Meditation #4 assigned
- Make a prototype of an electronic spirit board or other method for facilitating automatic writing (communication from unconscious/subconscious/collective gesture.) (You can use procedural methods like those discussed in class, or invent your own method.) Questions to consider: How does your spirit board produce “coherence” (if, in fact, it does produce coherence)? Who is participating?
From last week’s readings, the different possible concepts of soul, spirit and legacy really struck me. Two of the readings mentioned post-mortem bots that would try to represent someone, and that got me thinking what is it in a person that can be replicated, and if that relates in any way to the idea of soul or spirit.
For this assignment, I wanted to relate to this idea of talking to the dead in a way that doesn’t feel unethical towards other people’s lives or beliefs, specially marginalized ones. For that, I thought about my own idea of soul and death, and I came across this recurring concept that one’s past is some sort of version of a person that no longer exists, which could mean that it is a dead version of a person, whether the person is still alive or not. A way to communicate with these stages of one’s personalities would be not by trying to access that person in the present moment, but by accessing the public documentation of that existence – in this case, past writings.
In thinking of what to do with this material, I thought about a way in which a person could use the help of someone else’s past to write. In this case, I decided to use a few books from the same author to feed a Markov model, constructing this tool with the idea that the past of this person will collaborate with the user in developing thoughts and associations. In this case, I am using Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium and Invisible Cities. Considering that Calvino is a deceased person, I was wondering how does that differ from Roman’s bot, but I believe that the fact that the writing is public changes the perspective a bit. Also, it is not by accident that I chose Six Memos – a book that was published after Calvino’s death –, which opens up for a new layer in the same discussion.
Still, the work that this program is doing is not the one to impersonate someone else, but the one to use a documentation of someone that existed in time to help someone else – existing in the present time – to develop thoughts. Invisible collaboration invites the user to write, and if the input matches inputs in the source text, the program responds with a new word, creating new perspectives to the line of thought.
A few outputs: