An Account of Randomness in Literary Computing

Critical Writing
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2013
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CC Attribution
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Abstract (in English): 

Turning to an entirely invisible process that we can only know by its product, Mark Sample considers the meaning of machine-generated randomness in electronic literature and videogames in his paper, “An Account of Randomness in Literary Computing.” While new media critics have looked at randomness as a narrative or literary device, Sample explores the nature of randomness at the machine level, exposing the process itself by which random numbers are generated. Sample shows how early attempts at mechanical random number generation grew out of the Cold War, and then how later writers and game designers relied on software commands like RND (in BASIC), which seemingly simplified the generation of random numbers, but which in fact were rooted in–and constrained by–the particular hardware of the machine itself.

(Source: Loriemerson.net description of MLA 2013 Special Session: Reading the Invisible and Unwanted in Old & New Media)

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Scott Rettberg