Thursday, August 31, 2006


Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Happy Fun Ball.

Caution: Happy Fun Ball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.
Happy Fun Ball Contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.

Do not use Happy Fun Ball on concrete.

Discontinue use of Happy Fun Ball if any of the following occurs:
Tingling in extremities
Loss of balance or coordination
Slurred speech
Temporary blindness
Profuse sweating
Heart palpitations

If Happy Fun Ball begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.

Happy Fun Ball may stick to certain types of skin.

When not in use, Happy Fun Ball should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration...

Failure to do so relieves the makers of Happy Fun Ball, Wacky Products Incorporated, and its parent company Global Chemical Unlimited, of any and all liability.

Ingredients of Happy Fun Ball include an unknown glowing substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.

Happy Fun Ball has been shipped to our troops in Saudi Arabia and is also being dropped by our warplanes on Iraq.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Happy Fun Ball comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Happy Fun Ball


CSI as Rashomon

A modern television show closely based on the 1950 classic Kurosawa
film, 'Rashomon,' is 'CSI.'

Not only in this serendipitously named episode, but in others, the show is concerned with recreating/remembering the details of a crime to which none of the players has a first-hand record. They must continually syphon through the often conflicting recollections of eye-witnesses and potential suspects--whilst constructing plausible scenarios from evidence cross-referenced by motive cross-referenced by instinct--to piece together a version of past events as close to 'what really happened' as possible. Come to think of it, they've probably put a few innocents in jail and let a few killers walk--so difficult it is to settle on a collectively remembered version of the past with which everyone is in accord.

Monday, August 28, 2006

AI Blurb

Here's the blurb I worked up and put on the T101, 'Age of Information,' syllabus:

"Spencer is studying for an M.S. in the Immersive Mediated Environments program in the Department of Telecommunications. He did his undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin where he received a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Film Production—Highest Honors, Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation, he pursued development of 'The World Without A Name,' a secondary world whose central storyline concerns the ultra-violent struggle between the heroic villain, Zachary Killgore, and the villainous hero, Jake Bloodstone. After mining video games—as well as RPGs, comic books, and movies—for ideas and inspiration, he realized that the material, and more importantly, his artistic sensibility, lends itself naturally to the video game format. In games such as Condemned (2005), Hitman: Blood Money (2006), and Dead Rising (2006), he has found unabashedly dark worlds filled to bursting with anti-heroes, tragic curses, cascading dementia, demons, gangsters, gothic horror, fury and redemption. In video games, he has found the cutting edge of contemporary storytelling and the proper medium for 'The World Without A Name.' "

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thoughts on 'The New Media Reader'

"[A computer is] like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy.
-- Joseph Campbell

I read and re-read the Table of Contents, the User's Manual, and the Statement of Purpose in order to grasp the 'New Media Reader's big picture--it's trajectory, organization, and purpose.

Divided into four major themes, and arranged chronologically, 'The New Media Reader'
attempts to thematically unite the divergent texts of computer scientists, artists,
architects, literary writers, interface designers, and cultural critics spanning fifty years, from WWII to the WWW. The accompanying CD contains audio-visual samples of early games, digital art, independent literary efforts, as well as digitized video documenting new media programs. The form follows the function of this ambitious tome, which claims--convincingly--to be the first authoritative history of new media. The anthology is concerned with a field of study that has developed around the potential of the computer and about whose application, importance, history and future nearly everyone has a different idea. Furthermore, the field itself is a moving target, transmogrifying at a rate faster than it can be defined.

Murray talks of two strands running throughout the story of New Media--the engineers and the humanists. They are often at odds with one another yet coming together energetically in collaborations focused on new structures of learning.' Despite the myriad miscommunications/tensions between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, (and civilization, at large), we are united by our profound desires to learn, to improve, to be smarter and do things better. And no one can argue, whatever their ideological position, that the computer does not promise to do all that and then some. Murray argues the representational power of the computer derives from four qualities: encyclopedic and spacial, (which create the illusion of immersion in an explorable space), procedural and participatory, (which provide 'interactivity'). This last is the function of the computer that humans find most exciting, and immediately applicable, since now it can begin to act like 'us.' Yes, Igor, that's what I mean, 'It's alive!'

"So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him..."
Genesis l. 27

Interactivity has been applied in a variety of artistic mediums. Thus far, it is in thefield of video games that the creation of detailed, immersive, expressive storybook worlds have been most commercially successful.

However, the origins of interactive fiction lie in the dusty halls of an Argentinean
library, where Jorge Luis Borges imagined the first hypertext novel twenty years before the computer. Of course, his version is more akin to the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' children's books that ran from 1979-1998, and which captured my imagination intensely when I was a kid.

In the 'Garden of Forking Paths' (1941) we see most importantly the philosophical idea of multiple worlds of potential action existing simultaneously. (There is also a strong precursor to postmodernism apparent in the use of a 'book within a book'--as David mentioned in his comments). Proponents of hypertext fiction look to Borges as their godfather as they attempt to create interest in and momentum for their largely
marginalized and academic niche movement. We certainly have not seen 'The End of Books,'as Coover predicted in 1992; however, one could argue such a bold claim fits within the paradigm of 'technomyopia,' since the movement needs some time to heat up, culturally speaking. This is the area of the reading that is most interesting to me since the focus of my M.S. research will probably be the potential of hypertext fiction--an immersive hypertext-based story that utilizes sound, animation, and film.
From a creative writing standpoint, the true challenge, I believe, is to come up with enough narrative material to effect a willing suspension of disbelief sufficient to immerse the audience.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Microsoundstage Shooting

I'm interested in a digital video against blue screens experiment. I've actually been thinking for a while about how to utilize DV in a kind of micro-soundstage/garage environment to produce multimedia effects that might appear misleadingly expensive. (Perhaps including the use of miniatures?) My instinct is that if you only show whispers of action--like suggestions--you can produce intrigue while masking low production value. I think this could be integrated into a kind of audio-visual-hypertext novel, along with other media, to enhance a story. I'd definitely like to try this soon in developing my 'worldwithoutaname' project. I think 'wwan' should first be a cool website--like the poet says: 'when you actually show people what you're doing, then they believe.'

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Night Before Orientation

This evening I find myself in the Herman B Wells Library at Indiana University-Bloomington. Tomorrow morning at 9am I will meet all of the professors and most of the fellow graduate students in my program called MIME, (Master's in Immersive Mediated Environments, or New Media/Video Game Design). I'm thrilled and worried at the same time. I've been out of school for over four years and I feel--given the scholarship--there are high expectations of me. We'll soon find out whether the cobwebs in my brain will easily wash away, or will I go down an underage party girl whisked into the VIP room.