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YouTube Comment Poetry and the Bieber Book

By Harriet Staff

Luc Gross wrote this article over at HuffPo about ebooks created from YouTube commentary, which, he says, “resembled and built upon each other. It was a new form of poetry.” The project falls under the name Ghost Writers.

He writes:

To me, the YouTube commentary system has created an original voice, one which individuals use to team up using gamer-type language. Of course, sometimes on YouTube you will find serious pieces of writing, for which the authors may want to claim the copyright. But we were focusing on the rough scenes, the flamewars, the spaces in which copyright doesn’t seem relevant, as the material is constantly reacting and being reassembled by the group, in a fluid manner. Areas in which remix and mashup appear as common linguistic practices. A new digital esperanto has been born.

The next logical step was the publication of YouTube comments as literary content. We called the project Ghost Writers.

Our first e-book was published in November 2011, and titled “Justin Bieber, best YouTube Comments 2011”. The book wasn’t actually a “best of Justin Bieber YouTube comments,” but a rather completely random selection of comments left on his videos. The book sold well. The flow of comments, mostly left, it seems, by teenagers, read like poetry.

And then, later:

Creating the e-books was easy, and did not involve any illegal hacks. Or, in fact, any human intervention. We created publishing bots that ran on separate machines: 1) The Sucker, mining comments from specific YouTube videos. 2) The Composer, stripping data, applying meta-data as well as title, author and cover, plus generating the layout of the e-book, and 3) The Uploader, which placed the e-books on the Kindle self-publishing platform.

We did not violate any of Amazon’s terms of agreements, and our bots created thousands of e-books made up of tens of thousands of comments.

However, as we were doing this, Amazon’s self-publishing system was filling up with spam. Though Ghost Writers used some of the same techniques as those spamming mechanisms that were filling Amazon’s platform with crap, ours was not intended as spam nor even as an art project. It was intended as a topical piece of publishing, translating the mini-series concept of YouTube into a literary structure by using YouTube comments themselves as content.

To read the entire article, which includes troubles they encountered with Amazon, go here.

Posted in Poetry News on Friday, June 29th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.