Postmodernism Generator by Andrew C. Bulhak
Just a few years old, the Postmodermism Generator is already a classic of software-based text manipulation. Using the Dada Engine, a system for generating random text from grammars, it generates disturbingly plausible yet meaningless postmodern-speak as academic texts.
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Postmodernism Generator

The Postmodernism Generator was originally written in 1996 by Andrew C. Bulhak and later modified by Josh Larios, using software based on Bulhak's "Dada Engine" - a system for generating texts using algorithms to determine syntax. The Dada engine accompanies Bulhak's technical paper, "On the Simulation of Postmodernism and Mental Debility Using Recursive Transition Networks." The Postmodernism Generator generates meaningless - but grammatically correct and disturbingly plausible - academic-style texts filled with postmodern jargon.
The Dada Engine was apparently written primarily as a technical demonstration of a system that can accurately mimic human grammatical usage. The project obviously shares some characteristics with older artificial intelligence and Turing Test related projects such as ELIZA. But, in choosing to algorithmically emulate postmodern academic jargon, Bulhak takes a different approach - he uses algorithms to make a critical point. Whereas ELIZA poses the question, "Can a piece of software emulate a thinking human?" the Postmodernism Generator asks, "Do humans sometimes behave so formulaically they emulate software?"
Below is an excerpt of part of the Postmodernism Generator script, which shows some of the postmodern jargon algorithms that Bulhak and Larios have defined:
--
predominant-concept: "the distinction between " foo = dualisable-word "
and " $foo>opposite
| "the concept of " adj " " big-abst-thing
;
// pseudo-quotes; no terminating punctuation.
pseudo-quote: big-thing " is " state-of-being
;
// we'll be ontologically masturbating in relation to the works of various
// artists and "artists" a lot.....
sent-about-citable-and-dualism(artist dualism):
@artist>make_cite " is about " dualism " where " @artist>make_cite
" is about " dualism>opposite
;
sentence-about-citable-artist(artist): "the " feature-of " "
@artist>make_cite
" " is-also-evident-in " " @artist>make_cite adverb-postjustify ".
"
// | sent-about-citable-and-dualism(artist dualism)
| "in " @artist>make_cite ", " artist " " says-something "; in "
@artist>make_cite however " " artist " "
says-something-else(artist)
". "
| justifier "the works of " artist " are " works-state-of-being ".
"
;
something-about-works: ""
| " the use of narrative in"
| " the gender roles in"
| " the semiotics of"
;
works-state-of-being: "postmodern" | "not postmodern" | "modernistic"
| "an example of " informal-adj " " ideology
| "reminiscent of " artist
says-something: makes-statement-about " " term ;

Additional note:
Some other entertaining projects from elsewhere.org using algorithmic text
generation:
The adolescent poetry generator: http://www.elsewhere.org/hbzpoetry/
The subgenius brag generator: http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/brag/
The band name generator: http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/bandname

by Amy Alexander, posted 06 Jun 2003


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