Google Talk by Douwe Osinga
Google Talk generates semi-sensible texts by extending a sentence by looking up what according to google will be the most likely next word. For example, type 'let's see what' and Google Talk finishes this sentence with: 'let's see what you can do to help the Environment by Equipment for USE IN RFCs to Indicate Requirement levels, for compliant SIP implementations.' [...]
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Google Talk

Featured by Søren Pold.

Google's search database is one of the wonders of mankind, though one seldom has the opportunity to appreciate this. Google Talk is one of several software art works that sculpture Google in imaginative ways. Manipulating search engines seems to be a constantly developing genre of software art that goes back to Etoy's "Digital Hijack" in 1996. So far, I've recognized the following subgenres, but more will be added:

1) Search engine digressions such as the "Digital Hijack", where one manages to invade the database of the search engine and leave some kind of Trojan link that leads the web surfer astray. A popular version of this was the "Weapons of Mass Destruction 404", that one still finds by searching Google for "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and pressing the "I'm feeling lucky" button. Douwe Osinga has contributed to this subgenre with "Bush' foreign friends" (search this in Google and press "I'm feeling lucky"). Other interesting experiments within this genre are Christophe Bruno's "The Google Adwords Happening" or his "Hapax".

2) Search engine literature is a literary form that generates dynamic text through enquiries into the databases of search engines. Especially the widening possibilities for advanced searches and the developments of XML and the semantic web holds great promise for literary (ab)use of the web. "Google Talk" belongs to this subgenre and is a brilliant example of the potential here, but others should be mentioned as well, e.g. last year's featured "Gogolchat" by Christophe Bruno. Though this is a fairly new form of literature it definitely has precursors within literary history, perhaps most notably the potential literature of the OULIPO group. In fact, search engine literature often continues the OULIPO group's concept of potential literature as a formal literature that consists of rules or algorithms awaiting an active reader's realization, before it generates as (perhaps) readable text. Of course this also alludes to programming language in general and thus borders to code poetry, but other precursors exists as well, for example writers working with 'found words' such as arbitrary signs and advertisements in the urban environment (Aragon, Benjamin...). One should neither forget writers of dynamic hypertext/cybertext and literary text generators such as John Cayley. The literary drive often seems to be to explore what language is as a system or a structure, and to write with these structures. When it works it is uncanny, and when it fails it is often simultaneously humorous and gives a critical reflection on linguistic structures and their social, cultural and technological applications.

3) Search engine art. Some of the above mentioned works more or less act as front-ends to search engines, and thus appear as search engines themselves, but few have actually made full independent search engines. Why? Is the work too big or just not interesting? We need fictional encyclopedias, fictional webs. Some come close such as Mongrel's "Natural Selection".

"Google Talk" is, as mentioned, part of subgenre two, and bears some resemblance to "Gogolchat" in the ways it makes the web talk, though it is less fictionalized and perhaps more functional. It is, as much of the best search engine literature, refreshingly simple in its concept, while the results are infinitely complex and varied. One enters 3-4 words in the search field, presses start, and then Google starts to talk by searching for this search string and returning the next word, then removing the first words and searching for the new string etc. Its talk is often nonsense, sometimes funny, and some times even poetic and/or thought-provoking. Its endeavour - to make the web speak - is baffling, and it even says interesting things from time to time. Just like the web itself:

"Software art is a Way of life. In the trenches: By Paul GREEN The Lost Colony. of Roanoke. Island in the Sky. Is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The sky is Falling! The..."

by admin, posted 14 Nov 2004


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