I’m happy to announce the publication of my first monograph, Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. As the subtitle suggests, this book is a software studies take on the past and future of digital fictions and games. As of today it’s available in bookstores as well as online — and a PDF of the introduction can be downloaded from the MIT Press site.
From a games perspective, I argue that the fictions in today’s computer games tend to be shallow and brittle because of a basic imbalance in their implementations — while one can occupy many positions in the spatial world of the game, there are very few possible positions in the fictional world. Expressive Processing then examines 40 years of artificial intelligence research projects that provide an important series of lessons, and possible inspirations, as we move forward.
More broadly, the book speaks to digital media and electronic literature communities about a vein of important work — performed in research labs — which previous books have usually mentioned in passing, rather than engaged in its richness. Focusing on this work suggests a history and future for authors in crafting computational models of ideas important to the fiction, opening up spaces of interaction at levels ranging from deep interpersonal dynamics to the surface play of language.
This book also marks the launch of the new Software Studies series from MIT Press, which I’m editing with Lev Manovich and Matthew Fuller. Software studies includes a broad range of work that engages the specifics of software culturally, rather than in purely engineering terms. Expressive Processing specifically develops a software studies for digital media. It does this by interpreting the computational processes of games and fictions (the ideas they embody, their histories, their potentials and limits) and by connecting the specifics of these processes to the resulting audience experiences.
The book includes an extensive set of notes and revisions arising from community comments during the blog-based peer review the manuscript had last year on Grand Text Auto. My sincere thanks, again, to those who shared their time and expertise with me.
Finally, I’ve also put up an Expressive Processing page on my personal site where I’ll collect reviews, any necessary errata, and other information as time progresses.
About the author: Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. Read more from this author