What do you see in this picture below? I see an alien face on the left; in the center, a helmeted ninja balancing two large green bottles in his right hand. There were messages there, dozens and dozens of them, but the only word I can really make out anymore seems to be “entrada.”
I’ve had trouble writing with the Markov chaining process lately, and I think my problems have to do with the lack of any clear intention. I have a difficult time accepting the output from the program as aesthetic in its own right; it’s so sterile and inhuman, which is telling, as Markov processes were employed in the 1970’s experiments at MIT into artificial intelligence. Everything that seems evocative in the output is derived from the reader’s associations (or subconscious, perhaps, if you believe in such a thing).
The last input file I input into the program consisted of interesting blog posts that I had found when I searched for “dream” or “dreams” in Technorati and Google Blog Search. That’s how I found Robin Whitmore’s art blog (I appreciate the comment, btw). The best thing about looking for input is usually the discovery of such internet gems in the mountains of information garbage. But when I put this input of posts from dozens of different sources into the Markov chain program, what came out was uninteresting, difficult to sift through, and exactly the opposite of what I had hoped for. I wonder how much control is right for this process, and how much is too much. At what point does thematicizing the input stifle the quality of the output?
What I’ve done before, what I’ve attempted before in some of the poems I’ve made through this program, focused on enhancing the associational effect from all possible ends, input and output, and even the recycling process that goes on as the fragments are arranged and expanded upon. What is different about the Markov chain output from the perspective of a reader who is familiar with all of the text that has been input? Does this condition allow for more associations to be made, and are the associations then more relevant or resonant? And does this focus of the process on my [the author’s] personal associations only create a poem that is meaningful to the author himself (too idiosyncratic, to esoteric)?
A larger question may have to do with what I expect to come out of the whole process. What fits into my idea of what a poem is? How does this constrain the possibilities that the process opens up to me? Is it good enough to just do, just experiment, just hope that each poem works out? Or is this just ignorance running amok?