Sunday, December 12, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] Science, Technology, Art, POETRY


Wanted to thank you for your really thoughtful post putting
some of our discussion in historical context, particuarly the work
of Margaret Masterman that I wasnt familiar with.

It makes explicit one of the interesting strands in new technologies
and poetry which is the excitement in the circles around emerging
computer technologies, cyrbernetics, systems theory= machine languages.
You mention that in 1968 computerized literature was a decade old'
and much of that history is grounding in experimental literature that
pre dates the computer of course.

I thought I would bring in another historical strand= two of the founding
editors of Leonardo Journal were Francois Le Lyonnais and Claude
Berge, both originally mathematicians= and members of the OULIPO
group which included Georges Peresc and Italo Calvino. Claude Berge
also started a groupe called OUPIMPO. which did for painting what
OULIPO did for literature ( harvard astronomer Whipple published an article in
Leonardo on 'stochastic painting:influenced by these ideas). Queneau's
a Hundred Billion poems was published in 1961. There must be a million
web poems these days that exploit their ideas- and there are automatic
web poems being
created as we speak !


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: Sat, Dec 11, 2010 at 2:32 AM
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Science, Technology, Art, POETRY

I wanted to also say a bit more about Margaret Masterman whose
Computerised Haiku made with Robin McKinnon was also a great feature
of the ICA's programme in the 60s when it was shown at Cybernetic
Serpendipity as has been well- documented. I have a bit of a
connection to this work as she lived in the house where my sister and
her family in Cambridge by coincidence now live and indeed I am
writing this email from a room at the top there.&#160; It was a house
where she stayed for many decades with her husband Richard Braithwaite
who was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge and they together
helped form a significant group called the Cambridge Language Research
laboratory - a constellation around which some vital work was done
relating to natural and machine language processing which had its base
further along the same road at No 20.  The point I wanted to make in
relation to our discussion is that Masterman and McKinnon's work did
something exceptional in 1968 in so f!
 ar as they allowed users to work directly with their programme - to
cite Wayne Clements thesis mentioned earlier by Paul Brown:

He says that 'in 1968 computerized literature was just a decade old.
In 1959 quite separately there were two initiatives Theo Lutz, on the
one hand and Brion Gysin on the other (with Ian Summerville, a
Cambridge mathematician) produced what may be the earliest examples of
computerised literature.
That both Lutz and Summerville were scientists is significant. So is
the algorithmic basis of each of their works. Access to computers was
limited for those of a more purely artistic or literary background.
Lutz' s work used a random number sequence to treat a text by Kafka,
whilst Gyss was a permutation of all the combinations of the words of
the phrase I AM THAT I AM. We will see this overtly mathematical
option was refused by the programmers of Computerized Haiku'

In Mastermans' essays which can be downloaded free at
we see that that some of the territory she was exploring with
colleagues have curious (or perhaps not so curious echoes) in relation
to our own debates here not least references to the basis of Western
thought in Greek origins and to the limitations of languages in terms
of expression. Even more interestingly Masterman (a student both of
the Chinese language and Wittgenstein during his period in Cambridge)
cites the philospher Whitehead as having stated that 'our logic would
have been better based on the Chinese than on the Greek' and was very
interesting in the different ways in which oriental and occidental
languages represent the world and Masterman also showed the influence
of Wittgenstein comparing his picture-theory-of-truth to the 'nature
and function of Chinese ideograms' which as a 'fundamental form of
language'. There's value here in considering the connections between
the making of poetry by machine and natural language processing which
was a big part of the Resea!
 ch Unit's work ----the CLRU were formative in terms of later
developments with respect to the Semantic Web and in a
neo-Wittgensteinean way (as is brilliantly outlined in a paper by
Harry Halpin which can be read at:&#160;

The idea of picture language and 'the poetic' and machine working in
combination together has been explored also very well by John Cayley a
translator of Chinese poetry and well-known in electronic literature
circles whose work can be viewed further at:

Drawing on scientific influences and extending the organic poetry
field towards autopoiesis from the '50s onwards was A R Ammons who
'married organicism and cybernetics' (see 'The Embodied "Autopoietics"
of Ammons's Long Poems - Jessica Lewis Luck -; A bit later, in
1983, he wrote in a poem called The Ridgefarm (1983)

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