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Gnoetics: Concerns about Appropriated Authorial Attribution

December 26, 2009
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Gnoetics: A Discussion on the Poetics of Gnoetry

Let it Begin

Perhaps this post will begin the discussion on the poetics of Gnoetry that Matthew had asked for a while ago. We can write a series of posts all entitled “Gnoetics: …” back and forth that respond to an issue in a previous post and/or bring up new issues of composition using a computational-appropriative-constructive-collaborative writing tool.

All Gnoetry Daily members are welcome to be part of the discussion, and of course any readers should freely add their comments to any post.

Concerns about Authorial Attribution/Inclusion of Source Authors in the Gnoetry Writing Process

Since I began using Gnoetry with a small number of sources, the issue of authorial attribution has been on my mind. When I used Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as the sole source text of my series of sonnets, I had wondered about whether I should consciously work to include his authorial voice or exclude it from the re-composed (or newly composed) texts that I and Gnoetry were constructing. I also have questioned the attribution of co-authorship to the poems that I have written using Gnoetry to the program, although I do appreciate the way it announces the poetry as cyborg poetry. As I have become more familiar with the program and how to manipulate it and source texts to get the output I desire, it seems more and more to me like another too at my disposal and not what I would consider a co-author.

With processes such as Gnoetry that challenge traditional models of authorship to such an extent, a major concern is how to decide what the most appropriate authorial attribution of the work is. I favor the still default attribution of the final texts to the constructing intelligence behind them. It is important, though, to give all credit to the processes behind the compositions as well, here designed into a (fairly) easy to use graphical interface on a computer. It is equally important to use authorial models such as “end-user” that undermine the Romantic notion of the Author that like a stubborn Zombie refuses to go away.

As far as attributing work to source text authors, there are clear issues with this act which we are all probably aware of, unless the attribution is intentionally playful or ironic. To my knowledge, no poems composed using Gnoetry have been attributed to source authors, but there remains the question of, beyond merely noting and indexing the texts used as a footnote to the text, how much credit do we give to the sources? As the number of sources used increases, the question becomes more and more irrelevant; the 6x6x6 poems likely use 50-100 different authors (it changes and I’ve never bothered to count), so it only makes sense that the end-user’s sensibilities will dominate the resulting text. In the case of the Conrad poems, my Free Grass series, or the Sublime Stein poems, though, how central are or should be the inclusion of source “voices” to the reading of the poem?

That’s a lot of “concerns.” What are your opinions and thoughts on the issue of authorial attribution with Gnoetry?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. none permalink
    December 30, 2009 8:43 am

    Gnoetry uses an n-gram language model, right? (i.e. it’s just looking at what words a given author tends to use next to each other.) If so then you’re just writing poetry whose word selection is constrained to word-pairs (or -triples?) that were seen in a training corpus. This is analogous to deciding to write poems using only the words that you hear at your corner pub on Saturdays. As long as you don’t plagiarize someone wholesale, what’s the issue?

    • Eric Elshtain permalink
      January 1, 2010 5:03 pm

      Authorship and plagiarism are different animals. In the spirit of Gnoetry, if you wrote a poem, as hypothesized above, using over-heard words at a pub, you’d list the pub-utterers’ names as co-authors.

      • none permalink
        January 2, 2010 11:57 pm

        Let’s say one of the people at the pub is a well-known poet, and the only thing you overhear that poet say is: “Give me another beer, please.” Let’s say you then use the bigram “give me” in a gnoem. Unless you dramatically re-define the notion of “co-author,” you only have a very weak claim to advertising the overheard poet as co-author.

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