The global war on CROT

by Will Bennett & Aaron Braver


Mixed media digital collage
Concept and description by Bennett; assemblage and production by Braver.

Linguistics departments are full of lore: curious stories and eccentricities that are seldom documented, and rarely make it far beyond building walls. The ling department at UMass, I am told, has some sort of graph recording known romantic trysts in the field. A refrigerator at MIT has allegedly contributed significantly to numerous published papers. In about October of 2006, as a doe-eyed and naive first year PhD student, I made a peculiar discovery – the significance of which would elude me for the better part of a decade. That discovery was the inspiration for this piece.

What I had found, among stacks of papers, an old pair of hiking boots, a ballpeen hammer, and photos of past students who could not be identified, was a CD-ROM of the game Doom. The origin of this artefact could not be readily adduced, but it had obviously seen some use, since it was accompanied by a 1990s era joystick.

The origin of the curio was eventually explained to me years later by Eric Baković. Though my memory is fuzzy on some of the details, I will relate the story as best I can. Eric recounted that in the early days of the first person shooter genre, Alan Prince had been quite taken with Doom, as had Eric and compatriot Ed Keer. Alan had therefore taken it upon himself to purchase the game and necessary equipment for them to play together over the department LAN.

When I found the copy of the game, I was delighted by the thought that students doing cutting edge and rigorous theoretical research could also, at the same time, relax and spend a few moments blasting space demons into small bits of gore. The juxtaposition seemed at odds with all formal facades presented during the PhD application process, and was a great source of reassurance that I too, as a young linguist gifted in procrastination, could perhaps someday attain the same heights.

The collage depicts a lone space marine, the last of his command, embattled by an innumerable horde of demons. The deep red hues that predominate convey a sense of urgency, and dread, evocative of shed blood and warning alarms, with subtle notes of plum and red berries on the nose. The scope of the image forces the focus onto the heroic marine, and away from the cardinality of the monsters swarming all around. In spirit it is reminiscent of the global spread of OT, and it’s concomitant misuse by those not taking the theory seriously – and of one individual’s crusade to fight the tide, and emerge victorious in the double barreled sequel.

Suggested citation:
Bennett, Will, and Aaron Braver. 2015. The global war on CROT. In Short ’schrift for Alan Prince, compiled by Eric Baković.

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