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Edit Alan Sondheim here.
I'm working in Second Life, Blender, Poser, Linux/Unix, and other relatively simple programs to study the interrelationships among code, behavior, image, and text. I'm particularly interested in working among various media and code; participants, for example, in a 3-D cave might be able to explore an avatar and its movements in new and unforeseen ways. I'm also interested in the creative process in general, particularly the use of available technology 'at its limits' - observing what happens when things near the (harmless) breaking-point - for example the boundaries of Second Life or remappings of the body using motion capture equipment. has a number of articles and works dealing with analog/digital issues.

Sandy Baldwin and I are working on The Codework Project, relating creative writing and computer programming in new and innovative ways.

Here are notes from the recent work, to be presented at the workshop; they may be of interest here. The main point is that creativity in relation to literature/programming can work well in expanded modalities/media; I also present a crude model of "filtering" as a way to consider manipulation of communication channels.

Filter and being (notes for NSF workshop on codework:

I'll try to keep this short -


I want to generalize writing and coding as _inscription,_ and emphasize
that the world as we know it is already inscribed, encoded and decoded.
The lifeworld isn't analogic and/or mute; it's discrete and presencing.

It's discrete because we deal with symbols in order to communicate; we're
sending signs or tokens back and forth, very rarely the physical objects
of our desire.

One way of thinking about this is in terms of _filtering._ The usual model
of information, transmitter through receiver (with stuff of all sorts in
the middle channel) implies that there is a form of coherency and, if not
comprehension, at least "mutual orientation of cognitive domains," between
sender and receiver. I'd argue that this orientation occurs through
filtering which is always present, fuzzy, and possessing a political
economy of its own (think of Pribram's "retinal knowledge" for example,
the neural processing that occurs in the retina before signals are sent
from the eye to the brain).

Filtering isn't active or passive, inscribed or inscribing, and informa-
tion itself is non-existent, nothing, a form of particulate matter with an
ontology derived from organisms and apparatus.

Once we start (or end) here, "creative" writing splits; on one hand it
becomes _wryting_ - that's spelled with a "y" -a state of material
transformation, transmission, and reception; and on the other, it becomes
malleable, a spew interpreted as symbols. Here is the moment of creative
freedom which also splits - on one hand into or through unbounded, rule-
less 'creative' writing, drawn from an organism's interior - and on the
other, a fuzzy collocation of coding, languages, kludges, protocols, drawn
equally from interior impulse and external restraints (economic, etc.) or
goals that may be transformed in the process of inscription.

(I want to note that in the work I'm doing here at the Virtual Environ-
ments Laboratory, I've been exploring visual configurations or inscrip-
tions, configurations in which spaces, avatars, and objects interact in
uncanny ways, simultaneously malleable and protocol-driven:

Working within the visual and time-based register, static and dynamic
processes blur into one another. We can temporally code a tableau, moving
performers during slow-scan in much the same manner as characters appear-
ing at both ends of a panormaic photograph. We can also move them in terms
of depth, and we can create an interactive diorama in which the viewer
enters and meanders, reconstructing the original sequence of events. We
can also combine a tableau with encoded and restructured motion-capture
behaviors, using avatars or mannequins circulating among the diorama
elements, as "tourists" among ruins - in this manner there are several
interlocking layers of interpretation, the viewer in the midst of them.
With the aid of 3-dimensional laser scanning, we can present abject ele-
ments as if they were interior projections of the "tourists" themselves,
and it's not far from this that the potential for a 4-dimensional reading
orinterpreting (seeing, witnessing) of 3-dimensional object _interiors_
occurs. The result is a 5-dimensional manifold as cultural object,
cultural abject. The possibilities for exploration are enormous here, a
kind of pure escapism of dialog, narrative, arousal, creation and
annihilation, in which ultimately nothing happens, no one gets hurt.

So this leads to another direction I'll just mention briefly - thinking of
creative writing as a kind of inscribing in any medium at all. We can then
talk about creative inscription, creative coding, whatever, emphasizing a
"new media" approach to all of this, rather than thinking of electronic
literature, e-literature, interactive writing, etc.)

To misquote the physicist David Finkelstein, one might consider program-
ming as fucking with/in a universe of abstracted ontologies, and creative
writing as masturbation-fantasy, moving just about anywhere, anywhen.
Both, however, have inscription and filtering in common and neither
presents or is pure 'presence' within the world. On the other hands, both
meander among rules, although with differring obeisance, and both have, at
their core, a freedom that is as absolute as anything gets.

How can this be useful pedagogically? In terms of creative writing, the
answer is, I believe, to think of texts as both intentional, cohering, and
as material objects which are always already filtered; this leads to
thinking about filtering and different forms of filtering as creative
writing practice. In terms of programming, not being a programmer (but
working with programmers), I'm not sure; I'd argue that, for an outsider,
filtering appears at the interstices or liminal spaces between program and
framework (inputs, outputs, interfaces, hardware (in the traditional
sense, and in the sense of information-laden substance), and so forth).
And I'd want to look at the phenomenological horizons of programming, not
only through this filtering, but also within programs and programming in
general: Where is the programmer in the midst of her subroutine? And where
is the freedom then/there?

I do want to note one final thing here - that I'm placing too much empha-
sis on specificity, the discrete. One of the directions I've been explor-
ing at the VEL is to consider the _abject,_ which remains indeterminate
and close th analogic substance - something "gooey," not "GUI," for
example. It's here that we humans can explore the world which refuses
discrete curtailment, which abjures communication.

Addendum: Unlike programming, in the creative work I do, especially here at
WVU, there are no errrs, only creative commotion and repertoire extensions.
Even if something doesn't "run" at all, it still presents an aporia which
can be modified one way or another into creative gesture. I think this
might be an essential difference between a kind of "wild" creation and goal-
oriented software programming, coding, etc.

(Thanks for looking - Alan)

Last modified 1 April 2008 at 12:24 am by sondheim