Uncle Roger

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Description (in English): 

In the spring of 1986, Judy Malloy was invited by video and performance art curator Carl Loeffler to go online and write on the seminal Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN) on The WELL where ACEN Datanet, an early online publication, would soon feature actual works of art, including works by John Cage, Jim Rosenberg, and Malloy's Uncle Roger. In August 1986, Malloy began writing and designing the interface for the hyperfictional narrative database, Uncle Roger. Originally this work was published as a series of three files on the Well. It has been described as a "database narrative", though it could equally be described as a hypertext fiction. Each node consists of a paragraph or two of text. Below the text is a list of links, each leading to a new node. Malloy describes the story thus: "Uncle Roger is a work of narrative poetry written in the tradition of Greek and Shakespearean comedy. The work is mainly set at a series of parties that are observed by a narrator, who in telling the story intertwines elements of magic realism with Silicon Valley culture and semiconductor industry lore." The author adapted the text and interface  for the web in 1995, and again in 2003 and 2011. The 2011 version is the only version that is still accessible. The writing of the three files that comprise Uncle Roger was influenced by Malloy's experimental artists books, by her experience with database programming, by the slide-based narratives she performed at alternative art spaces in the early 80's, and by scene-based early comedy.  Uncle Roger was released on ACEN in 1986 as a narrative intervention and published online as an interactive hypertext on ACEN Datanet in 1987. (programmed with UNIX shell scripts,  partially funded by the California Arts Council and Art Matters) In 1987, Malloy created an Apple II disk version. (using BASIC)  which was distributed by Art Com and traveled internationally in a series of exhibitions that included Ultimatum II, Images du Futur '87; (Montreal) Art Com Software: Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, San Jose State University, the University of Colorado, Ars Electronica, Carnegie Melon University; and A Space in Toronto. In 1989, Uncle Roger was included in the Centennial issue of The Wall Street Journal.  To experience the work, the reader follows link-based searches through a database of several hundreds of lexias, and like a guest at a real party, hears parts of conversations, observes strangers, and meets old friends.

 

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Technical notes: 

Created on/with BBS Conferencing System (1986-1987) UNIX Shell Scripts (1987-1988) BASIC for Apple II (1987-1988) BASIC for IBM PC (1988) HTML (1995-2011)

A recreation of the original BASIC version of Uncle Roger is available at http://www.well.com/user/jmalloy/uncleroger/uncle_readme.html It runs in DOSBox, an emulator that simulates early command line/DOS operating system computers.

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Jill Walker Rettberg