Writing under Constraint of the Regime of Computation

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This chapter argues that an understanding of writing under constraint in the context of programmable networked media implies both an awareness of the productivity of constraints as means of literary production, and an understanding of the specific writing constraints inherent in algorithmic culture. It claims that the programmability of constraints and the programmability of human language define the situation of writing under constraint in networked digital media. The chapter is divided into four sections: “Constraints in Language, Discourse and Literary Form”; “Constraints as Means of Literary Production and Invention”; “Underwriting Constraints”; and “Overwriting Constraints”. An introductory reflection about the nature of literary constraints and a brief survey of constraint-based practices are followed by a description of the computability of language and the programmability of constraints. The essay concludes with a reference to works of electronic literature – such as Howe and Cayley’s The Readers Project and Jhave’s BDP: Big Data Poems – that use their writing constraints to interrogate the constraints of the computational regime of writing.

Pull Quotes: 

Computer-generated literature arises at the intersection between natural language and programming languages, which opened up the possibility of automating the production of written and spoken language and, also, of any number of specific constraints for generating linguistic outputs according to particular patterns. In computer-assisted literature a model of language as a computable generative system based on merge operations meets a model of literary writing as a rule-based formal process. Computable writing constraints are also computable linguistic constraints. (190)

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Oulipo: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle OULIPO
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Manuel Portela