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”

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the link to Parrish’s course, which pursues a methodology which increasing seems to be rather essential…essential to understand the algorithmic nuts and bolts of. Beliefs about how and why language is meaningful are bundled up in our ideas of “creative writing” and “artificial intelligence”… and even “awareness.”

    Hartman’s pyprose is worth playing with for a few minutes, even if you are not python savvy (like myself). Norvig’s recent “on chomsky…” makes explicit how probabilistic text understanding (the flip side to text generation) has advanced with increases in processing speed.

    And thanks, in general, for the technoccult endeavor. spent some time here…best of luck to you.

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