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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Garbage In

Posted by Aaron Bady on 07/17/10 at 03:24 PM

Bashing the romantic notion of the artist against the computational power of an algorithm and you get, if nothing else, amusing (and likely short-lived) internet memes. You may have heard of the “I write like” thing that a programmer in Montenegro, Dmitry Chestnykh, put together. Basically, you copy and paste some chunks of your or someone else’s prose into a window and it uses code developed for detecting spam to tell you which famous writer you “write like.” I write like Dan Brown, I was delighted to find. For fun, I had it analyze some Nigerian 419 spam emails and discovered that while most write like David Foster Wallace, “MISS STEPHANIE UJU” writes like Shakespeare. It’s received sufficient notoriety in the last few days to spark some media attention and even some backlash (originally, it would tell you which of thirty-seven white male authors and three white female authors you wrote like; apparently the canon has been opened up a bit in response).

Anyway, having randomly also just come across digital artist Jason Huff’s “AutoSummarize” project, however, an experiment presented itself. Huff took “the top 100 most downloaded copyright free books” and used Microsoft Word 2008’s AutoSummarize function to summarize them, in their entirety, into ten sentence versions (“Word has examined the document and picked the sentences most relevant to the main theme”). The result is sort of wonderful. Here, for example, is Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn:

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

“All right. “All right. “Why, Jim?”

“Blamed if I would, Jim.”



“WHAT raft, Jim?”

Jim says:

“Where’s Jim?”

“Why, Jim?”

And I’m satisfied. That makes me happy. But that gave me an idea: plug that in to the “Write like” program and see who it “writes like.” And guess what? It writes like Mark Twain!


Awesome. Like if Faulkner and Gertrude Stein were co-writing a book while drinking heavily. I like it (esp. since it was much shorter to read than Huck Finn. Or even any Faulkner or Stein!)

By on 07/17/10 at 08:03 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The always provocative, always witty, Nina Paley has addressed herself to the romantic notion of the artist in this “minute meme", which “is one of three."

By Bill Benzon on 07/18/10 at 06:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Your first two paragraphs write like Cory Doctorow

By on 07/19/10 at 01:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, I was upset to find I write like Dan Brown, until I found that another sample of my writing would be akin to Cory Doctorow.

Then again, the following is like Neil Gaiman:



Not sausages?

No, not sausages.  Not today.

No sausages today?

Well, not till sausage day.


So I’m not sure, without his statistical methods being made available, that there’s much weight we should put on it

By James Foreman on 07/26/10 at 05:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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