Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies

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MIT Press, 2009 - Computers - 482 pages
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What matters in understanding digital media? Is looking at the external appearance and audience experience of software enough--or should we look further? In Expressive Processing, Noah Wardrip-Fruin argues that understanding what goes on beneath the surface, the computational processes that make digital media function, is essential. Wardrip-Fruin suggests that it is the authors and artists with knowledge of these processes who will use the expressive potential of computation to define the future of fiction and games. He also explores how computational processes themselves express meanings through distinctive designs, histories, and intellectual kinships that may not be visible to audiences. Wardrip-Fruin looks at "expressive processing" by examining specific works of digital media ranging from the simulated therapist Eliza and the first major story-generation system Tale-Spin to the complex city-planning game SimCity. Digital media, he contends, offer particularly intelligible examples of things we need to understand about software in general; if we understand, for instance, the capabilities and histories of artificial intelligence techniques in the context of a computer game, we can use that understanding to judge the use of similar techniques in such higher-stakes social contexts as surveillance. Most books on digital media focus on what the machines of digital media look like from the outside but ignore the computational machines that make digital media possible. With this book--the first to approach computational processes from the perspective of media, games, and fiction--Wardrip-Fruin examines both the outside and the inside of digital media's machines. Software Studies series
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Eliza Effect
23
Computer Game Fictions
41
Making Models
81
The TaleSpin Effect
115
Character and Author Intelligence
169
Authoring Systems
231
The SimCity Effect
299
Playable Language and Nonsimulative Processes
353
Conclusion
411
Afterword
427
References
443
Index
455
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About the author (2009)

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the coeditor of four collections published by the MIT Press: with Nick Montfort, The New Media Reader (2003); with Pat Harrigan, First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004), Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007), and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives (2009).

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