Now come socialbots. These automated charlatans […] have quirks, life histories and the gift of gab.
Researchers say this new breed of bots is being designed not just with greater sophistication but also with grander goals: to sway elections, to influence the stock market, to attack governments, even to flirt with people and one another […]
Christian Rudder, a co-founder and general manager of OkCupid, said that when his dating site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15 percent drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred, he maintains, because the flirtatious messages and automated “likes” that bots had been posting to members’ pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. “Love was in the air,” Mr. Rudder said. “Robot love.”
Mr. Rudder added that his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, “a purgatory of sorts,” to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans […]
But the bots are likely to venture into ours, said Tim Hwang, chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation, which creates bots and technologies that can shape social behavior. “Our vision is that in the near future automatons will eventually be able to rally crowds, open up bank accounts, write letters,” he said, “all through human surrogates.”"
|Rhizome:||In an interview with Katherine Elaine Sanders for BOMB, you stated that "Reading is a kind of integrated software." Could you elaborate on this?|
|Tan Lin:||Integrated software is a genre of software that combines word processing, database management, and spreadsheet applications, and communications platforms. This genre has been superseded by various full-function office suites, but I was interested in reading modelled in that way, i.e., different kinds of reading, each with specific functions. I mean, you read Harlequin romances differently than recipes, and you read Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets differently than you read Excel, and you read experimental Japanese novels differently than you read text messages, and in terms of documents processed by software, you have distinctions between, say, end-user manuals, bills of sales, Unified Modeling Language models, and legal contracts. These are genres of reading, and they’re housed or processed in the same generic platform that I call “reading.” So reading is an application that processes or assembles varied kinds of material. I was interested in creating works of literature that could be read like recipes or spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations.|
|Rhizome:||So how is the experience of reading your works different from a more conventional novel or a Hollywood movie?|
|Tan Lin:||Usually you go to a movie or read a book to experience an emotion: Hollywood and even independent cinema is excruciatingly good at eliciting (i.e., manipulating) feelings in the audience—that’s why most people read novels and go to movies, and directors like Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke play with this by artificially manipulating an audience’s emotions via specific cinematic genres. Michel Houlbecq does something similar with literature, but less effectively to my mind. Think about the tragedy of “Dancer in the Dark” presented as a Broadway musical! But I think that reading that ends in an emotion is lame; I like it more when literature generates not a distinct emotion or feeling but a more generalized overall mood, and I like this more because I think it’s more reflective of the way we actually spend most of our lives. Psychologists have identified something like 6 major emotions, but the thing is we don’t feel them very often, which is a good thing because most of them are quite unpleasant: disgust, fear, anger, etc.|
|Rhizome:||How has Internet culture affected your work? How has it affected literature in general?|
|Tan Lin:||For me, I think of reading as data management rather than passive absorption on a couch, though these dichotomies are ultimately false. Reading is and probably always will be a bit of both. At any rate, ideas about information processing are altering the contours of printed and digital works. Suddenly the book is just one element in a larger system of textual controls, distribution models, and controlled vocabulary systems. [...] The idea of a network as a platform for collaborative work (rather than software housed on an individual’s desktop) might be applied to a book, no longer regarded as discrete, stand-alone object but as something that gets updated on a periodic basis in a social network. But this may not be that new an idea. After all, David Hume praised the printing press because it made it possible to issue countless emendations, revisions, and new editions.|
What makes something real is that it is impossible to represent it to completion.
It’s easy to forget that the very idea of digital expression involves a trade-off with metaphysical overtones. A physical oil painting cannot convey an image created in another medium; it is impossible to make an oil painting look just like an ink drawing, for instance, or vice versa. But a digital image of sufficient resolution can capture any kind of perceivable image— or at least that’s how you’ll think of it if you believe in bits too much.
Of course, it isn’t really so. A digital image of an oil painting is forever a representation, not a real thing. A real painting is a bottomless mystery, like any other real thing. An oil painting changes with time; cracks appear on its face. It has texture, odor, and a sense of presence and history.
Another way to think about it is to recognize that there is no such thing as a digital object that isn’t specialized. Digital representations can be very good, but you can never foresee all the ways a representation might need to be used. For instance, you could define a new MIDIlike standard for representing oil paintings that includes odors, cracks, and so on, but it will always turn out that you forgot something, like the weight or the tautness of the canvas.
The definition of a digital object is based on assumptions of what aspects of it will turn out to be important. It will be a flat, mute nothing if you ask something of it that exceeds those expectations. If you didn’t specify the weight of a digital painting in the original definition, it isn’t just weightless, it is less than weightless.
A physical object, on the other hand, will be fully rich and full real whatever you do to it. It will respond to any experiment a scientist can conceive. What makes something fully real is that it is impossible to represent it to completion.
A digital image, or any other kind of digital fragment, is a useful compromise. It captures a certain limited measurement of reality within a standardized system that removes any of the original source’s unique qualities. No digital image is really distinct from any other; they can be morphed and mashed up.
That doesn’t mean that digital culture is doomed to be anemic. It just means that digital media have to be used with special caution."