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As a practice, we don’t announce talks at WRT, but this one presents an interesting convergence, a kind of crossover episode where the IF League meets the X-Bots meets the Game Squad in one of those moments of academic alliance: But who are we fighting against?

Second Person: An evening on writing and gameplay

6-8pm, April 4, 2007,
as part of Scott Fisher’s CTIN 511
USC’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts (RZC),
Room 201 Zemeckis Media Lab (ZML)

[This talk is not open to the public, but we will blog about it afterwards. The hosts can answer inquiries about access.]

As part of the LA book launch for Second Person, Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (MIT Press 2007) several of the contributors and one of the editors will be speaking at USC to one of the Masters classes in interactive media. Editor, artist, and scholar Noah Wardrip-Fruin will present the collection joined by WRT’s Jeremy Douglass and Mark Marino and renown video-game creator Jordan Mechner.

The talk marks one of the first public launch stops for Second Person on the West Coast but more importantly marks an important presentation of a few of the many topics in the collection, namely mainstream video games, interactive fiction, and conversational agents. Of course, these topics leave out the table top games, the interactive dramas, et cetera. What you realize from considering this list is just how varied the objects of study in Second Person are, though the menagerie does make a coherent zoological exhibition.


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[This post relates to a thread of posts about interactive exhibits for children, children’s museums, and child-like theory.]

Electronic interactive drama should be like live interactive theater, right? But exactly how much interaction is in children’s theater?

When critics, artists, and others discuss interactive drama (experienced via computers), they often make allusions to interactive theater from “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” to long-form improv. [see this 1986 article from LucasFilm’s Doug Crockford]. At times, they also allude to theater for children. This follows allusions to interactive theater in Marie Laure-Ryan among others, particularly with regard to child’splay. In her dichtung-digital article, Marie-Laure Ryan differentiates seems to champion paidia–the free and open play of children, which is both mimetic and participatory. Ryan notes children’s mimetic play and improv theater as share these attributes. No doubt we would find such play in improvisational theater for children.

However, I’ve recently had first hand experience with the amount of play in children’s theater and I’ve begun to rethink the amount of agency and interaction (locally and globally) in these pieces.

Let me relate one audience-member parent’s experience:

Ben Franklin Bot


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(See video of chatbot Ben Franklin’s Ghost in action)
You walk up to the oversized book at the front of a curious glassed in stage, something of a cross between a puppet theater and a mausoleum. It’s the tricentennial of Ben Franklin’s birth and you haven’t seen any sign of him yet. On closer […]


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On the Polyphonic Method
A couple of months ago Micheal Benton approached us at Writer Response Theory to participate in the Reconstructions issue on blogging. We’re Really Thrilled about the idea — who wouldn’t want to blog about blogging?! But when the time came to write, we three researchers kept weaving in and out of approaches. Should we have a single voice? That is always a good approach, but a collaborative document isn’t written with a single voice in the first draft. It begins as a mixture of voices that synergise and become one (either with poetic ease or a crow-bar). We haven’t reached that chorus point yet. Don’t know if we ever will. And, to be frank, we like the idea of pulling back the curtain and revealing what a collaborative-text-in-formation looks like. Indeed, it is emblematic of our collaborative blogging at WRT.

So, why do we blog…together?


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Jabberwacky, a chatbot system which learns continuously from its conversations with web users, has won a Loebner prize for the second year in a row. A competitor in the Loebner contest for simulated human conversation since 2002, the chatbot system has sported both incremental improvements and some recent dramatic facelifts.
Last year, the Jabberwacky chatbot winner […]






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