“Zig and Zag” is one of ten ciberpoems created by the writer Sérgio Capparelli and the graphic designer Ana Cláudia Gruszynski for “Ciberpoesia” website that features a series of 28 visual poems created by the Brazilian duo. Like “Bembo’s Zoo,” this is more than just digital versions for visual poems also published in a printed book, the ciberpoems of Capparelli and Gruszynski has an important educational role, it catches the interest of children and youth for digital poetry through creative and stimulating presentation.
As a father of two children, aged 4 and 7, I’m interested in how electronic literature can help them develop literacy beyond the traditional training in paper-based literacy they receive in preschool and school. Let’s face it, while it is important for children to learn to produce legible longhand, they should probably also learn to type without looking at the keyboard. More importantly, I want them to be exposed to works that help them develop digital literacy. In this entry, I will list some works that my children that have enjoyed while they learn to engage language in digital environments.
If you have been reading my daily entries on bots, and have explored the resource that compiles them, you may have noticed the great variety, sophistication, and artistry that characterizes this emergent genre. With these daily postings, I have tried to take a snapshot of a vibrant moment for this artistic and literary practice, knowing all along that it is growing too quickly to fully capture.
At face value this bot seeks solutions to what many call “the crisis of the Humanities” by offering “tips on how to stop the crisis in the humanities. Real solutions!” Its operation is conceptually straightforward: it completes a sentence template that begins with “To save the humanities, we need to” and then completes the sentence, I imagine with the results of a search in Twitter for tweets that contain “we need to” or “we must.” This creates grammatically correct sentences that offer solutions that vary in their fit or appropriateness. For example:
These two bots are based on the concept of snowclones, which are a linguistic phenomenon best described by Erin O’Connor in her wonderful blog and resource “The Snowclones Database.”
A snowclone is a particular kind of cliche, popularly originated by Geoff Pullum. The name comes from Dr. Pullum’s much-maligned “If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z”. An easier example might be “X is the new Y.” The short definition of this neologism might be n. fill-in-the-blank headline.
Fill in the blank mnemonic phrases? This is ripe for a bot treatment.
The three bots reviewed in this entry all carry out essentially the same technique– they create a tweet based on the juxtaposition of material from two different sources– yet produce output that feels quite different. The reasons for this are partly thematic, partly due to the data source, and partly because of the way the join the juxtaposed elements.
An important early bot that uses this technique is Ranjit Bhatnagar’s @Pentametron, which retweets iambic pentameter tweets joined by end rhyme and creating surprisingly cohesive and occasionally humorous couplets. Juxtaposition is also a poetic technique that became prominent with Modernism and is a central strategy in Ezra Pound’s poetry and poetics. This entry will analyze “Two Headlines” by Darius Kazemi, “Dreams, juxtaposed” by Allison Parrish, and “And Now Imagine” by Ivy Baumgarten.
This deceptively simple bot searches Twitter for the #FalseFlag hashtag and retweets the results. Here’s an example of its output:
— William Bonney (@TheRenegadeRev) June 14, 2014
The concept of the false flag is born from mistrust of the government and lends itself to elaborate conspiracy theories about covert operations on its own soil which are then blamed on terrorists. During the Bot Summit, Ben Abraham discussed this concept and explained some of his interest in redoing the original @FalseFlagBot, as seen in this video. Some of the conspiracy theory hashtags he mentions and a few others were conveniently listed (and retweeted by the original @FalseFlagBot) in this tweet.
This bot takes Tweet-sized snippets of text from movie reviews aggregated in Rotten Tomatoes, identifies nouns in the subject position, and replaces those with the names of right-wing pundits who appear regularly on the Fox News Channel, attaching the ironically intended hashtag #PraiseFOX. The bot was created essentially as joke for the politically charged comedy show The Colbert Report, as a reaction to the news that right-wing media had staff dedicated to refuting anything threatening to their ideological point of view, as explained by Stephen Colbert in the clip below.
These two bots generate responses to questions that have such subjective answers that no number of responses can really satisfy anyone, but do so in thought-provoking and amusing fashion.
“Is it art?” explores the challenge to the art world posed by the readymade Dada sculpture “Fountain,” attributed to Marcel Duchamp. His gesture of sending a standard urinal to be displayed in galleries as an art object, with a title and signed “R. Mutt” was very controversial and provoked questions about the nature of art. This bot is on an endless rant on the artistic or not artistic nature of different things, making statement such as:
Am I the only one who thinks transactions are not art?
— Is it art? (@IsItArtBot) June 12, 2014
This bot is “@thricedotted’s twittercat,” a virtual pet that interacts with them and its followers by doing the things cats do. Sometimes it meows or purrs, sometimes it describes actions, such as “*leaves dissected animals on the front step*” and
*gets into trouble* =^.^=
— glitch[FETA] ~(=^‥^) (@storyofglitch) June 12, 2014
These tweets occur on a seemingly random timer, but you can always get a reaction by interacting with it. For example, if you follow it on Twitter, it will follow you. If you address it, it responds.