My work centers on playful ways in which machines can augment human creativity, whether by generating unreadable books, composing “poetry”, synthesizing photography, appreciating art history, or providing new ways to tell stories. I’m an amateur researcher of 19th century utopian novels and have a lifelong interest in interactive fiction.

I’m currently an Engineering Director with the Democratic National Committee and a board member of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. Formerly I was Chief Technology Officer at Safari Books, and prior to that I founded a digital publishing company called Threepress.

I offer free, private mentorship to women in technical management roles. Please contact me to discuss mentoring options.

Photo of Liza Daly

Procedural art & code

Seraphs: A mysterious codex

A computer-generated book based on the Voynich Manuscript.

Displayed at MIT Libraries as part of Author Function, a 2018 exhibit on computer-generated books. Featured in The Pacific Standard.

Read more Some strange writing and a diagram of a flower

Some strange writing and diagrams of circles Strange writing and a diagram of a head Diagram of a man in a grid, plus more strange writing Diagram of a heart, and yet more strange writing

A Physical Book: Undigitization

Makes a digitized book “physical” by rendering it in a simulated space where properties like gravity, friction, and velocity are applied. Live demo Read more

Animation of falling letters

Letters distorted like they were hit by a bullet
Letters distorted in a squiggly line

The Days Left Forebodings and Water: Generated blackout poetry

Creates artwork in the style of Newspaper Blackout Poetry using natural language processing and optical character recognition. Featured on Waxy.org in 2016.

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Scribbled red and black lines. The words “the argument is love” are visible

random.chance: Computer-imagined surrealist montages

Generated compositions that resemble photomontages in the style of early surrealists.

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Surreal composite of a man in a top hat and an octopus

Composite of an egyptian statue and some text

A cat with a woman’s face superimposed on it

Saga III: Recreating the first computer-written teleplay

A reimagining of a 1961 computer program that generated the screenplay to a Western, filmed by CBS television. Source code and history of the project. Invited contribution to the Workshop on the History of Expressive Systems.

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A man pointing to a diagram, in black and white

A man turning dials on an old-fashioned console

An oscilliscope running

Interactive fiction

Harmonia

An interactive mystery, playable in a web browser, about utopian ideals and bookish delights.

Harmonia is one of those rare pieces of interactive fiction where the author has woven a unified experience out of crosshatched decisions in writing and systems design, with the weft amplifying and supporting the warp.

Bennett Foddy, designer of QWOP

Best Use of Innovation and Best Use of Multimedia, 2017 XYZZY Awards. Finalist for Best Story and Best Implementation. Third place, 2017 Interactive Fiction Competition.

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Image like a 19th century postcard of a large house, with a tear at the bottom. The word Harmonia is in handwriting.

Stone Harbor

An interactive detective story, playable in a web browser. Interview about the development of the piece with Emily Short. Source code.

Fourth place, 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition, and finalist for three 2016 XYZZY Awards including Best Writing.

Read the story

The title Stone Harbor over a picture of a beach in shadow

The Ballroom

A two-tone image of a chandelier with the words The Ballroom Liza Daly

Modifying something that seems trivial can overturn the whole chain of events, adding entire stretches of paragraph to the page and radically changing the existing ones. — Interactive Licktion review

A short “mutable story” in which a complete narrative is always present but can be manipulated by the player in sometimes surprising ways.

Read the story

Best in the Back Garden audience ribbon, Spring Thing 2019 festival

First Draft of the Revolution

A piece of parchment and some glowing text that says Rewrite This

“A marvel—an exploration of the space between the mind and the page the likes of which I’ve never experienced.” — Kotaku

An interactive epistolary story I commissioned from Emily Short. I worked on the design and implementation with inkle (80 Days, Heaven’s Vault)

Read the story

Emily Short‘s design notes

Best Use of Innovation, 2013 XYZZY Awards.

Essays & Tutorials

Independent commercial work

University of Pennsylvania: Manicule (2018)

A computer interface showing an old manuscript

Manicule, developed under the direction of Whitney Trettien as part of Digital Book History, is an open source React/Redux webapp for exploring the physical structure of rare manuscripts. Scholars can provide page-by-page annotation both of the content, binding, and layout of notable volumes. Live demo

Creative Commons:
CC Search (2017)

Two paintings of a woman on a beach and a group of children

CC Search indexes a corpus of over 10 million publicly licensed images from museums, libraries, and individuals, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Europeana, and the New York Public Library. Coverage: Newsweek and TechCrunch. Technical notes

University of California, Davis:
Label This! (2016)

Two orange vintage wine labels, words read Muscat and Apertivo

Label This!, for University of California, Davis, helps users explore and describe the library’s remarkable collection of historic wine labels. Based on scribeAPI, a Rails/React webapp that allows visitors to select and transcribe areas of interest on digitized material.

Bots

emilyvanderbot

A grid of colored blocks, text reads Color analysis from wristwatch

Generates abstract color tiles after Emily Noyes Vanderpoel’s 1902 work on color theory. Featured in the New York Times (October, 2018).

soamazingquote

Image of Thoreau with a caption reading “I feel blessed every time I open my phone”

Finds tweets with inspirational-sounding messages and mis-attributes them to famous people like Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.

i_luv_recipes

A screenshot from twitter showing a fake recipe

Picks a recipe, parses its ingredients, and makes random (usually revolting) substitutions, just like people who comment on internet recipes.

Other technical writing

What we can do with “books”

What makes for successful digital-first literature: it must be immersive, non-trivial, and participatory.

Screenshot of a page from the book

Interactivity in EPUB 3

Covering embedding JavaScript and other forms of interactivity into EPUB 3 publications.

O’Reilly Book cover, text reads “EPUB 3 Best Practices” and a drawing of a goat

Rich design publications with EPUB 3

A tutorial for IBM Developerworks on using CSS3 media query, HTML5 navigation, and MathML in EPUB 3 publications.

A poem and an illustration, text reads “The Swans”

Digital monograph technical landscape

A report prepared for the UK academic funding organization JISC on digital publishing, ebooks, and scholarly communication.

Example of some math with equations

Media