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Chat Transcript: November 5th 2000
The Impermanence Agent

Sunday November 5th (in LinguaMOO)
This transcript produced by Deena Larsen

Straight to log missing introduction

The Impermanence agent, with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, a.c. chapman, Brion Moss, and Duane Whitehurst

Early visions of hypermedia promised permanence - but the reality of the web is that we see at least one 'not found' error every time we search for information. Agent marketing hype promises a comfortable, stable environment that can hide the impermanence and overwhelming profluence that the web's dynamism produces. The Impermanence Agent takes a different approach - playing on the web's instability, telling stories of impermanence, of preservation, of lost memories. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, a.c. chapman, Brion Moss, and Duane Whitehurst have created a storytelling web agent that customizes its story of impermanence for each user. This customization continues until none of the original story remains. This chat will explore the underlying impermanence of the web, using agents in electronic literature, and collaboration.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a fiction writer, artist, and research scientist at the New York University Media Research Lab. He is currently the Art and Performance Chair for DAC 2001, and is working with Nick Montfort and Michael Crumpton on _The New Media Reader_ for MIT Press. His previous work includes Gray Matters -- a collaborative fiction embedded within images of the human body - which he completed as an Edward Albee Foundation Fellow. Its exhibition at the Sandra Gering Gallery was the first public installation of a Zooming User Interface. He has been creating web-specific hyperfictions since 1994, when he made public the first version of The Book of Endings.

Brion Moss, being an engineer by training and vocation, does not generally think of himself as an artist, but thoroughly enjoyed being part of the conceptualization and design of The Impermanence Agent. His day job consists of typing cryptic strings of letters into a keyboard in an effort to train computers to behave according to his wishes. By night, he enjoys the view from his San Francisco apartment, feeds his wife and his cats, and reads about things that don't actually happen but the world would be cooler if they did.


Duane Whitehurst has been working in the internet field for quite some time now. He's done work for the Voyager Company and NYU along with several small web shops you've probably never heard of. Duane feels very lucky to have worked with the likes of Noah, Adam, and Brion and thinks it's a testament to the net's potential that all four of us have never been in the same room at one time. Duane's currently hiding out in the Pacific Northwest building websites and trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

a.c. chapman is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn, New York. He was a mentor for the Open Studio Project (bringing artists to the Internet) and was one of the first Web Lab grant recipients. His work has been shown in California, Seattle and New York, and been featured in SVA's Digital Salon and SIGGRAPH's art gallery. Chapman is currently an adjunct professor at City University of New York, pursuing an MFA in fiction at the New School where he is studying with Mary Gaitskill, and working on collaborative and independent new media art projects. Some of his past work can be seen at http://www.theadm.com/laboratory/art/.

The following is a list of related links to accompany your reading:

-- Start log: Sunday, November 5, 2000 1:17:17 p.m. CST

Deena arrives.

Noah quietly enters.

Deena says, "Hi Noah"

Noah says, "Hi Deena"

Deena says, "No one is here yet--people wander in and out."

Deena says, "Do you want to start with a URL or introduction to the Agent?"

Noah says, "We could start with the first page of the Agent site."

Noah leaves for General Elit chat links

Deena shares a URL: <http://www.impermanenceagent.com>.

a.c.chapman arrives.

Deena says, "Hi a.c. "

a.c.chapman says, "Hello"

Deena says, "Noah is checking out the links in the general elit chat before we start."

a.c.chapman says, "Okee doke."

Deena says, "Are there any major questions you'd like to go over?"

Noah quietly enters.

a.c.chapman says, "Not particularly. I liked your outline of topics."

Deena says, "I was going to cover your philosophy behind the agent, the impermanence on the web, what would we archive, and how the agent parodies the web."

Noah says, "I didn't realize that viewing the links would make me leave."

Deena says, "Noah, sorry about that. Yeah, we lose more people in that black hole..."

Deena says, "But do you see the front page of the Impermanence Agent on your screen."

a.c.chapman says, "Where's that?"

Deena says, "The 'general chat links'."

Deena says, "Weird. This is not exactly a stable interface."

a.c.chapman says, "Ahhh the thrill of technology."

Noah says, "I expect Brion shortly. Just got email from him."

Deena says, "I was reading The Impermanence Agent, and viewing Nick's Girl and the Wolf, and the agent put a particularly apt graphic on the page. So when I commented on the graphic with Nick, he looked at me like I was crazy."

Noah says, "What was it?"

Deena says, "The story was Red Riding Hood, and the graphic was a woodcut of the wolf."

Duane arrives.

Deena says, "Hi Duane."

a.c.chapman says, "Hello Mr. Whithurst."

Noah says, "Hey Duane - meet Adam and Deena."

Salmon breezes in.

Duane says, "Howdy y'all"

Deena says, "Pleased to meet you"

Duane says, "Likewise"

Brion arrives.

a.c.chapman says, "I already know Duane. And hello to Brion."

Noah says, "Hey - we're all in the same room for the first time!"

Duane says, ""Yep. How many time zones are represented?"

Brion says, "Hello, all"

Noah says, "Hi Salmon - do I know you?"

Margaret arrives.

Salmon shakes her head to Noah, "I don't think so."

Noah says, "Well, we have at least east and west coast time zones, and I think Deena is Mountain time."

Margaret says, "Hello everyone"

a.c.chapman says, "Hello"

Margaret says, "Is this the place for the joint discussion with trAce?"

Noah says, "Yep - about The Impermanence Agent"

Margaret waves at everyone

Noah says, "And, of course, anything vaguely related."

a.c.chapman says, "I'm vaguely related."

MazThing pops in.

Noah says, "I have many relations."

MazThing smiles around

Margaret says, "I was expecting to see Sue here."

Margaret says, "Hi Maz."

Noah says, "Soon, I'd assume."

MazThing says, "Hi Margaret, she was at WebBoard earlier this evening."

NM ducks in.

The housekeeper arrives to cart Deena off to bed.

NM waves a handy hello to everyone

Noah says, "Poor Deena, we hardly knew ye."

runran arrives from trAce

Noah says, "Right, I meant what does it mean when people 'say' it?"

MazThing grins at Randy

Duane says, "Noah, it means I forgot the interface auto inserts 'say'."

Deena arrives.

Noah says, "Sorry, it was a bad joke..."

Deena brushes the snow from her coat as she comes in from the blizzard outside.

Deena says, "Noah, ac, Brion, Duane, have you introduced yourselves?"

NM brushes the sand of his coat as he steps in from the desert of the real.

Noah says, "Um.. Not yet."

Noah says, "We were waiting for you to start things."

Deena passes around brushes for all as we enter this world.

Deena says, "Well, let's start with intros. Today we are talking about The Impermanence Agent, a bizarre thing that takes over your web browser... :)"

Deena says, "And that should range us over the web, meaning of permanence, agents on the web and a host of other topics."

Brion says, "It doesn't so much take over your browser as watch, and comment."

Deena says, "Brion, how does the agent work?"

Deena says, "Sorry about that. I am still getting over my experience of reading, which involved multiple hallucinations on my part and odd pages on the agent's part."

Deena shares a URL: <http://www.impermanenceagent.com>.

Brion says, "The agent consists of three basic components client window, a proxy, and a background processor (which we call the collector)."

Brion says, "The basic operation is that you configure your browser to browse via the proxy. The proxy watches what you do as you browse, and remembers."

Brion says, "Meanwhile, a little client window pops up that tells a story, or several stories."

Brion says, "Those stories modify themselves based on what the proxy sees you doing."

Brion says, "That's the really quick version...."

Sue quietly enters and says, "Hi everyone."

Sue says, "Hi Noah - nice to see you again."

Deena says, "Hi Sue, we are introducing ourselves and learning about The Impermanence Agent."

Noah says, "Thanks Brion. Hi Sue."

Brion says, "The proxy also does some insertions and modifications as you browse, but the focus is really on the story being told in the little agent window."

a.c.chapman says, "I think that's a good, quick, technical overview."

Noah says, "Though those insertions in the window are the ones that most upset people - and make it hard to show it on the same machine with other web works. Which isn't all bad : )"

Deena says, "What is the reasoning behind the insertions?"

Brion says, "Actually, I had an interesting insertion just connecting to the MOO."

Deena says, "What was it?"

Helen arrives, like a train from Platform 9 and three-quarters.

Deena says, "I was telling Noah and a.c. earlier about reading Nick's piece and finding an old fashioned woodcut of a wolf in his retelling of Red Riding Hood. It was eerily appropriate."

Deena says, "Hi Helen, we are talking about The Impermanence Agent -- and how it inserts images into other web pages."

Brion says, "The insertion I saw is gone now, maybe still existing temporarily in my browser's cache. Eerily appropriate."

Noah says, "The reasoning behind the insertions is that the Agent, in a sense, 'writes back' to the user and comments (it's an opinionated Agent) both in the space of browsing and in its own window."

Deena says, "How do you see the interaction between the agent and the web? What happens when people can no longer "Tell the difference" between your story and the stories on the web?"

Deena shakes her computer and restarts.

Margaret says, "Randy, with all those gravestones does it have something to do with you?"

Margaret says, "I've turned it off. It was interfering with my typing."

Noah says, "Well, we see the Agent's story as taking a week to tell. This is a week of the story being altered, but also a week of the Agent's insertions/interventions in the user's browsing."

Helen says, "What happens after the week is up?"

Deena says, "Yes, what do you see as the 'end goal'?"

Noah says, "Well, if you browse much, the Agent's original story has been mostly or completely replaced by 'customizations' drawn from the material you've browsed."

Salmon says, "What governs the agent's 'Opinions'?"

Brion says, "The agent will still tell a story. After a week it will (if all is working right anyway) be almost unrecognizable."

Margaret says, "Was it just a co-incidence that it kept on about gravestones when I have just brought back a bridal bouquet and put them on my husband's ashes in the front garden--weird Irish custom?"

a.c.chapman says, "Somewhere around that time, the Agent's story has been supplanted by the User's story. That is, the story of their browsing."

Deena says, "I'm curious. Why are there no traditional text links in your work? Why does the Agent's story have no links at all? Why does the agent present a page at the beginning of the reading? How did you determine what to present?"

Brion says, "The opinions are meant to emphasize the subject of impermanence."

Noah says, "We talk about the Agent as having an 'extremely lightweight intelligence model' -- which is jargon for saying that the Agent's opinions and processes are just collage, pattern matching, etc. These of course are also the tools of AI that makes greater claims."

Deena says, "Is there a pre-programmed pattern?"

Brion says, "The idea is that the agent is watching and reacting, not that it should be interactive in the more direct lots-of-buttons-to-press sense."

Deena says, "Will the patterns change as web pages and websites change? Will it plan new links to go to?"

Deena says, "So the agent is doing the interacting for the reader?"

Brion says, "No, the reader is interacting with the web in a normal way. The agent is commentary on that."

a.c.chapman says, "It's not really doing anything for the reader, so much as each informs the other."

NM says, "This is a great feature of the Agent. It uses an existing interaction mode that is useful and which everyone on the Web already knows about, and engages in all the time."

Noah says, "Back to an earlier question - if you look at our other work there are also no traditional text links. I don't like them, frankly. I think if they are emphasized it's like unintended punctuation, and if they're hidden they leave people guessing 'where's the link' all the time. But I know they work in the work of other people."

Deena says, "So rather than providing traditional links, you provide a link at the beginning of each session?"

DreamHawk arrives from Main Area

Noah says, "No, browsing takes the place of linking. That's the user input."

Deena says, "Hi DreamHawk, we are talking about links, browsing, and ways of doing that with The Impermanence Agent."

NM says, "Are 'links' a useful way to describe the arrangement of elements in the Agent? I wouldn't use the term, myself."

DreamHawk says, "Hi all"

Deena says, "Good point, Nick."

a.c.chapman says, "I think the difference is that we're (at least I) am not particularly interested in making web sites that are art, so much as art that is on and dealing with the web."

Deena says, "Back to Brion, this work parodies "The fantasy of the agent" by presenting almost an anti-agent. What do you see as the role of agents on the web--how will and can they work, and why?"

Noah says, "Still, I think it's hypertext. If we go back to Ted Nelson, for his 'chunk-style' hypertext is just one kind. This sort of recombination is also in his early taxonomies."

Brion says, "We do show the user pages from our 'gallery', which is basically a set of web pages that we find interesting and relevant. But I think we do that mostly to spur the user to keep browsing."

Deena says, "How did you determine what pages to put in the gallery? Is the gallery static, or does it change as new pages come into the web--and ones in the gallery leave as 404s?"

Brion says, "The gallery is lovingly generated by hand."

Noah says, "The gallery changes every month, at least. We find sites, and yes, sites go away..."

Deena says, "So you control the gallery and what people start with?"

Brion says, "It's always sort of self-referentially cool when we find that a gallery page has gone 404 on us."

Deena says, "It strikes me that you have no idea what most of your readers are going to end up reading. And yet you seem a particularly language-concerned writer. Do people ever ask how you feel about this loss of control? It seems even more profound than the supposed losses of hypertext authors in general."

NM says, "Deena, do any of us have any idea what most of our readers are going to end up reading?"

Helen apologises but has to go to bed to nurse a cold.

Deena says, "But the agent 'loses control' in ways other than traditional hypertexts do. In most works, you can still keep people in the same corral, here you are commenting on a much broader plan of travel."

NM says, "Bye, Helen"

Helen wishes everyone a quiet good night

Noah says, "Well, the Agent is still very concerned about language. And I think this role for readers in the language - one of finding the materials for recombination through their daily browsing - is more appropriate than 'adding' to the story."

NM says, "The 'corral' only ensures that people can't get beyond certain set of texts -- not that they will actually bother to read those!"

Brion says, "When we were first thinking about interesting things the agent could do, we talked about having it react in specific ways to certain kinds of content. But the web (and peoples browsing habits) are too broad to support that."

Noah says, "We're lucky in that Duane is here. He wrote the language recombination parts."

Brion says, "And really it's more interesting to deal with the web in a more general way."

Duane says, "I believe the push of the project is to call attention to missing pages or images on the web for the reader. Instead of just bumping into a missing page and instantly going forward, the agent calls out to the reader the fact that something someone created is gone. Sort of a mourning ritual."

Sue says, "I'd like to ask a question about popular culture."

Sue says, "Have you identified aspects of the agent which are similar to, say, the way young people are using phones?"

Noah says, "Tell us more."

Sue says, "It seems to be getting more and more complex - are there similarities there or not?"

a.c.chapman says, "In the _Telephone Book_ sense?"

Sue says, "phones + sms + global positioning etc."

Sue says, "a.c. I don't know what that is."

Deena says, "And let's not forget wireless 'life tools' where the phone, internet, information, etc is in your palm."

NM says, "Busy signal = server capacity reached; no answer = 404"

Sue says, "yes Deena."

a.c.chapman says, "Oh it's this great book by Avita Ronnel(?) examining our interaction with phones."

Carolyn arrives.

Sue says, "Does that mean no, Noah ?!"

carolyn says, "Hi"

Sue says, "Hi Carolyn"

NM says, "Very nicely designed book, too."

Noah says, "Um. Still thinking about the question."

Sue says, "Ok, a.c. no I don't know that."

Deena says, "Hi Carolyn, we are looking at the ways the Impermanence Agent comments on modern life, e.g. telephones."

Noah says, "I've mostly thought of the Agent in the context of the history of hypermedia and the current web."

Sue says, "Not so much comments as mirrors popular culture usage."

Carolyn blushes, I must confess I don't know much about it.

Sue says, "Perhaps I'm not being clear..."

Noah says, "I don't think there's as much of a promise of permanence in this history of phones. People change numbers all the time. Of course, now we're told we'll have lifetime phone numbers. Perhaps tattooed on our necks?"

DreamHawk says, " Is it OK for a stranger to just jump in here ?"

Sue says, "I mean that the complexity of your agent is similar to the complexity of the way people interact with wireless technology."

Deena encourages DreamHawk to jump on in

Brion says, "I don't think we're commenting so much on the underlying technology as the way in which people have been using it to build sites on the web...and to let those sites get old and stale..."

Carolyn says, "Whoops, sorry, phone" and disconnects.

Noah says, "Well, most of the Agent's complexity is hidden from the user."

Deena says, "Yes, I wanted to figure out how we are seeing impermanence--on the web, in technology. When everything is obsolete so quickly, what is being saved and how are we saving it?"

DreamHawk says, " I have been following this for all of 3 minutes (and breezed quickly through the website -- but this is a problem for me as a webmaster (style content) and I have come up with my own solutions."

DreamHawk says, "I was wondering what the agent actually does ?"

Noah says, "Exactly. And is the idea of saving it just a fantasy?"

a.c.chapman says, "Solutions?"

Deena listens to Dreamhawk's solutions for impermanence

Noah says, "Is there a way that DreamHawk can see Brion's writing from earlier?"

NM says, "No! It's gone forever!"

Noah says, "Hee Hee."

DreamHawk says, "Yes.. I have been putting the entire content of the website into a database and then serving the pages from the database using CGI."

Duane laughs.

Deena says, "Right and what exactly are we saving? The impermanence agent counts losses (so far we have experienced 9 losses, etc.) But what are these losses, and what do we mean by saving material? What would be the opposite of these losses?"

Noah says, "Right. Would the opposite be the Library of Alexandria?"

DreamHawk says, "There are fields in the database which determine things like last access and freshness etc and when people access the pages in the site, it shows content based on most-viewed and most recently updated. "

Noah says, "Why, after all, did Alexander sack Persepolis - then the center of world knowledge?"

Deena says, "Duane, basically, the agent comments on your browsing, telling a story that incorporates the pages you are viewing."

Brion says, "But the content in the database is still going to get stale...just making sure that content exists 100 years from now doesn't mean that the content will still be meaningful."

Deena says, "Right, what did we lose in the libraries of Alexandria?"

Sue says, "I have to go too - apologies."

NM says, "I also want to hear some about the project as a e-lit/art project with many collaborators, and hear some about how that worked, what were some of the joys and irksome moments."

NM says, "Bye Sue."

Sue waves.

Deena says, "The Agent is a collaborative piece. Can you tell me more about the collaboration and its development?"

Noah says, "Well, when we started, I was the only person who knew everyone involved."

Brion says, "I still haven't met Adam face-to-face."

Noah says, "But now we're one happy family."

Deena hands juggling balls out to all so we can juggle four or five threads of the conversations.

Deena says, "Noah, how did you get everyone together?"

Noah says, "Yes, I was the first to contact everyone. Duane and I were working on a piece called 'Raku Writing' with sentence blending."

Duane get's a far off look in his eyes thinking about the old days....

Noah says, "Then I was invited to do a piece on mapping the web by Plexus, and I started talking with Brion about a fantasy Agent as a method of mapping."

DreamHawk says, " Yes.. sure, but at least the content is "prioritized" so you don't get 404's and you get some sort of indication of currency."

Deena says, "Dreamhawk, even with the database, we lose the information that was previously in the database and has been updated or supplanted."

Noah says, "DH - I agree it's a noble goal. See Neilsen's piece on 'Web Pages must Live Forever' - but it's still a long-term fantasy. It's like the dream of living forever personally."

Brion says, "There's also no guarantee your site will still exist in a few years."

DreamHawk says, " O.. Do we? Why would that happen Deena? The database grows and I am working on a process that archives out older stuff so it sticks around..."

Deena says, "Actually, there is no guarantee that CGI, databases, or other web technology will be around in a few years. What happens to the story then?"

Noah says, "Actually, the Agent might break with the next browser rev."

Deena says, "And how much do we archive before we drown in a wash of 'no longer relevant' information?"

Deena says, "How do you view the impermanence of The Impermanence Agent itself? "

DreamHawk says, "Good question Deena.. I suppose it depends (in this case) on me.. That is better I think that on relying on the individual contributors."

a.c.chapman says, "One of the problems is that, email is very similar to the phone and fax machine -- in that, hypothetically, you could operate with anyone from anywhere, provided a reliable carrier signal. But face to face meetings might have expedited certain things, especially in the development process. Plus it's always nice to break bread with your collaborators."

Deena says, "What was the impetus behind the agent?"

NM says, "I like some of the more ad-hoc responses to Web impermanence. I think the Google cache is a great thing and a very intelligent approach, which isn't trying to save the Web forever but actually manages to be very useful -- and to point out impermanence."

DreamHawk says, "I have a slightly different question --I run an email discussion list which has been on the go since 1995. There are over 60 email messages that have been sent to the list which I have archived. I have changed the list home about 4 times and every time carried over the archive -- I don't have any solution to the problems that that generates..."

Deena says, "Nick, what is the google cache and do you have a URL?"

Noah says, "I'd already been working (since 1993) on an essay about impermanence and hypermedia."

Deena laughs about the URL because she is thinking about how to archive this chat...

NM says, "Deena, when you search at www.google.com you have the option to go to the actual site or Google's cached version."

Brion says, "Exactly...the back end software keeps changing. We're doomed to an impermanent web."

Deena says, "As the agent says "We suffer, apparently, with each 404. There is continual talk of the Web being undigestible, uninteresting, uncomfortable, and difficult to understand. Yet we do not wish to abandon it, for all our talk of its faults."

Deena says, "Why are we doomed to an impermanent web?"

NM says, "For a while after a site goes down, its 'ghost' persists in the Google cache. You can't find the 'real' site but you can look at the cached content. Same thing happens in your own browser cache, of course, but this is more Web-wide."

Noah says, "Duane pushed for the project to start with a traditional story, rather than commenting, because the combinatorics of trying to tell a story just by commenting were too big."

a.c.chapman says, "Doomed?"

Deena says, "Why can't we figure out what is worth saving and how to save it in the browser wars and upgrades?"

NM says, "That's what we *have* to do..."

a.c.chapman says, "Who would decide?"

NM says, "If anything is to be done, I think."

Brion says, "Because life is impermanent. A site will only be "alive" as long as someone actively maintains it, and we've seen where that gets us."

Deena says, "I think that starting with the story works well, we are pulled into the storytellers life and more interested in his commentary."

Noah says, "And then we hooked up with Adam and started working out more of the real look of the thing..."

Noah says, "So, this is basically what the collaborative process was like. We all got into the same concept, and we talked through it in various configurations until we got to the Agent we have today."

Deena says, "Margaret, any ideas on how to determine what to save?"

Noah says, "If we look at http://www.afterlife.org we see people who want to keep your website dynamic even after you die. The final archiving fantasy."

DreamHawk says, "I suppose that the web in it's current manifestation is the best that we have. The new initiatives in things like FreeNet are interesting in that they free the website from a single machine (potentially) with content being cached automagically at "nodes" nearest to the "places" where it is requested most. While it does not add any sort of permanence, it is a completely different concept of archiving."

Deena says, "Fantasy in a lot of ways--as it too depends on someone to maintain the archive."

NM says, "As Brion says, that doesn't make the saved material 'live,' any more than an 1922 newspaper's classified ads are alive, but we can preserve a selection of things (not the whole Web) to give us some idea of what the Web was like and what people communicated and wrote about."

Margaret says, "None at all Deena. I think it must be left to the individual in most cases."

Brion says, "There are people who spend a lot of time and effort trying to maintain old computer equipment (punch card readers, 8-inch floppy drives, etc). As time goes on it gets very hard to retain the ability to use old information."

Noah says, "The story is about the same topics. What is archived and lost. What would have been better to lose."

Brion says, "I think there are a lot of things working against an eternally living web."

Margaret says, "However where a group of individuals agree something is really worth saving perhaps they could set up a trust (with lottery money?)"

Brion says, "I think the fascinating thing is that right here in this chat, as everywhere else, the first question people asked is "How do we stop this?"

NM says, "I find a more serious problem than the lack of an ever-living Web (which I agree is a hopeless dream) -- even a good archive is not being kept."

DreamHawk says, "We have an institutional problem with this. When all the communication was on paper, the "University Archive" would get copies of everything, but in the last ten years with the move to email as a primary form of communication, most of that has been lost, and it is only now that they are starting to address the problem."

Margaret says, "Most things are saved by accident anyway."

NM says, "Noah, did you bicker about who would do what?"

Deena says, "Noah, did you save the configurations?"

Deena says, "Brion, good point. Is the question how do we stop this, or is it what are we doing?"

Noah says, "About the University archives. It's funny. Institutions are moving in two directions. They're trying to figure out how to archive electronic stuff - and also how to destroy it all on a regular basis so they don't get caught like Microsoft. Often institutions have someone in charge of both efforts."

a.c.chapman says, "I think the argument, for me, for keeping those old technologies alive is that certain stories are explicitly tied to said technologies. Noah and I have a friend, Nick, who has a large store of old machines specifically for this reason. -- However I would argue that we need to start thinking of computer related stories and art in much the same way we classify "Happenings" or "performance art". In that there's an acknowledged temporality."

Deena says, "The agent says 'We suffer, apparently, with each 404. There is continual talk of the Web being undigestible, uninteresting, uncomfortable, and difficult to understand. Yet we do not wish to abandon it, for all our talk of its faults.' What are the advantages in the web? Why don't we want to abandon it?"

Brion says, "I think the first question is always going to be, 'How do we stop this?' Just as when an aged relative is dying. It takes more thought before we arrive at a place where we can celebrate the change, painful as it may be."

Deena says, "a.c., so the Impermanence agent is a performance piece, with a time limit? "

DreamHawk has disconnected.

a.c.chapman says, "In a sense, yes."

Elizabeth arrives.

Noah says, "I agree with a.c. (aka Adam). I think electronic lit is like theatre. You have to remount it each time you want a new audience to see it, and some pieces are too specific to a time and place for that to make sense."

Deena says, "Hi Elizabeth, we are talking about ways of viewing web work as time-dependant rather than archived and accessed centuries from now."

Noah says, "I also agree with Brion. That's what the piece is all about. It's not about irony, really. It's about struggling to accept impermanence."

Duane says, "As far as losing items developed on older hardware, you can look to the number of emulators created to allow people to run programs [granted mostly old atari games] on newer hardware. I believe that as things progress, the items from the past that are desired will be accommodated."

NM goggles at the existence of a work of art created in the 1990s which is not about irony.

Deena says, "Yet we have records of performance art, records of plays. Will we have records of elit?"

Brion says, "There's a wonderful book called _Making_Loss_Matter_ that's about this subject--the idea that we're always losing, all the time, but that we should see how these losses make us better people."

Elizabeth says, "Brion, who is/are the author/s of that book? sounds important."

Brion says, "It's by David Wolpe"

NM says, "Records of e-lit ... we're workin' on it!"

Brion says, "I have an Infocom interpreter on my palm pilot...does that count? :-)"

NM says, "Brion, it certainly does."

Noah says, "I know. It's very old fashioned in some ways. That's why it's good we're with fiction writers today. We can be painfully lacking in irony some times, but we accept the idea..."

a.c.chapman says, "In the same manner, probably. Video tapes (doomed medium) of performances."

Noah says, "Nick and I are working on a project that's going to both use emulators and engage in other kinds of archiving. I ride the fence thoroughly on this one."

NM says, "Infocom was a publishing house / software company which published about 30 interactive fiction works of the text adventure sort in the 1980s"

Deena says, "Right, The Impermanence Agent seems to parody archiving, and yet your New Media Reader project engages in it. Is there something here you need to explain?"

Deena says, "Nick, are those still available?"

NM says, "Yes, Deena."

Frink quietly enters.

NM says, "The New Media Reader is a reader, not a true archive, but it has as one of its purposes to preserve a handful of the most important works."

Brion says, "Noah is dodging explaining that one....."

Deena says, "Hi Frink, we are talking about the impermanence agent and now we are onto the idea that elit is like performance art, and can't be archived."

Margaret says, "Thank you for the most interesting discussion. I hope we will enjoy more of these joint sessions. I have to go now, I am afraid."

Deena says, "Brion, could you help explain it?"

Deena says, "Thanks for coming. Please give me your email and I will send out announcements of future chats or check http://www.eliterature.org/com/index.shtml"

Brion says, "Well, I'm not Noah...but his work on the New Media Reader is definitely an effort to archive some works that deserve to be kept alive. So in a way it is a battle against impermanence."

Brion says, "...which is not to say that the reader will necessarily continue to be published indefinitely. It's a temporary stay, not an eternal guarantee."

NM says, "Did Noah derezz?"

Duane says, "Which is the best anything can hope for [a temporary stay, that is]."

Noah says, "Had to go to the little dying things room."

a.c.chapman says, "It's interesting to think that if the New Media Reader is widely read/used, then it will go a long way towards creating a Cannon. Which is to say that certain emulators will be kept around long enough to read said works."

Deena says, "Noah, we are wondering about the dichotomy in preserving lit in the New Media Reader and the attitude in the Impermanence Agent, which is embracing impermanence."

Deena says, "I hope the cannon embraces a variety of media and old emulators so that many different works can be viewed."

Noah says, "Well, in a way the NMR project is an attempt to shape the field, and to give a history to a field that many people think started in in 1994."

Deena says, "Yet this is the same way it has always seemed to work, we lose everything but a particular cannon, and view the world through those eyes only..."

Deena passes out dinosaurs for all of us who were here before 1994.

Noah says, "It's true - though the goal is not a cannon."

Brion says, "Cannon's aren't permanent either, though. How many here have read the Aeneid?"

Noah says, "The goal is to get people to start looking backward."

a.c.chapman says, "Well, yes, but there's always fringe works being brought back into the cannon: witness Zora Neal Hurston."

NM raises his Aeneid hand.

Noah says, "And witness the only Greek works we have being the ones that were preserved for their value in teaching the language - not their literary value."

Deena raises hers as well, then thinks about Tantalus, which is piecing together the myths that were "lost" outside the cannon.

Deena says, "We are always reinventing cannons and seeing other histories through a distorted perspectives. Maybe it is the illusion of being able to access all of this information that has spawned differing archive fantasies?"

Noah says, "Is there anyone here but us meeses?"

NM says, "So, what's next for the Impermanence Agent team? Or for team members? What projects are brewing?"

Deena says, "You can also hit 'look' at the top of the screen to see who is in the room."

Noah says, "Well, there's an idea for telling a story through censorware."

NM says, "@who, the sound that an OWEL makes."

Deena says, "Right, we are doing the OWEL workshops the last Saturday of the month, if you have projects that we can workshop."

Noah says, "And also a couple of ideas brewing for altered video-mirror pieces. One at least involving text (my great love)."

NM says, "How about the non-Noah Agent people? Do you have things in the works?"

Deena says, "I am playing with fractals and Flash with Robs Swigart and Kendall."

Deena says, "And playing with some ideas for geometric structures."

NM says, "Are either of you collaborators going to be at the Boston conference next weekend?"

NM says, "Deena?"

Noah says, "a.c. is brilliant with FLASH."

a.c.chapman says, "Well, Noah and I are doing the censorware thing together, and are collaborating on at least one video/text/mirror piece. Naturally we have other collaborators who are very skilled in their particular fields."

Deena says, "Nick, I wish I could, but I will be in Seattle."

a.c.chapman says, "Aww shucks."

NM says, "Deena, you mentioned, but are Rob or Rob coming, do you know?"

a.c.chapman says, "I'm also doing some solo projects one art project which will be in either Flash or Director."

Noah says, "Actually, a.c. should go to the Boston thing if possible. Could Nick share the URL?"

Deena says, "I'm not sure if they are."

NM shares a URL: <http://www.enarrative.org>.

a.c.chapman says, "Boston?"

Deena says, "a.c., where do you live?"

a.c.chapman says, "NYC, well, Brooklyn. ex-Seattle."

Deena thinks Brooklyn is at least within driving distance of Boston.

a.c.chapman says, "I've heard this."

Noah says, "I think this has gone really well. I must admit to being new to chats."

NM says, "The conference is 'full' so you should contact the appropriate parties very soon to see if there's a way to go, if you're interested."

Deena says, "Talk with Mark Bernstein bernsteinateastgate.com"

Noah says, "Has anyone who's not an author of the system used the Agent? any comments/responses?"

Noah says, "Tell him we sent ya."

NM raises his having-used-the-Agent hand.

Deena raises her hand along with nm's.

Noah says, "Comments/responses?"

Deena says, "I keep having to turn it off and go back to the beginning. I tried the test version, and got booted off."

Noah says, "Oh..."

Deena says, "I like the gallery idea, and it would be cool to be able to access all the links in one place to see the range."

Deena says, "I really like the commentary and the stories involved, they become compelling. I like the way that they stay on the screen so you can view the other pages and go back to the commentary."

Brion says, "What do you mean turn it off? What stops working?"

Deena says, "My browser won't go on line."

Noah says, "But we like people to be surprised, when they come back from a break, to see the new gallery page."

Deena says, "Can you show them all AFTER the week?"

Noah says, "Hey - how do we whisper?"

Deena says, "page NAME 'Message'."

NM says, "No."

NM says, "Whisper 'Psst...' to NAME."

Elizabeth says, "Goodbye; I'll hope to catch up on the whole discussion tonight."

NM says, "Page also gives you an annoying buzzing sound (although it works outside the room you're in)."

Deena says, "Thanks for coming Elizabeth. The archive will be up by Tuesday."

Elizabeth says, "And try slash msg for whisper."

Deena says, "Wow. I have never gotten sounds in the MOO..."

Noah says, "Sorry to get us off-topic with that."

a.c.chapman says, "It's been interesting crafting the agent for those who we'd like to see it (everyone) and those who we think will actually see it (the computers/art/writing people whom we invite personally."

NM says, "No, a textual buzzing sound."

Deena says, "a.c., it is hard to get readers, especially for completely new reading online."

Deena says, "I find myself wanting to blame the Agent for everything that has gone weird with my computer over the last month or so, simply because it *does* do bizarre things..."

Deena says, "I still find people who say they just don't want to read online."

Noah says, "That's kind of cool. The Agent as Microsoft. As everything that breaks."

NM says, "That's what you get for violating boundaries."

a.c.chapman says, "Well, my experience has been that getting anyone who's not in "the culture" to read anything online is difficult. But then, realistically, I think the project is aimed at people in a culture who are aware of what we're commenting on."

Deena thinks it is a very good thing Noah can't hear me swearing at the computer every day...

a.c.chapman laughs

Noah says, "At least we're close to your heart if you're swearing at us."

duane says, "NM, what do you mean by violating boundaries?"

Deena says, "a.c., I think this really does appeal to people in the know, who can figure out what you are parodying."

NM says, "If you have a program that appears to mess up your desktop in some way, for instance if Dogz or Catz went and moved your trash can around, you would tend to blame that program for times when your desktop was screwed up. "

a.c.chapman says, "I must confess, I'm not a particular fan of reading online. When I edit my writing, I print it out and mark it up. Same when someone sends me something longer than a couple pages. -- however the medium is the first opportunity to really try something new with "form" for the first time in 1500 years of writing."

Deena says, "Right. And when I get hallucinations of pictures that weren't on the page, or when I get lines of bizarre text on a web page, I blame the Agent."

NM says, "Similarly, Deena blames the Agent for Web screw-ups, because it's clear that the Agent screws with things on the Web in the way nothing else does."

Noah says, "a.c. you might get challenged on that one."

a.c.chapman says, "I'm open."

Deena says, "Noah, how would a.c. get challenged?"

Noah says, "Just I think lots of people think their work was something new is form. Say, the folks who started writing sonnets (who aren't here, I realize)."

Deena says, "I too have a hard time reading online--I still read books when I want to relax... But I keep thinking I will miss too much if I print it out."

Deena says, "If you can write something on paper, you should--it's a lot easier and it doesn't break. But...what the agent does--and what a lot of this does is work with the media so you can't separate the two."

Noah says, "But the immediacy of the feedback loop... it maybe allows forms that are enough of a break that our peers wonder aloud if they should be called writing. So I suppose that's a break."

a.c.chapman says, "I would say that Ovid and _Void_ have more in common than they have differences. Whereas, I'd say the agent is completely different. But in in 50 years, I may say the agent is the same."

Deena says, "a.c., do you have a URL for Void?"

NM says, "Hmm, what about _Rayuela_ and _Afternoon_?"

noah says, "I hope we're all here in 50 years. One weird thing about working on the Agent is how many people chose to me have die during that time."

NM says, "That's a print work, Deena."

Deena says, "Yes, there may be some wildly different things out there in 50 years."

Deena blushes.

NM says, "By Georges Perec, trans. Gilbert Adair"

Deena says, "Thanks. I'll look it up."

Noah says, "With no letter 'e' anywhere in it."

a.c.chapman says, "No, it's a book by (help me out here Noah) .. Perec, George. A novel written entirely without using the letter "e". then it was translated into English!"

NM says, "Which I didn't realize was an anagram of 'Ovid.'"

Noah says, "Hee hee."

a.c.chapman says, "That _is_ amusing."

The housekeeper arrives to remove runran.

Deena passes out palindromic and anagram glasses

NM takes a drink from the anagram glass

Noah says, "Does he get smaller?"

a.c.chapman says, "And Le-on's getting laaaarger!""

Deena says, "Well, I think we will just have to wait the 50 years to see how this shakes out."

Noah says, "Is that a wrap-up comment?"

NM says, "Hopefully we can upload our brains extropian-style onto large hard drives and see how it turns out in 500 years."

Brion says, "That's something to hope for?"

Deena hands out extropian-style brains and 50 year passes and then 500 passes.

Duane says, "I'm with Brion on that one..."

Noah says, "How embodied is information, after all?"

a.c.chapman says, "Dualists."

Noah says, "People like Hayles and Drucker have been writing well on this subject."

Deena thinks that in 500 years people will be thinking about far more different things than our current elit techniques.

Deena says, "Noah, do you have the references."

NM says, "That's no way to think, Deena."

Deena thinks we are thinking in far different ways than the first novels and exploration books of the 1500s, so...

Noah says, "Hayles is readily available as _How We Became Posthuman_"

Duane says, "Sorry team, but I've gotta get going. Deena, thanks so much for hosting our first get together...."

a.c.chapman says, "I think our stories are basically the same. Just new language."

Brion says, "Bye, Duane! Good to 'see' you again..."

Deena says, "Thanks for coming you guys. It was great to have this chat."

a.c.chapman says, "Bye Duane."

NM says, "Great chat. Thanks to all the Agent-creators."

a.c.chapman says, "Thanks for coming."

Deena says, "Yes, the Agent has been a lot of fun. Weird, but fun."

Duane sheepishly bows

Noah says, "Bye Duane! Let's get together - all of us - for physical some time."

a.c.chapman says, "How novel."

Brion says, "Huh. Where?"

Noah says, "Drucker has an essay that's in the SIGGRAPH Art and Culture Papers from last year - that may also be on her web page - on the difference between computer graphics or algorithm as pure info or embodied info."

duane says, "That'd be nice. I think we'll be in NYC in the Feb./march thing. "

a.c.chapman says, "That'd be great!"

Noah says, "We will probably have an opening at The New Museum in Jan."

Deena says, "Are you guys all going to DAC in April?"

Brion says, "That'd be worth coming together for."

a.c.chapman says, "Yes."

duane says, "Well then sounds like I oughta plan on getting out there in Jan."

Deena says, "An opening of what, Noah"

Noah says, "Let's wait for confirmation..."

Duane says, "Brion, a.c., Noah, see ya later. Next year in NYC."

Noah says, "Well, Deena, there's going to be a show of web art at the new space for NY's The New Museum of Contemporary Art. We've recently been invited to be in it, but we don't want to publicize much until we see the real info."

Brion says, "Who is this housekeeper, anyway?"

Noah says, "An Agent?"

Brion says, "She's trying to hide the impermanence of the chat room, isn't s/he?"

NM says, "I'm headed off, too."

Deena says, "Right, she wants the illusion of permanence."

Noah says, "Or at least no reminders of impermanence hanging around."

Deena says, "But I think she is also an impermanent figment of the MOO."

NM has disconnected.

Deena says, "I'm headed out too, to go play in the snow which has just stopped falling."

Deena says, "Thanks again, you guys"

a.c.chapman says, "zing you were in the chat."

Deena has disconnected.

Brion says, "Just us agent-creatin' types now..."

Noah says, "Us meeses."

Brion says, "I'll be off too....talk to you later..."

a.c.chapman says, "Bye all. Good to talk to you Brion, and to you too, Mr. Wardrip-Fruin."

a.c.chapman has disconnected.

Noah has disconnected.

Brion has disconnected.

-- End log: Monday, November 6, 2000 11:16:36 am CST

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