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Dada DataAn Introduction to Algorithmic Culture

Nicolas Nova & Joël Vacheron

July 1916: One year after creating the Cabaret Voltaire with his partner Emmy Hennings, Hugo Ball delivers the first public reading of his Dada Manifesto. He begins with an excursus on the “international” nature of the term, and ends by describing the power of words to define the world around us: “The word, gentlemen, is a public concern of the first importance.” Through their consummate art of provocation, the adherents of Dadaism intended to subvert the norms of their epoch by liberating words and languages from their arbitrary assignations. 

Sparta My Have

June 2012: The security team at the electronic commerce company Amazon.com discovers a type of unauthorized publication. It is neither a manipulation of user comments, nor is it promotional spam. The “problem” concerns a massive influx of books of an unfamiliar nature, absurd works written by digital programs. For four years, the software is flooded with such evocatively titled books as Sparta My Have by Loafrz Ipalizi, Weird Song You Cute by Timsest Pitigam, or Alot Was Been Hard by Janetlw Bauie. Each opusconsists of short texts signed by a pseudonym.

The statements read like transcripts from delirious conversations between adolescents sitting in front of a TV, rather than novels situated within a prizewinning literary canon. As it turns out, they have been compiled from accumulated YouTubecomments. Extracted by a software program, they are then reassembled into book form before being published—and sold—on Amazon. Some weeks later, the books were removed from the site, and the guilty parties were revealed to be the Austrian art collective Traumawien and the German Bernhard Bauch.11 Traumawien, “Ghost Writers” (2012): http://b-o.fr/ghostwriters The authors of this intricate performance—called Ghost Writers—describe the result as a collection of e-books portraying the contemporary micro-dramas at play on community websites. For them, what is at issue is a new form of emergent literature produced by the users of the online video host. 

This kind of artistic expression is evidence of the dissemination of bot use. Bot is a diminutive of “robot” and refers to an automatic or semi-automatic program capable of interacting with servers. Halfway between literary experimentation and robot, these quasi-random productions of the Traumawien Collective share characteristics of both the Dada artistic movement and computer bots. 

July 2014: The Associated Pressannounces that its quarterly earnings articles will henceforth be handled automatically by a software written by the firm Automated Insights.By analyzing the economic data sets of Zacks Investment Resear…