Extending Authorship: Dakota vs Abra

In their respective posts,  Adam and Claire offer competing views of the YouTube video for Dakota, with Adam arguing that it defeats the purpose, and Claire countering that it doesn’t.I would like to respond to their posts by comparing YHCHI’s Dakota to Abra.

After spending some time playing around with this “magical poetry generator,” I was struck by the difference in the roles I assumed as reader in both of these works. In Dakota, the reader is a passive figure. As Pressman points out, Dakota does not allow the reader to control the work’s pace, nor does it give the reader any creative power to decipher or add meaning to the text. While perhaps the act of reading and deciphering the work gives participatory power to the reader—and that without this active participation the text is void—Dakota leaves little to no room for interaction in the narrative space.. On the other hand, Abra places the reader in a position of power, giving the reader the ability to take authorship of the generated work. By choosing the placement of words and deciding when they appear on the screen, “mutating,” “grafting,” or “pruning” them, the reader assumes complete control of the poems generated in Abra. The controversial YouTube video for YHCHI’s Dakota introduces the possibility of empowering the reader with the tools to control and decipher the text.

I support Claire’s take- the video extends creative ability to the reader to decipher the text and give it meaning. Using the video to read the text- pausing and reading and re-reading-does not diminish but enhances the work. Are there any other ways of reading it? I am imagining a work that would allow for the interactivity that Adam claims is missing in Dakota, and integrate that with the authorship that Abra extends to its readers. In some ways Abra mimics the cut-up method of Brion Gysin (Burroughs, 2003), by allowing readers to move the words around on the screen to generate new poems. The app brings “a collage” to the reader/writer, extending the potential of such a work by introducing spontaneity and unpredictability (Burroughs, 2003). I wonder how applying “the cut-up method” and controlled text generation (as in the case of Abra) could transform a work like Dakota. If we look at Dakota’s YouTube video as a collage of words/events, and use the inherent features of a video to rewind, skip forward or pause, to “cut-up” this work, what would it look like? How many new forms of Dakota could be generated? Would each one look significantly different (and as confusing) as the other?

Abra, the “magical poetry spellbook” applies the “cut-up method” for poetry generation

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