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A book for anyone who wants to learn programming to explore and create, with exercises and projects to help the reader learn by doing.
A sourcebook of historical written texts, video documentation, and working programs that form the foundation of new media. This reader collects the texts, videos, and computer programs--many of them now almost impossible to find--that chronicle the history and form the foundation of the still-emerging field of new media. General introductions by Janet Murray and Lev Manovich, along with short introductions to each of the texts, place the works in their historical context and explain their significance. The texts were originally published between World War II--when digital computing, cybernetic feedback, and early notions of hypertext and the Internet first appeared--and the emergence of the World Wide Web--when they entered the mainstream of public life. The texts are by computer scientists, artists, architects, literary writers, interface designers, cultural critics, and individuals working across disciplines. The contributors include (chronologically) Jorge Luis Borges, Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, Ivan Sutherland, William S. Burroughs, Ted Nelson, Italo Calvino, Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard, Nicholas Negroponte, Alan Kay, Bill Viola, Sherry Turkle, Richard Stallman, Brenda Laurel, Langdon Winner, Robert Coover, and Tim Berners-Lee. The CD accompanying the book contains examples of early games, digital art, independent literary efforts, software created at universities, and home-computer commercial software. Also on the CD is digitized video, documenting new media programs and artwork for which no operational version exists. One example is a video record of Douglas Engelbart's first presentation of the mouse, word processor, hyperlink, computer-supported cooperative work, video conferencing, and the dividing up of the screen we now call non-overlapping windows; another is documentation of Lynn Hershman's Lorna, the first interactive video art installation.
Interactive fiction -- the best-known form of which is the text game or text adventure -- has not received as much critical attention as have such other forms of electronic literature as hypertext fiction and the conversational programs known as chatterbots. Twisty Little Passages (the title refers to a maze in Adventure, the first interactive fiction) is the first book-length consideration of this form, examining it from gaming and literary perspectives. Nick Montfort, an interactive fiction author himself, offers both aficionados and first-time users a way to approach interactive fiction that will lead to a more pleasurable and meaningful experience of it.Twisty Little Passages looks at interactive fiction beginning with its most important literary ancestor, the riddle. Montfort then discusses Adventure and its precursors (including the I Ching and Dungeons and Dragons), and follows this with an examination of mainframe text games developed in response, focusing on the most influential work of that era, Zork. He then considers the introduction of commercial interactive fiction for home computers, particularly that produced by Infocom. Commercial works inspired an independent reaction, and Montfort describes the emergence of independent creators and the development of an online interactive fiction community in the 1990s. Finally, he considers the influence of interactive fiction on other literary and gaming forms. With Twisty Little Passages, Nick Montfort places interactive fiction in its computational and literary contexts, opening up this still-developing form to new consideration.
The future is like an unwritten book. It is not something we see in a crystal ball, or can only hope to predict, like the weather. In this volume of the MIT Press's Essential Knowledge series, Nick Montfort argues that the future is something to be made, not predicted. Montfort offers what he considers essential knowledge about the future, as seen in the work of writers, artists, inventors, and designers (mainly in Western culture) who developed and described the core components of the futures they envisioned. Montfort's approach is not that of futurology or scenario planning; instead, he reports on the work of making the future -- the thinkers who devoted themselves to writing pages in the unwritten book. Douglas Engelbart, Alan Kay, and Ted Nelson didn't predict the future of computing, for instance. They were three of the people who made it. Montfort focuses on how the development of technologies -- with an emphasis on digital technologies -- has been bound up with ideas about the future. Readers learn about kitchens of the future and the vision behind them; literary utopias, from Plato's Republic to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland; the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair; and what led up to Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web. Montfort describes the notebook computer as a human-centered alterative to the idea of the computer as a room-sized "giant brain"; speculative practice in design and science fiction; and, throughout, the best ways to imagine and build the future.
The Atari Video Computer System dominated the home video game market so completely that "Atari" became the generic term for a video game console. The Atari VCS was affordable and offered the flexibility of changeable cartridges. Nearly a thousand of these were created, the most significant of which established new techniques, mechanics, and even entire genres. This book offers a detailed and accessible study of this influential video game console from both computational and cultural perspectives. Studies of digital media have rarely investigated platforms--the systems underlying computing. This book (the first in a series of Platform Studies) does so, developing a critical approach that examines the relationship between platforms and creative expression. Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost discuss the Atari VCS itself and examine in detail six game cartridges: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars' Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. They describe the technical constraints and affordances of the system and track developments in programming, gameplay, interface, and aesthetics. Adventure, for example, was the first game to represent a virtual space larger than the screen (anticipating the boundless virtual spaces of such later games as World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto), by allowing the player to walk off one side into another space; and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was an early instance of interaction between media properties and video games. Montfort and Bogost show that the Atari VCS--often considered merely a retro fetish object--is an essential part of the history of video games.

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