Writing with Automated Machines: Between Translation and Sabotage

  • Ana Marques CLP, University of Coimbra


A generative text is a system constituted by non-conscious and conscious cognizers, digital and analogue processes, and mathematical and linguistic modes of representation. But how do algorithms cognize? And how is meaning constructed in a system where authorial intentions and readers’ experiences and interpretations are mediated by algorithmic agents? Through the analysis of How It Is In Common Tongues (Cayley and Howe, 2012), I intend to discuss the tensions that arise from the encounter between algorithmic and human cognition, and between the regimes of information and expression. Drawing on Katherine Hayles’ view on the cognitive non-conscious and Claude Shannon’s information theory I will start by establishing a distinction between information and meaning, between communication and expression, and between the regimes of information and of the literary. To reflect on the political ecology of digital mediation (situated in the informational regime of cybernetics), I will consider Matteo Pasquinelli’s perspective on the co-evolution of technology and economics, and discuss how algorithmic cognitive processes embody and reinforce the structures of contemporary cognitive capitalism. Finally, I will discuss the strategies of resistance enabled by aesthetic approaches to computation, such as the ones explored in this case study.


cybernetics, cognition, information, meaning, aesthetics

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CAYLEY, John (2011). “Writing to be Found and Writing Readers.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5.3. 20 May 2017. http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/5/3/000104/000104.html

CAYLEY, John, and Daniel C. Howe (2012). How It Is In Common Tongues. 30 May 2017. http://thereadersproject.org/?hiiict2012

CAYLEY, John, and Daniel C. Howe (2013). “Reading, Writing, Resisting: Literary Appropriation in the Readers Project.” Proceed-ings of the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2013, Sydney. 22 May 2017. http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/9708

HAYLES, N. Katherine (2014). “Cognition Everywhere, The Rise of the Cognitive Nonconscious.” New Literary History, 45.2: 199-220. 20 May 2017.

PASQUINELLI, Matteo (2014). “The Labour of Abstraction: Seven Transitional Theses on Marxism and Accelerationism.” Fillip magazine #19. 27 May 2017. http://matteopasquinelli.com/labour-of-abstraction-theses/
How to Cite
MARQUES, Ana. Writing with Automated Machines: Between Translation and Sabotage. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 3, p. 73-81, aug. 2018. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <https://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/5369>. Date accessed: 18 sep. 2019.
Secção Temática | Thematic Section