Algolit: Data Workers (2019) [English/French]

27 March 2019, dusan

Data Workers is an exhibition of algoliterary works, of stories told from an ‘algorithmic storyteller point of view’ taking place at the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, from 28 March until 29 April 2019

“Companies create artificial intelligence (AI) systems to serve, entertain, record and learn about humans. The work of these machinic entities is usually hidden behind interfaces and patents. In the exhibition, algorithmic storytellers leave their invisible underworld to become interlocutors. The data workers operate in different collectives. Each collective represents a stage in the design process of a machine learning model: there are the Writers, the Cleaners, the Informants, the Readers, the Learners and the Oracles. The boundaries between these collectives are not fixed; they are porous and permeable. At times, Oracles are also Writers. At other times Readers are also Oracles. Robots voice experimental literature, while algorithmic models read data, turn words into numbers, make calculations that define patterns and are able to endlessly process new texts ever after.

The exhibition foregrounds data workers who impact our daily lives, but are either hard to grasp and imagine or removed from the imagination altogether. It connects stories about algorithms in mainstream media to the storytelling that is found in technical manuals and academic papers.”

“All works visible in the exhibition, as well as the contextual stories and some extra text material have been collected in a publication, which exists in French and English.”

Texts: Cristina Cochior, Sarah Garcin, Gijs de Heij, An Mertens, François Zajéga, Louise Dekeuleneer, Florian Van de Weyer, Laetitia Trozzi, Rémi Forte, Guillaume Slizewicz.

Publisher Constant, Brussels, 2019
Free Art License

Book website

HTML (English)
HTML (French)

The Guests Go in to Supper (1986)

4 November 2018, dusan

Featuring the works of seven composers, John Cage, Robert Ashley, Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Charles Amirkhanian, Michael Peppe, and K. Atchley, who employ text as an integral part of their compositions, The Guests Go in to Supper is a collection of scores, texts, and interviews with the composers on their ideas on music, daily life, and the future’s possibilities.

Edited and designed by Melody Sumner, Kathleen Burch, and Michael Sumner
Foreword by Frances Butler
Introductions by Charles Shere
Publisher Burning Books, Oakland & San Francisco, 1986
ISBN 0936050055, 9780936050058
384 pages

Reviews: Mitchel Gass (Leonardo, 1988), (), (), ().



Melpomene: Bagabone, Hem ‘I Die Now (1980)

26 October 2018, dusan

Bagabone, Hem ‘I Die Now (1980) is perhaps the first novel that was purportedly written by a computer.

The back flap of the dust jacket states this about the book’s origins: “Can a computer write a novel? To find out, some experts in literature, linguistics, and computers at the Institute of Science and Technology, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, programed a computer, Melpomene, with English verb patterns and semantic (i.e., meaning) units drawn from twentieth-century women writers, as well as D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and some ‘angry young men’ of the 1960s. Then they added some patterns and units from Pidgin English and French, and the astounding result is Bagabone, Hem ‘I Die Now. Melpomene, which is the name of the Greek muse of tragedy, picked the title; translated from Pidgin English, it means, ‘Bagabone (a character in the novel) is dying.'”

Following its publication, Computer World published an article (“Publisher Claims Computer Composed Novel”, 25 Aug. 1980, p. 23) effectively defeating the publisher’s claim about the work’s computational origins. In the article, AI experts deem the novel to be human-written, and another source reports that there is no ‘Institute of Science and Technology’ at Jagiellonian University. Moreover, due to its mode of operation, the publisher (Vantage Press) would apparently have been paid to print the book. The copyright holder for Bagabone was a human—an Englishman named G.E. Hughes—who could not be reached by Computer World. (Intriguingly, this copy of the book is inscribed by one ‘Eric Hughes’, though this could be coincidental.)”

Publisher Vantage Press, New York, 1980
ISBN 0533042496, 9780533042494
136 pages
via James Ryan (xfoml)

Commentary: Peter Swirski (2013), James Ryan (2017), Joanna J Bryson (2018).


PDF (40 MB)
Internet Archive