[-empyre-] What is robot poetics? How/why should we teach it?

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Wed May 3 22:50:26 AEST 2017

Hi Susan,

Thank you for your introductory piece. I would like to add another kind of
classification to your list. There are works that mimic (the practitioners
may say "make use of") computer/robotic activities (algorithms, net-mining,
digital interferences, etc.) and those that focus, meditate on, analyze,
satirize, etc., the effects of these technologies on society, culture,
mind, politics, etc. For instance, my poem *The Spiritual Life of
Replicants* (also based on *Blade Runner*) explores this second territory
through space created by film language.


On Tue, May 2, 2017 at 3:20 PM, VANDERBORG, SUSAN VANDERBORG <
SJVANDER at mailbox.sc.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> A definition is challenging! Terms such as robot poetry, cyborg poetry, or
> machine writing might potentially include a huge variety of poetic
> practices: speculative poems about robots, poetic alterations or
> palimpsests from texts in robotics, code poetry, hypertext poetry, poetry
> produced via search engines (such as Darren Wershler and Bill Kennedy's
> *apostrophe*) and other digital poetry experiments. Poems using email or
> tweets. Poems that reenvision collaboration between programmers and poets.
> There is already a rich scholarly tradition for many of these robopoetics--*Fashionable
> Noise,* *New Media Poetics*, *Digital Poetics*, *Prehistoric Digital
> Poetry*, and Hayles's *Electronic Literature* and *Writing Machines*, and
> essays by John Cayley, Talan Memmott, Stephanie Strickland, Ian Hatcher,
> Florian Cramer, Matt Applegate, Steve Tomasula, and others, invaluable for
> teaching digital, code, and machine poetics in a special topics seminar I'd
> like to propose. Matthew Kirschenbaum's thoughtful "Machine Visions"
> details texts whose styles truly enact Haraway's idea of cyborg writing;
> Gregory Betts, too, discusses cyborg poetics in his article "I Object," and
> Christian Bok's "The Piecemeal Bard Is Deconstructed" traces "robopoetics"
> to its roots in RACTER algorithms.
> Increasingly, robopoetics doesn't only reflect a world saturated with
> technology but a forum where print and digital cultures interact
> productively. In "Noise in the Channel," Wershler talks about prose-poetic print
> books, including Drucker’s *The Word Made Flesh*, whose page layouts
> anticipate digital formats. *Writing Machines* also juxtaposes
> experimental artists' books and digital poetry.
> I've enjoyed teaching texts from Shelley Jackson's *Patchwork Girl *to
> Brian Kim Stefans's *The Dreamlife of Letters* and Jason Nelson's *Game
> Game Game and Again Game* in grad and undergrad poetry or postmodernism
> classes; they raise provocative discussions about what constitutes a book
> or a poetic collage. But I've taught robopoetics most frequently in an
> undergrad literature survey class called "American Cyborgs." Larissa Lai's
> "rachel" poems in *Automaton Biographies* pair magnificently with both *Blade
> Runner* and Haraway, Susan Slaviero's "Consider the Dangers of
> Reconstructing Your Wife as a Cyborg" humorously (and menacingly)
> complements our cyborgs and gender unit, and Margaret Rhee's ": Trace" from *Radio
> Heart* introduces "Race," in the title's wordplay, as a social
> construction already-already present even when it hasn't been "programmed
> yet." The "robot" in her book's subtitle pays homage to Asimov stories in
> which robotic identity is linked to race and discrimination such as
> "Bicentennial Man" and "Segregationist." And there is the short film for
> the lyrics of "Many Moons,'" set amid an updated slave auction, where
> Janelle Monae presses a button at her neck to change the skin color of her
> android character. Studying robot poetics and robot subjectivity becomes a
> way of talking about fights for civil rights, human rights--and the
> interpretation of documents from the Declaration of Independence to the
> U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
> I'm very eager to hear how others in the forum have taught any form of
> robopoetics, and in what contexts, or with what results...
> Best,
> -Susan
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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