In finding what might be one of the coolest sites on the internet, I’ve discovered interdisciplinary blogging at it’s finest. The Psychology of Video Games reveals how games promote player-avatar identification, why acquiring armor for our level 79 Orc Hunter is more pleasurable than it should be, and how games tap into our psyches to keep us playing, buying, and loving it.

Jamie Madigan, the site’s author, is serious. He has published in scientific journals as well as gaming magazines, and he is one of the small (but growing) number of researchers who actually seems to play games and fluently understand the culture.

Elsewhere, Gene Golovchinsky reviews work by Nick Diakopoulos on gamelike interactive visualizations for learning.

The Man Booker prize has just launched an iPhone app , the first app published by a literary award. Users have access to exclusive interviews and information on the longlist and shortlist authors and judges, as well as the ability to purchase books from local bookstores or online listings.

This year’s Man Booker shortlist will be announced Tuesday September 7th.

David Rees does artisanal pencil sharpening. For $15, he’ll lovingly and meticulously sharpen your pencil. Because sometimes you just need a really freaking sharp pencil.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opens in Indianapolis this November/ It will contain first edition copies of his books, a replica of his writing studio, several items he collected during his service in World War II including his Purple Heart, and a collection of rejection letters encouraging him to give up writing forever.

In the era of social media, many of us have become accustomed to the performative nature of tweeting and blogging our thoughts and work. Writer Matt Bell is taking this to a whole new level, however, with an exhibitionist writing assignment: he’s writing a story live for an online audience over the course of a week .

Sunday he wrote:

Starting today, I’ll be working on a story that I started during this last “writer’s block,” a story that didn’t take off then but that I still think might be worth writing. Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be attempting to write a full draft of the story, starting with only a single paragraph already written. To make it more interesting, you’ll be able to watch as I write, seeing each of my decisions in real-time. The software we’re using—Etherpad—will allow you to see each word I write and delete and rewrite at the same time I do it, and the built-in chat software will allow you and anyone else watching to chat alongside my writing if you choose to.

But that’s not the end of it. Later in the week, Michael Kimball and Lily Hoang rewrite the story. Then Bell invites the audience to edit the work before Bell undertakes a final rewrite.

And we thought the Lapham’s chart of writers’ connections was complex!

A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble are sisters?! How did I miss that memo? — ed.

To complement and promote In Their Own Words: British Novelists , the BBC and Open University teamed up on an interactive map of modern British writers. The map explores personal relationships, literary themes and genres, and background.

In Their Own Words: British Novelists airs Mondays at 9pm on BBC, and promises such fascinating moments as William Golding addressing a schoolroom of boys on Lord of the Flies and the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolfe.

Here at Eastgate, we’ve been obsessed with Echo Bazaar, a Web-based narrative card game with a Lovecraftian feel. Set in Fallen London, the game combines elements of a collectible card game, role-playing, social network gaming, and narrative.

Though players might want to maximize their character’s skills and collect Whispered Secrets or A Cheerful Goldfish, the real fun of the game comes from the surprisingly deep backstory and witty narrative. The game is cleanly written, which makes each spare bit of text work harder. The game helpfully mocks you on occasion and refers to you as its “delicious friend;” what’s not to love?

In related news, online games have finally passed email as the second-biggest online time-sink . Social networking occupies the lead position.

Victor Keegan reminds us that between Twitter poems, locative mobile poetry, and 160 character poems, the digital poetry community is very busy indeed. Keegan himself wrote a poetry generation platform, a Second Life book, and a mobile network of poetry in which each poem is linked to places and objects that inspired it.

Technology and poetry have been walking down divergent paths for many years. Maybe it is time they came together to produce a fresh cultural synergy.

Interestingly, the article does not mention that experimental digital poetry has a long history and indeed a long prehistory .

Whitney Trettien posts a great list of early modern English works worth checking out on Librivox , a site that posts audiobooks of public domain titles.

I tried Librivox once or twice, but since the site only allows for searches by title, author, or category, works are hard to find. Trettien’s list serves as a great reminder.

Jason McIntosh at The Gameshelf posted a new installment of Gameshelf’s video series: an introduction to Interactive Fiction. The video features an overview of basic commands and game recommendations for beginning players—potentially a great resource for students.

(Thanks Nick Montfort!)


Not many companies can claim to have a Resident Doodle Expert, but Sunni Brown, the resident doodle expert at Sharpie, shows us why doodling can be a creative practice.

This short video recalls some of the points of Laurence Musgrove’s “18 Formats of Handmade Thinking in the Classroom,” which gives some fascinating examples of visual depictions in response to reading and collaborative assignments.

Thanks, Dave Gray!

Lapham’s Quarterly offers a chart of the personal links between literary and artistic geniuses from Lord Byron to J.D. Salinger. It’s a fun exercise in degrees of separation, and it ends—as all exercises in connection must—with Kevin Bacon.

Mark Anderson has already translated it into Tinderbox.

Bill Bly (We Descend) stopped by Eastgate to talk to Mark Bernstein and me the other day. At lunch, we talked about the knowledge of hypertext writing the discipline has accumulated over the last twenty years. “We know a lot,” someone said. “Which is to say that you and I and twenty people we can point to know how to do use links.”

As I sat and listened, it occurred to me that this information doesn’t actually exist for the people who weren’t there to witness it, for those who aren’t numbered among those twenty writers.

Perhaps this argument goes back to Mark’s essay on Criticism. But for someone entering the field 20 years late, it would be nice have literature on writing well with links. Today, few writers use links thoughtfully. But how do we expect the next generation of writers to build on the foundation that hypertext literary pioneers have laid if we aren’t teaching them?

If we can teach creative writing, we can teach creative electronic writing. Mark Bernstein recently blogged on this very topic , and other hypertext writers have echoed the sentiment. This clearly is a topic that the writers want discussed.

A world of newspaper and magazine sites are chopping their writing into short snippets in order to garner more ad views. But do they take advantage of the opportunity? No: they are all threaded in an endlessly inconvenient necklace of “next page” links.

Sure, there’s good old-fashioned close reading. Good writers are good readers.

“Read broadly. If you want to write hypertexts, you should know the work of people who have written good hypertexts. That your work might not resemble theirs does not matter; know what they sought to do and learn how they accomplished what they did.” (Judy Malloy, interview with Mark Bernstein)

As more and more literature is added to the pool, how are we to attract new readers to the possibilities eLit offers if we can’t show them which pieces are best? And how can we get fresh talent to write good works if we don’t know ourselves what’s good and what isn’t?

Clotilde Dusoulier recently posted a wonderful article on how to taste chocolate, which emphasized the impressive skill of professional chocolate-tasters:

[T]he sample beans go through a mini production line, and emerges as chocolate the tasters will grade along thirty different descriptors. A tough job, I'm sure -- and I'm not being ironic.

Thirty! Chocolate tasting involves thirty different descriptors, but if you asked this panel of critics, their job would depend on being able to come up with nearly the same answer. You would be hard-pressed to find the same consistency among most literary criticism, with possible exceptions of a few canonical works.

Music has a canon, yet Western music has rubrics by which new works are compared. The rise to a major fifth here is pleasing; the dissonance of the tonic note and its fourth is resolved to create euphonic melody. Or something is dissonant or different, but still moving, so people ask why and change the rubrics (cf. Stravinsky and Cage). Films—though to a lesser extent than music—are similarly critiqued by familiar breakdowns: acting, direction, production value, depth/believability of narrative, soundtrack, etc.

We do not possess, or aspire to, similar consistency in literary criticism.

A thread on the Tinderbox forum correlated C. Wright Mills’ essay “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” (as recently discussed by Scott McLemee’s in Inside Higher Ed ) with Mark Bernstein’s The Tinderbox Way.

Mills wrote “On Intellectual Craftsmanship for aspiring academics, imparting the value of a “file” to serve as a huge repository for notes on all subjects, trivial, personal, and professional. This file would keep work moving in productive directions and can help organize thinking.

In such a file as I am going to describe, there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned. In this file, you, as an intellectual craftsman, will try to get together what you are doing intellectually and what you are experiencing as a person. Here you will not be afraid to use your experience and relate it directly to various work in progress. By serving as a check on repetitious work, your file also enables you to conserve your energy. It also encourages you to capture `fringe-thoughts': various ideas which may be byproducts of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience.

Spatial hypertext has proven to be great for engaging repositories of notes and assisting with analyzing, organizing, and drawing relationships among distinct ideas. In The Tinderbox Way, Bernstein echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that taking notes is essential, and spatial hypertext gives us a means to cluster related notes that don’t necessarily have a relationship concrete enough to link them.

But it’s the most important part that escapes most of us. As Bernstein writes, “Above all, remember to write it down.”

Nick Montfort is compiling a nice compendium of Interactive Fiction in Higher Education.

Some notable resources for information on IF teaching projects have come from the responding comments:

The Undum tutorial follows many IF customs, too.

Entering the Palace of Bones from Papa Sangre on Vimeo.

A while ago I mentioned how interesting audio hypertext might be. In my recent locative narrative research, I found Papa Sangre, a fascinating audio-only locative mobile game by Somethin’ Else . By utilizing our ability to determine which direction a sound is coming from, Papa Sangre invites players to navigate an invisible landscape and avoid terrible creatures on a quest to save the a loved one.


Undum is a fascinating new open-source framework for interactive narrative designed for HTML 5 and CSS 3. Though it retains the ideas of nodes hypertext narrative and of rooms or spaces from interactive fiction, clicking a link to leave one space and enter another simply adds more text to the ever-growing main narrative. This design encourages the reader to go back and read the narrative as a cohesive whole rather than thinking of it in terms of small narrative bits strung together. It also seems to encourage shorter texts; a novel-sized text which on a single scrolling page, even if it were presented in small bits, seems cumbersome.

Links disappear once you pass them to prohibit the reader from retracing her steps, and the author can make other text disappear when a new node is entered. This lets the author ask a question,

"Do you slay the dragon or do you run away?"

and then, having received the answer, efface the stage business of the question and replace it with a seamless continuation.

Undum does not limit the author to branching-narrative links. It also offers a dynamic character state, or list of constantly changing attributes, which can be influenced “action” links. These links the reader in the same node—or “situation” as Undum calls them—but allow for changes to character states, for example raising experience. There is no explicit support for dynamic links or guard fields, though adding them should not be difficult.

The system, which offers a nice tutorial, strikes an interesting hybrid balance between the classic hypertext fictions and IF.