sing. His strong, beautiful voice could be heard on the river banks in Clare and Kerry,and people working in the fields would come down to the Shannon to hear him sing. [7]


7. Hugh Shields, Narrative Singing in Ireland (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993)

Looking specifically at From Ireland with Letters -- which begins in the tradition of Irish public literature and concludes in the tradition of Irish American ballads -- I note that Irish public literature ranges from the role of the Milesian poet Amergin in the invasion of Ireland, to the role of the Fili in Irish society, to the (of questionable origin but nevertheless a part of the culture) Ossian saga, and to twentieth century public storytelling in Ireland.

"Ireland's national songs are doubly unique. For one thing, the tradition of writing ballads, of selling broadsheets and singing ballads at the street corner or in the market place, has never died out in Ireland; it is still a living tradition to this very day. In addition, the fact that this tradition had been alive continuously for a score of generations means that Ireland's songs reflect its history with a fidelity probably unparalleled in the world." [8]


8.Patrick Galvin, Irish Songs of Resistance (NY: Folklore, [1955]), 1-2

December 5-6, 2015

In early December in New Jersey, the trees have lost the muted autumn colors of their now red-brown fallen leaves, yet, as if in preparation for the snows of winter, there is a stark beauty of bare landscape. I have been walking along the rivers and canals.

A t home -- working on small details of the marginalia links -- that I've built into the interface for the main body of the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters -- I remembered that at Xerox PARC, Cathy Marshall and I talked about how allowing random access to Forward Anywhere (as one of the interface choices) created a less formal access to narrative information.

Computerized searching systems are not the equivalent of going into a library and looking at the books that surround the book you thought you were looking for-- opening a book that you didn't find while searching in a methodical way, finding something unexpectedly wonderful.

I am not sure that any computer-mediated application can replace the many hours I spent perusing the Irish history section of the library at the University of California at Berkeley. But the randomly produced marginalia links with which I've interfaced the Prologue, correspond to this experience.

Reader, you can follow the obvious links, those colored in white, or those colored pale yellow. (which lead to the lexias from the underlying second part of the Prologue) Akin to library explorations of an environment of books, you can also run the mouse over barely visible links, that when hovered on suddenly turn white and invite opening.

Whenever you press "alter the marginalia", the array of links changes.

Contingently, the decision to allow repetition in the marginalia links was made to retain something of the early music continuo basis of the marginalia in the first version of the Prologue. Unexpected repetition brings emphasis/interpretation to the text that even I/the writer did not see.

T he 66 miles of the Delaware and Raritan Canal (D&R Canal) were dug by hand by Irish workers in the 1830's. Work on the canal began in Kingston, a mile or so down the road from where I live. But on Friday, I was walking along the canal in Griggstown.

Working with shovels, pickaxes and wheelbarrows -- six days a week from sunrise to sunset -- about 3,000 Irish workers dug the canal for $1.00 a day.

When I came back from Griggstown, I read an historical marker text some of which is reproduced below:

"Working conditions were appalling with men living in crowded tents, no sanitation, no medical facilities, poor food and long hours. Most of the men wore rags tied around their feet while working in the canal pit. In 1832-33 Asiatic cholera sickened and killed hundreds of the Irish laborers. Many of them were buried in the fields where they died. Graves of unknown Irishmen are located at Bulls Island, Ten Mile Run, the Griggstown Cemetery and along the canal banks. No one can say for sure just how many Irish laborers died building this canal."

It is a season of remembrance. The Princeton area has been a very good place to write, and sometimes I have wondered why. It is not as if it is the story of the Irish workers who dug the canals is the story that I am telling in From Ireland with Letters, All the same, I have been drawn to walk along these canals many times.

Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

1. Historic American Buildings Survey Nathaniel R. Ewan, Photographer November 3, 1936 LOCK LOOKING DOWNSTREAM - Delaware & Raritan Canal, Drawbridge, Lock & Tollhouse, Delaware & Raritan Canal, Heathcote, Middlesex County, NJ

2. Delaware & Raritan Canal, Drawbridge, Lock & Tollhouse, Delaware & Raritan Canal, Heathcote, Middlesex County, NJ

November 21, 2015

With the first part of the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters a working draft, I confronted part2. There was essential information in part2 of the Prologue -- Hiram Powers' marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter of the Dublin-born woman who ran the boarding house in Cincinnati where he lived; the life-sized tableau of Dante's Inferno -- with audio, illusion, mechanized glow-in-the dark figures, and a hidden escape route -- that Powers fabricated for the Western Museum at the suggestion of a British abolitionist; his statue of Ben Franklin, that has been standing in the U.S. Capitol building, since 1862, when it arrived from Florence in the midst of the Civil War.

But the Prologue was too long and too detail-laden.

The solution -- something not easily done in print -- was to take the important parts of part2 and run them underneath part1, keyed by the marginalia array, so that they emerge unexpectedly to the reader's view only in certain instances. In this way, unexpected details become entrancing surprises. For instance, Hiram's wedding is keyed by the phrase on the marginalia array that reads: "in an old book, there was a photograph", but this phase is only accessible on two manuscripts, and if the reader does not "alter the marginalia array", he or she may never see it. While akin to Storyspace "guard fields" in that the reader's access to certain lexias is controlled, reader-controlled randomly accessed link arrays are not a traditional approach to creating guard fields.

This part of the process is not yet completed.

There are now four P2P networks that feed into the main reading space: Maire:part1, Liam:part1 and the "easter egg" lexias from Maire:part2 and Liam:part2. In the process, the Prologue is becoming a richer composition.

It is, I remind myself, only a prologue and thus is more static then the rest of the work. Nevertheless, if a writer is going to have a prologue, it should work.

November 12, 2015

Writing about the structure of Irish Dance music, in Traditional Music in Ireland, (Cork, Ireland: Ossian Publications, 1978, p. 27) Irish musician Tomás O'Canainn observes that there is a tendency to concentrate on a few notes of the available scale "and return to these again and again throughout the tune". But when played by an expert player, the result is "a tune which attains a unity of purpose and a build-up of tension eminently satisfying.."

A draft of the first part of the new Prologue to From Ireland with Letters is completed. My image above is an artist's conception of the work. (as opposed to a precise node chart) The quote above (initially used in one of my earlier writer's notebooks) is a key to how the use of random repetition of links heightens tension and emphasizes surprising information disclosure in the Prologue. The following notes begin a summary of issues in the continuing struggles with this work.

1. The original concept of rhythmically moving links as continuo was interesting and visually effective. I would like to use this authoring system in a different work. But in retrospect, the motion distracted from the diffuse hypertextual information revelation in the Prologue. Thus in From Ireland with Letters, cantos 2-5 are written as textual "music", but the work as a whole is introduced by a network of P2P (peer to peer) manuscripts, or more precisely two parallel P2P networks (the musician and the art historian) that merge and diverge.

The links in the Prologue are produced at random and thus become visible algorithmically. However, the interactive role of the reader is primary. The reader's choices are: letting the work unfold by itself in a filmic manner; clicking the lexia texts to produce a semi-sequential experience; selecting highlighted links, which are precisely keyed to related content; or clicking at random, which although the resuts are at times jarring, provides unexpected entry ways to the narrative. The reader may not be aware of all of these choices,. Nevertheless, how he or she proceeds through the 50 manuscripts that will comprise this work will color the reading of From Ireland with Letters as a whole. This is the nature of classic hypertexts; the exploration of content is core to the reading experience.

2. The process of working on the Prologue was aided by immersion in Jim Rosenberg's Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings (Morgantown, WV: Center for Literary Computing, 2015), which I reviewed last week in content | code | process. While reading Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings, I was reminded of the importance of how the link works in conjunction with the lexia. The link, for instance, has the capacity to be not only a connector but also, in itself, a carrier of content.

There are still many places in the Prologue, where this can and will be improved.

3. When I had finished reviewing Jim's work, I began reading Lori Emerson's Reading Writing Interfaces. (Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press, 2014) Immersed in interface design in which the creator explores every possible reader action, initially it seemed as if Emerson and I were in two different worlds. From a creator's point of view, Reading Writing Interfaces is not about "writing" interfaces.

Additionally, as an arts writer, who covered/reviewed Macintosh-based art and cultural information for Leonardo and Arts Wire/NYFA Current and (in that time) as Contributing Writer to MicroTimes, from my perspective the Mac was vitally important in creating a digital culture in which writers and artists are central. Her challenge of the role of the Mac in creativity (p 84, for instance) is surprising.

Nevertheless, Lori Emerson is a memorable critic with a strong voice. And the individual visions of critics are a continually important component of the larger art world of which we are all a part.

Only the first part of the Prologue is currently online, and that part is still in the editing process. But happily, the edited manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics has arrived. And so, except for small revisions, for the next few weeks I set aside the Prologue and return to the documentation of the lineage of cultural social media.

October 27, 2015
glitch corrected on November 14, 2015:
somehow Woodstock, VT became Woodstock, NY.
Yikes. Fixed!

Finishing a work of electronic literature is more than a matter of the selection and arrangement of the words. There are interface, structure, and literate code to consider and of course the larger question: does this really work. and if not, what will it take to make it work?

When a writer is working in the fertile borderlands of narrative and code, the answer to this question may depend on what the writer means by "does this work?" -- an issue which Virginia Woolf struggled with in composing The Waves.

This has been a week of what can only be described as an attack on the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters. In this richly embroidered electronic manuscript, while a musician, Maire Powers, confronts her family's heritage and in the process begins to compose a work of music, a scholar, Liam O'Brien, makes preliminary notes about the life of 19th century sculptor, Hiram Powers. The tracks are separate (one possibly never seen) if the reader passively watches the lexias "play" like a piece of music or if the reader clicks on the lexias texts themselves, but if the reader takes control and uses the continuo interface to interactively play the work, these separate but related tracks will continually merge and diverge.

This composition strategy seemed like a good idea, and much time was spent on implementing it, But when I began my editing attack, it was clear that the Prologue did not "work:.

First, the possibilities of shortening it or even of eliminating it were considered. In contemporary writing this is not an unusual approach, i.e. a prologue serves as a guide for the author but is eventually discarded when the work is published. But when the Prologue was discarded -- like the sometimes eliminated recitative from which an aria emerges in welcome relief in a Mozart opera -- the immersive echoing of the transformation from raw, confrontational/informational text to narrative poetry was lost.

In approaching the problem, the difference between the affordances of the print book interface (it has existed for centuries and is a perfect authoring system for print literature) and the interface I had created for the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters were apparent. The reader of a book can quickly judge the size of a prologue (if it exists) in relation to the size of the book itself. It is usually clear where the prologue begins and ends and where to find it. And there are no potentially invisible surprises.

But From Ireland with Letters is not a book. Furthermore, a visible node chart (if I wished to provide one) is not precisely workable in interfacing ever-moving polyphonic electronic literature. Therefore, the reader has no way of judging either the length or the complexity of the From Ireland Prologue. Indeed, as is common in electronic literature, it is not unlikely that the reader of the Prologue will only discover one of the two parallel tracks with which it is composed and/or will not discover how each track pauses and then resumes with a new text and altered continuo.

I could observe that in such cases, the reader enters the story on equal footing with the characters, who at this point do not know of each other's existence and/or that in Interactive Fiction or hypertextual electronic literature, as in real life, we cannot easily skim the mysteries of the world model which we inhabit. Furthermore, there are cogent reasons for using electronic literature to interface a conjectural narrative. But -- immersed in computer-mediated composition -- the point I initially missed is that immersion and exploration are traditionally not the function of an authorial Prologue.

The solution to the problem was much simpler than I initially imagined. In an authorial voice, a classic one page introduction to the polyphonic Prologue was needed.

I wrote it on Sunday, and it now reads as follows:

On a quest in search of Irish American heritage that my grandfather, Walter Powers, sent me on years ago, (although I did not follow it until many years later) sometime in circa 2008, I acquired Richard P. Wunder's two volume monograph on the 19th century abolitionist sculptor, Hiram Powers, who was born in Woodstock, Vermont but lived most of his life in Florence, Italy. I began at the beginning, where in volume 1, on page 28, Wunder documents that Hiram's first male ancestor in America was Walter Power, who was born in Waterford Ireland in 1639, and emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1654.

It is said that in Ireland people still frighten their children with tales of the monster Oliver Cromwell and the brutal Puritan New Model Army, that he commanded. Knowing that in 1654 no Irishman would emigrate of his own free will to a Puritan colony, I stared at the date on page 28. And so in ancient books of Irish history, I unfolded the story of how after Cromwell devastated Ireland in 1649, in the following years, he sent his Irish opponents and their families into exile and slavery.

Like a work of ancient drama, the resulting narrative, From Ireland with Letters, begins with a Prologue that sets out the story. Reader, in the tradition of readers of such detail-intense prologues, if at any point within the Prologue you wish to begin instead on a stormy night in a pub in New Hampshire -- where an Irish American musician tells the story and an Irish American art historian is in the audience -- from the midst of the Prologue, select From Ireland with Letters from the left-hand menu and then select "Begin with the Arrival" from the contents.

But first, begin the Prologue.

It should be noted that this short declarative beginning does not change the electronic literature nature of the Prologue itself. But now, for my vision, the Prologue will (when it is recoded) "work".

T here are of course, other major problems with the Prologue. Clearly, it will run much more smoothly if redone in JavaScript. Last week, the act of contemplating the many hours that this recoding will require sent me escaping on a beautiful walk in the Princeton area woods.

I returned to deal with issues of words, timing, linking, font, interface, and color. All these components of the work need to be working before it is recoded. The good news is that most of the other cantos of From Ireland with Letters have been exhibited seperately and thus have already undergone careful finishing work. The Prologue could not be finished until the entire work was completed.

From Ireland with Letters began as a work of public literature, told informally on the Internet. It now moves to take its place as a finished work. The struggles with the Prologue serve to emphasize the difficulties with the craft of creating long form electronic literature. But of such struggles are works of literary art made -- whether we work in print or in cybertext.

October 17, 2015

W alking the trails of the Princeton area in October, I was thinking, as the leaves slowly turned colors, about writers' visions for the writing and coding of electronic literature. In the beginning, I and other early writers of hyperfiction wanted to create works in which the quest on which the reader embarked was to explore a writer's words. It was not that one way of digital writing was/is better, but rather that our vision for computer-mediated writing was different from the vision of the creators of early games.

Contingently, yesterday, I sat in a farmland field near Hopewell and enjoyed reading Jim Rosenberg's paper on algorithmic links in his recently released book, Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings.[1] On the way home, entranced by Jim's exploration of algorithmic control of linking in hypertext, I considered the lack of links in the generative hypertext I used in the final two cantos of From Ireland with Letters. It would of course be possible to make these two cantos more interactive by incorporating links, but it is not my vision to do this I concluded. In these works I prefer to immerse the reader in cascades of constantly changing words.

At home I continued to struggle with consolidating the "about files" for From Ireland with Letters. In the midst of the difficulties of this seemingly endless task, I paused to replay canto 3: Passage and canto 4: Fiddler's Passage and was not unhappy with how these two experimental polyphonic cantos introduce the lives of Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers.

Words. For my vision, there are wonderful graphic-intensive games that stay in memory. The scene in Jackson Square in New Orleans in Jane Jenson's Gabriel Knight, the Island of Myst, the silent motion in Journey that carries the player/character forward through mythical landscapes.

Nevertheless, the thrill of what can be done with words in combination with computer-media authoring systems has stayed with me for almost thirty years, and I am not the only one, whether it is the writing of words in Storyspace "writing spaces" that was characteristic of classic Eastgate titles or the fluid generating of words in visual structures created with JavaScript or envisioned by William Dickey in HyperCard:

"The poem may be designed in a pattern of nesting squares, as a group of chained circles, as a braid of different graphic and visual themes, as a double helix. The poem may present a single main sequence from which word or image associations lead into sub-sequences and then return...Whatever underlying pattern or geometry is built into the poem will not be immediately apparent to the reader..." William Dickey [2]

Pausing on an October walk to continue reading Jim's book, I came to his "super-word" riff in "The Word the Play Attaching at a Wide Interval" (first published in Leonardo Electronic News) and now available in Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings: [3]

"Vocabulary, word-set: the pieces set out for play as beings are, whole, alive, not to be dismembered. A play at a wider interval: the word not as supplement-of but as activator of resonance: like the enzyme, it disappears having merely activated an energy reaction of presences one possesses already. The word is not a gift, is not an epiphany, only a bending of the resonance space nearby. The real stuff of poetry is still human lives, as it always has been, notwithstanding that the play occurs, screenwise, in a machine."

A lso Memorable this week: Dene Grigar explored my archives at Duke, and I virtually enjoyed her classic scholar's unearthing of many things I have not recently seen.

Note that the fractured Yellow Bowl manuscript that introduces this notebook entry was not torn in the spirit of cut-ups but rather was the fate of the beginning of a 1993 text which I had rewritten so many times that I wished to destroy the original manuscript. (And maybe this process was also an echo of the divorce which underlies The Yellow Bowl.)

The manuscript can't be reassembled like a puzzle because I discarded some of the pieces.

Initially I stored these YB manuscript pieces in a large glass jar. When they were part of an installation that Joseph DeLappe curated at the University of Reno in 1995, they were displayed in a yellow bowl beside the work itself. (which was running on a computer) The opening words were also painted on the glass panes of an antique window. Ultimately, I put the manuscript pieces in a handmade paper box and sent them to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke.

Coincidentally, In the same week that Dene was exploring this work in my archives, I encountered my description of the struggles with coding The Yellow Bowl in the conversation -- published in Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings -- that Anna Couey and I did with Jim Rosenberg on the Interactive Art Conference on Arts Wire.


1. Jim Rosenberg, Word Space Multiplicities, Openings, Andings, edited by and with an introduction by Sandy Baldwin. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, 2015.
2. William Dickey: "Poem Descending A Staircase: Hypertext and the Simultaneity of Experience" in Hypermedia and Literary Studies, edited by Paul Delany and George P. Landow. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994 pp. 140-152.
3. Jim Rosenberg, "The Word the Play Attaching at a Wide Interval" in Rosenberg, 2015. pp. 111-112, 111

October 4, 2015
with added content on October 6, 2015

N otes for the Intercollegiate Literary Conference
Panel on New Media and Literary Innovation

April Ford, Michael Joyce, Judy Malloy, and Nick Montfort
in conversation with John Michael Colón,
Hosted by the Nassau Literary Review,
Aaron C Robertson, Editor-in-Chief,
Princeton University, October 4, 2015

Keyed by John Michael Colón, former Editor-in-Chief of the Nassau Literary Review, the conversation centered on the experience of reading new media literature, why it is different from reading print literature. We also looked issues of publishing electronic literature in the World Wide Web environment, publishing interactive literary magazines (Writer April Ford is the Managing Editor of Digital Americana.) and at issues of archiving.

With the course of Hurricane Joaquin and the extent of coastal flooding still unclear, it was a thoughtful, quiet gathering of student editors and writers, and old friends and colleagues, including in the extended discussion, hypertext writer, Carolyn Guyer, and Princeton Library Digital Initiatives Coordinator, Cliff Wulfman. In addition to the joy of seeing Michael and Carolyn, I hadn't seen Nick for quite a while, and it was a pleasure to meet again. It had been 23 years since Michael, Carolyn, I, and Stuart Moulthrop had been on an MLA panel, hosted by Terry Harpold, that I believe was the first time electronic literature appeared at the MLA. Here is the notice of the panel as it appeared in Humanist.

Kudos to the Intercollegiate Literary Conference for creating this extraordinary panel! Continuing these discussions in some way would be of interest.

Looking at writing electronic literature, as the flip side of reading electronic literature, I made a few notes beforehand. All of these issues did not arise in the panel, but one point of having such a panel is to consider the issues from different points of view. And one point of a writer's notebook is to record such issues, even if the notes are only sketches.

1. Why write hypertext literature?

The Roar of Destiny, a poet's vision of the World Wide Web in 1996:

"..transport yourself to a vibrant time when the boundaries between the natural and virtual worlds started to liquefy." - Leonardo Flores

Reading as exploration: The primary interface in this poetic experience of environment and altered environment is a dissolving and reassembling dense structure of phrase links. Radiating from this structure, are story-bearing lexias -- each composed of a narrative fragment that sometimes runs decisively in the center of the screen and sometimes is raggedly merged with peripheral words and hyperlinked phrases.

Created with words and algorithms,
endless poems scroll down the screen

2. Why write Generative Poetry?

3.Why write generative hypertext?

Experiencing the world of a conceptual photographer as told with her memories: crafted like poetry, the cadence and tone of each lexia in its name was Penelope was carefully constructed, so that in whatever order they were seen, the reading experience would appear natural, and in the same process, I created an authoring system that seamlessly immersed the reader in a work of literature, where you might be reading a poetry chapbook, yet the "pages" are magically brought up at the will of the computer, and the seductive repetition situates the reader in a place of remembered narrative. Poetic narrative is shuffled, continuously changes order, submerges, resurfaces, repeats. The reader sees things as the narrator sees them and observes the events in her life come and go in a constantly changing order, like the raveling and unraveling of Penelopeia's web.

4. Why write Interactive Fiction?

September 20-23, 2015

Notebook entry, November 28, 2014....On Friday morning, there was snow on the ground as I walked across a Princeton hillside. When I arrived home, a copy of John Rosenberg's Dorothy Richardson, A Critical Biography was waiting on the stairs outside my door. In it was the full quote I had been looking for to begin the documentation for The Not Yet Named Jig:

Now begins the editing of From Ireland with Letters and the work on augmenting content | code | process, neither of which will be extensively discussed in this currently occasional writer's notebook. This time is also slated to contain the complete reading of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage. It is about time to go further than the first three volumes, which I had read when the writing of its name was Penelope began. At that time (1988) I was also working on a paper on Uncle Roger for Roy Ascott and Carl Loeffler's Connectivity. [1] And the conclusion to that paper began with Dorothy Richardson's words:

"Surely what fiction, at the its best, can do,
is to arrange data, truths
in their real relationship
by a process of selection.
Like an artist making a picture." [2]

Primarily because of the visual and filmic quality of her writing but also because of her spirit and dedication to her work, Dorothy Richardson continues to occur and reoccur in cameos in my work -- in the visual writing of its name was Penelope; represented by a book on a painter's table in paths of memory and painting; and introducing the "about" file in The Not Yet Named Jig.

Next year, when the editing of From Ireland with letters is finished, Dorothy Richardson will take center stage. She will emerge in a work of electronic literature, that -- enriched with details from her life and work -- will be structured as an exploration of her writing process. I will begin this work in 2016, the year the first vol. of her collected letters will be published by Oxford University Press.

Probably, the authoring system used to explore Richardson's writing process will initially utilize generative hypertext to create a model of her world and to house her memories. She will appear in a converted chapel in Cornwall. In front of her will be pieces of paper of all kinds on which the manuscript that will be published as Pointed Roofs in 1915 is taking shape.

I am also considering incorporating the authoring system that I used for The Yellow Bowl, where the reader chooses to move between a woman's narrative and the memories from her own life that she alters to create the narrative.

September 22, 2015

Evading more "important" work, I searched through Pointed Roofs for a tentative title. Not unexpectedly, there were many possibilities:

"the whole room like a picture in a dream": Dorothy Richardson Writing

"swiftly from scene to scene": Dorothy Richardson Writing

"the theme was playing itself only in her mind": Dorothy Richardson Writing

For now, I selected "the whole room like a picture in a dream": Dorothy Richardson Writing


1. Judy Malloy, "Uncle Roger, an online narrabase", in Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, Roy Ascott and Carl Eugene Loeffler, eds., Leonardo 24:2, 1991. pp. 195-202, 1991.
2 Dorothy Richardson, quoted in John Rosenberg, Dorothy Richardson, A Critical Biography. NY:Knopf, 1973. p. 155

September 7, 2015

When an writer finishes a work, it should be a time of celebration, but often it is not. Just as with reluctance a reader finishes a work that has become a part of his or her life, with resistance a writer parts from months or years of immersion in the writing, and -- in the case of electronic literature -- in the coding of a work. For now, when we return again is finished. This means that not only is this generative three-column coda finished but also that the five year work of writing and coding From Ireland with Letters is completed.

An autumn and early winter of editing From Ireland with Letters is anticipated -- not the joyful editing of individual lexias but the tough editing of looking at how the whole is working, what should stay, what should be rewritten, what should be deleted.

A writer's notebook in this final editing process is not always desirable. Thus, for a while, I will not be writing regularly in this notebook but rather will be putting writer's notebook time into code | content | process, the new name for my Authoring Software resource.

In this field that inhabits the fertile borderlands of both coding and writing, it is important that student creators of electronic literature are provided with examples of the process: how to write words that work with authoring systems; how to integrate content and code. All approaches to electronic literature are interesting and valid, including recent Fluxus-redolent and/or conceptual text-as-art approaches, collaborative netprovs, and visually-driven narratives. However, with some exceptions, this fall's focus on code| content | process will be on in-depth literary works of hyperfiction, generative poetry and interactive fiction, with an emphasis on works where both the content and the code are original, innovative and writerly.

To this end, the ideas expressed in Fox Harrell's Phantasmal Media (MIT Press, 2013) are of interest. In his words:

"Expressive epistemology design appreciates the possibilities of artists representing smaller-scale, individually subjective knowledge in ways that are amenable to generating striking, destabilizing, or otherwise expressive content. In other words, expressive epistemology design is about designing the ability of systems to prompt phantasms using data structures." (p.84)

Contingently, code | content | process will also be looking at issues of audience and electronic literature, as well as exploring pre-web social media narrative for the artist-centered website archive that will accompany Social Media Archeology and Poetics.

And I look forward....

August 29, 2015

The editing of when we return again continues; there is a pleasure when a work of electronic literature finally comes together and each lexia is working in tune with the other lexias that comprise the work as a whole. In the midst of this pleasant editing experience, Mark Bernstein reminded me of his paper "Card Shark and Thespis: Exotic Tools for Hypertext Narrative." (2001)[1]

R evisiting this paper was of interest as regards the constraints that his Card Shark imposes on generative hypertext, and as regards the way the resultant work as a whole metamorphizes into "sculptural hypertext".

Card Shark, he observes:

"begins with a set of nodes, all of which are connected to each other, and builds structure by removing unwanted connections. We call Card Shark sculptural because we create structure by removing unwanted connections, much as sculptors may create objects by removing unwanted material."

Generally, in my own system, (originally called narrabase2) I only remove lexias during the editorial process, a process which I have always thought of as sculptural, although it is not precisely so. Ultimately, however, although my editorial process may be somewhat sculptural, my system's approach is quite different from the level of authorial control of the reader's experience that Card Shark imposes.

This heightened level of authorial control is what is particularly interesting in Card Shark. Indeed the system warrants the name Carid Shark because of the way authorial control in the program subverts the computer's pseudo-random number generator and in the process controls the reader experience. For instance, a node might only be repeated after 10 other nodes have been read or a node might not be seen until 25 other nodes appear. In similar ways, the Card Shark system can be utilized to control how the reader encounters characters -- after a certain node, before a certain screen, etc.

Conversely, in when we return again, characters are represented visually by utilizing three columns -- with the left hand two columns representing Liam and Maire and one right hand column appearing in divided sections, in such a way that -- to a certain extent foreshadowing their known destiny -- Walter Power and Trial Shepard's actions, and thoughts are merged. (There are many other reasons for my use of this structure.)

This works in when we return again. Nevertheless, Card Shark's programmatic control of characters within a generative hypertext environment is a strategy that is worth exploring, particularly since Eastgate may integrate it into Storyspace.

I would agree with Mark's paper that in its name was Penelope what I call generative hypertext de-emphasizes temporal structure. But in the case of both Penelope and Terminals, (Uncle Roger File 3) this is because these works simulate how memories come and go. We don't remember things in sequential order. Furthermore, our control of our destinies is not always in our own hands, whatever we do.


Mark Bernstein, "Card Shark and Thespis: Exotic Tools for Hypertext Narrative," Hypertext 2001: Proceedings of the 12th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, 2001. pp. 41-50. Available at http://www.markbernstein.org/papers/HT01.pdf Also published as Mark Bernstein and Diane Greco, "Card Shark and Thespis: Exotic Tools for Hypertext Narrative", in First Person, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, Cambridge:MA: MIT Press, 2002.

August 22-23, 2015

F inally, the finishing of when we return again has begun. This work, the major subject of this notebook, was, since early July, supplanted by the difficult but rewarding work of preparing of the final manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics, (MIT Press, 2016) a big book that brings together researchers, poets, scholars, and critics in an unprecedented exploration of historic cultural social media.

And then there was the pleasurable task of writing the Foreword for Donna Cox, Ellen Sandor, and Janine Fron's Women in New Media Arts (University of Illinois Press, 2016) that documents the extraordinary work of women digital artists with Midwestern roots including Donna Cox's creation of the iconic supercomputer Venus in Time, Brenda Laurel's Purple Moon, Carolina Cruz-Neira's core role in the development of the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) and much more.

Now, there is editing to be done and a few more lexias to write, and it is a joy to return to the coda to From Ireland with Letters. At the same time I am walking in the beautiful New Jersey countryside, taking life a little easy, and working on my own future.

The background of when we return again needs to be written in an "about" file. In fact, all the separate "about" files in From Ireland with Letters need to be rewritten as one coherent file. This will occur when I begin to edit the entire work this fall. Nevertheless, when we return again is what I desired: a romantic Irish American ballad that -- with randomly generated lexia-glimpses, housed in a JavaScript table of parallel voices -- conveys to the reader the imagined beginnings of a surprising romance.

As, with mild editing and the writing of a few final lexias, there is a return to an unfinished work, questions about what is disclosed or not disclosed in when we return arise. Electronic literature traditionally asks the reader to join the writer in an exploration of uncharted territory. Nevertheless, considering where we have situated the reader is a part of the process of finishing the work. How much -- in a non-sequential Internet-based narrative, where a Google search can lead the helpless reader into the midst of unknown territory, instead of to the beginning, (if there is one) -- do we want the reader to know? (or not know)

In when we return again, in the throes of unpredicatable generative hypertext, the reader is situated at a beginning of two parallel love affairs -- at that time where every exchanged word, every look or glance or gesture is pregnant (so to speak) with meaning, yet there is much that the couples do not know about each other.

1. Except for the reoccurrences of images of the omnipresent stocks and whipping post, the documented fact that Walter Power received 15 lashes from the Puritan court, when it became apparent that Trial Shepard was carrying his child, is not visible in this ballad -- nor is how their story ends in marriage, a new home about 22 miles west in Concord, Massachusetts, and the beginning of a dynasty that included the abolitionist sculptor Hiram Powers. These narratives occur and reoccur in the other parts of From Ireland with Letters and will be known to the reader of the whole. Or will they?

2. Descended from Walter and Trial's first born, William, I speak from heritage and -- utilizing the marvelous constraints of electronic literature -- choose to echo the beginning of their relationship by revealing, with generative hypertext, only fragments of what is known or imagined.

3. In Puritan New England, 11 years after Cromwell's destruction of Ireland, there are reasons that Walter Power speaks only to himself the words of 17th century Irish Priest and historian Geoffrey Keating's "Farewell to Ireland" and the words of Andreas Mac Marcuis' "The Flight of the Earls". Of Great Famine heritage, Liam O'Brien thinks only to himself the words of the aisling ballads of his heritage, but does not say them aloud. It is nowadays forgotten that the lyrics of Irish songs may in some cases function in the same way that quilts did for slaves escaping via the underground railroad. If you do not know the origins of the Irish songs that James Joyce quotes throughout his works, some of the meaning is lost. But in the era of the Easter Rising, the meaning of isolated lines of Irish song was seldom explained.

4. when we return again, the coda to From Ireland with Letters, is told under the banner of a line from a final stanza of "Rambles of Spring", a song by Irish musician, Tommy Makem, who lived for many years in New Hampshire:

Here's health to one and all
To the big and to the small
To the rich and poor alike and foe and friends
And when we return again.
May our foes have turned to friends
And may peace and joy be with you until then

When, after writing these notes, I returned to the work itself, all these things, which, I as the writer know, intruded on the fragility of the work itself. They remain, therefore, only in the shelter of this writer's notebook.

August 15-16, 2015

I n electronic literature, the details that build world models are glimpsed in unpredictable order. Coherent narrative tension is seldom the goal. Nevertheless, memorable narrative can be created with dense computer-mediated structures. We do not in real life necessarily experience our lives as structured in accordance with the constraints of narrative buildup. And whom we meet or do not meet may depend on whether we go North or South or East or West -- as if we walk on the paths of Real Life interactive fictions.

Next week, I will return to the finishing of when we return again, the coda to From Ireland with Letters -- playing it over and over again to re-immerse in the writing.

Meanwhile, I am reading José Antonio Villarreal's The Fifth Horseman. How I have arrived at this epic account of the Mexican Revolution, written by the son of a man who rode with Pancho Villa is thus:

I was talking with Julianne Nyhan, earlier in the week, or rather she was interviewing me for the Hidden Histories project. The subject was how programming the library of Ball Brothers Research Corporation, (BBRC) seeped into in my subsequent work. The place was Boulder, Colorado. The year was 1969. In this true story, José Antonio Villarreal (1924-2010) stood immediately above me in the BBRC organization chart.

In my memory, José has entered my library, as he sometimes did. He was my boss when the big boss, (who had hired us both) was away. At home, he was writing The Fifth Horseman.

A year or so later, José would take his rightful role, becoming a professor at the University of Colorado. But at the time he was a technical editor for BBRC, where engineers were fabricating the Orbiting Solar Observatory -- probably the OSO7, which was launched in 1971.

In the library, I had a stacks of punch cards, continuous feed printouts, and a certain amount of knowledge gained from FORTRAN classes at BBRC, as well as from a summer institute in Library Systems Analysis taught by a hero of automated library systems, Richard M. Dougherty. Shelf after shelf of technical reports in the BBRC library signified the information needed by the engineers who made the OSO. The appearances of José in the library were always welcome.

At home, in Pinecliffe at 7,000 feet in the Rockies, the words I wrote were never pubished. (Although 10 years later, my narrative data structure set in Pinecliffe would be published in After the Book: Writing Literature/Writing Technology) José, on the other hand, had already published Pocho and was writing The Fifth Horseman. It would take about five years before its publication by Doubleday in 1974. It would take me many years more before I finished a very different epic, From Ireland with Letters.

The legacy of the punch cards and the hacking away at designing an uncertain system have served me well. Nevertheless, if I were teaching electronic literature world models in conjunction with print literature world models, surely I would return to José Antonio Villarreal's The Fifth Horseman. As if Homer's "wine dark sea" and "plains of Troy" were transported to Mexico at the time of the Revolution, scenes glow with lexia intensity in this brilliant novel, in the pages, for instance, where Heraclio returns from his labors as a shepherd to the home of his brothers and their families, and observes the silence of the women grinding corn and making tortillas:

"They communicated with each other in low voices and even in whispers, sometimes, but they did not speak aloud unless they were addressed. Any questions, demands, or requests they might make of their husbands they did so in the privacy of their room or on their marriage bed." (p. 34)


"In the village of La Rosa, a shepherd coming home from a week in the prairie told a friend he had seen trains -- almost like a vision he said -- he had seen trains on a rusty weed-hidden railroad. Replete with men, he said it was, but his fourscore-year-old eyes at times deceived him and perhaps he had not seen a train at all. But his friend, one Cipriano Azcarate, took his sarape, his mochilla, and a lame buck mule and set off for Saltillo." (p. 321)

Or on the last page:

"He would go North, not to Texas but to California. He would ride west over the mountans and valleys and more mountains. He was not known in Sonora, and would somehow reach the City of Angels all refugees seemed to know."(p. 398)

A round the year of 2008, rereading José's work, I thought about getting into my truck and driving north to where he was at the time. I am sorry that I did not do this. But I was stopped by the thought of an uncertain reaction to the metamorphosis of my stack of punch cards into electronic literature.

August 8-9, 2015

With sadness, I heard in July of Don Joyce's death and was reminded of midnight calls from my friends Helen Holt and/or Fake Stone Edge (Helen and Tom Patrick, Molly Thomas, and Jeff Stoll) on the evenings when Helen hosted Over the Edge on KPFA. Since at that time I used audio segments in performance works, what was required in response to these sometimes expected and sometimes not expected late night calls were extracts from one or another of these tapes. Over the Edge was a remix pioneer; one never knew how these tapes would appear on the program or in documentation of the program. I think the recording I made in the bleachers during Oakland A's games is somewhere on a tape Helen gave me: "Over the Edge, on KPFA, September 13, 1982". It is now in box 5 of my archives at Duke. I wanted to listen to it before I sent it, but I no longer have a audio tape player.

A Skype reading was the initial plan for my reading of The Not Yet Named Jig at the 2015 Electronic Literature Organization Conference in Bergen, Norway, but Scott Rettberg suggested that I create a video backup in case something went wrong with Skype. It seemed a good time to see if was possible to make a generative video/audio reading of The Not Yet Named Jig. And, it worked well enough that the screening went on the program instead of the Skype reading.

However, Wednesday evening -- with the sudden realization that if for some reason the video was not accessible, the next morning I might be called without warning via Skype -- I was up late preparing a lowtech Skype reading. I printed out the 28 texts used in the video/audio reading, cut them up; looked around the room where I was working for a suitable container and found my 25th Xerox PARC Anniversary (1970-1995) Party souvenir pewter bowl. This seemed appropriate because it was a thrilling party. For this celebration, Cathy Marshall and I exhibited Forward Anywhere in the PARC lobby. A surprising work for the lobby of Xerox PARC, Forward Anywhere was installed on a laptop on a picnic table. (to simulate the place where we planned this work)

If called to read via Skype, I would simply take lexias at random from the bowl and read them one by one.

However, as planned, it was my video reading that was screened in Norway on Thursday August 7. (Thanks to Dene Grigar for her help and Jeremy Douglass for his excellent 140 word summing up of each reading) Via the tweet stream, I was able to follow Zenon Fajfer and Katarzyna Bazarnik; John Cayley; and Dene Grigar and Greg Philbrook and know when it was time for my reading from The Not Yet Named Jig.

Even though there was nothing I had to do, for a few moments I felt as if I was in Vermont standing in the starting gate and the downhill course was icy. Perhaps this was because it was an unusual screening, and I was not completely in control.

The Video/Audio Reading for The Not Yet Named Jig

To create the reading video, I selected 28 lexias from The Not Yet Named Jig. About half of these lexias were read into the webcam on my computer and about half were recorded using Audacity.

Either by click or by a 32 second timer, the program moves between (pseudo-)randomly selecting lexias from the video readings to (pseudo-)randomly selecting lexias from the audio readings, continuing back and forth between audio and video until someone selects "pause". There is more repetition than in the work itself (due to the smaller size of the lexia array), but because of the movement between audio and video no text is heard twice in a row. And the video/audio reading is an experimental lexia song.

It is available online here.

In this postcolonial work itself, generative hyperfiction is used to create a world model of a real but sparsely documented time and place. The time is the morning of April 24, 1660. The place is "Mystick Side" in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the reading I used the movement between video and audio to heighten the difference of experience. It is not a replacement for the work itself -- just a brief contingent experience of the text.

Electronic literature does not lend itself well to oral reading; the complexities and depth of the work are difficult to achieve, like representing a concerto with only one instrument. Nevertheless, in read works of electronic literature one hears the words the way the author intended. And, as any work of literature, one can return to the work itself with memory of the author's voice. Although, ultimately his words need to be experienced as inseparable from their systems, I particularly like hearing Jim Rosenberg read for these reasons. Contingently, John Barber is doing interesting work with the radioELO project. Among many others, it includes readings and sound works by Jim Rosenberg Judy Malloy, John Cayley, and Stuart Moulthrop.

I t has been an intensive few weeks, but Authoring Software's coverage of ELO2015 is written; my generative reading of The Not Yet Named Jig is finished; and most importantly the manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics has been completed and turned into MIT Press!

July 25, 2015

I n July of 1993, the view to the mountains from the main street in Telluride was spectacular. The Sheridan Opera House was filled with long tables crowded with computers, monitors, modems, telephone phone lines, stray connectors of all kinds, and surprisingly, a Minitel.

The people gathered in Telluride for Tele-Community 93 represented diverse facets of early social media. Many of them, I observed as I finished paging the manuscript, appear in chapters or in cameos in Social Media Archeology and Poetics: Richard Lowenberg, who directed the Telluride InfoZone; Madeline Gonzalez writing about "Community Networking, a Personal Journey"; Lee Felsenstein writing about Community Memory; Randy Ross, (with whom I later went to a Pow Wow in Arizona) writing about "The Native American Telecommunications Continuum"; Dave Hughes, whose Big Sky Telegraph (set up by Dave and Frank Odasz and run by Odasz) linked rural schools, including Native American Schools, as well as rural libraries, women's centers, and disability organizations; the always interesting media theorist Gene Youngblood; and in the acknowledgements, Dan Collins and Laurie Lundquist, directors of an Telluride-based summer school for MFA students. (where I was teaching artists how to document their work online)

Howard Rheingold, (who on main street bought a colorful headband for his straw hat) Matisse Enzer, and I hosted the Telluride Community Conference on the WELL, where participants from afar logged in to join the conversation about community networking. Eric Theise wrote a lively account of the events. I gave a talk on electronic publishing in the arts.

W hen Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz arrived in Telluride, I remember that it seemed as if the whole town joined them on main street, as using slow scan video they connected townspeople and visiting digerati with artists, universities, and cultural centers around the world.

In New York City, their Electronic Café had presented pedestrians with display windows of people waving and talking real-time from Los Angeles, (Hole-In-Space, 1980) and they had linked cafes in the Korean, Chicano/a, African American, museum, and beach communities of Los Angeles to exchange video images and work together on an electronic writing tablet during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Following the trail of the Electronic Café in the days before the World Wide Web, it was possible to envision that in the 21st century people would be talking to friends, families, colleagues, and strangers with Skype, exchanging photos with Snapchat, and posting videos on YouTube.

In July 1993, in Telluride, there were parties in lofts, a picnic on the West Meadows, lunches and dinners with people only formerly known by their logins. At the same time the goals were serious and looked to the future. In Richard Lowenberg's words:

"As government and corporate interests form alliances and position themselves to create a new National Information Infrastructure, there is a growing movement among regional and local communities and dedicated individuals to shape a more humane, socially serving direction for our tele-media-ted future. Participate in this vital conversation and help promote an ecology of the information environment"

It was a fine time to remember -- as the last chapter was paged in, and I came in 10 words under the contracted words for the manuscript.

Next week I look forward to return to electronic literature!

July 18, 2015

This week, as I began to page the manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics, I was thinking that not only is early cultural social media important in the history of the Internet, but also, as if it were an archeological discovery of Roman sculpture -- unearthed in Italy during the Renaissance -- in depth information about the platforms documented in this book potentially enhances contemporary social media.

It is not a question of replacing what we have now. Twitter, for instance is a never ending stream, where in the space of a recent week or so -- this week, for instance -- an incredible array of information occurs: Mitch Kapor points to the 25th anniversary of the founding of The Electronic Frontier Foundation; from Malaysia, Clarissa Lee posts about teaching critical gaming; in Puerto Rico, Leonardo Flores becomes a Full professor; the Napa Museum is exhibiting Alison Knowles' Homage to Each Red Thing and posts a memorable image of the installation; "The Berkman Center announces new fellows; poet Elizabeth Alexander looks at racial injustice as expressed in contemporary art and literature; VSA invites the Twitter community to a chat on #DisabilityStories; Furtherfield invites media artists to exchange data for commodities; Chris Joseph returns to "When One Hundred Million Million Poems Just Isn't Enough".

And, as Geert Lovink observes in #SocialMediaPoetics, "We'd need a next to impossible alien perspective to regain the wonder of a Facebook page."

Nevertheless, reviewing the platforms in this book -- including many not covered in chapters but documented in the Introduction or documented in individual chapters -- it is clear that in the days before the World Wide Web, there was unprecedented online cultural energy and a concerted striving for online centrality and community for the arts and humanities.

In the interview I did with Fred Truck and Anna Couey, I asked:

>> What is missing from your life as an artist since the days of ACEN?

Fred's response was:
FJT: "Well, first off, I have missed the sense of being in on the ground floor of something exciting, innovative, with the potential to alter culture as part of a group. I've had that sense as an individual artist since then, several times, but there is something contagious about being in a group that is more easily communicated to others. It is much harder to do as an individual.

ACEN was inhabited by people from all different fields, not just art. One thing we all had in common was an interest in digital technology. Digging a little deeper, another thing we had in common was ACEN, a place we could do what we wanted in any way we wanted. It is a little idealistic to compare ACEN to Camelot, but I can tell you, it was a realized dream that will never happen again in my life. We took that moment, went with it and never looked back."

July 11, 2015

T his week, in the midst of intensive manuscript preparation for Social Media Archeology and Poetics, I was re-reading my Introduction, when I encountered these words:

In the formative years of computer science as a discipline, in the 1950's Bloomsbury-bred British computer scientist Christopher Strachey, who later developed an early concept for time-sharing, was working for the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), when, as a visitor to the lab where Alan Turing worked, he began writing draughts-playing programs for the University of Manchester Computer(MUC). It wasn't long before -- utilizing Turing's hardwired, noise-based random number generator, which was an improvement in pseudo-random results -- Strachey created a love-letter generator and produced a series of ardent letters, signed: "Yours -- (adv.) M. U. C.".

Harbingers of the culture of contemporary social media, both the intertwined roles of collaboration and creativity in early computer science and the spirit of the letters themselves are important not only in the history of electronic literature but also in setting the stage for the social media aspects of the ARPANET era.

"Honey Dear
My sympathetic affection beautifully attracts your
affectionate enthusiasm. You are my loving adora-
tion: my breathless adoration. My fellow feeling
breathlessly hopes for your dear eagerness. My
lovesick adoration cherishes your avid ardour.
Yours wistfully


Since it focuses on social media, this short interval in the Introduction doesn't note that the M.U.C. on which the love letters were produced was probably the Ferranti Mark 1, which was prototyped by the Manchester Mark I. Nor does it speculate on whether or not, given that it was published in Encounter, Max Bense had read the algorithmic strategies for the love letters (documented by Strachey in his classic paper: "The 'Thinking Machine'", Encounter, 3, 1954. 25-31) when a few years later, Bense suggested the creation of Stochastische Texte to Theo Lutz. As I noted in a recent paper in press "The apparent dissimilarity between these two electronic literature precursors hinges on the textual differences between Strachey's playfully romantic language and Lutz' politically-charged remix of The Castle."

As social media platforms become a core part of the contemporary Internet environment, the idealistic, community-centered, cultural components of historic social media are relevant not only to the past but also to the future of contemporary social media. With a focus on social media in the arts and the humanities and on the core role of creative computer scientists, artists, writers, musicians, and scholars in shaping the pre-World Wide Web social media landscape, the edited book Social Media Archeology and Poetics will document the early history of social media, using first person papers from pioneers in the field, as well as chapters by media archeologists and scholars.

July 4, 2015

A s if transported back to the days of early social media. I am immersed in preparing the final manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics.

It was clear, when I taught a seminar on Social Media History and Poetics in the Fall of 2013 at Princeton, that there was a need for a comprehensive resource on cultural pre-web social media that brought together: documents scattered across the Internet, the voices of pioneers, the voices writers and artists; and the voices of scholars and media archeologists. Two years later, I am working on the final manuscript of Social Media Archeology and Poetics. (MIT Press, 2016) There is much to do and only a few weeks in which to address a myriad of details, but a holiday morning is a time for reflection.

Along the way, there have been recollections and surprises. Vint Cerf's account of how Adventure was collaboratively played on ARPANET; Les Earnest's emails about how in 1972, Yumyum, -- hosted on the Stanford AI Lab's PDP-10 and accessible from ARPANET nodes -- utilized a contemporary online-to-print model to create a restaurant guide; Parisian critic Annick Bureaud's discovery of over 100 works of Minitel-based art and literature; historian Paul Ceruzzi's documentation of the role of the personal computer in the evolution of social media; how in 1984 Fred Truck showed Carl Loeffler his performance art database, The Electric Bank, and one thing led to another; Hank Bull's first-hand narrative that begins with Canadian telematics and ends in China with Shanghai Fax; how Pauline Oliveros spearheaded NewMusNet on Arts Wire; German artist/critic Susanne Gerber's interview with Wolfgang Staehle and the incredible array of artworks produced under the auspices of Staehle's The Thing; Amanda McDonald Crowley's Interview with Scot McPhee, founding sysop of the Australian System X; the social media components of the five exhibitions of network art curated at the Walker by Steve Dietz; how CM Ralph distributed Caper in the Castro, via the LGBT BBS network; how African American BBSs were connected by AfroNet and the role of cyberspace activist Art McGee in their documentation; how the World Wide Web was first announced on alt.hypertext. (as documented by James Blustein and Ann-Barbara Graff)

As each paper goes into the "done" file -- from Lee Felsenstein on the seminal Community Memory in Berkeley and David Woolley on the social media aspects of PLATO; to Julianne Nyhan's search for identities in the Digital Humanities in the first year of Humanist (founded by Willard McCarty in 1987); to Sysop Stacy Horn's documentation of the founding of ECHONYC; to a return to The WELL with Howard Rheingold; to Rob Wittig's poetic description of the hum of the modem -- the lineage of social media in the days before the World Wide Web returns in this book. It returns in Steve Durland's interview with Electronic Cafe founders Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz and media art theorist Gene Youngblood; in Madeline Gonzalez Allen's journey from Bell Labs to co-leading the creation of an international Association for Community Networking; in Anna Couey's Cultures in Cyberspace, that connected five culturally diverse online communities; in scholarly analysis by Judith Donath and Gary O. Larson.

Friends and colleagues document their roles and set forth the issues: Randy Ross (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and Otoe Missouria) on whether the impact of technology and telecommunications has advanced tribal nationhood; Richard Lowenberg on the Telluride InfoZone; Deena Larsen on the ELO Chats; Dene Grigar on defending her thesis on LinguaMoo; Alan Liu on "Hacking the Voice of the Shuttle: The Growth and Death of a Boundary Object"; JR Carpenter on the TrAce Online Writing Centre at Nottingham Trent University; and Antoinette LaFarge on the role of avatars in social media poetics.

In conversation, Geert Lovink expands on "What Is the Social in Social Media?" And yes, to introduce the book, I wrote quite a few words on the origins of social media. But it wasn't until I interviewed Geert about "What Is the Social in Social Media?" that I realized that I had not defined social media in my Introduction. I figured at least one of the reviewers would notice this. Sure enough.....

M ost of my time is now spent on preparing the final manuscript of Social Media Archeology and Poetics, but a series of short walks and the daily writing to when we return again continue. And in exploring experimental new media narrative as social media, this week I returned to my own work collaborating with researchers at Xerox PARC in the creation of Forward Anywhere with Cathy Marshall and working in Pavel Curtis' group in CSL to create the LambdaMOO-based Brown House Kitchen.

from Judy Malloy, "Narratives and Narrative Structures in LambdaMoo", in Craig Harris, ed, Art and Innovation - the Xerox PARC Artist-in-Residence Program, Cambridge, MA MIT Press, 2000.

Tommer Peterson created the graphics for Arts Wire's home page that are displayed above.

June 27, 2015

"Electronic text appears as dissipate mist; the swift dissolve of fog burning from canyon rim is the visual quality of this shift. Print stays itself; electronic text replaces itself." - Michael Joyce, Of Two Minds. p. 233

W ith the preliminary writing for when we return again about two thirds finished, the constant changing of this work of polychoral generative hyperfiction is now engendered not only in the unpredictable random production of the text but also in the daily editing of the words, the program, and the screen design. In some respects the work is like a painting in progress. Yet unexpected responses to the pressing of "return again" still surprise even the writer herself.

The public writing of when we return again, the generative Irish American song, which is the coda to From Ireland with Letters, is not like the long ago Internet town square writing of Uncle Roger, where each lexia was released in the way one would tell a story on Twitter. Instead, if a reader is following this work in progress, he or she will press "return again" an unpredictable amount of times before a just-written-in-the morning lexia appears unexpectedly, set amidst an array of previously-written lexias.

Memorable this week: the peer reviews of Social Media Archeology and Poetics are enthusiastic, and all recommend publication.

And I am happy to announce that Uncle Roger will return in the forthcoming Electronic Literature Collection, vol 3.

My leg is not working well, and lately the metal cage of 20 years of walking on crutches weighs on my soul. Nevertheless, this week I walked a short way along a trail for a picnic in the beautiful green woods of Princeton.

Judy Malloy and Sonya Rapoport: Details from Objective Connections

June 20, 2015

A few words in absentia for the Memorial Gathering for Sonya Rapoport on June 21, 2015

I n the 35 years or so in which Sonya and I talked -- often on the telephone -- about the details of the development of our work, we did so partially because our work followed somewhat different trajectories and therefore was not competitive but at the same time we each used information as an artist's material and we each were interested in isolating/recombining words and images to create a meaningful whole. The way our different but tangential work converged and diverged but had certain sometimes intangible things in common is illustrated by Objective Connections, the work we created together for the exhibition Generations: The Lineage of Influence in Bay Area Art at the Richmond Art Center in 1996. The creation of this work in which:

Sonya set forth a visual image from her previous work,
and then I set forth a text from my previous work
and then we combined the image and the narrative
and so forth...

was surprisingly seamless. I don't recall a single exchange in which it was difficult to do this.

And it is very difficult to believe that we will never talk again.

Sonya Rapoport, 1923- June, 2015
was a central part of my art life,
and even though she was in her 90's,
it was impossible to believe
that she would ever die.
Farewell, art mother,
spirit of interactive art,
maker of beautiful scrolls of drawings and words,
always there sharer of art talk,
beloved friend in the understanding of lives
in which the making of art
is central.

June 14, 2015

M emorable this week: a visit from family, family birthday celebrations, and walks in the beautiful early summer Princeton area woods.

W orking on when we return again is a pleasurable activity for the month of June.

The evolving ideas for the authoring system for this work are recorded earlier in this notebook. About 90 lexias into the writing of this work, it is time to pause and reexamine how the content and the authoring system are working together.

1. From a coding point of view, it would be easier to individually position each column on the page. However, putting Liam, Maire, Walter, and Trial conceptually within the same table has a code elegance that is desirable even though it is unseen by the reader.

2. The effect of a textual picture plane with constantly changing content that the authoring system creates is forcing a need to create more visual details for the narrative than I had anticipated for what is essentially a coda. This has happened many times before -- in Paths of Memory and Painting, for instance. Nevertheless, perhaps because the content is randomly generated in when we return again, I did not anticipate it.

3. Contingently, the need to more visually describe the world model is forcing the creation of an off-screen map for which additional research will be required. Some of the needed information is difficult to find. This was not the intention of this short coda to From Ireland with Letters. But it needs to be done. And perhaps this map can initially serve as an overlaying interface.

4 The postcolonial nature of the narrative as a whole is purposefully less apparent in the coda. I wish to retain this romantic conclusion to what is at times a harrowing narrative. However, it is not my intention to exhibit it seperately the way I have the other parts of From Ireland with Letters. The full impact of the coda requires a larger knowledge of the narrative as a whole.

5. Meanwhile, reader, I hope that you, as well as I are enjoying the way experimental narrative can (if the creator so desires) create an alluring narrative of mutual attraction, of courtship across the centuries, and of impending passion.

6. I work from a completely different direction and the comparison is not obvious, but this week when I paused to consider the impact of when we return again, I was reminded of the riveting workings of Shirley Shor's visual art installation Goddess -- not because the content is similar (it isn't) but rather because of the contingent way that slowly changing content is used in Goddess (the work itself not the webpage) to relate images to each other. Here is some of what Shor writes about her work in her documentation:

"The series is about the process of how identity is generated. It is an ongoing attempt to re-claim and de-construct identity. It is about the state of being and the sense of time. The pieces are generated in real-time to create a dynamic hybrid image. This code-based practice constantly evolves and mutates the image, thus creating an ambiguous condition."

June 6, 2015

"Each time the song is sung, our notions of it change, and we are changed by it. The words are old. They have been worn into shape by many ears and mouths and have been contemplated often. But every time is new because the time is new, and there is no time like now." - Ciaran Carson (Last Night's Fun, NY: North Point Press, 1996. p, 116)

There is a difference between the language of the early parts of From Ireland with Letters and the language of the coda. While at the same time he woos a Puritan woman, that difference occurs and reoccurs in Walter Power's internal struggle with the reality of never returning to his homeland, a dream that he has not relinquished, despite the devastation of conquered/occupied/Transplantation Ireland, which makes his return to Ireland impossible. The gold cross that his Grandmother Fitzgerald gave him is buried in Irish ground. He will soon be Irish American. And in the same picture plane, immersed in the music of her Trad Irish band, his descendent, Máire Powers, sits at dinner with an art historian -- whose roots are the displacement of the Great Famine, whose father is a carpenter, but whose present is a University Art History Department, where Máire is an outsider.

There is no one meaning to Irish American. But I confess that in this brief coda, the romantic music of my childhood -- in the years before the trad revival -- has seeped into the words of this song. And it should be remembered that Liam's paternal Grandparents met at a Boston dance hall in the 1950's. (or so I imagined after reading See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Music and Dance by Susan Gedutis) At that time, in the old world marriages were still sometimes arranged, but one could go to the dance halls and begin a courtship. You might meet someone whose family came from County Cork at the time of the potato famine and so did your family, but you never knew this until you were dancing and talking at the Hall.

The dance halls were also a nurturing place for Irish music. Irish American songs and the songs that musicians born in Ireland brought with them when they came to America were sometimes quite different. But both traditional Irish songs and Irish American Songs were played at the dance halls. (I have repeated the words I wrote in a earlier notebook here. It is a custom of Irish musicians to do so)

Contingently, it is surprising how written descriptions of Irish music are so easily transported to descriptions of the ever flowing, repeated, remixed phrases of generative literature, where -- as Dorothea E. Hast and Stanley Scott note in Music in Ireland, Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture -- "Every few minutes, the musicians switch to a new tune, moving seamlessly from one melody to the next."

C heers this week: to graduating #Princeton2015 students Nikhila Albert, Monica Chon, Darcy Hargadon, Stephanie He, Michael Pinsky, (co-winner of the Bowers Prize in American Studies) Gerardo Veltri, and Allen Williams, all of whose projects and traversals were important in Social Media History and Poetics and/or Electronic Literature: Theory, Lineage, and Contemporary Practice.

The Interview with Judy Malloy about Uncle Roger

M emorable this week: The release of Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop's magnificent scalar book: Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature.

May 30, 2015

when we return again went online on May 26, with about 1/3 of the projected lexias written.

It has been my tradition, since 1986 when I first wrote Uncle Roger on Art Com Electronic Network, to write much of my work in serial fashion online. I like the composition adventure of creating a slowly evolving work of public literature.

Thus, while the writing and programing are in progress, the reader who visits and revisits when we return again, will notice lexias that he or she has never seen before -- but probably will not know if a seen-for-the-first time lexia was already there but was not generated by the computer in a previous visit, or if it was written since the last visit.

In the past I have not kept an online notebook of the writing of new lexias, but this week, a table was created, in which I am recording the names and posting date of each new lexia written for when we return again. This probably will not greatly change the reader experience because the filenames of the lexias are all that are recorded. But it does initiate a constantly changing chart to accompany the writing of the work.

Writing lexias into a narrative array is a difficult process that cannot be hurried. Each lexia has to fit exactly into the array, like a puzzle piece for a constantly reassembling puzzle. And sometimes the insertion of only a few new lexias makes a radical difference and it is necessary to continue writing in order to achieved the desired narrative.

Since when we return again is the last part of From Ireland with Letters, I would like to finish it by midsummer if not before. The empty spaces on the chart are an incentive to devote the early mornings of the summer to this work. And I look forward!

Programming note: On May 30, the program was retooled so that in column 3, (Walter and Trial) where two lexias are printed. (one underneath the other) it is no longer possible for the second lexia to be the same as the first lexia. In this column, the repetition was awkward, and the new program is much better.

A legendary spoken word work with pre-echoes of generative hypertext is John Cage's Indeterminacy. It began in the late 1950's with 30 stories given as a lecture in Brussels. The idea was suggested by David Tudor. Repeated in other lectures as the number of stories grew, Indeterminacy was most famously performed with David Tudor as "Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music". To perform this work, Cage read the stories from Indeterminacy in one room, taking a minute to perform each story and in another room, out of earshot, Tudor, played selections from Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra, as well as a pre-recorded tape from Cage's Fontana Mix.

I have always found that the idea -- of John Cage reading his words by himself in one room, while David Tudor played by himself in another room -- is in itself, a story that I sometimes know and sometimes do not know.

May 24, 2015

Memorable this week:
revisiting the work of the Princeton students, who created brilliant projects in electronic literature this academic year;
a sunny day walk in the woods along a river
and a visit to a farm stand.

L ike the couples, who in this coda have finally reached a long desired place in their relationship, the writing for when we return again is rushing to completion.

I am surprisingly happy with the way the continual pushing of "return again" interfaces this short narrative of love and desire that concludes From Ireland with Letters. Nevertheless, I am aware that there may be a need to provide more interface choices.

At times a creator's desire for interface flexibility opposes a secret writerly desire to make the reader's experience of the words primary.

The drawing above is of the farmhouse in Woodstock, Vermont, where Hiram Powers was born. Its image keys the courtship of Walter Power and Trial Shepard. The source is Henry Swan Dana, History of Woodstock, Vermont. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1889. p.350.

But as the writing of when we return again took shape, my plans to finish the book chapter Its Name was Penelope: A Generative Hypertext this week floundered on the need to pay more attention to the different ways in which John Cage presented the talk stories of his extraordinary Interderminacy. To begin with, in his words:

"The continuity of the 90 stories was not planned. I simply made a list of all the stories I could think of and checked them off as I wrote them. Some that I remembered I was not able to write to my satisfaction, and so they do not appear. Whenever I have given the talk, someone comes up afterwards and insists that the continuity was a planned one, in spite of the ideas that are expressed regarding purposelessness, emptiness, chaos, etc. One lady, at Columbia, asked, during the discussion following the talk, "What, then, is your final goal?" I remarked that her question was that of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to applicants for fellowships, and that it had irritated artists for decades. Then I said that I did not see that we were going to a goal, but that we were living in process, and that that process is external. My intention in putting 90 stories together in an unplanned way is to suggest that all things, sounds, stories (and, by extension, beings) are related, and that this complexity is more evident when it is not over-simplified by an idea of relationship in one person's mind."

The quote is from John Cage, "Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music", 1959 included in the "liner notes to John Cage and David Tudor, Indeterminacy, Smithsonian Folkways, 1992.

May 16-17, 2015

A t the beginning of a week of documenting the world model of its name was Penelope, Chris Burden died.

In the shock of the seemingly sudden loss of an iconic figure, I wondered if the lights in his "Urban Light" went dark, and remembered how one extraordinary performance artist's memes transfixed and enthralled American art worlds in the era I was about to revisit.

Almost all the photographic word images of the San Francisco Bay Area art world and beyond that occur in its name was Penelope, (Eastgate, 1993) are of real artists, real studios, and real art spaces. The cameo appearance, that Chris Burden makes, is a true story of how I met him at a party, (I think it was at the Art Institute) and he took off his shirt and showed me the scar where the bullet went through his shoulder and then the scars on his hands from when he was nailed to the Volkswagen.

It was as if a living legend had removed his artist's superhero cloak and revealed the center of his power.

If at that time, the meaning of this experience to the mid-career conceptual photographer who narrates Penelope was not a universal meme, this week, I was surprised by how the true stories of Burden's early performance works spread virally through the Internet.

And I remembered that it was partially the social media elements and the virtual elements (in the sense of real but different) of the wonderful and evocative world of the alternative arts in California that informed the decision to use that core part of my life as a world model for its name was Penelope.

For instance, Tom Marioni, whose "The Art of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art" was central in the social character of the San Francisco Bay Area art world; for instance Paul Cotton, whose finely crafted props and persona in challenging outfits or lack of any outfit appeared impromptu on the lawns and in the courtyards of Bay area museums; the adventures of Lynn Hershman's fictional persona Roberta Breitmore; Carl Loeffler, who traded "galleries, contacts, bank accounts, houses, clothes, and cars" when he and his staff changed places with the staff of Toronto's A-Space; Michael Peppe's performative rants unfolding like midnight twitter storms; the words slowly emanating from Richard Alpert's rotating wheel at Bonnie Sherk's The Farm; the sound of Australian Artist Jill Scott's didgeridoo echoing through 80 Langton St; and artist/poet Judy Malloy, who -- engaging the public in dialogue as "President" of OK Genetic Engineering -- drove the streets of Berkeley in the hand painted OK Genetic Engineering Company Car.

On Thursday, I sat in a cafe and reread some of Tom Marioni's words in his Crown Point Press memoir. While I was sitting in the cafe, wondering if it mattered at all that over the years some readers had misinterpreted the narrator of its name was Penelope as a failed artist, (because they did not understand the context of her life and work) when I came to these words in Tom's book:

"I am fascinated by work that can only be seen if you know it is art... You can probably see the ideas behind an artwork that seems to be invisible if you look for more than just a few seconds. You can try to figure out the artist's intention, and usually you have a clue from the title. If you stay with it, eventually you get most of the story. You never get it all. The artist doesn't get it all either, and may get something different after he steps back from the work when he is finished..."

(Tom Marioni, Beer, Art and Philosophy: A Memoir, SF, CA: Crown Point Press, 2003. pp. 111-112. Note that its name was Penelope takes place in the 1980's, but in the Bay Area, the era of which I wrote was partially keyed beginning in 1969 when Tom Marioni was the Curator at the Richmond Art Center.)

M emorable this week: On Wednesday, a party for Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty and Professor of History, Dirk Hartog, the current Director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton, who is passing the Chair to Anne Cheng, Professor of English and of the Center for African American Studies.

And on Saturday, I saw the Delaware River for the first time, arriving in Lambertville just in time to hear Carl Max as Whitney Houston sing the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the New Hope Pride Parade that crossed the Delaware on the bridge to New Hope, PA.

May 9, 2015

The seasonal cycle that in spring magically transforms the woods around Princeton from the after-snowmelt bleak, bare landscape into wild fields of blue and white and yellow flowers, forty shades of green, and the drumming sound of the woodpecker -- has arrived.

And suddenly a polyphonic narrative -- in which on an evening of a snowstorm a man and a woman are having dinner in a New England inn, while on the same screen a man and a woman are looking for each other 350 years ago on an overgrown Native trail near a waterway in May -- no longer seems workable.

Or perhaps I simply don't want to sit in the woods surrounded by new green grasses and profuse wildflowers and write about snow falling outside the window, the wearing of winter clothes, and the icy roads along the river.

And so, instead of thickly falling snow, it is the red and gold of autumn that contrasts with the greens of spring -- as the draft narrative for when we return again continues to unfold on my laptop screen.

M emorable this week: a visit to the Computer Science auditorium to hear demos of a few of the many intriguing Apps created in Brian Kernighan's Advanced Programming Techniques and Vermont environmental poet John Elder's D&R Greenway Land Trust talk about the role of creative writing in envionmental advocacy.

May 2-3, 2015

O nce in a while everything begins to comes together. With the three columns for when we return again set up and each column producing text at random (at this point only when requested by the sole reader, who is the author) what I had hoped would occur -- that the constraints that hindered each couple would dissolve when their stories flowed across the screen, keyed by different colors. Writing into this new template is a little like painting in that it is possible to move easily from column to column, inserting texts in various places in the canvas.

Otherwise in this week of revisiting the history of email and studying precursors for generative hypertext, my copy of Marc Saporta's Composition No. 1 has arrived. I am writing a paper on its name was Penelope: A Generative hypertext; it is of interest to explore generative hypertext precursors. Sometimes it is centuries before the lineage of art or literature is clarified.

The original French edition of Composition no. 1 was a bookbox containing 150 loose pages published in 1961. (Paris: Éditions du Seuil) An English version, translated by Richard Howard, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1963.

The book that arrived this week is a 2011 reprint by Visual Editions. It contains the loose pages in bookbox with a striking yellow exterior. Mine is a used copy, so I cannot be sure that nothing is missing, but I think the 150 pages are all there. Each contains a text that is usually about 3/4 of the page. The world model is Paris during the Nazi occupation. The term world model is not inappropriate in this story, which is not only a precursor to generative hyperfiction but also -- in its declarative, descriptive sentences -- reminiscent of the language of interactive fiction.

"The wooden staircase has an ancient-looking banister, well-polished but crackled.

The rustic bedroom is on the first floor, comfortable, almost too luxurious after nights on the bivouac."

"The bulging envelope is on top of the other papers and folders in the middle drawer."

"The couch, along the wall, is covered with a Mexican serape. Dagmar is sitting there with her legs folded under her."

P aralleling Nazi leaf-letting of the Sorbonne:

"The leaflets must be distributed at the University, despite or account of the many arrests"

at times, with potent exceptions, such as the narrator's arousal in the process of the rape of Hilda, the pages suggest a stack of surveillance-gathered observations. Contingently, Composition No. 1 is disturbing in its callous, male-centered descriptions of the three primary women. For instance, the cold documentation of the descent into madness of the beautiful and brilliant scholar, Marianne.

"Marianne smokes nervously. The cigarette is covered with lipstick almost halfway from the end. Each time the young woman takes it from her lips to tap off the ashes, she gets lipstick on her tobacco-stained fingers; the nails show traces of chipped polish."

Regardless, Composition No. 1 is formidable. Artists book structures are, to a certain extent, interfaces for the text and images they contain. We open the box and are confronted with unbound, unnumbered pages. We are not settling in for a quiet read. Without the reassurance of an ordered text, we are thrown into occupied France. What we are reading is naturally disturbing. Somewhere in the pages of Composition No. 1, there is a reference to pages of confessions extracted under Nazi torture. The inclusion of this sheet (I can not find it at the moment) is probably not without meaning in a narrative whose layered and possibly deliberately misleading texts may be meant to be the work of a member of the French Resistance.

A critic might counter my unease with Composition No. 1 by asking "but -- as page replaces page at the will of the computer -- doesn't Anne, the narrator of its name was Penelope, immerse the reader in her relationships with men through a woman-centered lens?" A writer of electronic literature might observe that although it is not the only way of doing this, immersing the reader in scene-after-scene of same-voiced observations is an effective narrative device in a work where the author does not know in what order the reader will observe each scene.

A reader using the Visual Arts edition will have to do without Saporta's introduction. For some reason it is not included. As any author of non-sequential literature is aware, what the writer discloses in an "about" file is be important in revealing what is intended to be revealed, or possibly -- as any writer of truth distorted fiction is aware -- to be concealed from the reader. Without Saporta's notes, in the Helga pages, sometimes it is unclear how often the intruder is another woman or even if the narrator is -- in the agent/double agent paranoid atmosphere of occupied territory -- secretly observing what happens in the room of a young, German woman.

Composition no 1 has been made into an App. However, it was designed for the page, not the computer screen. The box and the invitation to remove the separate and unnumbered sheets of paper from the box are the interface. It is important not to overlook the potency of book objects.

Contingently -- the work is a kind of bookbox -- the OK Genetic Engineering Files, on display at krowswork from April 11 - May 2, were originally conceived as a kind of Pandora's box, not publically opened since they were last exhibited at Works in San Jose, 19 years ago. The painted filing box has a certain presence. A photo of the car that I drove around Berkeley beginning in 1983 is also displayed inside an open briefcase. (the meaning of this object is somewhat changed once it is on a pedestal.) I am not in California, but it has been of interest to follow what new media curator Tanya Zimbardo continued to add to the Facebook page for Versions: Kristin Lucas and Judy Malloy.

M emorable this week, former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden, speaking from Russia via Google Hangout, in conversation with distinguished reporter Bart Gellman -- in the Friend Center auditorium at Princeton.

And new media scholar Lisa Nakamura, in a duet presentation with UMich Graduate Student Cass (via Skype) on issues of Internet publication, identity, and race. Hosted by the Princeton Center for African American Studies.

April 24, 2015

355 years after April 24, 1660:
the day of The Not Yet Named Jig.

A fter circling around the narrative, declaring I would or would not begin writing when we return again and enjoying the usual struggles with the code, this week, I have a table (called by JavaScript) that contains three columns, each of which will produce lexias from different variables at random. The two left hand columns will be Máire and Liam's return to the Farmhouse Cafe, side by side but from their different viewpoints of what happened between them in the recent past. And the right hand column is a viewfinder of [the parallel story of] what happened between Walter Power and Trial Shephard in 1660. Given that there is an unknown true story that lies beneath a real Court document, I do not yet know what distant view the words and authoring system will reveal.

Máire and Liam are somewhat easier to write since they are completely fictional. But sometimes, as do many writers at a certain point in the narrative, I forget that they are fictional. Walking into the Farmhouse Cafe together, (in the first lexia I wrote this week) they seem real.

Initially, instead of using the score for Paths, as I had originally intended, I started by writing the nodes for when we return again directly into the spaces for variables that I created in each column in the rough-draft score. This authoring system is by no means final, and I have as yet to decide whether the score will be measured or unmeasured notation. Also I do not know how either method will work in conjunction with generative hyperfiction.

As creators of electronic literature, we work with wonder (and with uncertainty) in a field where we are not yet confined to expected ways of doing things. Every writer of electronic literature comes to the field with a different vision, and even for the same author, the visibility of the authoring system may vary from work to work.

Although, in other works, the process may be deliberately apparent in the finished work, in when we return again, ultimately, I would like the words and the authoring system to work together in a seamless way, so that the narrative that is conveyed rises above the process. If it doesn't, I will have to keep working until it does.

M emorable this week were email conversations with ARPANET era pioneers, who added immeasurably to the Introduction to Social Media Archeology and Poetics; finishing the review of Judith Donath's The Social Machine; and a panel hosted by the Princeton Center for African American Studies on #BlkStudiesDigitalAge: Race, Digital Media & Social Networks.

April 18, 2015

A fter months of intense work and snow, (beautiful out the window) I am able to begin walking the trails a little, and there are yellow flowers beside the waterway.

It had seemed that as I do not know exactly where I will be later this year, it might be best to delay the writing of when we return again for symbolic purposes. Perhaps the meaning of the title would be significant. And of course there were papers to write.

But "'A WAY IS OPEN', Allusion, Identity, Authoring System, and Audience in Early Text-Based Electronic Literature" is finished, and "its name was Penelope, a generative hypertext" is underway. The yellow flowers that appeared last year about six weeks before I began to actually write The Not Yet Named Jig in early June, 2014, have appeared on the trail. I have already begun working on the authoring system for when we return again.

At this point, the value of the circular thinking -- that usually occurs in this writer's notebooks before the work itself begins -- was affirmed, as, (paging down) I discovered the score I transcribed in February and saw that to begin I needed only to rename the files, replace the text with new text, and change the timing. This part of the writing process is somewhat Cagean. But now, (because obviously my reverse-Cagean vision is different) there is the poetic putting of narrative into the score.

This spring, I am returning to walking in the woods in Princeton and next week will begin writing when we return again.

This week, I have also enjoyed beginning a review of Judith Donath's The Social Machine for Authoring Software, where I will be focusing on Social Media narrative in the coming months. And I am looking forward to working on an interesting consulting project.

April 24 - The images in the April 18, 2015 notebook entry will probably continue to change until they are the images that I want. Sometimes this takes a while. Sometimes the process is a loop and eventually the original images return.

"As the spinning image on the video monitor slowed and finally stopped, it became evident that there was writing on the rim of the wheel, eventually becoming readable:

'Emotions move from one feeling to the next in a circumferential manner.Eventually they come full circle. Each time around they are slightly different, changed by experience and circumstance.'"

(Richard Alpert A Circular Route, The Farm, September 1979)

April 10, 2015

An interlude in the slow reading of Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi's 1990 paper: "The Artwork Nave di Luce: a Journey into Telematics, Art and Music"[1] occurred a few weeks ago when the point in their paper was reached where "The computers were programmed to select only one note in each branch" and subsequently, the authors observed that "The process was based on structures that allowed varied possibilities and produced different and unpredictable formal results".

1. in Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, ed: Roy Ascott and Carl Loeffler, Leonardo 24(2) 1991, 179-183.

At this point, it seemed a good idea to revisit John Cage's strategies, so I ordered a copy of Richard Kostelanetz' Conversing with Cage and worked on my paper (on "Allusion, Identity, Authoring System, and Audience in Early Text-Based Electronic Literature") while I waited for its arrival.

This week, on the first picnic of Spring, sitting beside a stream, I began to read Conversing with Cage. To create this book, having seen how many interviews with Cage already existed, Kostelanetz asked questions. Sometimes Cage inserted comments, but usually responses to similar questions in past interviews were reprinted as answers.

What emerges from this innovative information art interview is a picture of John Cage restlessly working to create new process after new process. Conversing with Cage is a rich source of inventive algorithmic and/or chance-driven processes. Many ideas emerge from these lexia-like reprinted conversations. And there are constant surprises.

One is the complex and different processes with which he composed each of the texts of his art catalog essays on Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Marcel Duchamp:

"The Rauschenberg text was written rather quickly and followed a musical score of mine. It has been my habit for some years to write texts in a way analogous to the way I write music. Say I have four subjects that I am willing to discuss. Then I take a sheet of paper with four shapes on it. Over that I place a circle which in the case of music refers to time and in the case of a text, such as these refers to lines on a page. I have the lines, I have another sheet with points on it. (These sheets are transparent); and as the points fall over the one that has the shapes, some of the points are in the shape, some are outside..." (p. 133 in Conversations with Cage. The source is Artforum, 1965)

The method (all of which is not printed here because it interlocks with the methods for other texts, and it would be best to get the book and read the whole) is not precisely what I expected when I began to read it. The somewhat Cagean way that Aitiani and Giomi altered Gregorian chant for Nave di Luce: a Journey into Telematics, Art and Music" is also not what I expected. Nevertheless, this work and the Leonardo paper that describes it have been a source of pleasurable exploration for several months.

In the beginning of my own work in electronic literature, I was aware of the importance of what contemporary musicians had done/were doing, but as electronic literature created its own vibrant field, we looked more at our own history. (and in my case, also returned to early music) Thus, the part of this 2015 writer's notebook journey that began with Nave di Luce and circled back to Conversing with Cage, was an important reminder of the relevance to electronic literature of the work of contemporary musicians.


The image that opens this notebook entry was created with three transparent circle gifs that each contain a quote from Conversing with Cage.

April 4, 2015
(somewhat edited on April 6)

T his week -- immersed in writing about allusion in electronic literature -- how visual artists subtly influence one another's work was on my mind.

When stamp-sized icons were used in the web version of Uncle Roger and later in A Party at Silver Beach, (before the era of Twitter representation by icon) I wasn't particularly thinking about the stamp art received in the mail from E.F. Higgins and many other artists -- to whom, in the late 1970's and the early 1980's, serial chapbooks and projects were sent and from whom, I received art and words in return.

And yet the sheets of stamp art in my studio/apartment in Berkeley were often-looked-at favorite works.

I never met Higgins, whose stamp art icons (remixed from my collection) begin this brief essay. But we exchanged art and words for years. As I wrote in the introduction to Social Media Archeology and Poetics:

...while work on ARPANET progressed, artists created a parallel social medium where they shared their work. If, somehow mail art made the transition to the Internet seamless for some (as it did for me), I am not sure I know why, but perhaps it was the magical communication with people one did not know. Receiving email seldom approximates the packages and envelopes that showed up in my mail, particularly the beautiful artists' stamps from Ed Higgins, Steve Durland, and Anna Banana. But, as Higgins, once noted:

"Some people think it ironic artists' stamps can't always get work through the mail. But that's not their point. Again, the point is art, the communication of ideas."

In my current work, it is a musician who has, with words and music, deeply influenced my work.

And long ago, in the years of expanding mail art circles, (named the "Eternal Network" by French artist Robert Filliou) it was not only what we received but also what we created in response that was important. Indeed, some of my earlier information projects were communicated via the mail art. And I am happy to have some of this work included in distinguished media art curator Tanya Zimbardo's residency at krowswork in Oakland.

Ongoing Exhibition: Versions: Kristin Lucas and Judy Malloy
and film work by Mike Henderson, Judith Barry, Stephen Laub and more..
April 11 to May 2, 2015

Meanwhile, here is a detail from E.F. Higgin's tool-emphasizing stamp work:
the Perforator Commemorative.

March 28, 2015

Now is the time -- I knew it was coming -- to acknowledge that creating the authoring system and the initial writing for when we return again is probably not going to happen for a few months and maybe longer. This is because of the writing of two book chapters on electronic literature, and the editing and program tweaking of The Not Yet Named Jig, which will apear in various summer exhibitions. Printouts of the literate code that generates this work will also be made and will be installed in various ways. None of these things are, however, onerous. And when they are finished, I look forward to the creating of when we return again.

The complex programming I am considering for when we return again, in which precise node-composed measures are randomly produced in each of three staves, may take a while to implement. Because I do not know what happened between Walter and Trail, while at the same time what happened between Liam and Máire is a fictional echo, I think that, as is The Not Yet Named Jig, the coda will be revelatory. It is not yet known whether or not the authoring system will produce the sought after effect, but the writing of the words of this amatory, climatic sonata will be a pleasure. Spring is coming.

This week, I concentrated on editing The Not Yet Named Jig for exhibition -- rereading each lexia and running and rerunning the work until all the text was working in the way I desired. I had considered writing 11 more lexias to bring the total up to 100, but when I revisited it, the work seemed finished. I had also considered tweaking the program so that at times certain lexias appeared in groups, (The way its name was Penelope was structured) but when I revisited the work, this was also obviously wrong.

It is always good to let a few months pass, leave the work and then return before deciding on the final version. In this case, much of the effect of The Not Yet Named Jig depends on the way lexias work unexpectedly with each other to portray a difficult time and place that is not clearly visible in history. The Not Yet Named Jig is possibly the most surprising work of generative hyperfiction that I have made.

The purpose of using generative hyperfiction in File 3 of Uncle Roger was to create a narrative that was divulged using memories that come and go unexpectedly.

The use of generative hyperfiction in its name was Penelope is explained in this way:

Like a photos in a photo album, each lexia represents an image from Anne's memory -- so that the work is the equivalent of a pack of small paintings or photographs that the computer continuously shuffles. The reader sees things as she sees them, observes her memories come and go in a natural, yet nonsequential manner that creates a constantly changing order -- like the weaving and reweaving of Penelopeia's web.

In contrast, the purpose of generative hyperfiction in The Not Yet Named Jig was to create a world model of a time and place that was not well documented but was integral to the narrative of From Ireland with Letters as a whole. I continue to be surprised at how well this worked.

Generative hypertext differs from the "cut-up method" in that each lexia is written separately, not cut from a whole. The links are intuitive and are written into lexias which are then pseudo-randomly generated. William Burroughs once observed, talking about the cut-up method on a recorded lecture: "When you cut into the present, the future leaks out." In the case of The Not Yet Named Jig, it is the distant past that leaks out.

March 20, 2015

A ncient myth, pervaded with contemporary myth, is a vital component of contemporary gaming. In electronic literature, the examples are fewer. Nevertheless, they are there in the reversed Homeric echoes that permeate my generative hypertext its name was Penelope; in the relentless tragedy that unfolds in classics scholar Dene Grigar's Texas-based Fallow Field; in the mythical journey -- moving forward through space in the language of early 1970's science fiction -- that characterizes Andrew Plotkin's Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home; in the erotically-tinged relationship between the player and the unseen presence of the beast that submerges and surfaces in Emily Short's Bronze; and in From Ireland with Letters where the story -- of how Irish slave Walter Power's descendent, abolitionist sculptor Hiram Powers, created a chained "Greek Slave" and sent her around the country in the days before the Civil War -- is mythologized in Irish-music-laden polyphony.

In such works, we may be on a parallel track with gaming -- two tracks that merge, diverge, merge as we in the electronic literature field begin to spend more time with contemporary gaming, and gamers seek to deepen the impact of innovative narrative in works, such as Journey -- where the flow, the wordless motion, carry the player forward through mythical landscapes to a distant mountain and along the way, we are enchanted by the swirl of scarves and robes and the briefly-glimpsed hieroglyphic icons that narrate the past.

I n electronic literature, one thing we sometimes do that differs our works from games is to focus on algorithms and the way in which they create meaning. In works such as Fox Harrell's The Griot System, for instance, where -- exemplifying the role of algorithm and innovative authoring system in creating narrative in electronic literature -- The Griot System itself is core to the meaning of work.

Memorable this week was an email conversation with Geert Lovink, and the sending of the entire manuscript of Social Media Archeology and Poetics to MIT Press.

March 14, 2015
briefly edited on March 20

The entire manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics is about ready to go. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this treasure chest of historical social media.

Social Media Archeology and Poetics
The Origins of Social Media - Judy Malloy
The Personal Computer and Social Media - Paul Ceruzzi
Daily Life in Cyberspace - Howard Rheingold
Community Memory -- The First Public-Access Social Media System - Lee Felsenstein
PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community - David R. Woolley
alt.hypertext: an early social medium - James Blustein and Ann-Barbara Graff
Dictati)On ) a Canadian perspective on the history of telematic art - Hank Bull
Art and Minitel in France in the '80s - Annick Bureaud
Rescending Precedential Media - Steve Dietz
Defining the Image as Place, a Conversation with Kit Galloway, Sherrie Rabinowitz & Gene Youngblood - Steven Durland
IN.S.OMNIA, 1983-1993 Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL: A Conversation with Fred Truck and Anna Couey - Judy Malloy
System X: Interview with FoundingSysop Scot McPhee - Amanda McDonald Crowley
In Search of Identities in the Digital Humanities: The Early History of Humanist - Julianne Nyhan
EchoNYC - Stacy Horn
MOOS and Participatory Media - Dene Grigar
Hacking the Voice of the Shuttle: The Growth and Death of a Boundary Object - Alan Liu
Issues in Native American Telecommunications - Randy Ross, (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and Otoe Missouria)
The Telluride InfoZone - Richard Lowenberg
Community Networking, a Personal Journey - Madeline Gonzalez Allen
Cultures in Cyberspace: Communications System Design as Social Sculpture - Anna Couey
Crossing-Over of Art-History and Media-History in the Times of the Early Internet with Special Regards to THE THING NYC - Susanne Gerber
Arts Wire: The Non-Profit Arts Online - Judy Malloy
Electronic Literature Organization Chats on LinguaMOO - Deena Larsen
TrAce Online Writing Centre Nottingham Trent University, UK - JR Carpenter
Pseudo Space Experiments with Avatarism and Telematic Performance in Social Media - Antoinette LaFarge
Expanding on "What Is the Social in Social Media?" : A Conversation with Geert Lovink - Judy Malloy
Slow Machines and Utopian Dreams - Judith Donath
From Archaeology to Architecture: Building a Place for Noncommercial Culture Online - Gary O. Larson

For a short social media poetics break, today I returned to contemplating Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi's 1990 work, "The Artwork Nave di Luce: a Journey into Telematics, Art and Music." The role of remote connection in this compelling work is of interest.

What must have seemed extraordinary to the audience was the moment when the new score was transmitted via computer from the Consevatorio di Musica in Florence to the church in Siena, where it began to print out -- most likely on continuous feed paper -- and then was played/interpreted by the organist.

The authors observe that "These kinds of remote links enabled the musicians and artists involved in the work to interact and influence each other in their expressive choices." (p. 180)

Telematics projects on this scale are less likely to happen in the 21st century. As I noted in the introduction to Social Media Archeology and Poetics:

"In this age of ubiquitous contemporary social media, we may never again experience the magic of Bill Bartlett's 1979 Interplay, in which -- as artists in Canberra, Edmonton, Houston, New York, Toronto, Sydney, Vancouver, and Vienna discoursed one after another online -- printouts of their continuing dialogue on computer culture emerged from terminals in every city that participated."

And I keep returning with awe to the projects created with IPSA's ARTEX system, such as Robert Adrian's The World in 24 Hours, (1982) that included sound, and Roy Ascott's fairy tale narrative La Plissure du Texte. (1983)[1]

As Hank Bull notes in Social Media Archeology and Poetics, "To hear a voice, read a message, or see a face on the screen, beamed in from afar, seemed like some kind of miracle"

Contingently. I remember the thrill of Uncle Roger running on Art Com Electronic Network's Datanet. When I ran it remotely, it was visible not only on the screen but also emerged from my dot matrix printer and spilled down to the floor. The process provided a combination of simultaneous print and screen user experience that -- perhaps because the spitting out of sheets of paper is so inelegant compared to the progression of continuous feed paper -- is seldom utilized in contemporary works.

There are ways in which we can work on the scale of early telematics projects. But to regain the magic, we will have to conceptualize differently.

Memorable this week was coffee and conversation about generative poetry systems and innovative social media platforms with an inspirational colleague: Fox Harrell.


"The title of the project alludes, of course, to Roland Barthes' book 'Le Plaisir du Texte' but pleating (plissure) is not intended to replace pleasure (plaisir) only to amplify and enhance it" - Roy Ascott, "Art and Telematics" in Heidi Grundmann, Art Telecommunication. (Vancouver: Western Front; Vienna: BLIX, 1984), 35.

March 7, 2015

I n the 1980's, because it was all so new, we were looking at contingencies between visual art, music, and literature as regards generative systems. Attempting to venture beyond the permutation of sentences, in circa 1987, I encountered Jasia Reichardt's Cybernetic Serendipity in the Cal Library and surprisingly was influenced by Charles Csuri's work because of the way in which he randomly generated whole images.

It is important to step every now and again out of our discipline and look at what other artists are doing or did in the past. A writer of electronic literature may look at the process that a musician or a visual artist explored and be influenced in an unexpected way.


1. Arthur Effland, "An Interview with Charles Csuri" in Jasia Reichardt, ed. Cybernetic Serendipity, The Computer and the Arts. New York: Praeger, 1969. pp. 81-84.


The sun is out. The storm is over. The snow is bright white. This week, while I work on Social Media Archeology and Poetics, I see no reason to hurry the writing of the authoring software for when we return again, but instead continue to slowly explore (as if it was a read and reread familiar narrative) the processes utilized by Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi in "The Artwork Nave di Luce: a Journey into Telematics, Art and Music".

The Gregorian chant used as a component of Nave di Luce was written around the 10th century, so it was first necessary to score it with traditional notation. This score was then divided into 12 fields, creating 12 units that would form the basis of further compositional processes. After algorithmic processes were applied to these fields, only the wordless music was performed. Nevertheless, these fields were not determined by measured notation but rather the chant was segmented in such a way that the words remained intact, and the poetics were retained

Whether or not -- in only the altered sound of the subsequently algorithmically generated wordless music -- the listener familiar with the words of the chant might recall them, I don't know. Working with words only in an opposite process, a device I have used throughout From Ireland with Letters is to repeat only a few phrases of Irish music lyrics in the belief that some readers will hear the music of song in their minds as the work progressed. This device pervades the work of Irish poets and writers, including, of course James Joyce.

In their paper on Nave di Luce, Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi depict the initial results of segmenting the chant as a 12 branch tree-structure, and illustrate this with an evocative drawing by Aitiani. There might be a question as to whether this is actually a tree-structure, but if we consider that the flow of the sound is eventually directed by algorithmic processes, (and a certain amount of interactivity on the part of the organist), perhaps we are dealing with the kinds of issues that arise with generative hypertext -- i.e. generative hypertext is not what is traditionally called hypertext. However, it can be called hypertext both because the unit of text is the lexia and because, linking exists implicitly in the way the lexias are composed.

What algorithms do Aitiani and Giomi impose on these 12 fields? To be continued; stay tuned.....

Meanwhile, there is the manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics to finish. This week on a snowy day, the Introduction was mostly finished. The figures and captions are also mostly in order.

T his week I also:

began my chapter -- "'A WAY IS OPEN', Allusion, Identity, Authoring System, and Audience in Early Text-Based Electronic Literature" -- for the edited book Contexts, Forms, and Practices of Electronic Literature

was delighted to receive the news that both The Not Yet Named Jig and my information art installation, "Every Look is Far. No Way is Silent", have been accepted for exhibition in ELO215 at Bergen, Norway this summer.

and attempted to accept with good nature the knowledge that much in my life is to be continued but I don't know precisely how or where.

Stay Tuned...

February 28, 2015

E very time I page through the classic Leonardo issue on telematic art, Ascott and Loeffler's Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, it is for a different reason. This week it was to look at Dana Moser's work which I wished to mention in the Introduction to Social Media Archeology and Poetics. Done.

Every time I page through Connectivity, I encounter the figures in "The Artwork Nave di Luce: a Journey into Telematics, Art and Music" by Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi [1] -- thinking this looks interesting, but it is not my mission in Connectivity today. This has been going on for 24 years.

This week however, I was seized by the desire to briefly escape from the throes of compiling the complete manuscript of Social Media Archeology and Poetics. So metaphorically, I went to Florence and Siena with Marcello Aitiani and Francesco Giomi.

Nave di Luce is a complex work. But this very complexity was part of what finally drew me to explore this work, in part because I was reacting to the complexity of a considered authoring system for when we return. The questions I was considering were: Is this system too complex? Or, will the underlying complexity contribute to the desired result?

Nave di Luce was a distributed sound/image work that first took place on March 10, 1990 at three different sites: the Consevatorio di Musica in Florence; the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Santa Maria della Scala in and the Magazzini del Sale in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. These places were connected with two different systems: networked computers {a mainframe at the conservatory in Florence; PCs in Siena) with which each place could communicate (a time sharing system was used) and an audio/video link through which images and sound could be transmitted. Note that in this pre-webstreaming era, different systems were necessary.

Inside the Church in Siena were an organist and a choir. Music data was transferred to the Conservatory; images and sound were transmitted to the exhibition space in the Piazza del Campo.

As regards the sound, it worked in this way. First, in the church the choir sang Gregorian chants. The sound was streamed to the audience in the Piazza del Campo.

The next three components are best described by the composers at this point.

"Second Phase
One of the Neumatic-Gregorian scores, which previously was digitally codified and then was played in the performance, was re-elaborated by one of the three computers. The new score was controlled not merely by a set of rules but by the musicians' impromptu intervention (Human machine interaction). This was then sent from Florence to the church in Siena through the datalink.

Third Phase
The new score was printed out inside the church. The organist then played it in a Neumatic key, trying to stress the unseen elements inserted by the computer. This performance was also tele-transmited to the Magazzini del Sale.

Fourth Phase
Simultaneously, fragments of electronic music pieces, generated by the computer in Florence, began to play ad libitum. This performance took place in the exhibition center, where an audience was listening. Thus the telematic aspect was the most significant of the entire performance."

And so, since I have an introduction to finish, the exploration of Nave di Luce will be continued next week.....

M emorable this week, was a lunch at an Italian restaurant in Princeton and an accompanying discussion of the artist's role in the preservation of electronic literature.


1. in Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, ed: Roy Ascott and Carl Loeffler, Leonardo 24(2) 1991, 179-183.
Dana Moser's paper that I was originally searching for is:
"Notes on Telecommunications Art: Shifting Paradigms" (pp. 213-214)
His new work is Dana Moser and Nita Sturiale, We See Each Other All The Time


February 21-22, 2015

A cold, snowy day in Princeton, with only a few weeks until the entire manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics is due, but even if only for a few hours of notebook writing, it is time for a writer's escape. Above, on the left a small detail of a painting by 19th century Massachusetts artist, Joseph Morviller, "Malden in Winter", on the right a small part of the view out my window.

I am happy with how extraordinarily well The Not Yet Named Jig recreated Malden in 1660. But what precisely happened between Walter and Trial will not be easy to recreate for the coda.

Given how well randomly generated lexias created an evocative narrative in The Not Yet Named Jig, it is tempting to run a semi-fictional narrative of Walter and Trial's romance in pseudo-random order in the continuo field of when we return again. This will create some issues with the notation, but I think it can be done. In fact, the entire work could be created in parallel columns of randomly generated lexias. The algorithms for this authoring system would randomly produce a series of measures of lexias, in which the lexias in each measure added up to a specified unit of time. (perhaps emulating waltz meter) Because the content of when we return again is memories -- and the contrast of memories of two different but related couples in two different time periods -- I think this could be very effective.

Today, however, I am reviewing what I know or have deduced about happened between Walter and Trial.

Walter Power (Poor, later Powers) and Trial Shepard were married in Malden, Massachusetts on March 11, 1660 or on November 20, 1660, or on January 11, 1660, or on March 11, 1661.

Their first child, William, was born on March 16, 1661.

They were convicted of premarital fornication on April 2, 1661. This date is precise because there is a court record with the following text:

On 2 April 1661, Walter Poor & Trial his wife being convicted of fornication by them committed together before marriage, the Court sentenceth him to be openly whipped with 15 stripes by the constable of Cambridge & to pay a fine of fifty shillings for his wife or else she to be whipped also. Ralph Shepard appearing in Court, acknowledged himself engaged to pay 50s. to the Treasuruer of this County in behalf of his son-in-law Walter Poor [MCR 1:189; MCF Folio #28].)

Taking into account William's birth date of March 11, 1661, and that first children are often a little late, a projected first premarital fornication date of approximately June 1 is workable.

So yes, this is why it is June or late May in Malden in the projected continuo for the coda to From Ireland with Letters, although to hold to the time frame in which the contemporary part of the story has progressed, the predominant narrative occurs in January in the 21st century, when Máire Powers and Liam O'Brien are having dinner in a New Hampshire Inn on a snowy evening.

As to when Walter and Trial were married, it was probably not March 11, 1660 because in that case there would be no evidence of premarital fornication. (William's was born a year later in March 1661.) Although they could have waited until Puritan law forced them to marry just before William's birth, and thus married on March 11, 1661, I am going with the date given by Harvard PhD and distinguished Smithsonian American Art Museum curator, Richard P. Wunder.(1923-2002) Wunder's monograph -- Hiram Powers, Vermont Sculptor. 1805-1873, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991 -- gives Walter's date of birth as 1639 in Waterford Ireland, based on multiple sources. Wunder gives his marriage to Trial as January 11, 1660.

At that point, it would have been evident that Trial was pregnant. It looks as if the move to Littleton (if they had already prudently done so, was not enough to protect them from the obvious meaning of William's birth only two months after their marriage.

And so in this time of cold days and snow, my writer's journey begins in the late spring/early summer at the time of Walter and Trial's first lovemaking. Meanwhile, on a snowy evening at an Inn in New Hampshire, Máire and Liam recollect the past two months of their lives.

Reconstructing the unmeasured notation utilized to create the third file of Paths of Memory and Painting, (2009-2010) which "plays" in three vertical staves, each containing lexias that appear on the screen for as many seconds as notated.

February 14, 2015
Valentine's day was an enjoyable brunch with family!

A s the manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics comes together, the whole seems like a treasure -- from Paul Ceruzzi's documentation of the role of personal computers, to Lee Felsenstein's documentation of the historic Community Memory, to Annick Bureaud's discovery of over 100 works of art and literature utilizing minitels, to Susanne Gerber's interview with The Thing Sysop, Wolfgang Staehle, and onward. There is much to explore in the chapters of the book. And early every morning I work on my introduction.

In the mornings, there is usually a little time to explore notating polyphonic electronic literature in preparation for writing and coding when we return again, the coda to From Ireland with Letters.

Some observations:

1.Historically, once more than one stave was used in music composition, the difficulty of conveying how multiple staves worked in conjunction with each other, was a factor in the standardization of music notation. But such standardization in polyphonic electronic literature notation is probably not desirable at this time

The image -- "huic ut" in which the magi bring mystical gifts..." -- is a facsimile from the circa 13th century Montpellier Manuscript. The source of the image is Willi Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600, 4th edition, Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1949.p. 316

2.Obviously music notation is not precisely emulated when working with lexias as the basic unit. The prefix electronic literature should probably be added to the terminology: electronic literature notation. Electronic literature notation makes it possible to recreate the work if the original is lost. Additionally, the work can be easily transposed to a different authoring system. For instance, using the notation just recreated for Paths III, eventually, I can recode Paths III in JavaScript. Some may say that once this is done , the JavaScript serves as the notation. But I am not absolutely sure of this.

3. Only the timing and a few lines of each lexia are included in the notation for PathsIII. More recent works have been scored more thoroughly. To review:

The score for Fiddler's Passage is displayed without the text. However, the entire text is keyed below the score.

Both the score for Junction of Several Trails and the score for "Gone With Our Wanderers" include entire lexias within the space that documents each measure.

Note that the difference that putting even only a few words into the notation makes is amazing. The reader of the notation has a better chance of "sight reading" the work. Note also that measured electronic literature notation is easier to display than unmeasured electronic literature notation.

4. In all of these works, the reader (who could in a public reading situation become a performer) has the option to choose to advance each lexia, as desired. Indeed, the only way to play Wasting Time, the Gilbert and Sullivan-influenced electronic literature trio I created in 1991, was to interactively advance it. Contingently, because I have not been notating either screen layout or color, a reader who reconstructs the work from only the existing notation is likely to create a work with an entirely different look and feel.

What is the role of reader-driven interactivity in polyphonic electronic literature? What are the contingencies between 17th century unmeasured preludes and unmeasured polyphonic electronic literature?

I n this week, in the throes of the difficult and time consuming work of putting together the entire manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics, there are currently more questions than there are answers. But because it is the nature of artists and writers to simply plow into new work, it is important to stop and examine what I am doing. As things stand, as a result of this week's questions, I'm reconsidering my decision to return to unmeasured electronic literature notation.

February 7, 2015

I t was a week of the thrill
of listening to Princeton students present
their extraordinary works of electronic literature.

A t home, I explored the unmeasured notation utilized to create the third file of Paths of Memory and Painting, which "plays" in three vertical staves, each containing lexias that appear on the screen for as many seconds as notated. The composition of this work was originally "heard" rather than notated -- i.e. I listened to live music that I heard in Berkeley in 2009 and 2010 and then created the flow of the lexias by ear.

I kept a pen and ink chart of the number of seconds that each lexia stayed on the screen in Paths III, but either it is in my files in storage or I gave it to my archives at Duke. Therefore, this week, I revisited the work and roughly reconstructed the notation in three parallel columns. I am continuing to add a line or lines from the lexias the html files lead to. They will appear slowly as the week of February 8-14 progresses.

In the foreground...

...Individual instruments sounding together...
Rehearsal foreshadowing

...100 miles away,
with memories...

...the voice
of the woman
in the singing lesson

...on the porch
in the summer home
on the lake...

ferns in a vase
on the dining room table...

...Unexpected domesticity
in the paintings
of the Gold Rush.

the sound of
quiet conversation

The sun had come out after days of rain...

the simultaneous motion
of hand and pencil.

In the cafe,
everyone busy

The wine, the food,
Memory of...

...artists, writers, musicians,

...without a beginning.
Painter's habit
of isolating a scene.

...He sat down beside me.
My sketchbook was
open on the table.

Made a few marks
on my sketch pad.

The telling of stories.
The playing of music.

Background of
William Keith's mountains --
Glacial Meadow and Lake
Mount Tamalpais,
Golden Morning,
Sierra Forest Stream
and Sunny Oaks,
After the Storm...
...blue and white tableclothes.
wine glasses

In the foreground...

...Individual instruments
sounding together.
The playing of the work

The sun had come out after days of rain...

In the cafe,
everyone busy


"...thinking to tell the story with the objects...

or the places,
in Renaissance background...

...and what I saw
was different...

Waiting for him
to return...

...Neither one of us
knows what to say...

...the unknown hotel
where we will be staying.

I don't ask.

"Yes, I was there one summer"

what we did..
will only say that afterwards..

...His words evoking
a chain of memories

dorothy10.html=40 following the trail
we began last year

(in the hills near Florence
the place where Cimabue
discovered Giotto.)

...beside me in the cafe.

...remember so clearly
what I looked like then...

...the viewer is not given
enough information
to deconstruct that story,
yet there is a transference.

...the title of the book
in the painting.

notebook12a.html=20 In the middle of the painting, sitting on a chair,
I was wearing a new dress.

Outside my window
while I was painting,
a group of musicians passed by,
carrying their instruments in cases:
violins, flutes, French horns,
a tuba, a cello.

Each musician
making his way through the music,
with trombone, clarinet,
piano, bass, or drum.
Individual instruments
sounding together.
The playing of the work

...an always remembered action.
Like writing. The words, the phrases...

...Accumulated sketch books
tell the story...

...The foreground?
How can I tell you...

...What is in their minds
so very different...
...there before.
....across the room.
...open bottles
of red and white wine.
He touched my hand.

Afterwards there was
never anyone else.

...Self portraits of artists
scattered around the world.

he said it was the way I looked
the first time he saw me.

the male painters had
their own families.
The uncertain energy
of World War II work gone.
In its place.
the mowed lawn,
the Sunday dinner. Wives at home.

...the viewer is not given
enough information
to deconstruct that story,
yet there is a transference...

...You can read the title
of the book in the painting.
but you don't know
what page I am on.
or that long ago
my Father taught me that song.

In the middle of the painting,
sitting on a chair,
I was wearing a new dress.

notebook14.html=40 It was late summer,
and I had been walking
in the hills. Outside my window
while I was painting,
a group of musicians passed by,
carrying their instruments in cases:
violins, flutes, French horns,
a tuba, a cello.

The telling of stories.
The playing of music.

notebook27a.html=16 After the Storm
-- where the mountains in the distance
were what you saw first,
and then you noticed the meadows...

...blue and white tableclothes.
wine glasses
The flowers on the tables.

The reconstructed unmeasured notation for Part III of Paths of Memory and Painting is reproduced above.

The text is the name of each lexia in the work. The number following it is the number of seconds each lexia stays on the screen. If you do not advance the work in your own way by clicking on any of the lexias, the total time to "play" the work is about 7 minutes. It does not loop. But the final lexia in the central column is:

Each musician
making his way through the music,
with trombone, clarinet,
piano, bass, or drum.
Individual instruments
sounding together.
The playing of the work

If you click on this lexia, the work will repeat,

H aving worked in measured notation for the past two or three years, I was astounded by the unpredictable way in which I notated Paths III. Why then does the work itself run so smoothly? Will a close reading of the way the words echo across the columns answer this question? I don't know.

But -- as a break from the formidable task of preparing the manuscript for Social Media Archeology and Poetics -- it will be a pleasure to look at this issue in the coming weeks.

January 31, 2015

L eading up to next week's student presentations of their final project works of electronic literature, this week was a time of reviewing how well our Princeton electronic literature students worked to combine words and authoring systems in such different ways -- each selecting the approach that fit his or her vision and working through both the pleasure and the difficulties of using and/or creating authoring systems in combination with words.

Contingently, in my own writing of electronic literature, the struggle to create a new work continued this week with the asking of questions, many of which are issues for further study.

1. In general, in creating authoring systems for new works, I build from existing systems in my previous works. For when we return again, the coda to From Ireland with Letters, I have selected the final part of Paths of Memory and Painting. I want the continuo of Walter and Máire's romance to unfold with the quick energy of the left hand continuo in this work. What is needed is to review how Paths was notated, study how color, design and interrelated text contribute to the effect, study whether or not unmeasured notation (vs measured notation) contributed to the effect and then rewrite the authoring system -- this time with JavaScript at the core.

2. For word-based composition, I am using "continuo" somewhat differently from musicology definitions. However, there is much variation in the actual playing of continuo. At issue is the content carrying role of the continuo, as projected for when we return again. It would be possible to thump repeated words in a continuo column of polyphonic electronic literature, but generally that is not what I do.

3. Given that "polyphonic literature" has been used rather differently in literary criticism, (probably harking back to Mikhail Bakhtin) in this week of gray days, snowstorms, and resultant clarity, I observe that the use of the terminology "polyphonic" in conjunction with the composition of electronic poetry -- in which 2-4 columns of moving words are notated to play against each other, in such a way that the meaning of the whole is dependent on the contrapuntal structure -- is not accurate unless "electronic literature" is included in the terminology, i.e. polyphonic electronic literature.

4. In considering textual interpretations of polyphony, I have moved from the belief that this can only be done on the screen into thinking that electronic literature techniques have opened doors in print literature and/or computer-media print that we were not aware were there or have rediscovered. (the Song of the Sea in the Torah; the knowledge that Dick Higgins' Hank and Mary, A Love Story, A Chorale was meant to be experienced as a printout)

I t was a week of a staying at home on a gray-day snowstorm that left the New Jersey countryside blanketed in clear snow and the Princeton campus beautiful in the sunlight of the following day. Snowed in, I finished my Arts Wire chapter for Social Media Archeology and Poetics, and concerned by the lack of information online and the problem of the lapse of Arts Wire's domain name, I tooled up the Memories of Arts Wire on my website to include a little more information. I look forward to the publication of the Arts Wire chapter, which gives a comprehensive history.

It is a snowy night in the 21th century; revealing small details of the romance between Walter Power and Trial Shepard -- a continuo set in June, 1660, runs in counterpoint.

January 24, 2015

Begin with two seasons. The coda, which will conclude From Ireland with Letters, will be set at a New Hampshire Inn, where Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers are enjoying a country dinner on a stormy night. Two months have passed since Liam invited Máire to lunch in late autumn. It is now January of the following year. What happened between them in the past two months will be revealed in memories and conversation.

The creation of authoring systems, the way that authoring systems shape works of electronic literature -- while at the same time the needs of the works themselves contribute to the evolution of authoring systems -- are core issues in electronic literature creation, scholarship, and pedagogy. Writers, who work in this field, experience both the struggle and the joy of making authoring systems and words work together in an era where the process is not yet fully developed.

The coda to From Ireland with Letters will be created as a word-based trio sonata in unmeasured notation. In the central and left hand lexias, Máire and Liam sit together, eating dinner on a snowy night in the 21th century. In the right hand lexias -- revealing small details of the romance between Walter Power and Trial Shepard -- a continuo set in June, 1660, runs in counterpoint,

W eaving through the composition process of From Ireland with Letters is a quixotic search for the mythical lost Irish sonata called up by Grattan Flood, in A History of Irish Music:

"The reader has seen that the ancient Irish were acquainted with the ogham music tablature in pre-Christian ages; they had their battle-marches, dance tunes, folk songs, chants. and hymns in the fifth century; they were the earliest to adopt the neums or neumatic notation, for the plain chant of the Western Church; they modified, and introduced Irish melodies into, the Gregorian Chant; they had an intimate acquaintance with the diatonic scale long before it was perfected by Guido of Arezzo; they were the first to employ harmony and counterpoint; they had quite an army of bards and poets; they employed blank verse,elegiac rhymes, consonant, assonant, inverse, burthen, dissyllabic, trisyllabic, and quadrisyllabic rhymes, not to say anything of caoines, laments, elegies, metrical romances, etc.; they invented the musical arrangement which developed into the sonata form; they had a world-famed school of harpers; and, finally, they generously diffused musical knowledge all over Europe." (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1906. pp 19-20)

A writer's quest for the lost Irish sonata is not likely to result in the discovery of ancient scores. Rather, in this case, a textual obsession has contributed to the creation (or recreation) of an authoring system.

I t has been a long journey from March 17, 2010, when From Ireland with Letters began with family pub talk in Berkeley. In that year -- "unfolding in a series of central lexias, while alongside the lexias, an interface of phrases moves in a narrative dance, allowing access to the story at many points..." -- a Prologue set the stage for the work as a whole.

The unmeasured textual notation, developed for the Prologue, was followed by two other parts written in unmeasured polyphony: Begin with the Arrival and passage. For part four, fiddler's passage, I developed a system of measured notation for text that I called fiddlers_passage. The next two parts, Junction of Several Trails and Gone With Our Wanderers, were written with this system. However, as the story shifted to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century, where much of what happened was unknown, in the summer of 2014, I returned to the generative hypertext of its name was Penelope to create part seven, The Not Yet Named Jig.

It is always difficult to know where to begin when starting a notebook for a new work. Today, and in the image above, it is January in Princeton. It is snowing. It is also snowing in New Hampshire, where the coda to From Ireland with Letters takes place. However, (in my not yet written coda) in the right hand continuo, it is June in Massachusetts in the 17th century.

And my fiddle strings are new.
and I've learned a tune or two

The name of the coda, when we return again, is taken from a final stanza of a song by Irish musician, Tommy Makem, who lived for many years in New Hampshire. The song is the "Rambles of Spring" -- the same song I quoted in my notebook when I began From Ireland with Letters five years ago:

Here's health to one and all
To the big and to the small
To the rich and poor alike and foe and friends
And when we return again.
May our foes have turned to friends
And may peace and joy be with you until then

The image of the winter New Hampshire trail, is "Ammonoosuc turnpike, winter, White Mountains", Detroit Publishing Co., 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The 2014 writer's notebook for The Not Yet Jig is available at http://www.well.com/~jmalloy/from_Ireland/from_Ireland_notebook_jig.html