Paul D. Miller on Sun, 23 Sep 2001 00:40:27 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> from hypertext to codework

Ken - I'm sitting here in Florida, and just have to sigh a little 
bit. This is the problem with the digital media scene - it is SUPER 
WHITEBREAD - there is alot more going on....  I'm not attacking you, 
I just wish that the computer "art/literary" scene - especially where 
it comes to "language as code" - would think about precedents for 
theater and spectacle outside of the normal discourse that goes on in 
spots like nettime... at the end of the day, the "visual interface" 
that most of digital culture uses to create art/text/etc etc is not 
neutral, and again, this is a Mcluhan refraction of the old inner 
ear/eye thing, but with a little bit more of a technical twist. 
There's a great essay that the physicist David Bohm wrote on this 
topic called "Thought as a System" - the idea of progress is a 
convergence of these "visual cues" that hold the eye and hand 
together when we think... Multi valent/multi-cultural approaches to 
language and all of the sundry variations its going through right 
now, are what make this kind of stuff alot more interesting... Artaud 
was the fellow who invented the term "virtual reality" not Jaron 
Lanier... think of the media repetitions of the WTC as a scene out of 
"Theater of Cruelty" and combine it with how mourning passes through 
the media sphere a la Princess Diana's death etc etc and you get the 
idea of the whole gestalt of this kind of thing... or even the way 
that linguistic permutation has evolved out of music and spoken text 
(think of Cab Calloway or Kurt Schwitters or later material like John 
Cage's 'mesotics' (I'm writing this off the cuff... did I spell that 
right?), and even the way dj's play with words while spinning music 
in a set - this in itself is one of the major developments of 20th 
century culture: the ability not just to accept the linguistic 
regulations of a situation (again, Debord meets Grand Master 
Flash...) - but to constantly change them. This is one of the major 
issues that Henry Louis Gates wrote about in his "Signifying Monkey" 
essay a long while ago, but you can easily see the digital component 
of the same system of thought on-line when people play with words as 
domain names etc etc....  there's shareware like Ray Kurzweil's 
Cybernetic Poet

and hip-hop material like Saul Williams and Kool Keith, and even the 
way the poetry of algorithms became rhythm (there's a great site on 
the history of drum machines...

and out of Australia, there's the global digital poetry site that 
uses algorithms to create text and hyperlinks:

or even the "visual thesaurus" that creates 3-D models of how words 
relate to one another...

and even more MAX/MSP based code material from stuff like composer 
Karlheinz Essl's explorations of free jazz and code structures with 
his "lexicon-sonate" programs:

or nifty stuff like Chris Csikszentmihalyi's "Robot Dj" that does 
stuff like cuttin' and scratchin' - after all "phonograph" breaks 
down to "Sound - writing" i.e.  "phonetics of graphology..."

sequencing and figuring out different permutations as core aspects of 
code is an archetypal situation at this point... Alan Sondheim is 
perhaps the equivalent  of an MC for Nettime, but again, the field 
could and should be expanded at this point.

the idea here is to point out
1) multi-cultural variations in language (Stephen Pinker does a great 
job of describing "patois" and cultural change as linguistic 
variation in his "How the Mind Works") as a platform for figuring out 
how codes evolve out of linguistic systems
2) multi cultural takes on this are alot more fun... and the parties 
are alot better, and the music is alot better...
3) what next? Ken - how about a nick name - "Dj Oulipo" or something...


>McKenzie Wark
>What happens to writing as it collides with new media? I was thinking
>about this recently while looking over an exhibition of William Blake's
>work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. On display was not just Blake
>the artist, Blake the poet, or Blake the quirky revolutionary. Here was
>Blake the media artist.
>Blake assembled all of the elements of a media practice. As a writer he
>experimented with all aspects of the production process.  His aesthetic
>did not stop with the word on the page. Here, I thought, was a useful
>precursor to name for the new developments in writing that take place on
>the Internet, developments I will shortly define as "codework."
>But Blake is interesting in this connection only if one embraces all
>aspects of his productivity. There's a tendency, in the teaching of
>literature and the management of its canons, to separate off the authoring
>of the text from the other aspects of writing as a production. It's a
>tendency that full attention to Blake frustrates, given how fully he was
>invested in the implication of writing in all aspects of its production
>and circulation. BlakeÝs creation did not stop at the threshold of "text."
>Digging writing out of the prison-house of "text" might just be what is
>needed to unblock thinking about where the Internet is taking writing.
>There has always been more to writing than text, and there is more to
>electronic writing than hypertext.
>Hypertext may have come to dominate perceptions of where writing is
>heading in the Internet era, but it is by no means the only, or the most
>interesting, strategy for electronic writing. Hypertext writers tend to
>take the link as the key innovation in electronic writing spaces. In
>hypertext writing, the link is supposed to open up multiple trajectories
>for the reader through the space of the text.
>Extraordinary claims were made for this as a liberatory writing strategy.
>Hypertext has its limits, however. First, the writing of the text stands
>in relation to the writing of the software as content to form. The two are
>not really brought together on the same plane of creativity. Secondly,
>hypertext tends not to circulate outside of the academic literary
>community. It has its roots in avant-garde American and English literature
>and tends to hew close to those origins. Thirdly, it doesn't really
>rethink who the writer is, in the new network of statements that the
>expansion of the Internet makes possible. For all the talk of the death of
>the author, the hypertext author assumes much the same persona as his or
>her avant-garde literary predecessors.
>What is interesting about the emergence of codework is that it breaks with
>hypertext strategies on all three points. In many codework writings, both
>the technical and cultural phenomena of coding infiltrates the work on all
>its levels. Codework finds its home in a wide range of Internet venues,
>forming dialoguesˇsometimes antagonistic onesˇwith the development of
>other kinds of written communication in an emerging electronic writing
>ecology. Codework also sets to work on the problem of the author, bringing
>all of the tactics of the Internet to bear on the question of authorship.
>Codework "entities" such as Antiorp and JODI approach the Internet as a
>space in which to re-engineer all of the aspects of creative production
>and distribution. Antiorp is famousˇor rather infamousˇfor bombarding
>listservers such as the Nettime media theory list with posts that seem to
>parody the sometimes high-serious style of Internet media theory. It was
>often hard to tell whether the Antiorp writing emanated from a human
>source or from some demented "bot" programmed to produce the semi-legible
>Antiorp has spawned a number of alternative identities and imitators. It
>is with some trepidation that one would venture to assign codework texts
>to discrete authors. It may be best to take the fabricated heteronyms
>under which codework is sometimes published at face value, rather than to
>attempt to assign discrete flesh-and-blood authors.
>Some codework frustrates the assigning of authorship as a means of
>breaking down the link between authorship and intellectual property. The
>Luther Blissett project, for example, encourages writers to assume the
>name Luther Blissett. Many texts of various kinds have appeared under that
>name and without copyright.
>Some of the more prolific Luther Blissett authors subsequently became the
>Mu Ming Foundation, which claims to be a "laboratory of digital design"
>offering "narrative services." The Foundation sees itself as an
>ýenterpriseţ looking for strategies for regaining control over the
>production process for codeworkers.
>The "texts" JODI produces hover somewhere at the limit of what a text
>might be. A sample might look something like this:
>:: : :: :
>A classic JODI Web page may spit all kinds of "punctuation art"  across
>the screen. This work is neither writing nor visual art but something in
>between. The programming involved usually teeters on the brink of failure.
>Every technology brings into being new kinds of crashes or accidents, and
>JODI endeavors to find those accidents unique to the authoring of Web
>Integer sometimes makes interventions into discussions on listservers, all
>with variations on the same distinctive approach to breaking up the text
>and introducing noise into it, not to mention a somewhat abusive
>hypercritical persona.
>this - a l l this. = but 01 ch!!!!!!p. uneventful
>korporat fascist gullibloon zpektakle.
>This might be a mangled machine English, or perhaps an English written by
>a machine programmed by someone who speaks English as a second language,
>or someone producing a simulation of some such. The decaying grammar and
>spelling of the Internet here becomes a kind of aesthetic alternative.
>Rather than using e-mail and listservers, Alan Sondheim sometimes uses
>IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, as a means of collaboration and composition,
>as in "saying names among themselves," which begins:
>IRC log started Mon May 7 00:40
>*** Value of LOG set to ON
>*** You are now talking to channel
>	#nikuko
>*** Alan is now known as terrible
>*** terrible is now known as worries_i
>The text proceeds as what appears to be a collaboration between Sondheim
>and unwitting collaborators, who may or may not know that this writing may
>come to have the status of writing, rather than chat.
>Many codework texts hover on the brink of legibility, asking the reader to
>question whether the author is made of flesh or silicon, or perhaps
>whether authoring lies at the level of writing text or coding software to
>write text. Kenji SiratoriÝs texts may be machine-made or made to look
>Ant PC planetary, MURDEROUS CONSEQUENCES! body line
>TREMENDOUS HORROR! drugy miracle ADAM doll
>machinative angel:her soul-machine discharges MURDEROUS
>That text is called "Alan Sondheim-conference" and appears to be a
>response to a conference report by Sondheim.
>While some codeworkers pounce upon the texts of others as raw material for
>codeworking, St╚phan Barron asks others to volunteer texts. In "Com_post
>Concepts" he solicits contributions with a text that begins:
>Web surfers send in their texts by e-mail. All are then composted! Just as
>we ourselves are composted! Recycling as organic and cyclical technology,
>a technology of intelligence and responsibility, of the link to the
>natural and artificial world.
>The sender receives her or his own text back at weekly intervals, in an
>increasingly noisy and unintelligible state.
>The Internet emerges in much of this work as a noisy space, in which the
>structures of text decay and writing becomes granular, a chaotic space of
>temporary orders constantly becoming randomized. Yet within this chaotic
>space, the ýdestructive characterţ of the codeworker proposes new kinds of
>sensemaking that might, for a moment, keep the parasite of noise at bay.
>Another precursor one might mention, besides Blake, for the emerging world
>of codework, is the James Joyce of Finnegans Wake. In Wake, multiplicity
>can erupt at any point along the textual surface, not just at discrete
>hyperlinked nodes. Permutations, a Web site by Florian Cramer, reproduces
>in digital form many of the great combinatory text systems, from Raymond
>Lullus to Ramond Queneau. Cramer has also produced a codework machine that
>creates permutations on Finnegans Wake, called "Here Comes Everybody." It
>works at the level of the syllable, producing a virtual universe of new
>portmanteau words out of original Joyce-text.
>The Australian codeworker Mez has developed a distinctive prose style that
>she calls mezangelle, producing texts that tend to look like this:
>.nodal +death+-points swallowed in a
>.u begin 2 -f][l][ail-, ar][t][][is][ms all awry n caught in webbed
>Rather than link discrete blocs of text, or "lexias," to each other, Mez
>introduces the hypertext principle of multiplicity into the word itself.
>Rather than produce alternative trajectories through the text on the
>hypertext principle of "choice," here they co-exist within the same
>textual space.
>The interest of Mez's writings is not limited to this distinctive approach
>to the text. While the words split and merge on the screen, the authoring
>"avatar" behind them is also in a state of flux.  Texts issue, in various
>forms in various places, from data[h!bleeder, Phonet][r][ix, netwurker,
>and many other heteronyms.
>At the heart of the codeworking enterprise is a call for a revised
>approach to language itself. Many of the creative strategies for making or
>thinking about writing in the latter part of the twentieth century drew on
>Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics. In the hands of
>poststructuralists, language poets, or hypertext authors and theorists,
>this was a powerful and useful place to start thinking about how language
>works. But Saussure begins by separating language as a smooth and abstract
>plane from speech as a pragmatic act. Language is then divided into
>signifier and signified, with the referent appearing as a shadowy third
>term. The concept of language that emerges, for all its purity, is far
>removed from language as a process.
>What codework draws attention to is the pragmatic side of language.
>Language is not an abstract and homogenous plane, it is one element in a
>heterogeneous series of elements linked together in the act of
>communication. Writing is not a matter of the text, but of the assemblage
>of the writer, reader, text, the text's material support, the laws of
>property and exchange within which all of the above circulate, and so on.
>Codework draws attention to writing as media, where the art of writing is
>a matter of constructing an aesthetic, an ethics, even a politics, that
>approaches all of the elements of the process together. Codework makes of
>writing a media art that breaks with the fetishism of the text and the
>abstraction of language. It brings writing into contact with the other
>branches of media art, such as music and cinema, all of which are
>converging in the emerging space of multimedia, and which often have a
>richer conception of the politics of media art as a collaborative practice
>than has been the case with writing conceived within the prison-house of
>from American Book Review
>We no longer have roots, we have aerials.
>~~~~~~~~~~ McKenzie Wark ~~~~~~~~~
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