What Would I Say: Social Media Poetics

I have a feeling I’m already behind the trend (with the high pace of digital culture, that’s often the case), but for the past week or so I’ve been mulling over the newly emerged social app called What Would I Say. In short, the online application accesses a user’s past activity on Facebook and generates a status based on computations. In reality, it takes the user’s words, phrases, and sentences and remixes them into a new creation. I saw others using it, resisted it, then decided to check it out.

Like others, I was fascinated–mostly at seeing my own words (some I had forgotten ever writing) remixed in ways I never imagined seeing or hearing them. Some results were ridiculous, some were hilarious, some were sad, some gave me pause, and some struck me as brilliant. This brilliance wasn’t for my own words, though, but in the poetic quality that I saw in the compositions. More and more, I considered these little moments of literary invention, even reading in them a certain sense of poetics.

As I reflected, continued clicking for new results, I came to ask more and more questions, mainly revolving around two ideas: Can a computer create literature, poetry? What imbues poetry with what literary scholars consider poetics?

This thinking about composition certainly moves us toward postmodern considerations, eschewing any kind of intention or the now familiar fallacies about authors that challenged previous generations of readers. Instead, computational composition (note the etymological relationship based on combination: cum + putare, “to reckon together,” and cum + poser, “to place together”) moves us closer to reader responses. Even more, whether we read computer-generated compositions as “poetry” or not, they prompt us to consider how our own voices undergo new media adaptations. I’m reminded of Kirby Ferguson’s claim–with which I’m inclined to agree–claim that “Everything Is a Remix.” The results of the What Would I Say app are mashups not by the direct actions of human revisers but by algorithms now undertaken by digital technologies, even if programmed by human logic at the root of the code.

Seeing my own words remixed made me wonder: How much agency should I assign to myself and how much to the computer? Or, for that matter, how much agency or authorial status should we assign to the programmers who wrote the code? The results of using What Would I Say are, in this respect, wonderful iterations of N. Katherine Hayles’s claims that we are more and more entangled with the code surrounding us in digital culture (My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts [Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005]). These results, then, can help us to acknowledge that we have become full collaborators with our technologies. This is the case with all technologies, of course; our self-reflections (meta-reflections) on digital culture just make us more aware of the fact.

Some favorite results:

Northrop Frye keeps winning at home.

It’s as well as refreshments. Come be amazed by bossy angels, chilling steel fish, and devouring giants. Stay up on reading.

Researching medieval Man at home…

We were just esoteric topics in humanities.

Other results:

The separation between adaptation criticism, what a Jackson I’m up staying home because of local warnings about bad kissing oral atrocity. provided, as of my tongue / Or hold of Adaptation as sad as the oracles spoke, from France I’d rather not think that’s true at 9:50am UK time; got through immigration fine; took tube to King’s Cross; walked about a 77-year-old man, named Norman MacLeod, Jr., enrolled in case Brandon is always do I look so overly enthusiastic about end of the week will be epic, it on Netflix, & right in London.

It’s as sad as if all of today’s 2-mile run first episode reminded me why we’re heading to NYC!

Spring is for the Spirit of Radio by Rush needs to Alexandra, Megg, & ass of 5 minutes after today’s 1st class, it’s official I own a Mac.

Just to Kalamazoo in May. Unfortunately, I will walk north to the British Crown, out good after that clause.

My mother-in-law just before finally happens, it will be amazed by childhood trauma!

Unlike other cancelled by being a dream you and me what IS certainly see more of the last two pages of my students formed into a riddle wrapped in different places.

You just asked me, come on by childhood trauma!

I don’t waste your time, time, what is going on with all these loose ends there are a noble race fearless, dignified, and today I celebrate Emily for the year.

Just to clarify, it was epic, it anymore? J No, not anymore. Me …

This morning, I share Status Photo Video Question…

Today Christiana Don’t, won’t, or can’t?

Don’t normally do that.

The separation between C3-PO and R2-D2.

You just asked me to the fifth sentence and glad for it.

That is a movie and in person, if we didn’t bring costumes…

When did you know dolphins can rule out Moses as a wonderful time in Strasbourg, examining a Sandwich. I love it.

I’m compiling a list of the interlibrary loan team for the composition of De la la la is improving slowly.

No, no, it’s called, she has now.

That’s what you provided him mostly convinced that anthropology and history teach us about these issues *not* addressed in Brown wherever he is Your Bosworth-Toller?

The separation between adaptation & headed to this planet Earth…

Chris, as the medicines is also effective against them all.

It’s as sad as if I bought Worms for us; left at 10:30pm, overnight to London; landed at the burdens of zombies yet, but I keep seeing the city boarding soon.

I don’t know my story when the Rise of the box that I’m interested in is language based translation.

Thanks for which to have one more art, music, & others!

While picking trains to play nice. It’s called, she would be awesome.

I don’t have my own copy the rules as such, but it has retired from the snakes.

My mother-in-law just said, I’ll get worse later tonight we’re partying at last, I can’t figure out how to check it quite a bit of the reporter later tonight we’re partying at the date for the early European Studies, to tag these as folk a link button.

May the field forget the Pig and she said matter-of-factly, Iceland!

Ugh, I like the choice and don’t think this says a lot of 8:15pm out of hell…

There is an x kind of the Ancient World!

The separation between The lines there’s a next time.

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