My work centers on playful ways in which machines can augment human creativity, whether by generating unreadable books, composing “poetry”, synthesizing photography, or providing new ways to tell stories. I’m an amateur researcher of 19th century utopian novels and have a lifelong interest in interactive fiction.
Procedural art & code
A computer-generated book based on the Voynich Manuscript.
Creates artwork in the style of Newspaper Blackout Poetry using natural language processing and optical character recognition. Featured on Waxy.org in 2016.
Generated compositions that resemble photomontages in the style of early surrealists.
A reimagining of a 1961 computer program that generated the screenplay to a Western, filmed by CBS television. Source code and history of the project. Invited contribution to the Workshop on the History of Expressive Systems.
A generator based on the works of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (1842-1939), who hoped her original color analyses would inspire others to study “whatever originals may be at hand in books, shops, private houses, or museums.” A collaboration between myself and Mel Dollison to allow anyone to be inspired by her abstract, modernist style employed in the context of everyday objects and photos.
A translator and generator to produce text in the style of A Pickle for the Knowing Ones (1802) by noted eccentric Timothy Dexter (1747-1806). The final output is an entry in National Novel Generation Month 2021.
An alliterative poem by a neural net:
Ants and all ages are all about—active as buds are bound by black, bubbles burn by maple blackbird body, but burst before birds before building branches back. […]
Trapped in the Q (2016)
Generates an infinitely long story in the mode of the scenes in James Bond where Q introduces a series of increasingly-implausible ordinary objects that actually kill people.
Finds tweets with inspirational-sounding messages and mis-attributes them to famous people like Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.
Picked a recipe, parsed its ingredients, and made random, usually revolting, substitutions, just like people who comment on internet recipes. (Now inactive.)
I publish hypertext interactive fiction using my open source framework Windrift, which allows for rich user interfaces and experimentation. As of 2022, Windrift is under active development and there are many example stories in the manual and in the Windrift Playground.
An interactive mystery, playable in a web browser, about utopian ideals and bookish delights.
Harmonia is one of those rare pieces of interactive fiction where the author has woven a unified experience out of crosshatched decisions in writing and systems design, with the weft amplifying and supporting the warp.
– Bennett Foddy, designer of QWOP
Modifying something that seems trivial can overturn the whole chain of events, adding entire stretches of paragraph to the page and radically changing the existing ones. — Interactive Licktion review
A short “mutable story” in which a complete narrative is always present but can be manipulated by the player in sometimes surprising ways.
Best in the Back Garden audience ribbon, Spring Thing 2019 festival
First Draft of the Revolution
A marvel—an exploration of the space between the mind and the page the likes of which I’ve never experienced. — Kotaku
Best Use of Innovation, 2013 XYZZY Awards.
Research on utopian novels & early sci-fi
A survey of early utopian and dystopian works by woman, from the period between 1850 and the early 20th century.
An original biography of an obscure author of this period. Anna Adolph, her novel Arqtiq, and a uniquely American personal history.
An exuberantly feminist and sex-positive utopian novel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Robinson Merchant, one an experienced author, the other a business leader and independent spirit.
A triumph of the hollow earth genre, Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd takes the reader on a hallucinogenic journey with instantly memorable illustrations.
A winking hoax or an elaborate act of self-deception? Journeys to the Planet Mars is a deeply-felt book by spiritualist Sara Weiss, who wrote and illustrated it under the direction of “spirit guides” at the end of her long life.
The Ostrich for the Defence was William Hile’s novel-length advertisement for a doomed venture to achieve world peace through ostrich farming.
Austrian economist Theodor Hertzka wrote this novel in 1889, and leveraged its popularity into direct action: a spectacularly ill-conceived attempt to found a utopian colony in a region of Kenya by a hapless mob of dissolute European criminals that ended in despair and violence.
Essays & tutorials
A series on learning to manipulate text with computers, in five parts:
What makes for successful digital-first literature: it must be immersive, non-trivial, and participatory.
A tutorial for IBM Developerworks on using CSS3 media query, HTML5 navigation, and MathML in EPUB 3 publications.
A report prepared for the UK academic funding organization JISC on digital publishing, ebooks, and scholarly communication.
Independent client work
Manicule (2018, 2022)
Manicule, developed under the direction of Whitney Trettien as part of Digital Book History, is an open source React webapp for exploring the physical structure of rare manuscripts. Scholars can provide page-by-page annotation both of the content, binding, and layout of notable volumes. Live demo
The prototype for CC Search indexed a corpus of over 10 million publicly licensed images from museums, libraries, and individuals, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Europeana, and the New York Public Library. Coverage: Newsweek and TechCrunch. Technical notes
Label This! (2016)
Label This!, for University of California, Davis, helps users explore and describe the library’s remarkable collection of historic wine labels. Based on scribeAPI, a Rails/React webapp that allows visitors to select and transcribe areas of interest on digitized material.
Interview for Atlas Obscura along with other Interactive Fiction Competition winners and organizers (Nov, 2017)
Podcast interview with Harvard Business Publishing on artificial intelligence and machine learning for publishers (Oct, 2017)
Photoessay and interview in Topic about mentorship relationships among women (Aug, 2017)
Podcast interview for Moonshot on AI and machine learning (July, 2017)
Interview about the relationship between interactive fiction and AI, featuring Emily Short, Lynnea Glasser, and Bruno Dias (Nov, 2016)
Strategies to help introverts network (FastCompany, 2015)
Ebooks in the cloud (Wired, 2011)
Interview on “digital detox” (NYT, 2010)
Interview on the effects of the iPad on reading (NYT, 2010)