September 22: Introduction to the course
– Shelley Podolny, “If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?New York Times (March 7, 2015)
– Screening: Sunspring (2016)
– Annalee Newitz, “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense,” Ars Technica (June 9, 2016)
Benjamin, an AI scriptwriter
– LA Times Quakebot
– LA Times Homicidebot
Narrative Science

September 27: Can machines be said to think?
Ex Machina (Dir. Alex Garland, 2015): watch film in advance of class discussion through GauchoSpace or other
– Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (scan sections 1-2, 4, and get a general sense of the “contrary views” in section 6, e.g. 6.1, “thinking requires an immortal soul”)

September 29: Literary automata
– Stanislaw Lem, from The Cyberiad (“How the World Was Saved,” “Trurl’s Machine,” “The first Sally (A), or Trurl’s Electronic Bard”) (1967/1974)

October 4: Bitistics
– Stanislaw Lem, from Imaginary Magnitude, introduction to a book not written: Juan Rambellais et al, A History of Bitic Literature (excerpts) (1973/1984) [focus on intro to first edition; scan intro to second edition, from p. 70]
– for discussion: Lem, “Introduction” to Imaginary Magnitude
– Italo Calvino, “Cybernetics and Ghosts,” The Uses of Literature (1986) [focus on pp. 3-17]

October 6: Distributed authorship
– NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month): Background | browse entries from 2014 and 2015 | Generated Detective (explanation) | Alphabetical Order
– Caroline Vaneseltine, Choice of Someone Else’s Novel: Saving? (2015)
– Browse: Emily Short, “The Annals of the Parrigues” | Stochastèmes | Nick Montfort, “Matthew 25:30
– David J. Hill, “Patented Book Writing System Creates, Sells Hundreds Of Thousands Of Books On Amazon,” SingularityHUB (December 13, 2012)
– Browse examples of generative design: Ordovician (sea creatures) | châteaux | Palladian façades

October 11: Text generators
– Deqing Sun and Peiqi Su, “Plinko Poetry” (2012)
– Johannes Auer, Rene Bauer and Beat Suter, Searchsonata 181 (2008)
– Ben Grosser, ScareMail Generator (2013)
– Simon Biggs, The Great Wall of China (1995-99)
Object Dreams tumblr [highlight: predictive text rewrite of The Elements of Style]

October 13: Bots
– Darius Kazemi, RapBot
DeepBeat (listen to audio, quiz starting around 7:00min)
– Twitterbots: Shirtmanteau LeBot | Quartz list (2015) | NY Mag (2015) | Rob Dubbin, “The Rise Of Twitter Bots,” The New Yorker (November 14, 2013) | Ranjit Bhatnagar, Pentametron | Liam Cooke, poem.exe (2014)
– “Cheap Bots, Done Quick
– Helen Burgess and Craig Saper, Love Notes and Intimate Circuits (2015)
– Spambots + Hito Steyerl, “The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation,” in The Wretched of the Screen (Sternberg Press, 2013), 160-175.

October 18-20: AI in the speculative imaginary
– William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

October 25: Conversational bots
Her (Dir. Spike Jonze, 2013): watch film in advance of class discussion through GauchoSpace or other
– John Cayley, “The Listeners” (2015-16)
– Tyler Cowin, “When Products Talk,” The New Yorker (June 1, 2016)
–> Have a conversation with one of the Existor bots

October 27: Ethics & politics
– Anthony Lydgate, “I’ve seen the greatest A.I. minds of my generation destroyed by Twitter,” The New Yorker (March 25, 2016) |Caroline Sinders, “Microsoft’s Tay is an Example of Bad Design” (May 2016),
– Kate Crawford, “Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem,” The New York Times (June 25, 2016)
– Sam Levin, “A beauty contest was judged by AI and the robots didn’t like dark skin,” The Guardian (September 8, 2016)
– Davey Alba, “Repeat After Me: Humans Run the Internet, Not Algorithms,” Wired (September 2, 2016)

November 1: Writing with/against Google
– Baden Pailthorpe, Lingua Franca (2012)
– Otso Huopaniemi, love.abz (2010- )
– John Cayley, How It Is in common tongues (2013)

November 3: Game play
– Read/play: Mainframe (2015)
– Read/play: Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, Façade (2005)
– Dawn Chan, “In the Age of Google DeepMind, Do the Young Go Prodigies of Asia Have a Future?The New Yorker (March 11, 2016)
– Nicola Twilley, “Artificial Intelligence Goes to the Arcade,” The New Yorker (February 25, 2015)
– Recommended: Ambrose Bierce, “Moxon’s Master” (1899)

November 8: Human vs. machine cognition
– Doug Bock Clark, “The Bot Bubble,” The New Republic (April 20, 2015)
Like (Dir. Garrett Bradley, 2016) | Mayukh Sen, “The Bengali Click Farmer,” The New Inquiry June 27, 2016)
– Google Street View & reCAPTCHA: image recognition algorithm | statement from Google security blog
No People (2015)
Resources on Opinion Spam detection
– David Auerbach, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Bananas?Slate (July 2015)

November 10: Turing tests
– Cecilia Corrigan and Ian Hatcher, Titanichat (2015)
– Johannes Heldén and Håkan Jonson, Evolution (2013)
– Ansh Patel, A Perfect World (2015)
–> Exercise: try with one of your personal photos

November 15: Expressive use of QR codes
– Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (2010): watch demo video; hard copy for you to read (play with) on reserve in the library
– Caitlin Fisher, Andromeda (2008)
– Gretchen Henderson, Galerie de Difformité (2011): on reserve in the library; read about the use of QR codes on the site at
– Eduardo Kac, Outrossim (2014)

November 17: Class canceled (instructor conference)


November 22: Reader behaviors
– John Cayley and Daniel Howe, The Readers Project (2009)
– Tan Lin, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Systems Theory (2015)

November 24: Thanksgiving holiday

November 29: Text analysis/visualization
– Katy Börner, Atlas of Knowledge (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015), selections
– Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, Listening Post (video 1 | video 2) + Shakespeare Machine
– Lev Manovich, “How to Follow Global Digital Cultures: Cultural Analytics for Beginners,” in Deep Search: The Politics of Search Beyond Google, eds. Konrad Becker and Felix Stalder (Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2009)
– “Literature,” from Manuel Lima, Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011)

December 1: Machine vision
– Topics for student research: surveillance, biometrics, drones
– Caitlin Dewey, “We tried out the facial recognition software that will use to find people who ‘look like your exes,’” Washington Post (June 18, 2014)