Computer generated texts are primarily composed of a set of words chosen by a human that are randomly selected again by the computer and then added to a specified location in a defined sentence. The majority of computer generators take this basic definition and expand upon it vastly, adding many different sentence forms or specific topics, requiring that certain words rhyme, ect. The addition of these mechanisms are closely related to Tariq Ali’s Ideas on Human Curation. While his article is focused primarily on the lack of “common-sense” among these text generators, he also brings to light the human curation of these text generators. The term “human curation” in this sense, refers to a human or group of humans reviewing the output of a text generator and choosing the “good” examples to display to the public as art. He argues that human curation can create meaning out of seemingly meaningless random texts, and asks the question “if machines generate literature, and then humans heavily edit the literature before publishing it, then was the final output ‘really’ computer-generated?” (Ali) Although it is not explicitly stated, I feel his argument actually brings to question the idea of author intentionality which we have discussed in this class.
Author intentionality states that the author’s intention when creating the art should be valuable to your own interpretation of the piece. However, if there is no true author, is there a true intention for the piece by any of its supposed authors? In Thomas Wendt’s piece on author intentionality and interpretation he argues that the most important factor linking these systems for electronic literature is the context of the work. For example, take a computer generated but human curated piece of poetry, the most important factors in your interpretation of the piece would have to be in the piece’s contextual clues. How it was displayed (if displayed digitally), who curated it, who wrote the code, what text(s) the computer is drawing words from to generate the poem, and other contextual clues will fill in the interpretive holes that not having a true author leaves. (Wendt)
The contextual clues of my project are key to understanding it and the artistic value it represents. My project is a generator that creates a short fake assignment given by either famous scientists or people from this class. These fake assignments are very difficult sounding and humorous, as I intended for them to be, so from a stranger’s perspective it is a whimsical little generator with little to no deep expression. However, the true meaning of my project lies in the contextual clues in my personal life outside of the project. I was creating and finishing this generator in the midst of recovering from a concussion, therefore even the most remedial assignments seemed impossible for me to complete. I decided to express my frustrations by creating this project which brings humor to the idea of impossible homework but also displays my inner frustrations in trying to complete this work. The reason for the italic black font is that it is hard to read at the low-level of back light that is required when coming back from a concussion, while the dark red background is symbolic of willpower, the same willpower needed to work when it is challenging. I got the ideas for this kind of contextual art by reading through the article by P. D. Juhl on computer poetry challenging author intentions. He believes that computer generated texts are art before they even generate a poem or text. This idea rests on the fact that a human wrote the code specifically for a reason and that the true art is seen through viewing what they intended the generator to output, and less focused on what the generator actually outputs. (Juhl) I hope you can see how I reflected his idea through my own work, thank you for reading!
Ali, Tariq,. The “Commonsense” Problem In Computer-Generated Works, https://dev.to/tra/the-commonsense-knowledge-problem-in-computer-generated-works, The DEV Community Blog, Aug 26, 2016.
Juhl, P. D., Do Computer Poems Show That an Author’s Intention Is Irrelevant to the Meaning of a Literary Work?, Critical Inquiry Vol. 5, No. 3 (Spring, 1979), The University of Chicago Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1342997?seq=7#page_scan_tab_contents
Wendt, Thomas,. Intention vs Interpretation: What Matters?, UX Booth, May 7th, 2013. http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/intention-vs-interpretation-what-matters/