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I have to agree that these cutups are getting a bit boring. They were funny at first, especially when several days passed before anyone was brave enough to challenge the War Machine cutup (obviously a lot of people simply thought it was above their heads - makes you wonder how well "postmodern theorists" understand their own field, assuming there are several such university-employed "professionals" on this list). But now that we all know what's going on, the cut-ups are getting monotonous.

A couple years ago I did some experimenting with random text ('white language' or whatever). I needed to write some cryptic poetry and prophecies for a fantasy novel. To overcome my lack of poetic talent, I wrote a computer program that recursively generated grammatical structures and then filled them with words. I grouped words (taken from favorite poems, books; etc.) into different lexicons (Nature, Human Emotion, Technology; etc.) and then wrote a little interface to let me control how these groups were mixed together. Nine out of ten sentences were pretty meaningless, but occasionally something striking would come up. By cutting and pasting phrases into a text editor, I managed write some pretty funky verse, which at the time served my purposes.

The point is that I found "random" sentences not so interesting, but as a brainstorming tool the program worked great. It's ridiculous to expect a computer to produce a very interesting text of any great length if all it's doing is randomly pasting together words. Maybe some day, in the foggy sci-fi future, authors will use computers to come up with fresh descriptive passages, plots, new concepts - but for the present these applications are pretty crude, and seldom is the direct output of the computer all that interesting.

Any useful application of current technology to text-production, in my opinion, must involve the writer in an interactive brainstorming process.

I do find it encouraging, though, that a lot of computer-generated phrases have stuck in my mind these couple years, and that my program has changed the way I look at metaphors. In that sense, I've been influenced by something that can't be traced to the culture at large (except on the level of individual words). I find this encouraging because I would like for authors to be more than mouthpieces for cultural currents running through them, cladistic or rhizomic or otherwise - for statements like "There are no individual statements, only statement-producing machinic assemblages" to be false. [1] (to quote a couple of this list's most popular authors).

(Of course, that statement is probably true, and a computer program is a type of machinic assemblage, I guess, but at least a randomized language engine undermines the machinic assemblages in the surrounding cultural matrix.)

sheldon pacotti cambridge

P.S.: A company called Screenplay Systems has a program called Dramatica which (I gather) generates plots, but I haven't actually seen it.

[1] Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 36.

Date: Sat, 22 Aug 92 21:24:06 -0400
From: Sheldon Pacotti <stud@media-lab.mit.edu>