Blue Sky Mine: Algorithms-R-Us

2014/05/25 § Leave a comment

While writing Bombastic Distributor, about how simply searching the web is a now a form of publishing, out came a couple of news stories which underlined and re-fram this claim.

A ruling forcing Google to remove search results has been described as “astonishing” by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. The European Courts of Justice ruled on Tuesday that an individual could demand that “irrelevant or outdated” information be deleted from results. Mr Wales said it was “one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I’ve ever seen”.

Notice that it is the engine providing search results not the old webpages which hold the outdated and irrelevant information which is held responsible.

“If you really dig into it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. They’re asking Google… you can complain about something and just say it’s irrelevant, and Google has to make some kind of a determination about that.  That’s a very hard and difficult thing for Google to do – particularly if it’s at risk of being held legally liable if it gets it wrong in some way. Normally we would think whoever is publishing the information, they have the primary responsibility – Google just helps us to find the things that are online.”

This makes sense as an old world argument, except I’d argue that the search returns as much a form of publishing as the original webpage makers are (and even any web-search itself).

The medium became the message a while ago, but now everything is publishing. The product is the advert, the reference is the real, the search for data is the information, if not the wisdom.

The other story is more about where everything, the internet of everything, is heading. The web search is a form of publishing because it is all part of a secret herbs and spices recipes of algorithms and past results which have an economic impact. This impact is at a base level of economic activity, and it already structures our lives. The other story is about a set of algorithms in corporate governance.

A venture capital firm has appointed a computer algorithm to its board of directors. The program – called Vital – will vote on whether to invest in a specific company or not. The firm it will be working for – Deep Knowledge Ventures – focuses on drugs for age-related diseases. It said that Vital would make its recommendations by sifting through large amounts of data.

If we can get rid of humans from corporate boards, then we will soon be able to get completely rid of managers, particularly if roboticised labour has already got rid of jobs generally. I.E. if there are no workers, there is no need for managers. If there are no managers there is no need for human governance at all. This venture capital firm is showing the way by putting an algorithm on it’s board. They probably think it is just a marketing lark but really it is very good news.

The end result will be that there will be no difference between the dividend and the dole. No difference between tax and rent.

What were once different can no longer be differentiated, no doubt libertarians will still wank on about their property fetish, no doubt socialists will want to defend workers rights even though no one works, or even consumes, one merely desires this or that, and no doubt the religious will still pray for the poor in spirit that are always with us… but all this is good news.

Preexisting Formats and the New Format: Compositional Poetry

2013/03/11 § 1 Comment

Following on from Formats and Genres being Rituals I’m now reading David Byrne in How Music Works, where he states, in contrast to the lone genius coming up with some expressive creative outpouring, that:

I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.

He then begins to support this claim with a description of how the context of a performance influences how it is listened too, or rather, if it cannot be heard, if it doesn’t work acoustically, then it will not get performed. (This is basically the opening of the book and it’s all I’ve read so far).

I.E. that the formats we instinctively write for are determined by the contexts in which the formats are themselves created (as socially and economically constructed in other words).

That the acoustic environment of the places where we choose to attend to music influences the style, the format of the music, which we then subsequently associate with a particular type of music. (No doubt this attention to the acoustic environment is just the opening of what ‘context’ means in this book.)

This means that what is perceived as religious music will depend on the environment in which we attend religious rites and services. Complex rhythmic spirituals developed when dancing and chanting in a forest clearing will not work in cavernous cathedrals, but simple slower changing music will cope with, if not incorporate, the reverb.

Now having attempted to create a couple of formats (Compositional Poetry and the Unnsonnet) it occurs to me that to get them work I have to find or make the right space fo them. Or find an unused space and adapt my multi-voice pieces to them.

Everything leads back to marketing, as the context of context, the meta-context of both our creative and ritualistic impulses. I don’t think it possible for a lone genius to ever do that alone.

I’ll just have to wait to be picked up after I’m dead. Even if I had the natural skills to be a marketeer, I do not have the interest. So I’ll just put it out there on the internet and see what happens.

If something really is a new format it is very hard to describe. (Let alone promote. If it was about cats or pets generally of course it would meme-ify and promote itself.)

Compositional Poetry
Compositional Poetry is a form of read-together poetry written in a number of voices and is performed much like a musical score, where the voices speak their lines according to their responsibilities, not in chorus, not in soliloquy, not taking turns, but all of these and none. Each voice is thus not a character as a role in a play or opera, though characters may appear of their own volition. Stories may emerge of their own inclination.

Currently I am writing a new compositional poem. Working title “MAKE”. I do one every ten years or so.

No Longer Writes for Humans

2012/05/02 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I said “writers may create new styles when they break with tradition, but it is readers who maintain the formats writers are allowed to use. True experimentation occurs when readers notice and try something new.

Today I read Poetry on the Brink Reinventing the Lyric, which opens with comments on the dull well-crafted poem’s dominance, where there are gazillions of poets reading and writing but in doing so create an extraordinary uniformity.

These two points are a similar notice. The review then goes on to tear at the editorial decisions of two poetry anthologies on American poetry Rita Dove’s Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011) and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (2009) editors, Cole Swensen and David St. John. Editing an anthology is a special type of reading, it is a form of curating a collection. The review interrogates the decisions those editors made.

So perhaps yesterday’s computer analysis on style provides an answer to those queries.

Don’t write for posterity, don’t write because you’re a creative, don’t write for yourself, above all don’t write for readers.

Computer analysis is the only reader to write for now, the field is too large for any human, or team of human editors.

This is why I have used the by-line, the catch-phrase, “No Longer Writes for Humans” for some years now.

Of course while sculpting recently I’ve (re-)discovered Conceptual Art and found the same Mannerist uniformity there despite the multitudes of media and form and gazillions of artists. ( I am an old failed Language Poet era newbie, at least my stuff was seen to have stuff in common with some American group I had never heard off when I was 20 or so—– so the over-weaning affinities between Conceptual Art and Language Poetry are obvious.)


One Hundred Live and Die, Neon and glass tubing, 1984 by Bruce Nauman

The inference is that I must be making art and sculpture for computers too. Only they will have the capacity to view it all and not be uniformed by it, they are the ultimate collectors, the perfect hoarder is digital, and it is the collectors, the readers who define the market.

#Modernist #Writers experiment, #readers maintain the form

2012/05/01 § 1 Comment

Abstract from Quantitative patterns of stylistic influence in the evolution of literature

Literature is a form of expression whose temporal structure, both in content and style, provides a historical record of the evolution of culture. In this work we take on a quantitative analysis of literary style and conduct the first large-scale temporal stylometric study of literature by using the vast holdings in the Project Gutenberg Digital Library corpus. We find temporal stylistic localization among authors through the analysis of the similarity structure in feature vectors derived from content-free word usage, nonhomogeneous decay rates of stylistic influence, and an accelerating rate of decay of influence among modern authors. Within a given time period we also find evidence for stylistic coherence with a given literary topic, such that writers in different fields adopt different literary styles. This study gives quantitative support to the notion of a literary “style of a time” with a strong trend toward increasingly contemporaneous stylistic influence.

I can’t read the PDF of the article so I’ll rely on the following from Literature Runs From Its Past

“Make it new!” declared Ezra Pound (shown), demanding that writers shrug off the literary influence of the past. Indeed, an analysis published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that Pound and his Modernist peers obeyed the dictum to a degree never before seen in English literature. Scientists examined the statistical patterns of words in 7733 English-language works in the Project Gutenberg database, starting in 1550 and spanning 4 centuries. This analysis differed from previous works in its large scale and its focus on how authors used 307 “content-free words” such as prepositions, articles, forms of “to be,” and pronouns. Researchers discovered that most authors wrote in a similar style to those immediately preceding them, and that this influence diminished steadily over time—which is not surprising, but it bolsters the largely subjective idea of a distinct style for each era. The scientists also found that not all eras treated the past equally. Overall, writers showed the most stylistic similarity to those who preceded them by about a quarter century, but authors between 1907 and 1952—which included the heyday of Modernism—showed the most stylistic differences to their immediate predecessors. Researchers attribute this early 20th century “revulsion” partly to the make-it-new ethos, and partly to the increasing number of books published in modern times, which left writers less time to ruminate on scribes who came before.

One comment here is that writers may create new styles when they break with tradition, but it is readers who maintain the formats writers are allowed to use. True experimentation occurs when readers notice and try something new.

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! ”

Another comment is that most readers have put the best of the modernist writers in a boxed set, and put them on the shelf, to be safely ignored, even if admired when they add to footage of total books to the library.

Compositional Poetry (1994 & 1999)

2012/04/02 § Leave a comment

In 1994 in Hobart, Tasmania, I invented ‘Compositional Poetry’. I say invented because I have never seen anything like it anywhere else.

I was pushed into creating this new form because I had been wrestling with a very long poem for months, and could find no way to trim it back into some sort of coherency, so I started to chop it into phrases and allocated these phrases to voices of various responsibility, as if this voice would say that wouldn’t it?

I decided on eight voices or responsibilities because eight is a natural group size for humans from a hunter-gatherer background. Beyond a dozen many human brains start to loose track.

I decided these voices were not ‘characters’ or ‘roles’, but ‘responsibilities’ because the voices were not personalities but drives, concerns, attitudes, needs and desires. Each voice was articulating this ‘energy’ as their responsibility, adding to the performance when necessary, but they were not necessarily competing, nor necessarily co-operating. That was the work of the readers.

To read the compositional poem eight people had to read it aloud together. If you watch or listen to this reading, it is only then a performance. Each performance will have its own character because of those who read it, not because of how I may have written the voices.

Below is the first page from all)bitternessandapathy. Click on it to see it at a better size.


The reading starts with all eight saying ‘all)bitternessandapathy’. Then all eight say ‘all)opening’. Which is what the opening section is called. In this section each of the voices introduce themselves in their nominal or natural order beginning with
1) The killer fills the space between me
then two starts with
2) The power follows content
and here voice 1) also says the word ‘content’ at the same time that 2) does.
They may well read it differently though, with different stress. 2) may say the word ‘content’ as ‘conTENT’, stressing the word’s use indicating satiety or ease. Voice 1) may stress the word as CONtent, emphasizing what is held within.
then voice 3) introduces themselves with
3) the witness sees full denial
while 2) says ‘seeks’ cued to when 30 says ‘sees’
And so on.

Back in 1994 I called this form ‘multi-voice poetry’ but I was never very happy with the term. Six years later while writing Shag Bay I realised that as it was structured like music then it was ‘composed’ not written. Also, a choir is multi-voiced if usually aiming to a uni-vocal completeness, so calling a it multi-voiced after voice rather than how it was written was a bit confusing.

By then I had also read Bergsonism by Delueze and loved the idea of a compositional space. Might be completely wrong for science, but compositional space is great for animals like us to live in. Compositional space feels more alive because it describes the evolutionary reality of our umwelt among umwelten. Of multiple compositions all going on at the same time, and so bringing together competitive cooperation. Relativity in time-space continuums is meh.

Compositional poetry is a making that brings together. The writing is an exploded soliloquy but the reading together is the thing.


2010/02/19 § 1 Comment

Saccades are quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction.

In a writing a twitter story it may help to know how people read in terms of the biophysical mechanics of eye movement. One of the things people’s eyes do is to skip around while reading. This is because we can only take in so much in one chunk, and we like to jump ahead, or check back to what has gone before.

This picture shows the acuity of foveal vision in reading (during one eye stop). The lower line of text simulates the acuity of vision with the relative acuity percentages. To do a test close one eye, fixate the upper line at the fixation point and try to read the words to the right and left without moving your eyes. The result should be similar to the incrementally blurred lower line of text - except that you never have the impression of a blurred text. The reason: Your visual perception is already the result of a massive computational analysis made by your brain. Your system "knows" that the upper line is not blurred, so you don't see it as blurred. But the difficulty of recognition increases with the distance from the fixation point.

In terms of a twitter story’s elements it means that hiding things in pain sight is a bit difficult as people will tend to jump ahead of where they are reading, and a more predictable ending may well be saccaded over before they get there consciously. A non-cliched use of words will help here to maintain the surprise.

In terms of saccading back, readers will flick back to the beginning to check that they’ve ‘got it’. It will help readers reinterpret those first elements, and help them to build the story from the hints.

(If I look at the fixation point above I can actually see from ‘only’ to ‘five’ quite well. Does that mean my acuity is above average? Do people vary in acuity? Does this explain why some people find it harder to read?)

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