— Ellie Broughton

Encountering Literary Bots in the Wilds of Twitter: a fun commission I got from Lithub

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I am a huge fan of LitHub – an American website started by a team including the founder of Electric Literature. I got a commission from features editor Jess Bergman via Twitter (a first for me) to cover literary bots.

Linguist and programmer Esther Seyffarth defined a bot in a Medium post last year as “a program or agent that generates content and posts it to Twitter automatically, following some schedule or reacting to some trigger.” In the case of Twitter’s literary bots, or “corpus-fed” bots, programmers take a body of work—for example, the text file of War & Peace as it stands at Project Gutenberg—and build a program that “reads” the novel, 140 characters at a time, “aloud” by publishing sensible whole-word extracts as tweets from a dedicated Twitter account.

Literature, in the manic context of Twitter, feels like a novelty—the joy of witnessing something, somewhere, committed publishing an entire work. But at times, the bots feels uncanny too. Coincidences that arise between their tweets and the memes, gifs and beef that frame them can be as disruptive as it is delightful. Novels, titles and poems “out of place” unsettle us: not amping our anxiety like the news does, but sounding through the fog to wake up something deeper. We double-take, re-read and find originality in repetition. (Read more on the site).