“10 Print ebooks” by Mark Sample

Screen captures from "10 Print ebooks" by Mark Sample. Two small blocks of text in a white background. Text from box number one: "This was not interested in. Could easily be removed from years / afterward, purposeful designer" Text from box number two: "The value of purposeless play on computers. Bounded and the / player's in Asteroids can turn and fire in many first person games".
Open “10 Print ebooks” by Mark Sample

This Twitter bot generates tweets using two data sets: the text of the MIT Press book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 and any tweets with the #10print hashtag. The generator uses a Markov chain process to analyze a text and determine the probability of any word following another to generate a new string of words that resembles the original and publishes it on Twitter. Here are some examples:

Screen capture from "10 Print ebooks" by Mark Sample. Five small blocks of text in a white background. Text from box number one: "The shape of the original. Possible to dictate the twisted line up / in 1999 by the supposed game rationality of the game aesthetics today." Text from Box number two: "Only recently have the meanings of random numbers". Text from box number three: "One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, Strachey is dismissive of / his writing, lectures,  and classes". Text from Box number four: "Instead, The Maze War is poorly for studying telephone / book". Text from Box number five: "Once The original".

How do we describe these generated tweets? Are they sentences? Phrases? Lines of verse? Would a more generic term be more appropriate as a descriptor, such as “text string?” Perhaps. But what’s the fun in that? And it is a fun project— certifiably so, since it was the 2nd runner up in the “Best use of DH for Fun” category of the 2012 DH Awards. Tweets like the third or fourth quoted above create grammatical sentences that are illogical or false, but interestingly so. To think of a Maze War as a framework for studying the telephone book is provocatively absurd. And there are other gems to be discovered in this bot’s tweet stream.

Poetically, this could be described as Flarf, a next-generation cut-up, or a kind of Language practice. It is also a generative language maze: taking the logically organized lines of prose that the book is written in and twisting them into obliqueness, creating a complex emergent set of twisty little passages.

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