Night / plebiscite (or on “Pentametron”)

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 11.38.13 PM
from “Pentametron”

Though I’ve enjoyed reading numerous e-lit pieces so far this semester, “Pentametron” was the first piece to really spur some excitement. It makes me giddy.

One thing that I’ve thought about a lot in regard to electronic literature is why exactly the electronic piece of it is so important. Although they’re formatted for the web, some of the stories feel as though they would read just fine in a more traditional format. One thing, however, that I’ve found truly special about electronic literature is that a piece can be ever-evolving. Yes, an author can add a forward to their book when they release a new edition and JK Rowling can publish a piece on what Harry Potter is up to long after the release of her original series, but these pieces still exist in their original form on someone’s bookshelf. An author has to call the creative process quits and publish something eventually, and though they can always write another book or publish a New Yorker short story the thing that they originally published forever exists just as it did it was sent to print. Two years ago, the music world went wild when Kanye West began the long release process of his “The Life of Pablo” record. This hype was untraditional in the sense that the public wasn’t waiting for a set release date. They had many release dates, and they were waiting for the official one. Apparently Kanye couldn’t get it perfect, because he kept releasing the record and then deciding to change things — sometimes in the middle of a live performance. The record that was put out on listening platforms wasn’t the “official” record, and quite frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t still working on it. While this connects strongly to class discussion involving the “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin” and if we’ll ever see an update, another part of the Kanye record release situation really fits with “Pentametron.” Part of the reason “TLOP” was so successful, I believe, were that people were excited to see the process; they waited to see what might come next. Pentametron is updated almost daily, so the fun never has to end. As times change new topics come up in the retweeted tweets, so the poem is always fresh — there’s no “sell by” date because it’s always evolving.

Part of the fun of pentametron is that it takes something traditional like iambic pentameter and juxtaposes it with tweets about . Shakespeare’s sonnets are a little outdated today, but as long as the bot is running Pentametron will never be.


#3 A Children’s Story?

This week’s blog post is about Inanimate Alice Vol. 1The story is supposed to be for children, but when I first read I did not see how it was suited for a young audience.

First of all the main character’s dad is missing, and her and her mom are driving out in the dark looking for him. Meanwhile both the visuals and sounds are sort of disturbed. The white text on the black screen flickers like a broken VHS-tape, which as a 90’s kid does not bring any happy memories. The soundsscape reminds me of a cellphone corresponding with a speaker (yes that is also a bit back in the days), also a sound that is not bringing any good memories back, I even think there was a rumour in my school that if it happened, your phone might explode. All of this together gave me a very unpleasant base for my reading experience.

After reading through the entire piece I got an idea of why this piece is meant for children. The composition of the story is classic with an

  • Introduction to a conflict: Alice’s dad is missing and Alice and her mom don’t know what to do about it. Both of them are afraid, which causes tension.
  • Point of no return: They drive out to find him.
  • Conflict escalation: Mom tells Alice she can’t use her ba-xi, which makes Alice feel more scared and lonely than before.
  • Climax: Alice hears a voice in her head telling them to turn, and they find Dad.
  • Resolution: They decide they might go to a restaurant.

I think the build up of the story is one of the things that makes it less uncanny. Seeing the familiar structure of the story gives knowledge that everything is going to be fine in the end, because that is how it always is.

The story is also quite easy to navigate. You have to click the same symbol to move forward in the story, so there is no hidden paths or anything like that (no one that I found anyway). This again goes with the easy-to-understand composition of the story.

I get a sort of Sci-Fi-vibe from the story, as we only see Alice’s writing whether it’s the white on black writing or her writing lists on a screen on the screen. It makes it seem a bit like Alice is a computer-intelligence. This also correspondents well with the name of the piece “Inanimate Alice”, she is not a real person. I don’t know what to read into this except that it brings me back to feeling there is something very strange and uncanny to this piece.

All together I, with a closer look, get why this is meant for children. The story is quite basic (not that it’s bad), the main character is a young girl, which makes her relatable for a younger audience and the visuals are fun to look at and easy to navigate. I think grown-ups tend to over think every little detail and worrying about everything instead of seeing the things right in front of them and following their guts.


Pentametron

My first reaction to pentametron was: is this E-litt and how does it work.

After looking upp and down on the twitter page I still didnt know if this was e-litt. I understand thats Pentametron is a bot that collect worda and then use algoritmer to make small poem like tweets, and tjats cool but where is the soul in the work. In other e-lit work like Hobbo lobo and Redriding hood there are alot if work and tought put in  to make it a toughtfull experience for the reader, but here its only random text.

After a while i found “I got a alligator for a pet!”
A novel by @pentametron. After i read the book it did make more sence sinze know I got to read something the bot did produce. Still the text inn the boon felt random, it was better structured and felt like real poems and not just gibberish. I will not compare it to poems master like Shakespeare but I can actuall see some likeness inn how the poems are lined upp. Like here

Why isn’t Tori Kelly famous YET?
Man Vs. Food in half an hour WOO
We’ll wright a letter to the ALPHABET
Allergic to retarded questions TOO

this is a classiv way to set up poems on there the last word rimes.

I dident see this connection inn the twitter feed, but inn the book it was clear as day. I dont know why but I did like the poems better in book form than on twitter. Funny right

To anwer the first question I asked. Is this e-lit and the answer is yes, because this is a bot that collect words and make poems out of them. Its simple and fun but still e-lit. Just to think that this bot has made enough poems to make a book is incredible.

I also mention that the twitter feed of the bot lacked soul and that I stand with, but the book have alot of soul and work but inn it. Eventough it is the same content the book (for me atleast) are more apealing and are funny to read and not just some random text on twitter

See you next week

 

 

 


#3 A different kind of poetry

I always loved poetry (that was maybe the only reason why I chose German as one of my main subjects during school) – so when one of my classmates decided that she would talk about Pentametron and poem.exe, I was excited. I did not know such as thing as a poem-generating-twitterbot even existed, so I was curious so explore what all of this was about.

Pentametron was the first Twitter account I checked out. „With algorithms and discrete / I seek iambic writing to retweet“ the biography of the account declares – and that is everything the reader has to know. Pentametron basically retweets other twitter users and at the same time looks for matching (in the sense of the rhyme scheme) tweets to create original poems.  Example:

Example: Pentametron
source: twitter.com/pentametron 

Even though the poems do not always really make sense, the reader can see the vision behind the bot. But to actually ‚read‘ the poetry Pentametron creates I would suggest to simply look at the account on twitter and not following it. Why? Because the account does not post retweets in a consecutive way – sometimes it can take days until a new tweet is retweeted and a new poem is created. Still, up to this day, the account has almost 24,000 followers – and just follows two accounts itself. One is Sonnets, the other one is a William Shakespeare account. So… wanna have a guess on what or who inspired Pentametron? Even though it is questionable whether or not Pentametron is as poetic as Shakespeare’s sonnets, I really like the idea of this bot and what it is trying to create.

But is this really poetry? Real art? Let’s first have a look at the other bot we discussed in class.

poem.exe is different than Pentametron because its algorithm does not „simply retweet“ other twitter users. Instead:

„poem.exe is a micropoetry bot, assembling haiku-like poems throughout the day and publishing them on Twitter and Tumblr. It uses an Oulipo technique based on Raymond Queneau’s A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. Verses are selected at random from a collection of a few hundred, and a single line is taken from each one to produce a new poem. After assembling a poem in this way, the program looks for seasonal references and uses these to decide whether to publish or reject the poem.“

(source: https://elmcip.net/creative-work/poemexe)

Example: poem.exe
source: twitter.com/poem_exe

So while Pentametron tweets one line for a verse, poem.exe is tweeting the whole haiku in one tweet. This makes it easier for the reader to just follow the account on twitter than following Pentametron.
In my opinion, the haiku’s of poem.exe can also be seen as more ‚poetic‘ than the Pentametron-poems, and I think one can notice that the program of poem.exe is looking for references in its created works to see if they make sense or not. In class we compared the created haiku’s with others and we could not really make out a huge difference between the pieces (besides that maybe sometimes the computer-created haiku made a little less sense than the ‚other‘).

But now on to the million-dollar-question: is this art?

Well, we talked about this briefly in class and I still think it is hard to answer. To me, art has always something to do with the emotion of the person or the people who created the poem/the novel/the painting etc. And in the case of the two bots we can say that they do not have feelings they can put into their works. But art is also about the way it makes people feel – the emotions they go through while reading a certain piece or listening to a specific song. And just because I cannot make any sense of some of the tweets/poems Pentametron and poem.exe create – does that mean no one can? I think the question whether these bots can be considered art or not is a question the reader has to answer individually.

Did I like Pentametron and poem.exe? 
I definitely enjoyed exploring the world of poem-generating-twitterbots. But well, I’m still more a fan of the ‚classical poems‘ – but I also started following poem.exe on Twitter – so we’ll see how this story ends.

 

 

 


poem.exe and pentametron

My third choice of e-literature to explore is pentametron and poem.exe, two twitter bots. They were previously presented in class by one of my fellow students, and we discussed a number of things in relation to these two pieces. While I am therefore somewhat familiar with these works, the presentation and following discussions really got me thinking about bots and how they fit in within the worlds of e-literature, which is what I will go into here.

According to Liam Cooke, poem.exe is “a bot which generates haiku-like poems and publishes them to social media.”. The bot essentially picks three-to-four lines from different verses of a poem, may substitute some words for another, then decides whether or not to publish it based on some built-in parameters relating to the seasonal references found in the lines. Altogether it produces poems that are indeed very close to actual haikus in structure, though usually with more or less vowels or even two or four lines, rather than the intended three. It is on the one hand impressive to think that a bot can produce poetry at all, but at the same time it’s kind of amusing to see the results when scrolling through the twitter feed of the bot. Whatever original meaning the lines may have had, have been broken apart and then re-contextualized when put together with lines from other verses.

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Halloween season must be near.

There’s two points of interest here, one being meaning. In class we discussed whether there was any need for humans to create poetry, if a bot could simply be programmed to do it for us. My opinion there is that there is absolutely room for both to exist, in that a human poet may have an intended meaning behind their words and choice of structure, whereas a bot cannot yet intentionally and knowingly produce meaning. This is where the other point of interest comes in, namely interactivity. In class we argued that interactivity is a part of the piece, because the reader has to partake by trying to produce meaning by themselves. Of course one can interpret human poetry in many different ways, but where a human poet will have their own understanding of their work, a bot will have none. Add in that the poems themselves appear nonsensical due to being pieced together from multiple verses, and that they are close, but-not-quite fully haiku poems, and it sort of feels like you’re being tasked as a reader to find your own meaning from them, if any.

Pentametron is a twitter bot that retweets messages that happen to be iambic pentameters, but usually does so in groups of four that altogether reads as a verse with a rhyming scheme, usually in a/a/b/b form. This is a fun one because there is a sort of unintentional interactivity from the general public, in that anyone’s tweets could potentially become a part of the piece just by posting a sentence that happens to match the bots parameters. It is a bit more difficult to read however since one tweet only contains one line by itself, which does not appear particularly meaningful, but it is therefore interactive for the reader too in that you have to piece together the verse by yourself. Once you do so it is kind of fun to see how the verse reads and sounds if you read it aloud, and I think it’s pretty neat that a bot is able to pull this off. Of course, like with poem.exe it isn’t flawless and it is definitely a bit harder to read since there is no clear start or end to the poems. It is also to me less about creating meaning from a whole verse, and more about discovering the rhymes as you go.

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It sure rhymes, but who knows if it could even mean anything? Does it matter? Should it matter?

In the end they are both very interesting and fun bots to study as they produce poems that really only us as readers can give any real meaning too. They are also limited by whatever programming and parameters are involved when it comes to picking what words to use in their tweets, but that does not mean it makes for bad poetry, rather they are pieces of e-literature where you can’t really do wrong when it comes to interpreting them. I think it is okay if you can’t really find meaning in an individual poem, as everyone will view them in different ways. Sometimes a poem you don’t understand, someone else may find deep and intriguing, and vice versa.


Bots, and poetry!

I feel this will be kind of a continuation of the discussion from Dwarf fortress, where is the poetry created, can algorithms and computer code create poetry, or is it something only humans can do?

What?

Marie (don’t know the blog URL, or I would have linked it) in my elit class, presented two twitter bots, pentametron & poem.exe. The idea (as I understood it) was to look at these similar, but different twitter bots, and think about the idea of machine made poetry, algorithms writing, and who is doing the poetry bit.

What do they do?203

The bots are different in how they work, the first one, Pentametron, rhymes sentences, its excellent in doing just that. It probably uses the twitter api to get lots of tweets, then runs them tough a phonetic database, and getting witch sentence rhymes with what. This do me is cool, the idea of doing this would never occur to me. Now to read it, you should look at the account on twitter, following it is not as good, as the tweets are posted at different times, and if just one pops up in your feed, it would make no sense.203(2)

Is it cool, yes, is it poetry, yes, is it the algorithm creating poetry or is it the algorithm in itself created by a human that is the poetry, I don’t know. Now we are entering the realm of dwarf fortress, and its algorithm’s, and what is poetry/elit.

Before we go further into that, let’s look at the other bot.

@poem.exe, is a bot that takes poems from a collection, then it takes random lines from different poems, look at the poem, does it have a theme? It looks for key words, does several sentences contain the word “fall” then its themed, and it published the poem. I think this I funny, and imaginative, the poems do not always work, but when they do, at least in my opinion, they are inseparable from “real” poems. It lacks rhythm, and that is the main “flaw” of poem.exe, the poems may work in theme, but not in rhythm. Now I may be in the minority when saying that this is poetry, but for me the poetry is created when the reader feels something, and if that happens in “random” generation of poems, for me that is art.

203(3)

What is art is a huuuge discussion, and I will not go into it, for I am neither qualified, interested, or have the time, but, in my understanding, many talk about art in connection with emotion.

Ok, now where is the art, the poetry?

In the way code art, and digital art, I think the creation of these bots, and the code that creates them, is poetry, or art in some kind. Furthermore, I think the algorithms create poems, and just because the computer cannot feel, or imbue the poems with feeling, it does not mean that the reader cannot feel, something, at least be entertained by the bot.

In the same way that dwarf fortress creates complex worlds with huge amounts of characters and events, that is a work of literature. In my opinion is literature, even if a human can create a “better” more sensible world, maybe, that does not reduce the work of the bot, or algorithm. But all that is more my opinion, but I think its fair to say, that if the poetry, or story or whatever, can be mistaken for a work created by a human, is it that different? And I wish that Marie, in her presentation, switched the human poem for the bot created poem, and got us to look at them for a while, then ask if we could see the difference, then reveal that the bot created what we thought was a human work.