Studio/Lab: Trope Tank

Posted on August 2, 2013 by Anya Ventura

For this week’s installment of Studio/Lab, we went to the Trope Tank! The Trope Tank is directed by Nick Montfort, an Associate Professor of Digital Media in Comparative Media Studies program / Writing at MIT. A lab for research, teaching, and creative production, the Trope Tank works to develop new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language. Among the machines in the lab is a Commodore 64, an Apple //c, a Macintosh SE, and an Atari 400, among many other items relating to the history of computing.

Montfort is the co-author of Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, a seminal study in the history of video games on how platforms — the systems underlying computing — affect creative expression. His book even inspired several game developers to create Atari versions of contemporary games such as Halo, stripping down the game to its most basic commands and components.

One of the lab’s most recent projects is the collaboratively authored 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, which takes a single line of code — the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 which comprises the book’s title — and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors treat code not as merely functional but as language, an example of concrete poetry and a textual artifact of cultural significance.

Studio/Lab is a series featuring a glimpse into all the interesting spaces of making and doing around the MIT campus.

All photos by Elizabeth Woodward.

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