About a year ago, John Cayley made a post on NetPoetic entitled “An Edge of Chaos”. In it he delimits a constraint-based networked-writing process: “Write into the Google search field with text delimited by quote marks until the sequence of words is not found. Record this sequence….”
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the idea of making a poem composed entirely of lines that returned no search results. “Wow”, I thought to myself, “what a great idea”. I had forgotten it was John’s idea.
If this situation occured in 2014 (for example), and on waking I told the idea to my girlfriend, perhaps the instant-speech-checking algorithmically-networked microphone next to our bed might have immediately alerted me to my potential plagiarism. As it is, my memory had to slowly percolate John’s prescient precedent to the surface of my mind like a splinter.
Neuronal latency in the 21st century data avalanche is a vestigial design flaw that needs to be technologically cauterized.
Imagine that (while typing / while speaking), footnotes, bibliographies and source attributions immediately auto-generate, links sprout around text, and areas of uniqueness are spontaneously (and perhaps effortlessly) patented. The race to network becomes a race to brand segments of communication, to demarcate phrases of language, to colonize conjunctions of text in the same way attributions of authorship emerged from the book.
A writer becomes a sewer (sic pun) of uniqueness. Instead of quotation marks, a new grammar of overlapping links allow the subtlety of appropriated text’s multiple inheritances to Xanadu off towards diverse sources. Instead of Flarf, context-specific algorithmic-grammars differentiate between semantically meaningful units of language and word-salad collage-spew net-wrack.
Dsytopic singularity theories aside, an era of instantaneous as-you-type network-search is arriving. Google Instant is just one stride in the sprint toward word-processing software that automatically checks writing for repetition and rewards writing that is both meaningful and unique.
And here is my own little excursion into network-tested uniqueness,– a poem composed entirely of lines that (as of this posting) currently return zero search results, written during a moment of acerbic self-pitying doubt about the relevance of any and redundancy of all of my own work :