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The Writing Machine: an overview / 5 conceptual maps SM2220/SM6305 Writing Machine/Digital Media: Theory & Practice Linda Lai Spring 2005 The Writing Machine seeks to go beyond current examples of “electronic literature.” Some examples of “electronic literature”:

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the writing machine an overview 5 conceptual maps

The Writing Machine:an overview / 5 conceptual maps

SM2220/SM6305

Writing Machine/Digital Media: Theory & Practice

Linda Lai

Spring 2005

some examples of electronic literature
Some examples of “electronic literature”:

*First-generation electronic hypertexts:

Joyce’s Afternoon, a story

[exclusively verbal, employed Storyspace software to link one screen of text with another through “hot words” the reader can activate by clicking]

  • Web project by Mark Amerika

http://www.grammatron.com/bandwidth.html (web projects)

http://www.grammatron.com/htc.html (theoretical companion)

the writing machine
The Writing Machine

The writing machine idea is intrinsically sensitive to and critical of language habits and language as conventions.

(Semi-)self-generating textual works undermine the conventional emphasis on conscious emotional articulations -- becausechance and rules come first.

the literature machine
The “Literature Machine”

(Italo Calvino)

“Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilitiesimplicit in its own material, … [and] is invested with an unexpected meaning…”

i machine
I. “Machine”…

A key SHIFT:

  • from MECHANISTIC THEORY of a machine

to MACHINE as ORGANISM

machine as organism
“Machine” as Organism

from mechanistic automation to computed automatism

machine as organism9
“Machine” as Organism

The KEY to a (writing) machine:

“Transformation”

moving to a new level

mutate

Input output

remember

learn

slide10

II.

Modern & Contemporary Art

open endedness of modern art
Open-endedness of Modern Art
  • The absence of a (clear-cut) beginning and end forces our contemplation and reception to focus on the spatial interiority of the work in question.
  • By spatial interiority, we mean how internal components commune among themselves, thus giving predominant priority to the process of narrative/structural unfolding.
open endedness of modern art12

Open-endedness of modern art:

Examples:

music by Meredith Monk, Boulez, John Cage, Jackson Pollock

Spatial interiority

Process-oriented-ness (for both authors and readers)

slide13

III.

Experimental Literature:

multiplicity

reader as author
“Reader-as-author”

[A] text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not…the author…. To give writing its future…the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

--Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”

reader as author15
“Reader-as-author”
  • reader-as-author
  • author-as-reader
  • multiple authors

[Deleuze]

assemblage (idea of single author, single belief, 知行合一and transcendental self overthrown)

the infinite possibilities of conceivable books
The Infinite Possibilities of “Conceivable Books”

We must make a careful distinction…between systems and texts. A system (for instance, a linguistic system) is the whole of the possibilities displayed by a given language. In this framework it holds the principle of unlimited semiosis…. The system is perhaps finite but unlimited. …In this sense certainly all the conceivable books are comprised by and within a good dictionary. …If conceived in such a way, hypertext can transform every reader into an author.

-- Umberto Eco, “Afterword” in The Future of the Book, ed. Geoffrey Nunberg (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press), p. 302

the infinite possibilities of conceivable books17
The Infinite Possibilities of “Conceivable Books”
  • A finite system can produce the infinite.
  • Structural linguistics: langue and parole
deleuze guattari a thousand plateaus rhizome
Deleuze & Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus / Rhizome

Writing is the assemblage of the un-attributable multiple, as the measure of something else.

deleuze and guattari in a thousand plateaus

Deleuze and Guattari (in A Thousand Plateaus):

“A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. … In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage.”

deleuze guattari a thousand plateaus rhizome20
Deleuze & Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus / Rhizome
  • “There is no difference between what a book talks about and how it is made. Therefore a book has no object. As an assemblage, a book has only itself, in connection with other assemblages and in relation to other bodies without organs. We will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier. … We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities …”
deleuze guattari a thousand plateaus rhizome21
Deleuze & Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus / Rhizome

“A book exists only through the outside and on the outside. A book itself is a little machine; what is the relation of this literary machine to a war machine, love machine, revolutionary machine, etc. – and an abstract machine that sweeps them along?”

open book open literature open work
open book / open literature /open work
  • reader-as-author
  • author-as-reader
  • multiple authors
spatial transformation
Spatial transformation

Serial transformation via repetition and variation…

e.g.:

  • 沒想到一張椅子會弄成一個爛攤子。
  • 沒想到一張椅子會弄出兩條人命。
  • 沒想到一張椅子會弄出三個驚喜。
  • 沒想到一個願望會弄出三種失望。
  • 該想到所謂願望絕對有可能變成失望!
gerard genette trans textuality
Gerard Genette: “trans-textuality”

[French narrative theorist] Genette divides the variety of texts into the following:

  • intertext
  • metatext
  • hypertext
  • paratext
  • architext
e xamples
Examples:

Life in the Garden: a Deck of Stories

(1999 / concept and writing by Eric Zimmerman and Nancy Nowacek, produced by the Razorfish Studios, Inc.)

  • Rule-driven-ness
  • Poetic permutations 排列、置換
the rules in life in a garden
[The rules in Life in a Garden]
  • Fixed opening and ending
  • Opening – introduction of all three main characters –

“Adam, Eve and the Serpent lived in the garden.”

  • Subordinate character –

The garden

the rules in life in a garden27
[The rules in Life in a Garden]
  • Occasional insertion of a fourth party –
  • I, We – highlighting the reader’s presence and reception

e.g. “And with a branch that… But we all know how difficult it is…”

  • You – highlighting the story-teller’s narrativity

e.g. “Adam fancied himself… Can you really blame any of them?”

the rules in life in a garden28
[The rules in Life in a Garden]
  • Occasional insertion of time and space marker –

e.g. “Time passed.” “And nothing happened for a very long time.”

  • Occasional insertion of cause-effect marker –

e.g. “God was not pleased.”

  • Occasional insertion of a simple response –

e.g. “The serpent just smiled.”

the rules in life in a garden29
[The rules in Life in a Garden]
  • Classification of story segments:

whole event (full narrative)

single action – immediate response

single action – commentary

  • Transition / break – full return to the reader and narrator

e.g. “But that is only what the serpent has told me. And who really can believe the slim words of a serpent?”

the rules in life in a garden30
[The rules in Life in a Garden]
  • Key objects / key themes / key activities –

Fruits, sleeping, eating, morning and evening

  • Clear parameters:

WHO / WHERE / WHEN / WHAT / HOW

Tight structure / Open work

m ore examples
more examples

(from the OuLiPo group for Potential Literature:)

  • Italo Calvino:

How I Wrote One of My Books

  • Georges Perec:

Life: a User’s Manual

more examples
More examples

[for inspiration]

*Life in a Garden

[what we shall materialize]

(from the OuLiPo)

*Paul Fournel: Suburbia;

[Foreword by Marguerite Duras, Afterword by François Caradec, and translated by Henry Mathews. Source: Bibliothèque Oulipienne No. 46; collected in OuliPo Laboratory (Atlas Anti-Classics, 1995), pp. i-viii, 1-16.]

more examples33
More examples

[what we have achieved]

*Eva Lam’s “Kiss the Princess”

*Janice’s “working side by side with dictionaries”

*Linda & Keith’s “Crypt-machine” / 秘語靈機

*Janice & Molly’s “In Between Words” / 字裡行間

*Keith Lam’s “Say Rubbish, Teach Chinese, Rearrange the Speech” / 亂講野,教中文,重組句子

*Hong & Sam’s “Re-map Hong Kong: a Dialogue” /重組香港:一對話

[what we want to transform and conquer]

*emergent graphics: Levitated, Jared Tarbell –

http://www.levitated.net

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