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Analysis of Computer-Generated Literary Books


Term:

Summer

Department:

CMS: Comparative Media Studies

Faculty Supervisor:

Nick Montfort

Faculty email:

montfort@mit.edu

Apply by:

May 7

Contact:

Nick Montfort, please contact by email: nickm@nickm.com

Project Description

Computer-generated literary books are of poetry and prose, sometimes presenting conventional texts and sometimes offering radical and experimental outputs. They include hundreds of plain text files and PDFs produced during the annual NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month), customized digital and print books, paperbacks published by small presses, and fine books produced in very small editions. There are established fields of study called book history and textual editing, along with the academic discipline called bibliography <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography>, but their techniques have seldom been applied to digital, print-on-demand, and hybrid publications, much less to literary books of those and other sorts that are generated by computer programs. In this project, we apply the methods of those fields. The undergraduate researcher will help select and analyze important computer-generated books, learning things about their production and publication from the material and formal qualities of these books to help discover trends in this blossoming category of literary art. This project will be undertaken remotely; while there are many important computer-generated literary books in print, our summer work will focus on digital books. Note that this is not a cataloging activity; there is already, for instance, a very good catalog of NaNoGenMo books online. It is a project to focus on specific books and analyze them by looking beyond the usual “text.”

Pre-requisites

Completion of the CI-H requirement (not the entire CI requirement) is required. Preference will be given to applicants who have done relevant coursework, for instance in CMS, 21W, and/or 21L.