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Expressive Processing Arrives

Expressive Processing Cover

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

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  1. Posted August 12, 2009 at 2:08 AM | Permalink

    Congratulations! Looking forward to reading the final version!

  2. Posted August 12, 2009 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

    Can’t wait to steal borrow a copy from you when it arrives in your office!

    Can you say more about the new Software Studies series? Is another one in the works? What are the wider possibilities? I’m often too games-focused, and the blinkers stop me from seeing the bigger picture.

  3. Posted August 12, 2009 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

    very exciting, congrats, I’m looking forward to it!

  4. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 9:43 PM | Permalink

    Thanks everyone!

    Chris, yes, the Software Studies series has more books in the works. One is already accepted (we’re waiting on the manuscript) and we have a number of proposals we’re actively discussing with prospective authors. That said, we hope to see even more proposals now that the series is officially launched.

    From my perspective, the potential of software studies is quite wide. Obviously, I think the specifics of software are useful when trying to understand a range of digital media (not just games). But I also think the software studies approach is powerful for a range of other domains, given how much software structures contemporary life. An inkling of this is visible at last year’s software studies workshop.

  5. Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:44 PM | Permalink

    A frivolous comment, but is the guy on the cover someone I’m supposed to recognize from something?

  6. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

    Nope. He’s just meant to look like a computer/game character without looking cartoonish.

  7. Posted August 16, 2009 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    Congrats, Noah! I am very interested in those imbalances you discuss in regards to games and literature. Really looking forward to reading it.

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