Exploring the Link Between Digital and Literary Art

San Diego, Nov. 10, 2008  -- "Scalable City"  – a new exhibit in the newest gallery space on the UC San Diego campus  – will be the backdrop for a talk by the artist and readings by two well-known writers reflecting on the meaning of the interactive artwork and how digital and literary art intersect.

Sheldon Brown explains what his installation is about.
Sheldon Brown (right) gives visitors a tour of his 'Scalable City' interactive installation, which will be open through Dec. 15 in the gallery@calit2 in Atkinson Hall on the UC San Diego campus.

The session, “Speculating on Nature and Culture through Art and Literature,” will take place on Tuesday, December 2 at 5:30 p.m. in UC San Diego’s Atkinson Hall. The UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) will host the evening in connection with new-media artist Sheldon Brown’s “Scalable City ,” currently on display in the gallery@calit2.

The artist talk and readings by writers Geoff Ryman and Kim Stanley Robinson will take place in Atkinson Hall’s Calit2 Auditorium, with those on stage dwarfed by the vast digital-cinema screen displaying a version of the “Scalable City ” digital artwork in the highest-resolution video project format. Commonly called 4K – a reference to its roughly 4,000 horizontal pixels – Calit2’s state-of-the-art Sony SXRD projection system offers four times the resolution of high-definition TV.

Scalable City
Roads, landscapes and houses grow algorithmically in the interactive art work by Sheldon Brown.  To watch a video clip of "Scalable City", click here. Length: 3:53 [Windows Media player and broadband connection required] 
“Scalable City ” is an interactive piece in which viewers steer through a replicating urban environment. It opened to the public on Oct. 23 and runs through Dec. 15 in the gallery@calit2.

Artist Sheldon Brown – who is Calit2’s Artist in Residence and also Director of CRCA – will talk about the genesis of the project and its multiple incarnations – including the large-format 4K video, as well as the interactive version, prints and sculptures on display in the gallery@calit2.

Widely acclaimed and seen in various versions at international venues including Austria’s Ars Electronica, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, “Scalable City” has resonated with critics, the public, artists – and writers, including Geoff Ryman.

Geoff Ryman
Geoff Ryman will read his new short story "Care," set in Sheldon Brown's "Scalable City"
The Canadian-born, UK-based Ryman is currently Writer in Residence at CRCA, which is also based in Atkinson Hall. “I want games that build things. Many of them do, but few so deliriously as Scalable City , which does several delicious things at once,” wrote Ryman in an essay for the exhibition catalogue. “It grows at high speed, like life. It expands and becomes more complex and gives me more and more to see. That’s how the world seems to me. I go to a new country and suddenly it’s as if the world grew a new arm or leg. It is gratuitously exciting.”

Ryman has written a new short story, “Care,” set in the world of the Scalable City , which he has described as a “breathtakingly visual” artwork. The story will have its premiere during the reading.  The author will also read from his just-published novel, “The King's Last Song.”

Distinguished science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, who received his B.A. from Muir College and his Ph.D. in Literature of UC San Diego, will be reading from his Orange County trilogy, also to a background of early digital artwork from Sheldon Brown.

Kim Stanley Robinson
UC San Diego alumnus Kim Stanley Robinson will read from his Orange County trilogy.
Unusually, Ryman and Robinson will also be performing from each other's work. Both are skilled performers of their own writing, but in this case, they are looking forward to the chance to act each other's fiction. Kim Stanley Robinson and Geoff Ryman have worked together in the past through their affiliation with the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, now held annually at UC San Diego ( 

“I've long admired Kim Stanley Robinson's novels, and we've been friends for years, so this will be a treat,” said Ryman. “I can't wait to read aloud the selection I've made from his novel, ‘The Years of Rice and Salt.’ For years Stan has been known as a humanist science-fiction writer, partly because of the depth of his characters.  They're very actable, performable.”

Geoff Ryman is also known for creating one of the earliest online hypertext novels, 253, winner of the Philip K Dick Award. The novel is still available at  As a visiting professor from the United Kingdom , Ryman is also currently teaching a workshop for the UCSD Department of Literature on ‘irrealistic’ fiction.

As Writer in Residence at CRCA, Ryman is also taking part in a collaborative multimedia/online opera project with UCSD music professor Shlomo Dubnov, “Kamza Bar Kamza,” which had its premiere at Calit2 last March. [For more information, go to or]

Artist Talk and Readings

Tuesday, Dec. 2
Calit2 Auditorium
First Floor, Atkinson Hall


"Scalable City" by Sheldon Brown
Oct. 23 – Dec. 15, 2008
Monday-Friday   11am - 5pm
First Floor, Atkinson Hall
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
Map & Directions:

'Scalable City' at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery

Separately, a scaled-down version of Scalable City opened on Nov. 6 as part of the Digital Eyes 2008-2009 exhibition, running through Jan. 18 at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

Scalable City at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
Frame from the "Scalable City" installation now on display at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery.
The LAMAG show includes Scalable City and a second interactive installation incubated at CRCA and Calit2  – ATLAS in Silico by Ruth West, who recently moved from UC San Diego to UCLA. Both installations fit well with the theme of this year's Digital Eyes, "New Esthetic Dimensions in Computer Visualization Technology," curated by Jen Grey. Sheldon Brown as well as Ruth West and several of her collaborators will participate in a  Conversations with Artists talk series scheduled for Saturday, November 15 at 2 p.m. at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The event will be free and open to the general public in Barnsdall Art Park. (See map.)

Related Links

Artist Website 
Scalable City 
Experimental Game Lab 

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,