About News Reader About Regime Change Artists

    On Textual Instruments

Textual instruments make text playable in a new way. At first, as one encounters their workings, they are toys for exploring language — more flexible than link-node hypertext, more responsive than batch-mode natural language generators. With growing experience, these instruments can also become tools for textual performance.

The two instruments we are constructing operate using the statistics of n-grams, a technique used for textual games for more than 50 years (the report of the first game appearing in Claude Shannon's 1948 "A Mathematical Theory of Communication"). These n-grams are chains of words, and these instruments use shared chains between documents as "bridges," allowing movement from the text of one document into a body of text created from others (and back). By using this approach to make text playable, by taking the logic of word chains to defamiliarizing and sometimes humorous extremes, Regime Change and News Reader provide ways to perform William Burroughs's injunction to "cut word lines" — to break the chains of conceptual association that say this follows from that, the constant association of these words in the speech we hear and echo to others on a daily basis.



"Two Textual Instruments: Regime Change and News Reader" is a 2003 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from the LEF Foundation.