Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Machine Writing" Questionnaire with Mandy Davis

My friend Mandy was the first to respond to the "machine writing" questionnaire:
1. To what extent do you consider your writing/aesthetic practice a collaboration with machines? Describe in detail. is my collaborator, as much as anything. I think at the speed I can type. But I write poetry mostly by hand with a pen in a lined notebook, at first. Later drafts go onto the computer, though these days many are photographed from my notebook with my phone and text messaged to my human collaborators. At work, the computer is an essential component of everything I do. It holds my memory and I can't work without it. It's a powerful and long relationship to my Dell Inspiron!
2. Do you feel that your writing could be reduced (more or less) to a procedure or algorithm? Would a computing process (algorithm, program, or app) be able to successfully reproduce what you make/do?
No way. Or maybe yes. Or no. I'm thinking about digital sound processing. There has got to be some cyborg in there somewhere. Someone built something. I consider my ex-husband a cyborg. He builds analog and digital synthesizers, but it's never just his machines. There is always him in there. Another person using the tools he builds makes different sounds.  In my work, I spend a great deal of time trying to convey big ideas simply to compel human action. A machine can't do that. But there is an algorithm at the same time. There are key words - kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, loyal, strong, honest, generous, fair. We know people like to be described by these words. There is a rhythm to the language I use that a machine could probably copy. But poetry starts with human friction. What makes it compelling is that something has caused a rub, and the poem is a process for massaging the rub, smoothing it, making sense of it. I am thinking of Eliade here. Island of clarity in a sea of chaos. Can a machine bring clarity? I don't know. I am sure a machine could write something beautiful, but it's the tension I am looking for. Does a machine know tension?
3. What meaning do you assign to the term “cyborg”? Do you consider yourself to be one? RE: Donna Haraway, does the cyborg still offer a set of liberatory potential or has the emancipatory value of her 20+ year-old figure passed?
I love Haraway, and I think we are all cyborgs, definitely. It's good to admit who you are. That's where freedom comes from, right? So I admit it. I am a cyborg. My daughter's experience using an iPad as a two year old is a good example of this. She manipulates it like it's her own body. She has an intuitive understanding of it and can dj on Spotify, play games, draw, whatever she wants, without being able to read. She is still learning that she is separate from me, that we are different bodies, and also learning about this machine that makes life work for her, that stores memories and brings pleasure. She checks the moon phase on it everyday! That is truly virtual reality, though in her life, she knows nothing else.
4. In what ways are you conditioned by machines and in what (if any) ways do you defy technological conditions/determinacy? To what extend do you, especially via an aesthetic practice (the 'way you live,' for instance), escape a socio-political administration/determination through machines?
For a long time - until about two months ago - I didn't have a cell phone. This was pretty rebellious. But when my marriage ended, I had to get one because I wanted to meet men, and I knew I'd need to be able to text to do that. The phone is a tool for being in the world, conditionally. I don't think I defy technological conditions/determinacy with any fierceness any more, though I did try for maybe 10 years. I am just like everybody else.
5. To you what extent does your embodiment pose a limit to what you wish to do? To what extent does it offer a set of possibilities/potential surpassing your determination by machine cultures?
My embodiment poses no limitations to what I wish to do because my primary desire is to be in my body. Just like I am not my machines, I am also not my body. My body is its own kind of machine and its own kind of miracle, something I inhabit. I am learning everyday how to work it, how to use it to achieve expansive bliss, to express the true calling of my soul. The body is a tool like none other and I don't feel held back by it at all. A machine can help me capture an experience or make a connection, but I don't laugh in its arms. It might seem like when I'm texting I am soul gazing, but really I am just making plans in the hope of soul gazing. My life revolves around children, dancing, cooking, eating, writing, cleaning up, spiritual pursuits, sleeping, and loving. It is a pretty grounded reality. Being in the body, my sandals can't stop the soaking rain.

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