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

Davin Heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Thu May 4 05:56:16 AEST 2017

Starting on page 119 of Memmott's Digital Rhetoric and Poetics, you'll find
a very nice discussion of generators and "procedural affect" vis-a-vis
Montfort's Taroko Gorge (and its derivatives).

It helps me move towards an answer to the question of "where" a bot's
poetics are located.

A second piece that might be useful here is Montfort and Strickland's Sea
and Spar Between.  What I like about the "reading space" of the work is
that all 225 trillion stanzas can be mapped out as coordinates on a plane.
Here, instead of seeing the text generator as an "open-ended" process, our
experience of the sea is contained within a finite space (one that exceeds
human reckoning) rather than a linear stream of expressions.  As with
Taroko Gorge, it is worthwhile to experience the two different perspectives
of the piece: the screen output and the machine view (as well as the notes
that exist in the code).


On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 1:42 PM, VANDERBORG, SUSAN VANDERBORG <
SJVANDER at mailbox.sc.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I would like to add my thanks for the sharing of resources! Babak, yes,
> poetry apps and poetic games both evoke and challenge the postmodern truism
> of reader participation in fascinating ways. Alan and Michael, thank you
> for adding to the second sources list, especially New Directions in Digital
> Poetry, Writing Under, and Internet Unconscious. I also find very useful
> Marjorie Perloff's "Screening the Page / Paging the Screen," especially in
> the discussion of "differential texts" --"texts that exist in different
> material forms, with no single version being the definitive one." Nick
> Montfort's writings have been go-to pieces whenever I assign e-literature,
> and I would like to try teaching longer selections or the entirety of his
> #!, which again raises basic questions of what constitutes the poem (as
> Craig Dworkin suggests, familiar questions in Conceptual poetry as well)
> and what it means to read or run that poetic text/program. But also for MFA
> students, how does this change ideas of the poetic series or book
> manuscript?
> In my intro to poetry class, I also try to pair texts like "Song of
> Myself" with excerpts from Automaton Biographies. I send my students to the
> Whale Cloth press website that generously makes available Robert Grenier's
> Sentences, asking them to discuss the differences when they explore the
> original 500 index cards in the blue ivory box from Special Collections at
> our library--how the material experience, forms of access, and
> participatory aspects change with each of these versions--what it means,
> for instance, when the website chooses the card order.
> And yes, Radio Heart is very accessible from a number of pedagogical
> approaches, interrogating constructions of sexual identity as well as
> gender and race. A queer theory reading of "This Is How You Make Love to a
> Robot" would be terrific. I also like the emphasis on obsolescent
> technology; reminds me of Wershler's argument, paraphrasing Julian
> Stallabrass, that only when a technology is obsolete or junked do we see
> its system most clearly and how that system's constraints shaped us. Thanks
> for the recommendation of the Parker's poem; I had enjoyed her first book,
> Other People's Comfort but didn't know about robo-Beyonce.
> Margaret, the idea of "patron robot artists and poets" sounds great; how
> did that work in practice? Did students just research a particular sci-fi
> poet/artist, or did they get in touch with that person directly? It's
> exciting how much sci fi and speculative poetry has exploded in the past
> two decades alone.
> As for the question of bio poetry, I usually teach a bio poetry unit at
> the end of a poetry survey course to extend ongoing discussions about the
> nature of poetic text and poetic vehicle, issues of a fixed versus mutable
> poem, and techno-poetry. Eduardo Kac has always been very involved in
> "telepresence," robotic devices, and new media poetry (his reissued
> anthology is now titled simply Media Poetry). Christian Bok's corpus, too,
> has consistently explored meetings of poetry, science, and speculative
> fiction from Crystallography to the Xenotext. Their biopoetry also raises
> issues of what a "nonhuman" poetics might look like more generally.
> -Susan
> ________________________________________
> From: Margaret J Rhee [mrhee at uoregon.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, May 03, 2017 12:00 PM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] What is robot poetics? How/why should we teach it?
> 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
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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