The work of art in the age of mech prod


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The work of art in the age of mech prod

  1. 1. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production<br />Thomas Cavanagh<br />University of Central Florida<br />
  2. 2. 2<br />Performance Support Technology<br />Helps a human use other technology<br />Compensates for performance gaps<br />Novice = Expert<br />Business performance: $<br />the goal of performance support technology is “not competence that resides in the individual, but rather performance that resides in the situation” (Rosenberg, p. 97)<br />
  3. 3. 3<br />Kiosk Culture<br />Thanks to PST…<br />any random consumer can now interact with complex technology formerly the domain of the trained service workforce (SST).<br />production of art is now accessible to almost everyone, even if utterly devoid of training, expertise, or even talent. <br />we have achieved the promise of Benjamin’s blurred distinction between artist and audience<br />
  4. 4. Application to Writing<br />Assistance is not new<br />Templates<br />Auto-correction<br />Auto-formatting<br />4<br />
  5. 5. Now Electronic Writing Assistance…<br />Goes beyond spell check, grammar, formatting<br />Brainstorming, story ideas, plot assistance<br />“(A)s your mentor, the Writer’s DreamKit will do something no other writing program can do—it predicts parts of your story based upon creative decisions you make!”<br />5<br />
  6. 6. Electronic Writing Assistance<br />Writer’s DreamKit: “You’ll never be alone when you work alongside the ‘Ultimate Creative Writing Partner.’ Together you’ll solve the plot and character problems that prevent many good stories from becoming great enough to sell…It’s like having a successful author sitting by your side and mentoring you.” <br />6<br />
  7. 7. Writing Assistance<br />Writer’s DreamKit™ <br />7<br />
  8. 8. Essential Questions<br />What is good writing/art?<br />Is writing/art produced with PST as valuable as that produced without it?<br />Who really is the writer/artist—the human, machine or some cyborg combination?<br />8<br />
  9. 9. Producer/Consumer<br />With technological writing support and accessible publishing/distribution (iUniverse, blogs, web sites, e-books, etc.), anyone can now be a writer.<br />The means of both production and distribution are democratized.<br />The “readerly” has literally become “writerly,” where “the reader [is] no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (Roland Barthes, S/Z 4).<br />9<br />
  10. 10. We have realized Benjamin…<br />“the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case. At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer. As expert, which he had to become willy-nilly in an extremely specialized work process, even if only in some minor respect, the reader gains access to authorship… Literary license is now founded on polytechnic rather than specialized training and thus becomes common property” (232).<br />10<br />
  11. 11. 11<br />Algorithm for Taste?<br />For any untrained writer to perform like an experienced one, the system must make transparent performance support decisions. <br />Those decisions—the variety of choices offered, the amount of user control—constitute a de facto taste algorithm. <br />By changing the values of the few variables in the formula we are permitted to adjust, we create an original work within prescribed limitations.<br />
  12. 12. 12<br />Algorithm for Taste?<br />
  13. 13. 13<br />Algorithm for Taste<br />
  14. 14. Use of Formulas<br />The risk of creative failure is mitigated through the use of artistic formulas. <br />An artistic formula, like a mathematical formula or algorithm, is simply a structure in which variables can be adjusted to produce a predicted result. <br />However, unlike mathematics, where a formula is generally perceived as a useful tool, artistic formulas have traditionally been denigrated as clichés and the work of hacks. “The more stuffed the poem with ‘formulas,’ the more it passes for successful,” wrote Roland Barthes (MinouDrouet 112)<br />14<br />
  15. 15. 15<br />Ray Kurzweil’s Cybernetic Poet<br />“recursive poetry generation algorithm”<br />Based on words, word structures and sequence patterns, rhythm patterns, and overall poem structure. <br />There are also algorithms to maintain thematic consistency through the poem. <br />
  16. 16. 16<br />Ray Kurzweil’s Cybernetic Poet<br />“The language models produced by the ‘Poetry Analysis’ program of RKCP contain analyses of the language structures found in the poems that were analyzed using language analysis techniques and a method similar to Markov modeling, a mathematical cousin of neural nets.” ( <br />Turing test<br />
  17. 17. Kurzweil’s “Poet’s Assistant”<br />“Poem Processor”<br />Helpful suggestions/rhymes as you type based on one of 50 pre-selected poet personalities.<br /><br />17<br />
  18. 18. 18<br />Formulas = Bad?<br />Work of hacks<br />What about true talent?<br />How many Writer’s Dreamkit movies would you want to see?<br />“The more stuffed the poem with ‘formulas,’ the more it passes for successful.” (Barthes)<br />All expression becomes “flattened”<br />
  19. 19. 19<br />Formulas = Bad?<br />Will we lose something intrinsically—exclusively—human by layering in compensatory artistic performance support technology?<br />
  20. 20. Formulas = Bad?<br />If performance support technology employs formulas to assist in the creation of art, even if those formulas are based on T.S. Eliot, perhaps all we’re left with is a computerized MinouDrouet (to reference Barthes), where the formulaic banality of the work is masked by the novelty of who (or what) produced it. <br />20<br />
  21. 21. 21<br />Or Are They?<br />Democratization of artistic expression for those otherwise unable to perform.<br />“The relationship of techniques to technologies is…complicated since it is clear that technologies can derive from techniques…and techniques can derive from technologies” (Kahn, p.15). <br />Inspiration for future Shakespeare, Frost, or Faulkner?<br />And is that so bad?<br />
  22. 22. 22<br />Questions?<br />
  23. 23. References<br />Barthes, Roland. “The Grain of the Voice.” Image-Music-Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977: 179-189.<br /> --- “MusicaPractica.” Image-Music-Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977: 149-154.<br /> --- “Literature According to MinouDrouet.” The Eiffel Tower & Other Mythologies. New York: Hill and Wang, 1979. 110-118.<br /> --- S/Z. Translated by Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1970.<br />Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Shocken, 1968: 217-251. <br />Kahn, Douglas. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Voice, Sound, and Aurality in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.<br />23<br />
  24. 24. References<br />Kurzweil, Raymond. “Ray Kurzweil’s Cybernetic Poet: Features.” Kurzweil Cyber Art Technologies. 15 Mar. 2005 <>.<br />--- “Ray Kurzweil’s Cybernetic Poet: How It Works.” Kurzweil Cyber Art Technologies. 15 Mar. 2005 <>.<br />--- “A Kind of Turing Test.” The Age of Intelligent Machines. Ed. Ray Kurzweil. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992: 374-379.<br />--- The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Penguin, 2000.<br />Rosenberg, Marc. “Performance Technology, Performance Support, and the Future of Training: A Commentary.” Performance Improvement Quarterly 8.1 (1995): 94-99.<br />24<br />
  25. 25. References<br />Write Brothers. “Software Secrets of Highly Successful Authors.” Write Brothers Marketing Literature Glendale: Write Brothers, Inc., 2004.<br /> --- “Writer's DreamKit Product Overview.” Write Brothers, Inc.. 15 Mar. 2005 <>.<br />25<br />