Passage: a Gamma256 video game by Jason Rohrer


I had reason to revisit Passage the game of life and death by Jason Rohrer. Along with the game he provided a Creator’s Statement describes the game.

Passage is meant to be a memento mori game. It presents an entire life, from young adulthood through old age and death, in the span of five minutes. Of course, it’s a game, not a painting or a film, so the choices that you make as the player are crucial. There’s no “right” way to play Passage, just as there’s no right way to interpret it.

What could be more emotional than one’s own death? For more on the game and Rohrer see The Video-Game Programmer Saving Our 21st-Century Souls from Esquire.

Blockbusters: how Rutherford Chang became the second best Tetris player in the world

The Guardian has a story about Blockbusters: how Rutherford Chang became the second best Tetris player in the world. Chang is an artist who has been playing Tetris over and over and filming it. His hundreds of thousands of games can be viewed on YouTube here.

How is this art? I suspect it is in the way he plays with repetition. Another project, Alphabetized Newspaper, takes all the words in stories on the cover of The New York Times and rearranges them in alphabetical order created a sort of sorted word list. (Click image and explore.)



He also did this with video of NBC nightly news, which produces a bizarre effect. Imagine all the very short clips of people saying “and” in a row.

I am struck by how he has humanly recreated what an algorithm could do.


AMICO dissolved


I just discovered (about 9 years after the fact) that The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) was dissolved in 2005. For a while AMICO seemed to be one of the major art historical image banks for teaching and research. Now they are gone, though they have kept a web site for archival purposes (see screenshot of entry web page above.)

I have written before about digital centres that have closed down, AMICO isn’t an example of a centre, but it was an important project which is now gone. I can’t find any discussion about the dissolution, but will look. In general, I think we need to learn from the passing of projects.

Waging Culture: Comparison of 2007 to 2012

The agYU (Art Gallery of York University) has posted a summary comparison of how much artists made in 2007 and in 2012. See Out There – Waging Culture: Snapshot comparison of 2007 to 2012 results. There hasn’t been a lot of change in the bottom line for artists (they still don’t make much.) What is depressing is how little the average arts practicioner makes from their practice. The mean for 2012 is $2,300 a year (after expenses.) Most artists are surviving from art-related income. Even then, the 2012 mean for practice and art-related income is $21,490.

In a different blog entry on Methodology in Short they talk about the purpose of the Waging Culture survey,

There are some significant issues with using Census data in researching visual artists. As the Census accounts only for the “main” occupation of an individual, those artists who hold day-jobs are not counted as artists, and thus a significant set of artists simply disappear into the need for simplicity in defining occupation. In addition, there is no breakdown of the various source of incomes for those who are identified as artists. In both instances, these lapses can and do lead to significant misunderstandings of the socio-economic health of artists. For example, while the median income of artists in the 2007 study was $20,000, this included income from all sources. Income from studio practice alone, however, was negative $556.

We need to talk about TED by Benjamin Bratton

The Guardian has reprinted the trasnscript of Benjamin Bratton’s We need to talk about TED talk that is critical of TED. He looks at each of the three terms in T.E.D. (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and here is paraphrase of some of his points:

  • TED talks conceptualize the future, but tend to oversimplify it.
  • TED wants to be about imagining the future, but it tends to promote placebo politics and technology.
  • We are told that change is accelerating, but while that may be true of technology, it isn’t true of politics and culture.
  • TED talks have too much faith in technology. Another futurism is possible.
  • Capitalism is presented as being about rocket ships and nanomedicine. It is actually about Walmart jobs, McMansions and government spying.

He ends by talking about design. He argues that it shouldn’t be about innovation, but about innoculation. Design is presented in TED as the heroic solving a puzzles that will magically fix everything. Instead he argues for design as slogging through the hard stuff – understanding the politics and cultural issues.

He ends by summarizing why he feels TED is not just a distraction, but harmful. He believes TED misdirects our attention by charming us with the entertaining simple solutions while avoiding the messy, chaotic, complex issues that can’t be solved by technology.

I sometimes wonder if Humanities Computing didn’t serve a similar purpose in the humanities. Is it a form of comic (technological) relief from the brutal truths we confront in the humanities … especially the suspicion that we make no difference when we do confront racism, sexism, surveillance, politics and technohype. Why not relax and play a bit with the other?

Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete

Scott send me a link to the Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete / I seek iambic writings to retweet. This site creates iambic pentameter poems from tweets by looking at the rythm of words. It then tries to find ryhming last words to create a AABB rhyming scheme. You can see an article about it on Gawker titled, Weird Internets: The Amazing Found-on-Twitter Sonnets of Pentametron.