Digital Cut-Ups: Teaching Creative Writing with Programming

Here’s a short piece I wrote for ReadWriteWeb about a course at ITP:

So how exactly is Python programming useful in creative writing? Parrish’s course doesn’t deal with artificial intelligence, or attempts at creating narratives or creating interactive hypertext or anything like that. It covers, for lack of a better term, procedural poetry. Typically, a student takes a starting set of text, writes a Python program to modify that text and then interprets the results.

Parrish cited non-electronic procedural poetry experiments as inspirations for the course. For example, he talked about Raymond Queneau’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes, a book in which the text has been cut into strips that can be re-arranged to create nearly endless configurations:

Parrish also mentioned Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets and David Melnick’s PCOET. Parrish didn’t mention them in his talk, but the course website also mentions Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs’ work with the cut-up technique.

ReadWriteWeb: Teaching Creative Writing with Programming

See also:

My interview with Douglas Rushkoff on why YOU should learn to program

William S. Burroughs’s computer artworks – “Cybernetic Cut-ups”

The Palinomicon (introduction)

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Oooo…very scary!

“I debated where I should blog about this or not, but here goes.

A couple of days ago I received a package from Juneau, Alaska – its ends taped over with duct tape several times over, my address written on a black magic marker, in a tight, clipped scrawl (without my name) and with no return address. The package smelled like bug spray. A little bit scared, I nonetheless cut open the package, and cutting into the layers it felt like I was back in 8th grade dissecting a frog. Anyway, inside was a modest-size, 3-ring binder from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and in the binder were a series of photocopied pages. Maybe 40 or 50. I flipped through it and it became clear to me that someone had photocopied pages of a book – and a book of such design that even now, writing this, I am afraid to contemplate. The first page depicted a cover, and this one was the blurriest of them all, since it appeared the cover had bumps and ridges. On the cover was a single line of a text from an alphabete that I couldn’t decipher, almost looking like cyrillic that had sat in the sun too long and melted a little. Rather helpfully, though, a post it note – also part of the photocopy – explained that ‘See here!!! it says ?The Palinomicon.”

Though the very thought of actually holding this book in my hands filled me with dread, even flipping through a copy of the book – a ghost of it, if you will – still greatly unsettled me. The book was a cauldron of alternating English and the aforementioned script, each page containing verses (spells?) and paeans to barely discernible, devilish forces that the author of the book somehow took to be, at times, angelic and beneficient. I could not think of a more terrifying cosmological thesis to structure one’s mad inhabitations of language.”

(via Goblin Mercantile Exchange. See also: “More From The Palinomicon”)

[Disclaimer: Technoccult is not responsible for any demons unleashed by untrained magickians attempting to unlock The Palinomicon. We are still combating the war and financial demons unleashed by those neophytes who messed with The Bushnomicon.]

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