This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
This found poem generator has been hiding in plain sight since October 16, 2010, since it is built into most of our Web browsers and in the Google main page. It is the Google Autocomplete feature (formerly a Google Labs feature called Google Suggest), which uses one of the largest crowd-sourced data sets in Internet history— Google searches— to suggest search strings to users as they type into their search windows. Nuotio and Omaheimo explain how we can find poetry in this space:
Google Poetics is born when Google autocomplete suggestions are viewed as poems.
Google’s algorithm offers searches after just a few keystrokes when typing in the search box, in an attempt to predict what the user wants to type. The combination of these suggestions can be funny, absurd, dadaistic – and sometimes even deeply moving.
The rest of their explanation is worth reading, because it finds human pathos and beauty where Google finds functionality. Their Google Poetics Tumblr blog compiles and shares examples of these found poems, broadcasting them via Twitter and Facebook, archiving them and expanding the scope of their project into other languages.
Digital language artist and scholar John Cayley has compared the Google search bar to a mouth, hungrily accepting everything we feed it and not giving back. Nuotio and Omaheimo have discovered its voice (which is our voice, echoed through its algorithms) and taught us to listen to its poetry.