Poetry Machine
David Link, Germany
Poetry Machine, 2001
Interactive net-based installation
Courtesy of David Link
Supported by Center for Art and Media
Selected by: ZKM_Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe
The Poetry Machine by David Link is a generator for texts that is based on semantic networks. The user feeds the text generator with words via the installation itself or via a public interface in the World Wide Web. The machine responds to the user’s keyword with an endless stream of sentences which take their departure from the initial concept, return to it, and then permanently circulate around that point of departure. The machine does not utter statistically calculated or outwritten models of answers. When the machine starts streaming, its database is empty. In the beginning, the Poetry Machine is nothing more than a tabula rasa. It simply follows routines to process text and does not contain any hard-coded record. Therefore, all the text generated by the machine varies and it will never show identical results.

Fed with one word, the machine sends bots into the gigantic text masses of the Internet to search for information associated with the given word. By doing this, the machine observes the “mouth of the people.”

In the semantic networks, words are defined by their neighbors. A network contains, on average, 50,000 connections between aproximately 10,000 words. The more often the system observes the connection between two words, the stronger the connection between the two words. Once a semantic network is called upon, the stream preferentially follows the stronger connections. In consequence, the machine finds its material and fits it into syntactical frames, which are also taken from the searched text. The chaotic complexity of the network is reduced to the linearity of the text.

On one screen, the installation shows the text stream being generated. On the other, the visitor can observe the bots doing their job: Searching in the various text-based databases of the World Wide Web.
David Link