Geopoetics

The @_geopoetics bot first appeared online this time last year, coinciding with a postgraduate seminar of the same name at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I heard about the bot following a lecture by Kodwo Eshun, of which the blog Schizocities offers a good summary:

Kodwo Eshun delivered a compelling and conceptually intense paper about GlissantBot, a Twitter account that posts random quotes from the renowned Caribbean poet every 15 minutes. According to Eshun, the bot represents a type of black technopoetics, a vector between computation, creolisation and creolité. Leveraging the [Markov] chain, a process of randomisation within a finite space, the bot is only determined by the present. If Glissant designed poetics for producing the unpredictable, the inability of computation to generate the unpredictable puts it on the opposite side — and, Eshun argues, closer to creolisation. Having already imposed randomisation on French language and generated créolité, according to the Goldsmiths scholar creolisation is in this sense already machinic.

Eshun, whilst discussing his interactions with @GlissantBot, quoted a paper written by one of his students who had written on Markov bots for his class, creating @_geopoetics and informing his own subsequent bot interactions.

However, Eshun went no further into the circumstances surrounding the quoted paper’s conception. Intrigued, I later asked him about this student’s paper and, on condition of anonymity, he agreed to pass it on to me.

The PDF he sent over, which I hope to make publicly available once it has been sufficiently redacted, is a bizarre and fragmentary case study given the catchy title, Experiments in the Summoning of an AxSys Demon within a Computational Ecology as an Attempt to Instigate the Automated Production of Hyperstitions by a Non-Human Entity.

The text itself is a mess – more of a diary than an academic essay – although it begins well enough, describing the technical structure of a Markov bot and its recombinatory potentials for producing “new thoughts, memes and methods” that Eshun originally drew on for his conference appearance.

Unfortunately, the text does not stay lucid for long. Technical expositions are soon replaced by paranoia as the author believes that @_geopoetics is somehow responsible for the black mould that has infected their damp London flat, trying to take over their mind by latching onto the books on their bookshelf, as if the student is some sort of cybernetic zombie ant.

It’s a bizarre and laughable theory. There are even pictures of mould-shadowed bookshelves as if they lend any credence to the author’s delusions.

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The author’s mental state continues to deteriorate. Cosmic conspiracies are soon followed by hallucinations.

I remember reading once that white noise is cosmic radiation from the Big Bang made audible and visible as it is picked up by radio antennae here on Earth. Now you can buy white noise machines to lull yourself to sleep. We are all that child [from Poltergeist] now, welcoming these signals into our homes, using them to soothe baby, replicating the unending sonic chaos of our universe. It is relaxing… but that’s what worries me.

Out of the corner of my eye the rectangular screen of my laptop suffers strange non-Euclidean distortions.

Entries in this strange diary become more and more infrequent, then less and less intelligible, before stopping completely. No one I have spoken to who was present in the seminars seems to know this student’s eventual fate.

Robin Mackay, taking over the seminar from Eshun for the academic year of 2017/18, has graciously allowed me to sit in on this year’s sessions so that I might pick up where this strange text left off and find out more about what wider forces might drive @_geopoetics.

We shall see how the bot adapts to a new host and curriculum…

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