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

Margaret J Rhee mrhee at uoregon.edu
Thu May 4 02:00:39 AEST 2017


Hi Susan and all,

Thanks for your responses, and I love this exciting list of works that 
Susan offers, alongside others! Many thanks to Davin, Babak, and Murat 
for your sharing of poetics, and resources. I'm interested in discussing 
further, the emphasis on form/interface as (robopoetics) and cinema. I 
also loved teaching Larissa Lai's Automaton Biographies, and it does 
pair splendidly with Blade Runner! Brian Kim Stefan's work is always 
exciting and generative to me, along with other writing on Electronic 
Poetry, such as New Media Poetics etc.

I am also interested in whether you can speak to your work on Eduardo 
Kac, and the bio in robo? That intersection is very exciting to me, and 
enjoyed engaged with your writing on Kac.

In terms of cinema, I taught a Fembot in Cinema course twice, and while 
I didn't include a lot of poetry, students were assigned patron robot 
artists and poets. The films we watched, Metropolis, Her, Ex-Machina, 
and Blade Runner, all embodied a poetics, but different of course, from 
poetry. So Im interested in what is similiar or different in terms of 
pedagogy when teaching this work.

What struck me was the literature courses I taught on robots, and the 
cinema courses both had a kind of excitement, not only from me, but from 
the students. Also a sensibility for those interested in robot poetics..

I think perhaps then, perhaps the science fictional must enter the 
conversation, and the pedagogical possibilities of SF when introduced 
into the classroom. By nature, robots seem to open up another dimension 
of learning for students, to think beyond the binary constructions of 
identity, which to me, feel pedagogically purposeful. Perhaps also to 
think about the future. It's something I've observed in these courses of 
primarily literature, and the other cinema.

I also wonder, is there something particular about robots within poetry? 
Perhaps it goes back to thinking of the genre of science fiction poetry? 
And how do we tease out electronic literature, as certainly machine 
poetics, but may not include robots? I think about the Young Hae Change 
Heavy Industries:

http://www.yhchang.com/THE_STRUGGLE_DANCE_VERSION.html

http://www.yhchang.com/CUNNILINGUS_IN_NORTH_KOREA.html

Certainly electronic literature, and new media art, but may not include 
robots? It is interesting to think of the grounding work that should 
happen to help students prepare when encountering electronic 
literature/new media art, and poetry of robots, or robopoetics...

I wonder if we think about the grounding work one often does to prepare 
students in their engagement with these "texts," or not?

"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 also love that you, bring up "Many Moons," and how Monae utilizes the 
cyborg in powerful ways around Black racialization and subjectivity, 
which leads us into thinking about gender too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHgbzNHVg0c

It leads me into thinking about the pedagogical interventions of 
teaching about robots, in the context of civil rights and equality. Do 
others find this a generative pedagogical intervention as well? Also, 
for those actively creating, another question: when was your first time 
writing forms of robopoetics, how did it happen?

best,

Margaret

On 2017-05-02 12:20, VANDERBORG, SUSAN VANDERBORG 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

-- 
Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor
Women's and Gender Studies
University of Oregon


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