So, thank you for com­ing, and uh, uh, and, uh, and and first of all thank you for uh, endur­ing this talk in English, which for many of you is not your first lan­guage. I— I feel uh, uh…humbled and uh, appre­cia­tive that you’re lis­ten­ing to a, a talk in English. So thank you for that. And I also want to thank every­body at MaMa, um, and I want to thank real­ly Marcel and Dubravka for being such mar­velous hosts. It’s been uh, an amaz­ing uh…week here, in uh, in this area.

So, tonight I’m going to be talk­ing about uncre­ative or con­cep­tu­al writ­ing uh, which is a type of lit­er­a­ture that is made pos­si­ble and uh, ii, ueh, born of and made pos­si­ble by the dig­i­tal. Although its prece­dents run deep in 20th cen­tu­ry mod­ernism, it’s only when things become dig­i­tal that writ­ers begin to real­ize new pos­si­bil­i­ties for lan­guage. That is, when it’s trans­formed lit­er­al­ly into a plas­tic mate­r­i­al.

So I’m going to take Cindy Crawford away for minute. That’s a real pho­to of Cindy Crawford read­ing my book. That’s not Photoshopped. This go—this guy’s is a, is a, a…paparazzi and he actu­al­ly caught Cindy Crawford sit­ting in front of Central Park, read­ing my book.

So. Um. So I’d like to start tonight with a very con­crete demon­stra­tion of uh, of, of what I’m going to be talk­ing about when I say that alphanu­mer­ic lan­guage uh, becomes dig­i­tal.

And so we have these two um, images of Shakespeare. Um, one is an oil paint­ing, and the oth­er is the uh, wood­cut engrav­ing from the Folio. And the Droeshout uh, oil paint­ing. And then we have from guten​berg​.org the com­plete text of Shakespeare, in one file. Everything he ever wrote. 

And so if I take the exten­sion on the uh, oil paint­ing and change it from jpeg” to txt,” and I open it up. Aaand I Select All. And copy every­thing Shakespeare ever wrote into this one image, drop it some­where in the mid­dle. Save it. Close it. And uh, rename it back as a JPEG…you’ll see, you’ll see what’s hap­pened to this…image.

And now, I can be a lit­tle bit more pre­cise about this. Um. I can take his 93rd Sonnet, just one lit­tle bit, and copy it. And then do the same thing on the wood­cut. Same oper­a­tion. And then open it, and then instead of just dump­ing it any­where maybe be a lit­tle bit more inci­sive. One third in. Go down anoth­er third. And… Close it, rename it as a JPEG. And open it.And you’ll see some­thing quite dif­fer­ent.

So. What this shows is that for the first time, we’re expe­ri­enc­ing the abil­i­ty of lan­guage to alter media, be it images, video, music, or text, some­thing that real­ly rep­re­sents a break with tra­di­tion and charts the paths uh, for new le—new uses of lan­guage. Now, words are active and effec­tive in con­crete ways. And you might say this isn’t writ­ing, and in the…traditional sense you’d be right. But this is where things get inter­est­ing. Because we’re not ham­mer­ing away on type­writ­ers, instead focused all day on pow­er­ful machines with infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties, con­nect­ed to net­works with an equal­ly num­ber of infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties the writer’s role is being sig­nif­i­cant­ly chal­lenged, expand­ed, and updat­ed.

You see so— This also shows that what we take to be graph­ics, sounds, and motion in our screen world is real­ly a um, thin skin, under which resides miles and miles of lan­guage. And this is sort of best uh, uh, shown um, uhh­h­h­h­hh, crchcrchcrchcrchffff­fwwwwwwwwwwwww… When you have these these beau­ti­ful uh, these beau­ti­ful glitch­es, um… What we take to be graph­ics and sounds and motion in our screen world is mere­ly a thin skin under which resul—which resides miles and miles of lan­guage. And if you need evi­dence of think of when you’ve mis­tak­en­ly received a JPEG in the uh, euh attach­ment in the email that’s not been ren­dered as an image but as code that seems to go on forever.

It’s all words, per­haps not in any order we can under­stand, but the basic mate­r­i­al that has pro­pelled writ­ing since its sta­bi­lized form is now what all media is cre­at­ed from as well. Before there wasn’t a speck of lan­guage resid­ing under the emul­sion of a pho­to­graph, or embed­ded in a film­strip, or lurk­ing in the grooves of an LP. Today, there is.

And so I want to say that with the rise of the Web, writ­ing has met its pho­tog­ra­phy. And by that I mean writ­ing has encoun­tered a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to what hap­pened uh, to paint­ing with the inven­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy. A tech­nol­o­gy so much bet­ter at repli­cat­ing real­i­ty that in order to sur­vive, paint­ing had to ors— or, uh, alter its course rad­i­cal­ly. If pho­tog­ra­phy was striv­ing for sharp focus and pre­cise rep­re­sen­ta­tion, then paint­ing was su— forced to go soft, hence we got…Impressionism, Cubism, full-blown Modernism. It was this sort of per­fect uh, ana­log cor­re­spon­dence, image to image, set­ting the stage for an imag­is­tic rev­o­lu­tion.

Today dig­i­tal media has set the stage for a lit­er­ary rev­o­lu­tion. As a mat­ter of fact in 1974, Peter was still able to make the claim that quote, because the advent of pho­tog­ra­phy makes pos­si­ble the pre­cise mechan­i­cal repro­duc­tion of real­i­ty, the mimet­ic func­tion of the fine arts with­ers. But the lim­its of this explana­to­ry mod­el become clear when one calls to mind that it can­not be trans­ferred to lit­er­a­ture. He says you can’t trans­fer this to lit­er­a­ture. For lit­er­a­ture, there is no tech­ni­cal inno­va­tion that could’ve pro­duced an effect com­pa­ra­ble to that of pho­tog­ra­phy in the fine arts. And that’s kind of an amaz­ing statement…eh pre-digital state­ment from 1974. But now, of course, there is.

Um. So while writ­ers have always had this deep and inti­mate knowl­edge of language’s capa­bil­i­ties for­mal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly, um, the video that I played with Shakespeare demon­strate that tech­nol­o­gy uh, may has has made lan­guage act in ways that I don’t think we’ve ever con­ceived of before, in that words aren’t used to express any­thing, they don’t sing, they don’t emote, they don’t pull heart­strings, instead lan­guage is pure, mate­r­i­al. Active and effec­tive more akin to clay or a sledge­ham­mer than a trans­par­ent or opaque com­mu­ni­ca­tor or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tor.

Never before has lan­guage had this much mate­ri­al­i­ty, flu­id­i­ty, plas­tic­i­ty, mal­leabil­i­ty, beg­ging to be man­aged by the writer. Before dig­i­tal lan­guage, words were almost always found impris­oned on a page. How dif­fer­ent it is today when dig­i­tized lan­guage can be poured into any con­ceiv­able con­tain­er. It’s typed into a Microsoft Word doc­u­ment, parsed into a data­base, visu­al­ly mor­phed into Photoshop, ani­mat­ed into Flash, pumped into online text-mangling engines, spammed to thou­sands of email address­es, and import­ed into sound edit­ing pro­grams and spit out as music, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. And what I did with the Shakespeare and the image you can do with any of eh any media you can actu­al­ly take uh, the uh, buh uh ub Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, cut all of Wikipedia’s uh biog­ra­phy of on Beethoven, chunk it in there, and of course it will glitch out in inter­est­ing and dif­fer­ent ways. This is all lan­guage mak­ing this hap­pen. Okay?

So now along with the mate­ri­al­i­ty comes the facts of abun­dance and excess. Now, the Web hous­es untold amounts of lan­guage. And as a writ­ing machine, it’s con­stant­ly pro­duc­ing more. Today com­put­ers con­tin­u­al­ly query and respond to each oth­er over the Internet, assist­ing one anoth­er to become more intel­li­gent and more effi­cient. Although we tend to focus on the vast amount of human-to-human social net­work­ing that’s being pro­duced, much of the con­ver­sa­tion uh, across the net­works is machines talk­ing to oth­er machines, spew­ing out what’s called dark data,” code that we nev­er see.

Uh, in August of 2010, a water­shed occurred, when more non-human objects came online in greater num­bers than did new human sub­scribers in the pre­vi­ous quar­ters in the two giant tele­coms in the US. This long-predicted sit­u­a­tion sets the stage for the next uh, phase of the Web, that’s called the Internet of Things, where machinic inter­ac­tion uh, far out­paces human-driven activ­i­ty on the net­works. For exam­ple if your dry­er is slight­ly out of tilt, it wire­less­ly sends data to a serv­er, which sends back a rem­e­dy, and the dry­er fix­es itself accord­ing­ly. Such data queries are being sent every few sec­onds and as a result we’re exout about to expe­ri­ence yet anoth­er explo­sion as bil­lions of sen­sors and appli­ances and oth­er data input and out­put devices explode untold ter­abytes of new data onto the Web.

Now, at first uh glance, armies of refrig­er­a­tors and dish­wash­ers send­ing mes­sages back and forth to servers might not have much effect on lit­er­a­ture. But when viewed through the lens of infor­ma­tion man­age­ment and uncre­ative writ­ing, these machines are only a few steps away from being pro­grammed fruh, for lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion, writ­ing a type of lit­er­a­ture read­able only by oth­er bots. And as a result of net­work­ing with each oth­er, their feed­back mech­a­nism will cre­ate an ever-evolv­ing uh, sophis­ti­cat­ed lit­er­ary dis­course, one uhh­h­ho­hhh, one which will uhh uh not only be invis­i­ble to our eyes but bypass humans alto­geth­er. Uh, the poet Christian Bök calls this uh sit­u­a­tion Robopoetics, a con­di­tion where the involve­ment of an author in the pro­duc­tion of lit­er­a­ture hence­forth becomes dis­cre­tionary. He asks why hire a poet to write a poem when the poem can in fact write itself? Science fic­tion is poised to become real­i­ty, enact­ing Bök’s pre­dic­tion for the lit­er­ary future.

But this begs the ques­tion does lit­er­a­ture need to be read? Or more press­ing­ly, is it actu­al­ly read? And I’m not so sure about that, of course with­in the con­fines of a book or Kindle, of course they’re being read. But on the Internet, as we all know, text is most­ly skimmed or copied or emailed or archived or ftp’d or PDF’s or Instapapered or book­marked or liked. Or in oth­er words, lan­guage on the web is man­aged as it is infor­ma­tion or parsed more than it is real­ly read. Computing space is active, right? And I’m in front of a com­put­er, I don’t want to read uh uh, read­ing is pas­sive. On the Web we just want to get to the, next click. So we find our­selves in the posi­tion of sav­ing it for lat­er. And in doing so, the read­er now has become pri­mar­i­ly an archivist, and in turn so has the writer, pri­mar­i­ly become an archivist.

And so archiv­ing, then, is the new folk art, some­thing that’s wide­ly prac­ticed as and has uncon­scious­ly become inte­grat­ed into all of our lives, poten­tial­ly trans­form­ing a neces­si­ty into a work of art now at first thought this seems wrong. Um, isn’t folk art sort of some­thing the oppo­site? Something pred­i­cat­ed upon the sub­jec­tive hand-crafting of an object into a unique and per­son­al state­ment often­times one that express­es uh a larg­er com­mu­ni­ty ethos? One needs to think of the things that you see up there in you know, in the old town or or mag­nif­i­cent quilt­ing, or um, cos­mic visions of out­sider art peo­ple like Howard Finster, whose obses­sive emotio—oh, they have a whole fff-museum of out­sider and folk art up on the hill here, and, you know, whose obses­sive emo­tion­al hand-rendered reli­gious paint­ings and sculp­tures could only be sprung from the genius of the out­sider artist them­self.

But. I think about quilt­ing and the way that quilts are put togeth­er. Quilts are put togeth­er with used scraps of fab­ric into, into some­thing brand new. So like quilt­ing, archive employs this obses­sive stitch­ing togeth­er of many small pieces into a larg­er vision, a per­son­al attempt at order­ing what is a chaot­ic world. And it’s not such a far leap from the quilt­mak­er to the stamp col­lec­tor or book col­lec­tor. And Walter Benjamin, who of course was an obses­sive col­lec­tor him­self, wrote about these con­nec­tions between col­lect­ing and mak­ing in his great ar—uh, essay called Unpacking My Library,” where he says that quote, among chil­dren, col­lect­ing is only one process of renew­al. Other process­es are the paint­ing of objects, the cut­ting out of fig­ures, the appli­ca­tion of decals, the whole range of child-like modes of acqui­si­tion from touch­ing things to giv­ing them names. So in Benjaminian terms, all of these impuls­ing, all of these impuls­es mak­ing, col­lect­ing, and archive can be in fact con­strued as folk prac­tices.

Now, let’s add to that the orga­niz­ing of dig­i­tal mate­ri­als. The advent of dig­i­tal cul­ture has turned each one of us into an unwit­ting archivist. From the moment we use the Save As com­mand when com­pos­ing uh, elec­tron­ic doc­u­ments, our archival impuls­es begin. Save As of course is a com­mand which implies repli­ca­tion, and repli­ca­tion implies more uh com­plex archival con­sid­er­a­tions. Where do I store, that copy? Where is the orig­i­nal saved? What is the rela­tion­ship between the two? Do I archive them both? Do I delete the orig­i­nal? Do I change the new one? A num­ber of ques­tions.

Now, when the machines become more net­worked, eh uh become net­worked it gets more com­pli­cat­ed. When we take that same doc­u­ment and email it to a friend or a pro­fes­sor, our email pro­gram auto­mat­i­cal­ly archives a copy of both the email we sent as well as dupli­cat­ing that attach­ment and sav­ing then into a Sent Items fold­er. If that same doc­u­ment then is sent to a list­serv, that iden­ti­cal archiv­ing prac­tice eeuh­hh hap­pens again on dozens or thou­sands or mil­lions of machines, this time archived as a received item in each one of those email sys­tems. When we, as mem­bers of that list­serv open that attach­ment, we need to decide if and where to save it, and then the process goes on again. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Writing on elec­tron­ic plat­form is not only writ­ing but also dou­bles as archiv­ing. These two process­es are com­plete­ly insep­a­ra­ble. Never thought about this before. Used to make a car­bon copy, you know, with the type­writer. Carbon copies made one to put in your file and one to send out. This is tak­ing it clear­ly to anoth­er lev­el, which makes, which makes per­fect sense in terms of this becom­ing our pri­ma­ry activ­i­ty.

Or we can take the sim­ple act of lis­ten­ing to music. If we uhh­h­hh look clos­er at that which we do every day with­out think­ing we’ll find that it’s not so sim­ple. When I used to play a record, and I want­ed to lis­ten to music, I would drop a nee­dle on the, turntable. And that’s all I had to do and I would lis­ten. But let’s say I wan­na play a CD on my say, iPhone. And I don’t have it dig­i­tized, the first thing I have to do is I have to grab the CD and shove it into my com­put­er. And the moment I do this a data­base is called up, CDDB or Gracenote um, and it begins pep­per­ing my disc with ID3 tags, use­ful when I begin to rip these to MP3. And so right o— au-automatically the archiv­ing process has begun. Um, uh, uh. Th—the archiv­ing thi—this lis­ten­ing process has now, forced me or forced you, or forced us to become librar­i­ans. Uh, iiif Gracenote can’t find the ID3 tags, I’ve actu­al­ly now got­ta begin insert­ing it into those fields. And I become, my job as lis­ten­er is now writer and sec­re­tary. Okay?

Now, iTunes auto­mat­i­cal­ly stores those, MP3 into my iTunes direc­to­ry, cre­at­ing two new fold­ers the first being the artist’s name, and the sec­ond being the album’s name, and with­in the album fold­er I find these tracks have been assigned num­bers and names as well as now car­ry­ing the meta­da­ta ID3 tags. And if I move those MP3s into the iTunes pro­gram to play them, then iTunes auto­mat­i­cal­ly cre­ates yet anoth­er data­base of all this infor­ma­tion, seek­ing to acquire alb—then it starts going and look­ing for album art­work and every­thing like that.

And yet, I might decide that I don’t want any of these files archived accord­ing to the iTunes scheme when stored on my hard dri­ve because as you know our hard dri­ves are quick­ly run­ning out of space. So I store all my MP3s on a large exter­nal hard dri­ve, orga­nized to schema by a schema that makes sense to me. Probably doesn’t, make any sense to iTunes, which involves anoth­er lev­el of trans­fer and archiv­ing. And once I wan­na share my playlist and MP3s with oth­er peo­ple, I’ve got­ta archive yet on an entire­ly oth­er lev­el. And now all of this needs to be backed up, which cre­ates yet anoth­er lev­el of my archive. Nobody wants to lose their data. So you make a redun­dant back­up not only of your Time Machine back­up on your com­put­er but of my MP3 and then I make a sec­ond redun­dant back­up, because if I lose that, or UbuWeb, then everything’s gone.

Now. Huhhh. Clearly, this is a far cry and a lot of extra busy­work oh! than, than lis­ten­ing to music and by the way I for­got to say one more thing. If I wan­na now lis­ten to the shit on my iPhone, I’ve got­ta pull it over there and then I’ve got­ta hit that mys­te­ri­ous but­ton called sync,” which I don’t quite under­stand why you can’t just drag things onto that like you used to be able to drag things onto an MP3 player—it’s exhaust­ing. That’s all lis­ten­ing to music, today. It’s exhaust­ing. I find lis­ten­ing to music— I—I’ve stopped lis­ten­ing to music because I find it too exhaust­ing.

So. In fact u-ah I ah uh… I spend a lot more time acquir­ing cat­a­loging and archiv­ing my arti­facts these days than I do actu­al­ly engag­ing with them. I have more music on my dri­ve, as I’m sure you do, than I’ll ever be lis—ever be able to lis­ten to in ten, life­times. And yet, I keep get­ting more. Okay? I’m I’m obses­sive­ly, hoardingasamat­tero­fact I found recent­ly um, I want­ed I had a mood, and I want­ed to lis­ten to the American min­i­mal­ist com­pos­er Morton Feldman. And so I went to my Morton Feldman um, fold­er on my MP3 dri­ve. And I open it up and it’s there’s a fold­er sit­ting there says, Oh, the col­lect­ed works of Morton Feldman.” And I’m like, Gee. Oh, that sounds good.” And I open it up, and in that fold­er are seventy-three, zipped albums, that I took from a tor­rent some­time in 2009, that I nev­er even not in, not only did I not lis­ten to them, I didn’t even unzip them, right? So I unzipped one, and I lis­tened to it. 

So you know, this is this is absolute­ly insane. So so, so…so th-b-the ways in which cul­ture is dis­trib­uted and archived has become pro­found­ly more intrigu­ing, real­ly, than the cul­ture arti­fact itself. What we’ve expe­ri­enced then is this inver­sion of con­sump­tion, one in which we’ve come to engage in a more pro­found way, with this acqui­si­tion over than that which we are acquir­ing. I think we’ve come to pre­fer the uh, bot­tles to the wine. You know, bah—uh, John Perry Barlow made a, made a, a a beau­ti­ful anal­o­gy in, in the uh, in the ear—in the mid-90s and he said, he said, We’ve now…have the wine and we don’t need the bot­tles.” And I’m say­ing now we’re more inter­est­ed in the bot­tles than we are in the wine. Mmm. He couldn’t’ve seen this com­ing.

So. What we’re expe­ri­enc­ing then is the evac­u­a­tion of con­tent. That most impor­tant core of expres­sion, con­tent! has van­ished. In its place, the idea of mov­ing infor­ma­tion is what’s hap­pened it real­ly doesn’t mat­ter, what that infor­ma­tion is. What mat­ters is that we are keep­ing busy mov­ing this mate­r­i­al. In fact, lit­er­ary crit­ic Marjorie Perloff has coined a term, mov­ing infor­ma­tion” to sig­ni­fy the act of both push­ing the lan­guage around as well as the act of being emo­tion­al­ly moved by that process.

Contemporary writ­ing requires the exper­tise of a sec­re­tary crossed with the atti­tude of a pirate. Replicating, orga­niz­ing, mir­ror­ing, archiv­ing, and reprint­ing. Along with more clan­des­tine pro­cliv­i­ties for boot­leg­ging, plun­der­ing, hoard­ing, file­shar­ing. We’ve need—needed to acquire a whole new skillset that they don’t teach you in, How to Write.” We’ve become mas­ter typ­ists, exact­ing cut’n pasters, OCR demons. There’s noth­ing we love more than tran­scrip­tion. We find few things more sat­is­fy­ing than col­la­tion. There’s no muse­um or book­store bet­ter than our local sta­tionery store, crammed with raw writ­ing mate­ri­als, gigan­tic hard dri­ves, spin­dles of blank discs, ton­ers and ink. Memory-jammed print­ers, and reams of cheap paper. The writer is now pro­duc­er, pub­lish­er, and distribute—distributor.

Paragraphs are ripped, para­graphs are burned. They’re copied, they’re print­ed, they’re bound, they’re zapped. And they’re beamed sinul—simultaneously. The writer’s tra­di­tion­al soli­tary lair is trans­formed into a socially-networked alchem­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ry ded­i­cat­ed to the brute phys­i­cal­i­ty of tex­tu­al trans­fer­rence. The sen­su­al­i­ty of copy­ing giga­bytes from one dri­ve to anoth­er, it’s amaz­ing. The whir of the dri­ve, the churn of intel­lec­tu­al mat­ter, man­i­fest­ed as sound. The carnal—and I mean bod­i­ly and car­nal and even sex­u­al—excite­ment of super­com­put­ing heat that is gen­er­at­ed in the ser­vice of lit­er­a­ture the grind of the scan­ner, as it peels lan­guage off the page, thaw­ing it, lib­er­at­ing it, putting lan­guage into play, lan­guage out of play, lan­guage frozen, lan­guage melt­ed.

And so you con­cur­rent­ly have the…re-ges­ture on the rise. The retweet. The reblog. The repost. The remix. So much so that the re-gesture has come to trump the orig­i­nal. The dis­cov­ery and dis­sem­i­na­tion of an arti­fact is more impor­tant than the arti­fact itself. And you just have to think of the most pow­er­ful blogs on the Internet. You take uh, some­thing like Boing Boing or Slashdot. They don’t cre­ate any­thing. They just point, to cool things, and the fact of one of those blogs, point­ing at some­thing far out­weighs the impor­tance of the thing at which they’re point­ing at. Okay?

So it’s like fil­ter­ing has become pow­er. And I notice this, if I tweet out some­thing on UbuWeb that’s very obscure and sud­den­ly it’s been retweet­ed hun­dreds of times, peo­ple are quick­ly, pass­ing this om an on and name-checking it. They’re mov­ing this infor­ma­tion. You know you ever, uh bu de also if I tweet out a 404 some­times I’ll tweet out some­thing that leads to a dead link…it’s been retweet­ed two hun­dred times. Clearly, nobody is click­ing on that link. Okay? But they’re get­ting cred by pass­ing that cool thing uh, along. Uhh, so, so, you know, oore­hhh iit’s it’s it’s, it’s the the fact of, point­ing then out­weighs the impor­tance of the thing they’re point­ing to. So writ­ers are t—ra oper­at­ing the same way and this is not any dif­fer­ent than Marcel Duchamp a hun­dred years ago, who also point­ed. So in a sim­i­lar way, the new writ­ing is point­ing. Appropriation in the visu­al arts of course was tak­en care of a hun­dred years ago. Or in hip hop. Or in you know, I mean nobody, nobody brings in a drum­mer, you know. You…pick your best sam­ples and you remix it and you take some­thing. You’re point­ing and the best DJs have the best sam­ples. Uh. You know, what makes a great se—what makes a great uhd uh a great DJ.

So, now I would like to talk about Aaron Swartz, of course a young hack­tivist who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2012, after being hound­ed by the Department of Justice after he was caught lib­er­at­ing mil­lions of aca­d­e­m­ic doc­u­ments from this pay­walled uh, data­base JSTOR. And the irony of the Swartz case is that much of what he lib­er­at­ed from JSTOR was out of print, pub­lic domain mate­ri­als that had been pay­walled because they were uh uh, orphaned works, which were claimed by JSTOR. And if you want­ed access to those uh uh, you had to, you’d had to actu­al­ly pay for um, for, for these. And I think there’s a cou­ple of images of the uh Swartz things that I— This is some of what he what he took.

Very sort of odd, odd pieces of maps, uh um uh, you know, enor­mous sci­en­tif­ic doc—documents that were long out of print and in the pub­lic domain. Strange med­ical uh, imagery that prob­a­bly, you know… So he was actu­al­ly lock­ing up things that were already in—they, JSTOR, was lock­ing up things that were in pub­lic domain, and he uh, was, was lib­er­at­ing it.

JSTOR appears to be stock­pil­ing as much intel­lec­tu­al val­ue and mate­r­i­al that they can get their hands on, feel­ing that quan­ti­ty, quan­ti­ty, I want to talk about quan­ti­ty, adds val­ue, okay? The more JSTOR can hoard and ware­house and charge, the more appeal­ing their data­base offer­ings go to their sub­scriber base.

So you get this idea that Swartz’ ges­ture was a con­cep­tu­al one, focused around the pow­er of mak­ing avail­able sealed-off infor­ma­tion. But he wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned with what he was lib­er­at­ing. Clearly. He was inter­est­ed in the mod­el of mov­ing infor­ma­tion as a social and polit­i­cal tool and state­ment. And the media the­o­rist Darren Wershler tells us that con­tent is the wrong place to look for mean­ing in the Swartz case. Uhhh, Wershler says, To me it feels like the end of the mod­ernist notion of infor­ma­tion. Modernity brought with it the idea that there was this thing that could be extract­ed that rep­re­sent­ed the most valu­able part of a text. Swartz’ ges­ture sug­gests that there’s no infor­ma­tion in places like JSTOR and Elsevier. Any paper is as good as anoth­er for a ges­ture like his, because indi­vid­u­al­ly these papers lit­er­al­ly have no audi­ence. An aca­d­e­m­ic paper is read by maybe two or three peo­ple. So the ges­ture only mat­ters when it’s done in bulk, and it doesn’t mat­ter what that bulk con­sists of. The offense is a cor­po­rate one. It has rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle to do with indi­vid­ual authors because it assumes from the out­set that the indi­vid­ual author isn’t that all—isn’t that impor­tant.”

That clear­ly is what JSTOR is think­ing. And so the Swartz d-heist enacts an ecuva—uh, and evac­u­a­tion of con­tent, then, as a polit­i­cal act, as if to say the ges­ture of furi­ous­ly push­ing mov­ing gath­er­ing, shar­ing, pars­ing stor­ing and lib­er­at­ing infor­ma­tion again is more impor­tant than what’s actu­al­ly being moved. Swartz’ pol­i­tics both pro­pose no only an inver­sion of consumption—again, bot­tles not wine—but modes of pro­duc­tion based on the acts of con­sump­tion which I’m talk­ing about before, which include col­lect­ing, hoard­ing, sort­ing, and heist­ing. But clear­ly the ges­ture of lib­er­at­ing these doc­u­ments out­weighs the mean­ing and su—uh, again in selec­tion of it. So we have this oth­er instance of mov­ing infor­ma­tion uhhh, with, with, with uh, with Swartz.

Predicting the forth­com­ing glut of infor­ma­tion uh, in 1969, the con­cep­tu­al artist Douglas Huebler wrote quote, the world is full of objects, more or less inter­est­ing, I don’t wish to add any­more. And I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be tooled as The world is full of texts, more or less inter­est­ing. I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appro­pri­ate response uh, to a new con­di­tion in writ­ing today. Faced with an…unprece­dent­ed amount of avail­able text, the prob­lem isn’t need­ing to write any more of it. Instead how we learn to nego­ti­ate the vast quan­ti­ty that exists, how I make my way through this thick­et of infor­ma­tion, how I man­age it, how I parse it, how I orga­nize it, how I dis­trib­ute it, is what dis­tin­guish­es my, writ­ing from yours.

Now, again, Marjorie Perloff has begun using anoth­er term, that she calls uno­rig­i­nal genius” to describe this emer­gent ten­den­cy in lit­er­a­ture. Hi—her idea is that due to changes brought by tech­nol­o­gy and the Internet, our notion of genius (a roman­tic, iso­lat­ed fig­ure) is out­dat­ed. An updat­ed notion of genius would have to cen­ter around the mas­tery of one’s uh, infor­ma­tion and its dis­sem­i­na­tion. She posits that today’s writer resem­bles more a pro­gram­mer than a tor­tured genius bril­liant­ly con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing, con­struct­ing, exe­cut­ing, and main­tain­ing a writ­ing machine.

Perloff’s notion of uno­rig­i­nal genius shouldn’t be seen mere­ly as a the­o­ret­i­cal con­ceit but rather as a real­ized writ­ing prac­tice, one that dates back to the ear­ly part of the 20th cen­tu­ry, embody­ing the ethos where the con­struc­tion or con­cep­tion of what a work does or says is as impor­tant uh, ah, eh is euhh—what it does is as impor­tant as what it says. You think for exam­ple of the note-driven, col­lat­ing um, uhhh, prac—note-taking prac­tice of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, or the mathematically-driven constraint-based writ­ing of the Oulipo. 

Today tech­nol­o­gy has exac­er­bat­ed these imm­m­m­mech­a­nis­tic ten­den­cies in writ­ing, incit­ing young writ­ers to take their cues from the work­ing of tech­nol­o­gy and the Web as a way of con­struct­ing new lit­er­a­ture. As a result, writ­ers are explor­ing ways of writ­ing that tra­di­tion­al­ly have thought to be out­side the scope of lit­er­ary prac­tice. Word pro­cess­ing, data­bas­ing, recyclating—recycling, appro­pri­a­tion, inten­tion­al pla­gia­rism, iden­ti­ty cipher­ing, inten­sive pro­gram­ming, as few are are real­ly what’s con­sti­tut­ing the new uh uh, lit­er­a­ture.

So I’d love to show you a few exam­ples of what I’m talk­ing about. Um, hmm. Uh, heh. Um um um um um.

This is a uh uh a piece of uh… Huhhhh. This is a piece of uh…writing. Let me see if I can get it uhh­hh so you can see it, by Craig Dworkin, called Parse, which is uh, every…uh… An entire book of by Edward A Abbot called How to Parse, um, parsed accord­ing to its own uh, by its own method­ol­o­gy. And this is a full book. It took him ten years to do this. And it goes on. And it goes on. Can you read can you rea—see that back there? I can make it a lit­tle bit big­ger. These works were exhaus­tive. Mirroring the scale, of the Internet itself. Look at this. And what Craig wants to do now…is he actu­al­ly wants to now take this as a roadmap and rewrite a book, using that wher­ev­er it’s a plur­al noun he’ll have to put in, and then a com­ma then an adverb then anoth­er plur­al noun and then a com­ma, to cre­ate an entire new sto­ry which should take him the rest of his life to fin­ish it. One of my ver-very favorite part of this…is the uh, index, of the book.

You’ve got uh… You’ve also got um…works like uh, works like, like, like this by Charles Bernstein an—well let’s see if we can actu­al­ly see that uh…no we prob­a­bly can’t. I have to open it in uh… Um, this is a beau­ti­ful piece of his from, from the uh…from the uh, 1970s. What a-uh, what’s here is is is just code. But what’s here is a fff—is a por­tion of what he’s done from a poem called Lift Off” in 1979. And this is actu­al­ly a tran­scrip­tion of the eras­er tape from a—an elec­tric type­writer. D’you mem­ber when has to— Some of you don’t remem­ber, but you used to ha—come, with this this this tape and so when the tape was fin­ished with every­thing he erased, he would just take it and and tran­scribe uh, the tape. You see how close it is to uh, to actu­al code.

Um, you have, have some­thing like Caroline Bergvall’s uhh­hh, “VIA,” which is, uh…she went into the British Library and she tran­scribed every, the first uh, can­to from the Inferno, and and this is it. And each one, is the same text, trans­lat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly from the British Library. And it’s incred­i­ble just by lay­ing these things out, how dif­fer­ent each uh, each trans­la­tion is. It’s tran­scrip­tion, it’s trans­la­tion, I mean real­ly amaz­ing. A-huh. Uh, this piece.

I can show you some­thing real­ly, real­ly, uh, mar­velous­ly prob­lem­at­ic, from Vanessa Place, mm, who, uh, uh, is a um, lawyer by day. And what Vanessa does is that she rep­re­sents um, guilty sex crim­i­nals, for pub­lic defen­dant. These are peo­ple that’ve done the worst things in the world. And what she does is she…takes a part of a legal doc­u­ment that’s called a state­ment of fact…and this is the nar­ra­tive of what hap­pens. Now, in a nar­ra­tive you’re not allowed to make an explic­it argu­ment, but the lawyer’s job is to make an implic­it argu­ment uh, t—so as to free. This, so, these are very very extreme­ly dif­fi­cult things to read. This is about an old­er woman uh, who uh, who uh, a man came into her house, this man that she’s defend­ing um, and, uh, b-uh oral­ly cop—copulated uh, uh, raped her, uh, on and on and on. This is a very very dif­fi­cult text. But what this is, is this is Vanessa’s day job. This is what she’s doing for— And then she just turns around and pub­lish­es this as her poet­ry. As her—as this kind of kind of uh, you’re tak­ing aliened, aln—I’m sor­ry, alien­at­ed labor, and turn­ing it into unalien­at­ed labor.

Vanessa says, Am I guilty? No, because this is all on the pub­lic record. Am I moral­ly guilty? I might be,” but that’s the risk that she wants to take when she’s trans­fer­ring this to um, to um…poetry. And it’s a, it’s a it’s…it’s a bitch. It’s real­ly dif­fi­cult. And when she reads this? You sit there, and she looks like a lawyer, and she gets up and she reads for a—an hour straight of these hor­ri­ble atroc­i­ties. And some­thing caught—you know, I mean, you’ve—I mean, you know, on and on and on.

And at first you’vfff—you when you, when you lis­ten to her read you feel like, I can’t take this any­more. This is the worst, this is the most hor­ri­fy­ing thing I’ve ever heard in my life, stop. Please.” And then, like any­thing else, and this is the Warholian aspect, you kin­da begin to get used to it. And then you sor­ta become inter­est­ed in it. And then you sort of begin to…beco—objectify it, and you take your­self out of it. Then you begin to look at it and you say, But wait a minute. Wasn’t that lit­tle girl…flirting…with a, with her assailant?” Right? In oth­er words, by Vanessa read­ing you this stuff, you start to actu­al­ly, become, what she wants the jury to do. And you have to then slap your­self and you say, No, how could I, ob—ten min­utes ago this was the worst thing I heard and now I’m actu­al­ly ana­lyz­ing it.” It’s very very fuck­ing com­pli­cat­ed and it’s real­ly um, very dif­fi­cult to liste—I me—I can’t tell you how com­pli­cat­ed and dif­fi­cult it is to lis­ten to. 

And in a way I don’t real­ly want to talk much more about it, because when I teach this I can spend an entire semes­ter on the prob­lem­at­ics of this text and the prob­lem­at­ics. But I think it’s a very uh huge­ly impor­tant text. To say also that this writ­ing is polit­i­cal. And this writ­ing is social. And this writ­ing is judi­cial. It may not be the way that I intend it to be, the kind of uncre­ative writ­ing uh, will adopt posi­tions of unsa­vory polit­i­cal atti­tudes so as to show how stu­pid those atti­tudes are with­out hav­ing to say how stu­pid they are. A tran­script of the G8 con­fer­ence, just what they’re say­ing is enough to hang them­selves on their own words. The shift­ing of the frame of ref­er­ence uh, becomes, uh, becomes enough.

I think words… I think writ­ers try too hard. I think words are the most loaded mate­r­i­al, pos­si­ble. And that…we try to hard to, we we force our­selves to express our­selves when lan­guage itself is inher­ent­ly expres­sive. It’s like fla­vored cof­fee, you know. Does cof­fee need more fla­vor? You know? This this this atti­tude, you know. And I think mod­ernism has shown us that any mor­pheme or any small bit of…one lit­tle piece of lan­guage has enough res­o­nance to car­ry us with­out us hav­ing to overde­ter­mine it.

Okay, so these are a cou­ple things that can maybe maybe show you uh, some­thi— I’ll, I’ll, I’ll uh move on in a lighter, on a lighter uh, moment. Okay, this is, here’s one. This one. Hm. I don’t want to end uh, we—uh not end but end this sec­tion of show­ing you things on poor Vanessa, because it’s not a, you know, it’s hard but it’s impor­tant.

This is a piece by Steve Giasson. This is a PDF that is 2,637 pages long. And it is the entire com­ment stream from the 911 video on YouTube. The 911 video. Un edit­ed. And it’s, I mean it’s, it’s stun­ning­ly, it’s stun­ning­ly…stun­ning­ly awful. Okay, again. But by show­ing this, and by show­ing the bulk of this, as a piece of of of, of lit­er­a­ture, uh, we’re, we’re we’re real­ly into some oth­er type of writ­ing, some type of new writ­ing. And it just goes, goes on and on and on. Isn’t that amaz­ing? we’re on page 1,190. There’s anoth­er uh…1,500 pages after this. Okay? This is a pow­er­ful ges­ture.

Okay. Um. There’s also these, these um… I’ll show you a cou­ple of these oth­er um… Ah heh, these younger writ­ers, there’s a, this is a this is this is a um, a book by a young writer called Chris Alexander called Panda, um, that’s pub­lished on Troll Thread uh, uhhh, Press, and in fact it is every descrip­tion, on the Web, of Kung Fu Panda, okay? A pan­da who works in the noo­dle restau­rant owned by his goof father who is also a kung fu fanat­ic with a secret dreams of becom­ing a great mas­ter in the dis­ci­pline A slop­py, over­weight but lov­able pan­da who dreams to be a kung fu mas­ter one day. Now, this is not that much dif­fer­ent than Caroline Bergvall’s VIA from the Dante. It’s actu­al­ly very close. But this is 215 pages, of it.

Chris also did anoth­er, anoth­er piece, which is just um, which is just uh uh uh called uh, McNugget, and it’s five-hundred and tw—yeuh you ar—here you are if you wan­na search it out. McNugget by Chris Alexander. I’m sure you’re gonna want to read this. It’s 528 pages of every men­tion on Twitter of the word McNugget.” I’m sor­ry, do you know what McNugget is? Do they have it here? They have that he—I’m sor­ry, I don’t mean to, to uh, uh, assume some­thing that might not be known, else­where. Huh. I mean. You know. Amazing. Just amaz­ing. This McDonald’s has a 40 piece McNugget meal. That might be a bit exces­sive.” Heh heh heh. And there i—and there you have it, you know. There you have it.

And the oth­er one that I real­ly love, some­times they’re not that long. This is um, this is a piece by a a young, a young writer named Holly Melgard, and the descrip­tion of what she’s done um, is Now there is no such thing as rep­e­ti­tion’ in The Making of Americans, because I delet­ed it. Herein, every word and punc­tu­a­tion mark is retained accord­ing to its first (and hence last) appear­ance in Gertrude Stein’s 925-page edi­tion of the book.” And so she’s actu­al­ly man­aged by not putting rep­e­ti­tions in Gertrude Stein by remov­ing the rep­e­ti­tions to turn it into 32 pages. And so you have these rad­i­cal tex­tu­al reduc­tions as well. Which are equal­ly beau­ti­ful.

Okay.

Um. Okay. So, these writ­ers, then, are real­ly as you can see are func­tion­ing more like um, pro­gram­mers than tra­di­tion­al writ­ers tak­ing Sol Lewitt’s famous dic­tum to heart, quote when an artist uses a con­cep­tu­al form of art, it means that all of the plan­ning and deci­sions are made before­hand and the exe­cu­tion is a per­func­to­ry affair. The idea becomes a machine, and that makes the art. Raising, real­ly new pos­si­bil­i­ties of what writ­ing can be. We can look at con­cep­tu­al art as being a prece­dent for this type of writ­ing. And the poet Craig Dworkin, who I showed you his beau­ti­ful work Parse, s—says this. He says, What would a non-expressive poet­ry look like? A poet­ry of intel­lect rather than of emo­tion. One in which the sub­sti­tu­tions at the heart of metaphor and image were replaced by the direct pre­sen­ta­tion of lan­guage itself, which spon­ta­neous over­flow, sup­plant­ed by metic­u­lous pro­ce­dure, and exhaus­tive­ly log­i­cal process. In which the self-regard of the ego’s poet were turned back onto the self-reflecle—reflexive lan­guage of the poem itself. So that the test of poet­ry were no longer whether it could have been done bet­ter, which is the ques­tion of the work­shop, but whether it could con­ceiv­ably have been done oth­er­wise.”

So you have this explo­sion, then, of writ­ers employ­ing these strate­gies of appro­pri­a­tion uh, and copy­ing over the past uh few years, with the com­put­ers imi­tat­ing writ­ers to mim­ic its work­ings. And when writi—when cut­ting and past­ing are inte­gral to the writ­ing process, it would be mad to think that uh, writ­ers wouldn’t try to break or exploit these func­tions in extreme ways that weren’t intend­ed by their cre­ator, righ—artists are mar­velous at mis­us­ing things and uh, and uh, uh, break­ing things, for exam­ple um… Uh… Mmmm. For exam­ple uh, if I, if I, I look at uh… If we look at uh, Paik, meuh— Nam June Paik’s Magnet TV” um, is was a beau­ti­ful of an artist break­ing tech­nol­o­gy. This is 1965, and the TV to this point had been a trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion infor­ma­tion. What Paik did was he takes a giant horse­shoe mag­net and shoves it on the top of the tele­vi­sion set, and every time you know, you turn it, the waves would go like this, which has the same effect, you know, if you get a mag­net, put a mag­net on your lap­top and see what hap­pens. Something, same type of thing hap­pens.

So this is the type of thing that we’re see­ing writ­ers now doing with cut and paste. Writers are real­ly stu­pid. Artists are real­ly dumb. And I mean that in a very good way. We ti—kinda tend to do things that weren’t, you know, that aren’t sup­posed to be done with it. And we tend to look at things in ways that that that, w—are so sim­ple and so stu­pid that nobody else would, both­er to th—to actu­al­ly, actu­al­ly try them. So the cut and paste is one of those, I mean who who we—you know, every­body in the office uses cut and paste, but they use it in the right way. They don’t use it to troll…every men­tion of McNugget” on the Internet, you know.

So co—you know, while these home com­put­ers have been around for three decades and peo­ple have been cut­ting and past­ing all the time, it’s the sheer pen­e­tra­tion and sat­u­ra­tion of broad­band that makes the har­vest­ing of ma—masses of lan­guage easy and tempt­ing. So on a dial-up it’s easy to copy and paste words in the begin­ning you say of gopher space, and the text in gopher space if you remem­ber were dealt out one screen at a time. And even though it was text, it took a long time to load. But broad­band, the spig­ot is run­ning 247. And by com­par­i­son there was noth­ing native to the sys­tem of type­writ­ing that encour­aged the repli­ca­tion of text. It was slow and labo­ri­ous, to do.

If I want­ed to retype uh, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which Simon Morris’, has done into a a um…uh, into a blog, or the works of Shakespeare, it would take me five years to do. No won­der why writ­ers were nev­er doing this before. You know. Can you imag­ine hav­ing to sit— What a weird thing to do, sit and and and retype every word of Shakespeare in the 1950s, it would take you three years to do. And then you’d still end up with all this lan­guage stuck to a page, which is why there is this whole idea of 20th cen­tu­ry post-writing, print-based detourne­ment. You think of Burroughs, uh uch uch, cut-ups or fold-ins, or the con­crete poet Bob Cobbing’s mimeo­graphed uh, poems. The pre­vi­ous forms of bor­row­ing uh, and peo­ple say this is noth­ing new. People have been bor­row­ing forever. But you have to remem­ber that it was a word, or a phrase. It was more pas­tiche, rather than tak­ing some­thing whole­sale, which is what a lot of these writ­ers are doing. Uh, hav­ing to man­u­al­ly retype or hand-copy a book on a typewriter’s one thing, or writ­ing it out by hand. Copying and past­ing is anoth­er. So clear­ly this is all set­ting the stage for a lit­er­ary rev­o­lu­tion.

Or is it? From the looks of it, most writ­ing pro­ceeds as if the Internet had nev­er, hap­pened. Yes, we all know the lit­er­ary world still gets scan­dal­ized by these age-old bouts of fraud­u­lent pla­gia­rism and hoax­es in ways that would make the art or the music world abs—or com­put­er sci­ence worlds, or even sci­ence worlds with cloning, shake their head in dis­be­lief. It’s hard to imag­ine the James Fry or JT LeRoy scan­dals upset­ting any­body famil­iar with the sophis­ti­cat­ed, purposefully-fraudulent pr—provocations of Jeff Koons, or the repho­tograph­ing of adver­tise­ments by Richard Prince, who was award­ed with a Guggenheim Museum ret­ro­spec­tive because he’s a pla­gia­rist.

And so here’s the thing, is that Koons and Prince began their careers by stat­ing up front that they were appro­pri­at­ing and being inten­tion­al­ly uno­rig­i­nal, where­as James Frey and JT LeRoy, even after they were caught, were still pass­ing off their works as authen­tic, sin­cere, and per­son­al state­ments to an audi­ence clear­ly crav­ing such qual­i­ties. And the as soon, as soo—the the the the the dance that hap­pens after that is com­i­cal. In Fry’s case, Random House was sued and forced to pay out mil­lions of dol­lars to read­ers who felt deceived. And sub­se­quent print­ings of, of A Million Little Pieces or what­ev­er that book is called now include a dis­claimer inform­ing read­ers that what they are about to read is in fact a work of fic­tion.

You know, if you clai—you know, this is the thing. Nobody cares if you…nobody will accuse you of being a pla­gia­rist if you start out by say­ing, Im appro­pri­at­ing this.” Everybody’s, Oookay. I got the rules.” It’s only when you try to slip it by peo­ple, and lie to them, that they get angry. Nobody gets angry at me for my appro­pri­a­tions. People get angry when poets steal oth­er poets work and pub­lish them under their work with­out— All they need­ed to do is make a lit­tle dis­claimer and every­body will be like, That’s inter­est­ing,” okay?

Okay. Um, I’m almost done. Um. I’m con­stant­ly asked the ques­tion… I’m actu­al­ly in the home stretch here, guys. I told you, we’re almost done. I’m con­stant­ly asked the ques­tion why uncre­ative writ­ing? What’s wrong with cre­ative writ­ing? I mean, aren’t we artists sup­posed to be cre­ative? Isn’t this what sep­a­rates us from every­one else? To which I would like to respond by, by by telling you about a, uh, uh, the Man Booker Prize from 2011. Um…

And these are some of the, these are some of the uh, the the books that were were up, up for the uh, the Man Booker Prize. It seems like these actu­al­ly the five or six short-listed books were in fact rather uncre­ative. Here are s-s—the snip­pets of the syn­opses from the short list of these books. The sto­ry of one man com­ing to terms with his muta­ble past.” Another is, His jour­ney, if he sur­vives it, will push faith, love, and friend­ship to their utmost lim­its.” Or anoth­er one. A nov­el about the things you tell your­self in order to be able to con­tin­ue to live the life you find your­self in, and what hap­pens when those sto­ries no longer work.” Another one is, The hor­ror of betray­al, the bur­den of loy­al­ty, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that if you don’t tell your sto­ry, some­one else might tell it for you.” 

And while we don’t think of these works as uno­rig­i­nal or uncre­ative or pla­gia­rized despite the fact that just from one para­graph syn­opses on the Man Booker web site we learn that four of the six short-listed nov­els adver­tise them­selves as fea­tur­ing immi­grants nego­ti­at­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties of a strange land. Four of the six nov­els reveal secrets from the past that come unex­pect­ed­ly to light, half of them through the sur­prise arrival of a let­ter. Four of the six reveal the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of nar­ra­tion. Five of the six hinge on the dra­mat­ic turn of a mur­der. And more­over we don’t think of the fact that the pri—Booker Prize final­ists as uno­rig­i­nal or uncre­ative or pla­gia­rized despite the fact that they have close prece­dents, and that we can imag­ine con­fus­ing them for, with with each oth­er.

So you actu­al­ly take one of those um, the fir—the the the the fir—one of the uh, descrip­tions. You take, the descrip­tion quote, a sto­ry of inno­cence and you put this into Google. A sto­ry of inno­cence and expe­ri­ence, hope and harsh real­i­ty. A quick Google search reveals that those are the exact words to use to describe Naha—Nathaniel Horthon’s Young Goodman Brown,” Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, James Joyce’s Araby,” and that’s just the first page of results, okay.

So the hundred-thousandth com­ing of age nov­el, devel­op­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal por­traits of char­ac­ters, um its dif­fi­cult roman­tic rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly ten­sions, this is some­how all still with­in the bounds of the prop­er­ly cre­ative, and yet the first or sec­ond work to use previously-written source text even in some new way is still felt to be trou­blin­gling, impro—im—improp­er.

So what is orig­i­nal, then, real­ly? And what is cre­ative? And what is uncre­ative? It seems like the most cre­ative, writ­ers are real­ly the most uncre­ative. But of course they’d nev­er admit that. And it seems like the most uncre­ative writ­ers, and ah uh cr—creation has real­ly changed our you know, peo­ple that are, that some of the things that I’m show­ing you are actu­al­ly in this instance, the most cre­ative um, writ­ers.

In clos­ing, and this is the the, the end of this, careers and canons will not be estab­lished in tra­di­tion­al ways. I’m not sure we’ll still have careers in the ways that we used to. Literary works might func­tion very sim­i­lar to the way that a memes do today on the Web, spread­ing like wild­fire for a short peri­od, often unsigned and unau­thored, only to be sup­plant­ed by the next rip­ple, or as I said before, passed onto the next machine. And while the author won’t die, we may begin to view author­ship in a more con­cep­tu­al way. Perhaps the best author of the future will be the ones who can write the best pro­grams to which manip­u­late, parse, and lang—uh, and dis­trib­ute it, these uh lang—language-based prop­er­ties. And even if poet­ry in the future will be writ­ten by machines for oth­er machines to read, there will be for the fore­see­able future, some­one behind the cur­tain invent­ing those drones, so that even if lit­er­a­ture is reducible to mere code, an idea that I like, the smartest minds behind them will be con­sid­ered um, our great­est authors.

Okay. That’s it. Thank you.

The UbuWeb lec­ture will begin in in ten min­utes.

No.


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Square Cash, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.