Peter Plantec of V-People and Richard S. Wallace have books that accompany their botware. The books are how-to manuals and also expouse some bot aesthetics/poetics (particularly in the case of Plantec). Of course they are optimistic and even euphoric. With predictions of bots taking over the planet, a bot in every pot, etc.

This is an interesting genre of writing that comes up a lot in electronic writing frequently, where you often have the same people theorizing the medium as they promote it, spreading the word about electronic lit. even as they establish their own academic foothold in the medium. I like to think of Einstein (my vast readings of relativity and quantum physics) as one who theorized as he wrote, but these examples seems more reminiscent of hypertext’s development, where the publisher is a theorist in the medium. (Perhaps Gutenberg printed a text about the wonders of the printed codex book.)

What happens when the bot theorist is promoting their own software? (Open source examples are a bit different, but the questions are the same.) Is New Media theory hampered by double dippers? Is this situation any different than other critical fields?

1 Response to “every bot needs an agent”

  1. 1 Jeremy Douglass

    While anything that smacks of mercenary self-promotion leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many, this book strikes me as a good thing. I don’t have the perspective to answer your historical question except to suggest that perhaps there is a spectrum - people who primarily used their own techniques, but showed them off (Blake) and people who primarily distributed their techniques, but also used them (Edison). Media pioneers of all stripes are often stakeholders and true believers, and if they have the energy to capitalize their own creations I wish them well - better the creators than the vast third parties that trawl the deep for new ideas to feed on.

    My mental short-list includes Eastgate Systems, Inc. (StorySpace, Tinderbox) and Night Kitchen, Inc. (tk3) for hypertext. For IF, there is Adrift. It is high time bots caught up!

    That said, authorware is notoriously difficult and thankless to write and market - especially in areas of art where the constraints on the tools will limit the kinds of interesting formal features the artist can use. Storyspace and Adrift both lock their authors into a fairly narrow set of possibilities within “hypertext” or “IF” - and thus, rightly or wrongly, Adrift creators in particular are mocked and stigmatized by authors working in development languages closer to the machine - or rolling their own.

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