Poetry News

Vice Sets Sail Into the Land of 'Experimental Computer Poet'

By Harriet Staff
computer keyboard

For Vice's Motherboard, Mariana Fernandez talks with Allison Parrish, a digital artist who chose Twitter as a platform for her poems, which fuse the constraints of computer code with the confines of language. "Her conceptual poetry often takes the form of Twitter bots, like her beloved 2007 experiment, @everyword, which Tweeted each word in the English language over the course of seven years" Fernandez writes. From there: 

Parrish, who is 36, has been pouring over programming manuals since she was five, when her parents bought the family their first computer –a TRS-80 Color Computer 2. Now, she holds a master's degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, where she currently teaches coding and linguistics. Parrish is the author of"Everyword: The Book" and a co-designer of the word game Rewordable, which was published by Penguin Random House in August of this year. Her newest book of poetry, "Articulations," comes out in January.

I spoke to the botmaker about making art that explores language and its endlessly imaginative mutations. 

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Motherboard: Why did you choose Twitter as a platform for your computer poetry when you started? 
Parrish: When I first started doing stuff for Twitter it was 2007, back when it was the wave of 'There's this thing and it's bite-sized and you can follow it, it'll be in your feed sometimes but you don't necessarily have to pay it close attention.' It was this new frontier that was exciting to explore, but since the adoption of the algorithmically-curated timeline, using Twitter now feels like playing a slot machine–finely tuned to being addictive by doling out outrage and dopamine in measured amounts.

So when was the point your relationship to it changed?
I should have been disillusioned with Twitter as a platform earlier, but the 2016 US presidential election sealed it. They have consistently shown themselves to be unwilling or unable to stop abuse on the platform and their recent policy announcement about Trump's violent threats reads to me as though they just like being the bullhorn for a dictator. But I'm not saying that I'll never make another project for Twitter again. I've always held that bots can be an effective means of intervention and protest.

Read more at Vice.

Originally Published: October 12th, 2017
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