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news/updates – mid-April

April 11, 2013

Hi folks!!!

I kept meaning to point this out: discourse.cpp (pdf), a bunch of generated poems put together by a computational linguistics postdoc; here’s a bit of background. Looks like she’s using automatic parsing to build a shallow semantics and using selections from that, manually arranged in free- or concrete-verse form. Anyway, props for the appendices with info on generation methods and for releasing it free under a Creative Commons license! A little less admirable is the foreword, which personifies programs as authors (she’s just an “editor”, see?) and describes an “experiment” submitting articles to a poetry journal. Anyway, I came across this in a book review by Lori Emerson which was published in the journal Computational Linguistics, of all places…

ITEM: As I mentioned in comments, our pal Funkhouser recently wrote a seminar article in which he talked a bit about Gnoetry, Gnoetry Daily, and ePoGeeS. Check out pages 112-115 of the pdf which collects the conference essays. Sample quote:

As a discursive community, Gnoetry readers and practitioners function not unlike any group of social scientists poised to examine, within whatever confines their respective disciplines warrant, the possibilities of lexical objects.

ITEM: I was watching the 1954 BBC version of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and was greeted by the following notion of what a text-generator might look like:1984-operator
As I remember, Orwell talks about automated generation in the book but doesn’t describe it in depth; the 1954 BBC production (but not the 1984 theater release) actually shows a novel-writing machine in action! “This machine can turn out 20 pornographic novels a day!” (to keep the proles in line, natch…) “All phrases and thought sequences were built in during assembly, so that it has its own distinctive style.” They also show the operator “adjusting the situation kaleidoscope, which varies the six basic plots”:1984-adjust
(A couple of minutes later, Julia’s hand gets caught in the machine while “adjusting the kaleidoscope for chapter 2” and on the way to the infirmary she passes Winston…) Anyway, you can see this around 46:11 on youtube:


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2013 4:43 pm

    Good stuff, even if it is mostly above my pay grade. I am going to leave the .pdf of that postdoc’s poems in an open tab for a while, though. Looks interesting.

    And I can’t believe it, but I had almost forgotten about that smutty-novel-generating machine from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Might have to read that again, now.

  2. April 11, 2013 6:15 pm

    There’s not a whole lot about text generation in 1984.

    There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole sub-section–Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak–engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.

    and later:

    As she came nearer he saw that her right arm was in a sling, not noticeable at a distance because it was of the same colour as her overalls. Probably she had crushed her hand while swinging round one of the big kaleidoscopes on which the plots of novels were ‘roughed in’. It was a common accident in the Fiction Department.

    Basically her hand-crushing is what inspires the scene from the movie, which isn’t in the novel since it’s all in Winston’s POV. Anyway, later:

    ‘What are these books like?’ said Winston curiously.

    ‘Oh, ghastly rubbish. They’re boring, really. They only have six plots, but they swap them round a bit. Of course I was only on the kaleidoscopes. I was never in the Rewrite Squad. I’m not literary, dear–not even enough for that.’

    Note that the novels require a Rewrite Squad, though the songs are “entirely by mechanical means” as above.

    The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound.

    from: 1984.

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