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

Ruth Aylett r.s.aylett at hw.ac.uk
Thu May 4 20:12:20 AEST 2017


As a researcher in robotics and also a poet, impressed by how divergent the discussion is so far from my own experience of either.

Working with real robots and trying to overcome their profound limitations gives me a view some distance from the idealisations in your theory. As actual robots they are pretty unfunctional pieces of machinery: the interesting thing is indeed human perceptions, mediated strongly by fiction and film in particular, rather than by real experiences of interaction. Even in interaction of course people take Dennet’s intentional stance and ascribe social agency, though our studies of long-term interaction show that once the pronounced novelty effect disappears, the impoverished interaction content tends to produce disappointment and disengagement. This at least counteracts the sensationalism of popular conceptions - people do love to feel scared of robots.

With my researcher hat on I could also wish that people would not blur the distinction between robots - autonomously running a sense-reflect-act cycle so as to act on their own physical embodiment and thus on the physical environment - and purely software-driven artefacts generating poetry (or trying to) algorithmically, sometimes with a human partner. It is perfectly possible to produce an artistically valid experience either way, but as poetry pretty much only within that part of the field that prioritises experimental forms over semantic content. While death-of-the-author etc allows us to construct meaning ourselves, irrespective of authorial intentions,	the usual absence of intended semantics does make this a lot harder I feel.	 Exposing the process - which does/can have authorial intent - may work better than the traditional artefact view of a poem.

So in teaching these things, I could wish that valid artistic conceptualisations  would not reinforce widespread illusions about the realities.

Ruth
--


> On 3 May 2017, at 13:09, Babak Fakhamzadeh <babak.fakhamzadeh at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Here's another example of 'robot poetry': http://saunteringverse.com. It's a mobile app that, based on the user's location, auto generates poetry, using what3words as the source of the contents of the poems.
> The more the user walks, the longer the poem gets.
> 
> Here's an example:
> 
> Up until modest divisions aboard a sketch puff
> 
> Sling about looks, arrow double claims pocket near to the deflection
> 
> He feed you
> 
> I space her
> 
> They letter it
> 
> We shave us
> 
> Source: https://saunteringverse.com/poem/149356969949.29.652/2993
> 
> 
> Babak Fakhamzadeh
> 
> --
> Babak Fakhamzadeh | babak.fakhamzadeh at gmail.com | http://BabakFakhamzadeh.com
> 
> On 2 May 2017 at 16:20, 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
> 
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--
Ruth Aylett                                   Professor of Computer Science
Mathematics and Computer Science, Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK      Tel: 44-131-451-4189     Fax: 44-131-451-3327
http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/                      "Life is beautiful"





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