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Archive for February, 2007

Donna Haraway: Cyborg Manifesto

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular-religious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humour and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg.

Read On

Rob Hubbard

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Rob Hubbard (born 1956, Kingston upon Hull, England), is a music composer best known for his composition of computer game theme music, especially for microcomputers of the 1980s such as the Commodore 64. His work showed the real potential of both the Commodore 64’s sound hardware and the ability of good music to improve the gaming experience.

In the late seventies, before scoring games, he was a professional studio musician. He decided to teach himself BASIC and machine code for the Commodore 64.

Writing a few demos and some educational software for learning music, he approached Gremlin Graphics in 1985 with samples of his work, to attempt to market his software. Gremlin were more interested in the tunes than the software and he was asked to create the soundtrack for Thing on a Spring, a platform game. Hubbard created a theme that mixed violins, electric guitars, and amusing basslines.

Hubbard went on to write or convert themes for games such as Monty on the Run, Crazy Comets, Master of Magic and Commando. Some of his most famous tunes include also Thrust, Spellbound, Sanxion, Auf Wiedersehen Monty and Ricochet. The game Knucklebusters includes Hubbard’s longest tune that is 17 minutes long.

After working for several different companies, in 1989 he left Newcastle to work for Electronic Arts in America as a composer. He was the first person devoted to sound and music at EA, and did everything from low-level programming to composing. He became Audio Technical Director, a more administrative job, involving deciding which technologies to use in the games, and which to develop further. After Commodore 64 period he wrote some soundtracks for PC -games and Sega Megadrive/Genesis. His most famous post-C64 work is probably soundtrack for Skate or Die game in which he emulates distorted guitar sound with AdLib soundcard (Amiga conversion with actual guitar samples is probably not made by Hubbard).

Hubbard recently contributed a few re-arrangements of his themes to Chris Abbott’s Back in Time Live C64 tribute. Hubbard has performed several times with the Danish C64 cover-band PRESS PLAY ON TAPE who have covered many of his early tunes using a full rock-band arrangement. Hubbard has also performed his old music on piano with the support of violinist madfiddler.

In 2005, music from International Karate was performed live by a full orchestra at the third Symphonic Game Music Concert. The event took place in Leipzig, Germany. Hubbard arranged and orchestrated the piece.

Hubbard left EA in 2002 and returned to England. He has recently resumed playing in a band, and has even revisited his past game music work in concert. Recent composition jobs have included music for mobile phone games. His original SID music can be found from The High Voltage SID Collection.

Karel Čapek and his Robot

Monday, February 26th, 2007

R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is a science fiction play by Karel Čapek. It premiered in 1921 and is famous for having introduced and popularized the term robot.

The play begins in a factory that makes ‘artificial people’ - they are called Robots, but are closer to the modern idea of androids or even clones, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. They can plainly think for themselves, though they seem happy to serve. At issue is whether the “Robots” are being exploited and, if so, what follows?

The play premiered in Prague in 1921. It was translated from Czech into English by Paul Selver, and adapted for the English stage by Nigel Playfair in 1923. Basil Dean produced it in April 1923 for the Reandean Company at St. Martin’s Theatre, London.

After having finished the manuscript, Čapek realized that he had created a modern version of the old Golem legend. He later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

R.U.R is dark, but not hopeless, and was successful in its day in both Europe and the United States.

A more modern (1990) translation in English is available in Toward the Radical Center: A Karel Čapek Reader, published by Catbird Press.

In February 1938, a thirty-five minute adaptation of a section of the play was broadcast on BBC Television—the first piece of television science-fiction ever to be produced. In 1948, another adaptation - this time of the entire play and running to ninety minutes - was screened by the BBC, and in between in 1941 BBC radio had also produced a radio play version. None of these three productions survive in the BBC’s archives.

The Hollywood Theater of the Ear dramatized an unabridged audio version of R.U.R. which is available on the collection 2000x: Tales of the Next Millenia

The play introduced the word Robot, which displaced older words such as “automaton” or “android” in languages around the world. (In an article in Lidové noviny, Karel Čapek named his brother Josef as the true inventor of the word.) It is noteworthy that, in Čapek’s text, “Robot” is always capitalized, which suggests that Čapek envisioned them to be a distinct race of nationality in the world of his play. In its original Czech, robota means drudgery or servitude. The name Rossum is an allusion to the Czech word rozum, meaning “reason”, “wisdom”, or “intellect”. (It has been suggested that the allusion might be preserved by translating “Rossum” as “Reason”, but all published translations to date have left the name untouched.)

Machinima at the Walker

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

“I think one of the changes of our consciousness of how things come into being, of how things are made and how they work…is the change from an engineering paradigm, which is to say a design paradigm, to a biological paradigm, which is a cultural and evolutionary one. In lots and lots of areas now, people say, How do you create the conditions at the bottom to allow the growth of the things you want to happen?” –Brian Eno

Back in 2002 the Walker Art Center held an exhibition entitled “Transforming Play:Family ALbums, and Monster Movies”

link to exhibition

Espen J Aaseth

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Espen J. Aarseth (born 1965) is a major figure in the emerging field of video game studies. He is one of the most prominent figures among what are called the “ludologists,” a group of thinkers characterized by their insistence on treating video games not as a form of narrative or as a text, but instead simply as games, with the dynamics of play and interaction being the most important and fundamental part of the games.

The ludologists are contrasted by the so-called “narrativists” such as Janet Murray and Henry Jenkins.

In another opinion, the dualism ludology-narratology is quite artificial. Ludology does not exclude the so-called “narratology”. See Gonzalo Frasca’s article “Ludologists love stories, too: notes from a debate that never took place”.

Aarseth’s works include groundbreaking Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Johns Hopkins UP 1997) book, which was originally his doctoral thesis. The book introduces the concept of ergodic literature, which is a text that requires non-trivial effort to be traversed. The book also contains a well-known (pre-ludological) theory, “typology of cybertext” which allows ergodic texts to be classified by their functional qualities. (In Aarseth’s later work with Solveig Smedstad & Lise Sunnanå this typology of cybertext transforms into “a multi-dimensional typology of games”, published in the book Level Up conference proceedings 2003 (eds. Copier & Raessens, Utrecht University & Digra)).

Aarseth was born in Bergen, Norway, and completed his doctorate at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Bergen. He co-founded the Department of Humanistic Informatics at the University of Bergen, and worked there until 2003, at which time he was a full professor. He is currently Principal Researcher at the Center of Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen

Read Espen’s “The Field of Humanistic Informatics and its Relation to the Humanities”

SNL — Apocalypto Recut

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

The major networks are starting to get in on the re-cut game. While I do think this is a hilarious re-cut of Mel Gibson’s film Apocalyptico, I also fear that the mainstreaming of what are now some of the more underground nerd arts will be watered down. With that aside this SNL recut brought the genre to a huge audience. Expect more to follow.

Generative Art

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Generative art refers to art that has been generated, composed, or constructed in an algorithmic manner through the use of systems defined by computer software algorithms, or similar mathematical or mechanical or randomised autonomous processes.

Generative art is a system oriented art practice where the common denominator is the use of systems as a production method. To meet the definition of generative art, an artwork must be self-contained and operate with some degree of autonomy. The workings of systems in generative art might resemble, or rely on, various scientific theories such as Complexity science and Information theory. The systems of generative artworks have many similarities with systems found in various areas of science. Such systems may exhibit order and/or disorder, as well as a varying degree of complexity, making behavioral prediction difficult. However, such systems still contain a defined relationship between cause and effect. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Musikalisches Würfelspiel” (Musical Dice Game) 1757 is an early example of a generative system based on randomness. The structure was based on an element of order on one hand, and disorder on the other.

An artist or creator will usually set down certain ground-rules or formulae and/or templates materials, and will then set a random or semi-random process to work on those elements. The results will remain somewhat within set limits, but may also be subject to subtle or even startling mutations. The idea of putting the art making process in the place of a pre-generated artwork is a key feature in generative art, highlighting the process-orientation as an essential characteristic. Generative artists such as Hans Haacke have explored processes of physical and biological systems in artistic context.

Generative art can also evolve in real-time, by applying feedback and generative processes to its own created states. A generative work of art would in this case never be seen to play in the same way twice. Different types of graphical programming environments (e.g. Max/Msp, Pure Data) are used in real-time for generative audiovisual artistic expressions for instance in the Demoscene and in VJ-culture.

Artificial intelligence and automated behavior have introduced new ways of seeing generative art. The term behavior is particularly useful when describing generative qualities in art because of the associations to biology and evolution, for example with the virus models used by the digital artist Joseph Nechvatal. Autopoiesis by Ken Rinaldo includes fifteen musical and robotic sculptures that interact with the public and modify their behaviors based on both the presence of the participants and each other.

The term generative art is not describing any art-movement or ideology. It’s a method of making art. The term refers to how the art is made, and not taking into account why it was made or what the content of the artwork is.

History of the word Nerd

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

The word “nerd” first appeared in Dr. Seuss’s book If I Ran the Zoo[1], published in 1950, where it simply names one of Seuss’s many comical imaginary animals. (The narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.)

The use of the “nerd” as slang goes back at least to 1951, when it was reported as a relatively new usage in Detroit, Michigan first by Newsweek[2] and then the St. Joseph, Michigan, Herald-Press[3]. By the early 1960s, usage of the term spread through the United States[4] and as far as Scotland[5]. Throughout this first decade, the definition was consistent—a dull person, a synonym of “square”, “drip” and “scurve”. During the next decade, it took on connotations of bookishness as well as social ineptitude, and the spelling “nurd” began to appear. The University of South Dakota’s journal, Current Slang, contains four entries for “nurd” and one for “nerd” in 1970 and 1971. [6][7][8]

The first recorded use of the “nurd” spelling appeared in 1965, in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Bachelor[9]. Oral tradition at RPI holds that the word was coined there, spelled as “knurd” (”drunk” spelled backwards), to describe those who studied rather than partied. This usage predates a similar coinage of “knurd” by author Terry Pratchett, but has not been documented prior to the “nurd” spelling in 1965.

Other theories of the word’s origin include a variation on Mortimer Snerd, the name of Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy and the Northern Electric Research and Development labs in Ontario, suggesting images of engineers wearing pocket protectors with the acronym N.E.R.D. printed on them, and a claim by Philip K. Dick to having coined “nurd”.[10] The term itself was used heavily in the American 1974 – 1984 television comedy Happy Days which was set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the mid-1950s.

The Online Etymology Dictionary speculates that the word is an alteration of a 1940s term nert meaning “stupid or crazy person,” itself an alteration of nut.

Turbo Grafix 16

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

The TurboGrafx-16, known as PC-Engine in Japan, is a video game console first released in Japan by NEC on October 30, 1987. The system was released in late August 1989 in North America. There was no official PAL version of the system, but a grey importer provided a very limited release in the UK and continental Europe in 1990 as Turbografx (not including the “16″ in the title, and lowercase “g” in “grafx”) [1].

The TurboGrafx-16 was an 8-bit system, with 16-bit graphics chip capable of displaying 482 colors at once.

Although touted and marketed at the time as a next generation “16-bit” console, in actuality the TurboGrafx-16 had only an 8-bit CPU (16-bit referred to its video graphics chip). While sporting advanced graphics and sound capabilities above and beyond the existing 8-bit console market, it was notably underpowered compared to competing 16-bit consoles such as the Sega Genesis and especially the later Super Nintendo.

Other notable feature limitations stemmed from NEC’s cost cutting measures. The TurboGrafx-16 lacked a second player controller port, only supported RF modulation for audio/video (the competition had built-in support for stereo audio, and for video: composite, s-video and even RGB ouput), and even lacked basics such as a reset switch or “power-on” lighted LED indicator. While after market plug-in expansion modules did exist to provide multiple player gamepad ports and composite video-out with stereo audio, they had to be purchased separately and installed externally to the system.

Web 2.0 in just under 5 minutes

Monday, February 19th, 2007

This is the 2nd draft, and I plan on doing one more final draft. Please leave comments on what could be changed or improved, or what needs to be excluded or included. Subscribe if you want to be notified when the revision is released.

UPDATE: I just added this video to Mojiti where you can actually write your comments into the video itself. It is an exciting experiment in “Video 2.0″. Go check it out at and add your voice!

Transcripts are now available as well:…

A couple of people have noted that the statement, “XML was created to do just that” (separate form from content) is misleading because CSS enables the same effect with HTML. I tried to integrate CSS into the video, but it ruined the flow. Perhaps in the next draft.

My statement on XML is based on the following from “In order to appreciate XML, it is important to understand why it was created. XML was created so that richly structured documents could be used over the web. The only viable alternatives, HTML and SGML, are not practical for this purpose. HTML, as we’ve already discussed, comes bound with a set of semantics and does not provide arbitrary structure.”

Thank you all for the comments. With your help the next draft will be cleaned up and hopefully free of factual errors.

A higher quality version is available for download here: mediafire Please note that this is the second draft and the final version will not be available until late February after I review all comments and revise the video. Please return for a new download link at that time.

The song is “There’s Nothing Impossible” by Deus, available for free at
Deus offers music under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license, yet one more example of the interlinking of people sharing and collaborating this video is attempting to illustrate.


Michael Wesch
Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Kansas State University (more) (less)