Advice Concerning the Increase in AI-Assisted Writing

Edward Schiappa, Professor of Rhetoric
Nick Montfort, Professor of Digital Media
10 January 2023

[In response to a request, this is an HTML version of a PDF memo for our colleagues at MIT]

There has been a noticeable increase in student use of AI assistance for writing recently. Instructors have expressed concerns and have been seeking guidance on how to deal with systems such as GPT-3, which is the basis for the very recent ChatGPT. The following thoughts on this topic are advisory from the two of us: They have no official standing within even our department, and certainly not within the Institute. Nonetheless, we hope you find them useful.

Newly available systems go well beyond grammar and style checking to produce nontrivial amounts of text. There are potentially positive uses of these systems; for instance, to stimulate thinking or to provide a variety of ideas about how to continue from which students may choose. In some cases, however, the generated text can be used without a great deal of critical thought to constitute almost all of a typical college essay. Our main four suggestions for those teaching a writing subject are as follows:

  1. Explore these technologies yourself and read what has been written about them in peer-reviewed and other publications,
  2. understand how these systems relate to your learning goals,
  3. construct your assignments to align with learning goals and the availability of these systems, and
  4. include an explicit policy regarding AI/LLM assistance in your syllabus.

Exploring AI and LLMs

LLMs (Large Language Models) such as those in the GPT series have many uses, for instance in machine translation and speech recognition, but their main implications for writing education have to do with natural language generation. A language model is a probability distribution over sequences of words; ones that are “large” have been trained on massive corpora of texts. This allows the model to complete many sorts of sentences in cohesive, highly plausible ways that are sometimes semantically correct. An LLM can determine, for instance, that the most probable completion of the word sequence “World War I was triggered by” is “the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand” and can continue from there. While impressive in many ways, these models also have several limitations. We are not currently seeking to provide a detailed critique of LLMs, but advise that instructors read about the capabilities and limitations of AI and LLMs.

To understand more about such systems, it is worth spending some time with those that are freely available. The one attracting the most attention is ChatGPT. The TextSynth Playground also provides access to several free/open-source LLMs, including the formidable GPT-NeoX-20B. ChatGPT uses other AI technologies and is presented in the form of a chatbot, while GPT-NeoX-20B is a pure LLM that allows users to change parameters in addition to providing prompts.

Without providing a full bibliography, there is considerable peer-reviewed literature on LLMs and their implications. We suggest “GPT-3: What’s it good for?” by Robert Dale and “GPT-3: Its Nature, Scope, Limits, and Consequences” by Luciano Floridi & Massimo Chiriatti. These papers are from 2020 and refer to GPT-3; their insights about LLMs remain relevant. Because ChatGPT was released in late November 2022, the peer-reviewed research about it is scant. One recent article, “Collaborating With ChatGPT: Considering the Implications of Generative Artificial Intelligence for Journalism and Media Education,” offers a short human-authored introduction and conclusion, presenting sample text generated by ChatGPT between these.

Understanding the Relationship of AI and LLMs to Learning Goals

The advisability of any technology or writing practice depends on context, including the pedagogical goals of each class.

It may be that the use of a system like ChatGPT is not only acceptable to you but is integrated into the subject, and should be required. One of us taught a course dealing with digital media and writing last semester in which students were assigned to computer-generate a paper using such a freely-available LLM. Students were also assigned to reflect on their experience afterwards, briefly, in their own writing. The group discussed its process and insights in class, learning about the abilities and limitations of these models. The assignment also prompted students to think about human writing in new ways.

There are, however, reasons to question the practice of AI and LLM text generation in college writing courses.

First, if the use of such systems is not agreed upon and acknowledged, the practice is analogous to plagiarism. Students will be presenting writing as their own that they did not produce. To be sure, there are practices of ghost writing and of appropriation writing (including parody) which, despite their similarity to plagiarism, are considered acceptable in particular contexts. But in an educational context, when writing of this sort is not authorized or acknowledged, it does not advance learning goals and makes the evaluation of student achievement difficult or impossible.

Second, and relatedly, current AI and LLM technologies provide assistance that is opaque. Even a grammar checker will explain the grammatical principle that is being violated. A writing instructor should offer much better explanatory help to a student. But current AI systems just provide a continuation of a prompt.

Third, the Institute’s Communication Requirement was created (in part) in response to alumni reporting that writing and speaking skills were essential for their professional success, and that they did not feel their undergraduate education adequately prepared them to be effective communicators.[1] It may be, in the fullness of time, that learning how to use AI/LLM technologies to assist writing will be an important or even essential skill. But we are not at this juncture yet, and the core rhetorical skills involving in written and oral communication—invention, style, grammar, reasoning and argument construction, and research—are ones every MIT undergraduate still needs to learn.

For these reasons, we suggest that you begin by considering what the objectives are for your subject. If you are aiming to help students critique digital media systems or understand the implications of new technologies for education, you may find the use of AI and LLMs not only acceptable but important. If your subject is Communication Intensive, however, an important goal for your course is to develop and enhance your students’ independent writing and speaking ability. For most CI subjects, therefore, the use of AI-assisted writing should be at best carefully considered. It is conceivable at some point that it will become standard procedure to teach most or all students how to write with AI assistance, but in our opinion, we have not reached that point.The cognitive and communicative skills taught in CI subjects require that students do their own writing, at least at the beginning of 2023.

Constructing Assignments in Light of Learning Goals and AI/LLMs

Assigning students to use AI and LLMs is more straightforward, so we focus on the practical steps that can be taken to minimize use when the use of these system does not align with learning goals. In general, the more detailed and specific a writing assignment, the better, as the prose generated by ChatGPT (for example) tends to be fairly generic and plain.

Furthermore, instructors are encouraged to consult MIT’s writing and communication resources to seek specific advice as to how current assignments can be used while minimizing the opportunities for student use of AI assistance. These resources include Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication program, the MIT Writing & Communication Center, and the English Language Studies program It is our understanding that MIT’s Teaching + Learning Lab will be offering advice and resources as well.

Other possible approaches include:

• In-class writing assignments
• Reaction papers that require a personalized response or discussion
• Research papers requiring quotations and evidence from appropriate sources
• Oral presentations based on notes rather than a script
• Assignments requiring a response to current events, e.g., from the past week

The last of these approaches is possible because LLMs are trained using a fixed corpus and there is a cutoff date for the inclusion of documents.

Providing an Explicit Policy

Announcing a policy clearly is important in every case. If your policy involves the prohibition of AI/LLM assistance, we suggest you have an honest and open conversation with students about it. It is appropriate to explain why AI assistance is counter to the pedagogical goals of the subject. Some instructors may want to go into more detail by exploring apps like ChatGPT in class and illustrating to students the relative strengths and weaknesses of AI-generated text.

In any case: What this policy should be depends on the kinds and topics of writing in your subject. If you do not wish your students to use AI assisted writing technologies, you should state so explicitly in your syllabus. If the use of this assistance is allowable within bounds, or even required because students are studying these technologies, that should be stated as well.

In the case of prohibition, you could simply state: “The use of AI software or apps to write or paraphrase text for your paper is not allowed.” Stronger wording could be: “The use of AI software or apps to write or paraphrase text for your paper constitutes plagiarism, as you did not author these words or ideas.”

There are automated methods (such as Turnitin and GPTZero) that can search student papers for AI-generated text and indicate, according to their own models of language, how probable it is that some text was generated rather than human-written. We do not, however, know of any precedent for disciplinary measures (such as failing an assignment) being instituted based on probabilistic evidence from such automated methods.


The use of AI/LLM text generation is here to stay. Those of us involved in writing instruction will need to be thoughtful about how it impacts our pedagogy. We are confident that the Institute’s Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, the Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication program, the MIT Writing & Communication Center, and the English Language Studies program will provide appropriate resources and counsel when appropriate. We also believe students are here at MIT to learn, and will be willing to follow thoughtfully advanced policies so they can learn to become better communicators. To that end, we hope that what we have offered here will help to open an ongoing conversation.[2]

[1] L. Perelman, “Data Driven Change Is Easy; Assessing and Maintaining It Is the Hard Part,” Across the Disciplines 6.2 (Fall 2009). Available: L. Perelman, “Creating a Communication-Intensive Undergraduate Curriculum in Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: A Case Study in Design and Process.” In Liberal Education in 21st Century Engineering, Eds. H. Luegenbiehl, K. Neeley, and David Ollis. New York: Peter Lang, 2004, pp. 77-94.

[2] Our thanks to Eric Klopfer for conversing with us concerning an earlier draft of this memo.

Sea and Spar Between 1.0.2

When it rains, it pours, which matters even on the sea.

Thanks to bug reports by Barry Rountree and Jan Grant, via the 2020 Critical Code Studies Working Group (CCSWG), there is now another new version of Sea and Spar Between which includes additional bug fixes affecting the interface as well as the generation of language.

As before, all the files in this version 1.0.2.are available in a zipfile, for those who care to study or modify them.

Sea and Spar Between 1.0.1

Stephanie Strickland and I published the first version of Sea and Spar Between in 2010, in Dear Navigator, a journal no longer online. In 2013 The Winter Anthology republished it. That year we also provided another version of this poetry system for Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), cut to fit the toolspun course, identical in terms of how it functions but including, in comments within the code, what is essentially a paper about the detailed workings of the system. In those comments, we wrote:

The following syllables, which were commonly used as words by either Melville or Dickinson, are combined by the generator into compound words.

However, due to a programming error, that was not the case. In what we will now have to call Sea and Spar Between 1, the line:


does not accomplish the purpose of adding the Melville one-syllable words to the variable syllable. It should have been:

syllable = syllable.concat(melvilleSyllable);

I noticed this omission only years later. As a result, the compound or kenning “toolspun” never was actually produced in any existing version of Sea and Spar Between, including the one available here on This was a frustrating situation, but after Stephanie and I discussed it briefly, we decided that we would wait to consider an updated version until this defect was discovered by someone else, such as a critic or translator.

It took a while, but a close reading of Sea and Spar Between by Aaron Pinnix, who considered the system’s output rather than its code, has finally brought this to the surface. Pinnix is writing a critique of several ocean-based works in his Fordham dissertation. We express our gratitude to him.

The result of adding 11 characters to the code (obviously a minor sort of bug fix, from that perspective) makes a significant difference (to us, at least!) in the workings of the system and the text that is produced. It restores our intention to bring Dickinson’s and Melville’s language together in this aspect of text generation. We ask that everyone reading Sea and Spar Between use the current version.

Updated 2020-02-02: Version 1.0.2 is now out, as explained in this post.

We do not have the ability to change the system as it is published in The Winter Anthology or DHQ, so we are presenting Sea and Spar Between 1.0.1 1.0.2 here on The JavaScript and the “How to Read” page indicate that this version, which replaces the previous one, is 1.0.1 1.0.2.

Updated 2020-02-02: Version 1.0.2 is the current one now and the one which we endorse. If you wish to study or modify the code in Sea and Spar Between and would like the convenience of downloading a zipfile, please use this version 1.0.2.

Previous versions, not endorsed by us: Version 1 zipfile, and version 1.0.1 zipfile. These would be only of very specialized interest!

Incidentally, there was another mistake in the code that we discovered after the 2010 publication and before we finished the highly commented DHQ version. We decided not to alter this part of the program, as we still approved of the way the system functioned. Those interested are invited to read the comments beginning “While the previous function does produce such lines” in cut to fit the toolspun course.

Nano-NaNoGenMo or #NNNGM

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak November;
And each separate bit and pixel wrought a novel on GitHub.

April may be the cruelest month, and now the month associated with poetry, but November is the month associated with novel-writing, via NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Now, thanks to an offhand comment by Darius Kazemi and the work of Hugo van Kemenade, November is also associated with the computer-generation of novels, broadly speaking. Any computer program and its 50,000 word+ output qualifies as an entry in NaNoGenMo, National Novel Generation Month.

NaNoGenMo does have a sort of barrier to entry: People often think they have to do something elaborate, despite anyone being explicitly allowed to produce a novel consisting entirely of meows. Those new to NaNoGenMo may look up to, for instance, the amazingly talented Ross Goodwin. In his own attempt to further climate change, he decided to code up an energy-intensive GPT-2 text generator while flying on a commercial jet. You’d think that for his next trick this guy might hop in a car, take a road trip, and generate a novel using a LSTM RNN! Those who look up so such efforts — and it’s hard not to, when they’re conducted at 30,000 feet and also quite clever — might end up thinking that computer-generated novels must use complex code and masses of data.

And yet, there is so much that can be done with simple programs that consume very little energy and can be fully understood by their programmers and others.

Because of this, I have recently announced Nano-NaNoGenMo. On Mastodon and Twitter (using #NNNGM) I have declared that November will also be the month in which people write computer programs that are at most 256 characters, and which generate 50,000 word or more novels. These can use Project Gutenberg files, as they are named on that site, as input. Or, they can run without using any input.

I have produced three Nano-NaNoGenMo (or #NNNGM) entries for 2019. In addition to being not very taxing computationally, one of these happens to have been written on an extremely energy-efficient electric train. Here they are. I won’t gloss each one, but I will provide a few comments on each, along with the full code for you to look at right in this blog post, and with links to both bash shell script files and the final output.


perl -0pe 's/.?K/**/s;s/MOBY(.)DI/OB$1D/g;s/D.r/Nick Montfort/;s/E W/E (SELFLESS) W/g;s/\b(I ?|me|my|myself|am|us|we|our|ourselves)\b//gi;s/\r\n\r\n/
/g;s/\r\n/ /g;s//\n\n/g;s/ +/ /g;s/(“?) ([,.;:]?)/$1$2/g;s/\nEnd .//s’ 2701-0.txt #NNNGM

WordPress has mangled this code despite it being in a code element; Use the following link to obtain a runnable version of it:


OB DCK; or, THE (SELFLESS) WHALE, the novel

The program, performing a simple regular expression substitution, removes all first-person pronouns from Moby-Dick. Indeed, OB-DCK is “MOBY-DICK” with “MY” removed from MOBY and “I” from DICK. Chapter 1 begins:

Call Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in purse, and nothing particular to interest on shore, thought would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever find growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in soul; whenever find involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral meet; and especially whenever hypos get such an upper hand of , that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, account it high time to get to sea as soon as can. This is substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with .

Because Ishmael is removed as the “I” of the story, on a grammatical level there is (spoiler alert!) no human at all left at the end of book.


perl -e 'sub n{(unpack"(A4)*","backbodybookcasedoorfacefacthandheadhomelifenamepartplayroomsidetimeweekwordworkyear")[rand 21]}print"consequence\nNick Montfort\n\na beginning";for(;$i<12500;$i++){print" & so a ".n;if(rand()<.6){print n}}print".\n"' #NNNGM

consequence code

consequence, the novel

Using compounding of the sort found in my computer-generated long poem The Truelist and my “ppg 256-3,” this presents a sequence of things — sometimes formed from a single very common four-letter word, sometimes from two combined — that, it is stated, somehow follow from each other:

a beginning & so a name & so a fact & so a case & so a bookdoor & so a head & so a factwork & so a sidelife & so a door & so a door & so a factback & so a backplay & so a name & so a facebook & so a lifecase & so a partpart & so a hand & so a bookname & so a face & so a homeyear & so a bookfact & so a book & so a hand & so a head & so a headhead & so a book & so a face & so a namename & so a life & so a hand & so a side & so a time & so a yearname & so a backface & so a headface & so a headweek & so a headside & so a bookface & so a bookhome & so a lifedoor & so a bookyear & so a workback & so a room & so a face & so a body & so a faceweek & so a sidecase & so a time & so a body & so a fact […]

Too Much Help at Once

python -c "help('topics')" | python -c "import sys;print('Too Much Help at Once\nNick Montfort');[i for i in sorted(''.join(sys.stdin.readlines()[3:]).split()) if print('\n'+i+'\n') or help(i)]" #NNNGM

Too Much Help at Once code

Too Much Help at Once, the novel

The program looks up all the help topics provided within the (usually interactive) help system inside Python itself. Then, it asks for help on everything, in alphabetical order, producing 70k+ words of text, according the GNU utility wc. The novel that results is, of course, an appropriation of text others have written; it arranges but doesn’t even transform that text. To me, however, it does have some meaning. Too Much Help at Once models one classic mistake that beginning programmers can make: Thinking that it’s somehow useful to read comprehensively about programming, or about a programming language, rather than actually using that programming language and writing some programs. Here’s the very beginning:

Too Much Help at Once
Nick Montfort


The “assert” statement

Assert statements are a convenient way to insert debugging assertions
into a program:

assert_stmt ::= “assert” expression [“,” expression]

A plot

So far I have noted one other #NNNGM entry, A plot by Milton Läufer, which I am reproducing here in corrected form, according to the author’s note:

perl -e 'sub n{(split/ /,"wedding murder suspicion birth hunt jealousy death party tension banishment trial verdict treason fight crush friendship trip loss")[rand 17]}print"A plot\nMilton Läufer\n\n";for(;$i<12500;$i++){print" and then a ".n}print".\n"'

Related in structure to consequence, but with words of varying length that do not compound, Läufer’s novel winds through not four weddings and a funeral, but about, in expectation, 735 weddings and 735 murders in addition to 735 deaths, leaving us to ponder the meaning of “a crush” when it occurs in different contexts:

and then a wedding and then a murder and then a trip and then a hunt and then a crush and then a trip and then a death and then a murder and then a trip and then a fight and then a treason and then a fight and then a crush and then a fight and then a friendship and then a murder and then a wedding and then a friendship and then a suspicion and then a party and then a treason and then a birth and then a treason and then a tension and then a birth and then a hunt and then a friendship and then a trip and then a wedding and then a birth and then a death and then a death and then a wedding and then a treason and then a suspicion and then a birth and then a jealousy and then a trip and then a jealousy and then a party and then a tension and then a tension and then a trip and then a treason and then a crush and then a death and then a banishment […]

Share, enjoy, and please participate by adding your Nano-NaNoGenMo entries as NaNoGenMo entries (via the GitHub site) and by tooting & tweeting them!

Taper #2 Is Out

The second issue of Taper, a literary magazine featuring small-scale computational work, is now online.

The second issue was edited by Sebastian Bartlett, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Angela Chang, Judy Heflin, and Rachel Paige Thompson, working collectively. Bad Quarto (my micropress) publishes the journal.

The call for issue #3 is posted. The deadline is February 18 (2019).

Taper #2 features 18 works by six a., Sebastian Bartlett, Kyle Booten, Angela Chang, Augusto Corvalan, Kavi Duvvoori, Esen Espinsa, Leonardo Flores, Judy Heflin, Chris Joseph, Vinicius Marquet, Stuart Moulthrop, Everest Pipkin, Mark Sample, and William Wu. Go take a look!

Platform Studies at 10

The Platform Studies series from MIT Press is now about ten years old. The first book in the series, my & Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, was published in 2009. (We also edit this series.) Before our book on the Atari VCS/Atari 2600 came out, we launched the site and announced the series, back at the end of 2006, and Ian and I were presenting about it at conferences the next year. So, although the exact birthday is uncertain, let’s say a (probably belated) happy 10th.

Pong's circuit board on the left, BASIC code from Hunt the Wumpus on the right
Pong compared to Hunt the Wumpus: The platforms, not just game structures and interfaces, fundamentally differ.

Nine books have been published in the series:

It’s worth noting again that platform studies isn’t a subset of game studies. You can see this from the above list, which includes books about two home computers (the Amiga and BBC Micro), a software platform used for different purposes (Flash), a national telecommunications system (Mintiel), and a peripheral used to connect computing to motion picture film (the Stromberg-Carlson 4020). On the other hand, its intersection with game studies is quite significant; four books are about gaming platforms while games play an important role in most of the other five studies.

As Ian & I have written, we have put forth platform studies, as a concept and (in capital letters) as a book series, simply as a way to focus an investigation of computational media.

It isn’t a methodology or even a method. It doesn’t require or preclude any particular sort of scholarship or analysis. We do think that since computational platforms are the focus in platform studies, some serious engagement with their computational aspects is needed, but this engagement can come from many different directions, from people with training in many disciplines and interdisciplines.

The point of the series and concept is to invite a focus on platform, just as we already have studies that focus on particular national contexts, particular historical periods, particular game/creative genres, particular games and creative works, and work done by particular organizations, collectives, and individuals. We describe this in, for instance:

That said, we have put forth a five-layered model to explain what a computational platform is and how it interacts with other layers of digital media. (This was introduced in Montfort, Nick, “Combat in Context,” Game Studies vol. 6, no. 1, December 2006.) We do believe computational platforms can be defined and that they have significance. So platform studies is meant to be an inviting space, but it is not one that is completely unfurnished.

Several people have done critical writing about the platform studies concept in the academic literature:

Others have taken a platform focus in their studies outside of the series, often in articles. These are a few that have come to my attention:

Ian & I continue to welcome inquiries from potential Platform Studies authors. We are available, as we have been, to help prospective authors develop book proposals for the MIT Press.

While we welcome books on all sorts of platforms, we want to particularly encourage writers to think about some of the platforms of major historical importance that are not yet covered in the series:

  • The Apple II series, successful home computers for which many games and business applications first were developed; also the basis for the success of Apple Computer.

  • The Commodore 64, the best-selling single model of computer ever made; highly influential in early online systems, gaming, the demoscene, and music.

  • The IBM PC, whose open architecture led “PC compatible” machines to dominate in home and business computing by the end of the 1980s.

  • The Macintosh series, influential in bringing the GUI into popular use; used in education and desktop publishing; the basis for the continued success of Apple Computer/Apple Inc.

  • Microsoft Windows, the operating system/desktop platform that has dominated in business but also many creative contexts and propelled the success of Microsoft.

  • HyperCard, the first widely-used hypermedia system before to the Web, included for free with Macs when it was released in 1987.

Again, books focused on any platform — or on a series of computers or a closely-related family of platforms — are welcome in Platform Studies. If a case can be made for studying a platform, it doesn’t need to be a popular favorite throughout the world. And, even if a platform is very prominent, a proposal still needs to explain why a study of it will be valuable. I just don’t want authors to shy away from these six!

Updated July 26 to add an entry for Samuel Tobin’s book on the Nintendo DS.

Happy New Year 2017

My New Year’s poem for 2017 is Colors, a 1KB Web page, online at and here it is, too:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html style="overflow:hidden">
<head><meta charset=utf-8>
<!-- Copyright (c) 2016 Nick Montfort <>   2016-12-31, 1KB

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification,
are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright
notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is,
without any warranty.

Click pauses, Add ?00f000 or similar to URL for the specified color.-->
<script type=text/javascript>
var c = 0, i;
function up() {
 if (c > 16581375) { c = 0; } = "#"+("00000"+c.toString(16)).slice(-6);
 c += 1;
function pause(e) {
 if (i) { clearInterval(i); i = 0; } else { go(); }
function init() {
 var s =;
 if (s.slice(0, 1) === '?') { c = parseInt(unescape(s.slice(1)), 16); }
function go() { i = window.setInterval(up, 5); };
<body onload=init() onmousedown=pause(event)>
<div style="width:100vw; height:100vh"></div>

As the code says, you can add an argument in the URL to start with a particular color, such as medium gray:

Click to stop on a particular color that you especially like. Click again to continue moving through the colors. If you let it run, you’ll see all 16581375 colors in just over 23 hours.

Happy new year.

Digital Lengua, the launch of 2×6 and Autopia, Nov 20 in NYC

Clouds of Digital Lengua palabras

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan –
5:30pm Sunday November 20

This reading of computer-generated literature in English and Spanish
serves as the global book launch for two titles:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series×6/
256 pp.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 pp.

Montfort will read from these two books, reading English and Spanish
texts from 2×6. Paperback copies will be available for purchase. The
short programs that generated these books are printed in the books and also
available as free software online.

Läufer will read from his projects Bigrammatology and WriterTools™, in
both cases, in Spanish and English.

Montfort and Läufer will read from work done as part of the Renderings
project and as part of another project, Heftings.

The Renderings project, organized by Montfort and based at his
lab, The Trope Tank, involves locating computational literature (such as
poetry generating computer programs) from around the globe and translating
these works into English. Läufer and Montfort will read from two
Spanish-language poetry generators, from Argentina and Spain, and from
translations of them.

The Heftings project, also organized by Montfort through The
Trope Tank, involves making attempts, often many, at translating conceptual,
constrained, concrete & visual, and other types of literary art that are
generally considered to be impossible to translate. Montfort and Läufer will
read from some short works that are originally in Spanish or English and
works that have Spanish or English translations.

Nick Montfort develops computational art and poetry, often
collaboratively. His poetry books are #!, Riddle & Bind, and
he co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story and 2×6. His
more than fifty digital projects, at, include the
collaborations The Deletionist, Sea and Spar Between, and the
project. His collaborative and individual books from the MIT
Press are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10,
and most recently Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities.
He lives in New York and
Boston, offers naming services as Nomnym, and is a professor at MIT.

Milton Läufer is an Argentinian writer, journalist and teacher.
Currently he is doing a PhD at New York University focused on digital
literature in Latin America. He is the 2016-2017 writer-in-residence of
The Trope Tank
, MIT. In 2015 he published Lagunas, a partially
algorithmic-generated novel, which —as most of his work— is available online
at He has participated in art exhibitions in
Latin America, the US and Europe. He lives in Brooklyn.

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan – 5:30pm Domingo, Noviembre 20

Esta lectura de literatura generada por computadora en español e inglés
oficiará, a la vez, de lanzamiento para los siguientes dos títulos:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series×6/
256 págs.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 págs.

Montfort leerá de ambos libros, en español e inglés para el caso de
. Habrá copias impresas disponibles para su compra. Los breves
programas que generan el código se encuentran en dichos libros y también en
línea como software libre (y gratuito).

Läufer leerá de sus proyectos Bigrammatology y WriterTools™, en español e inglés en ambos casos.

Los autores leerán también de los trabajos realizados en el marco de los
proyecto Renderings y Heftings.

El proyecto Renderings, organizado por Montfort con base en su
laboratorio, The Trope Tank, involucra la búsqueda de literatura
computacional (tal como poesía generada por programas de computadora) a lo
largo del globo y la traducción de estos proyectos al inglés. Läufer y
Montfort leerán de dos generadores de poesía en español, uno de Argentina y
otro de España, así como sus traducciones.

El proyecto Heftings, también organizado por Montfort a través de
The Trope Tank, consiste en la producción de intentos, a menudo
muchos, de traducir obras literarias conceptuales, formalistas, concretas o
visuales tales que son generalmente consideradas imposibles de traducir.
Montfort y Läufer leerán algunos trabajos breves originalmente en español o
inglés y trabajos que poseen traducciones españolas o inglesas.

Nick Montfort desarrolla arte y poesía computacional,
frecuentemente en colaboración. Entre sus libros se destacan #!,
Riddle & Bind
y Autopia; y, en colaboración, 2002: A
Palindrome Story
y 2×6. Entre sus más de cincuenta proyectos
digitales, en, se encuentran las colaboraciones The
, Sea and Spar Between y Renderings, un
proyecto centrado en la traducción. Sus libros de MIT Press son The New
Media Reader
, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
y, recientemente, Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities
. Vive en New York y Boston,
ofrece servicios de nombres como Nomnym, y es un profesor en MIT.

Milton Läufer es un escritor, periodista y docente argentino.
Actualmente se encuentra realizando un PhD en la New York University acerca
de literatura digital in América Latina. Es el escritor en residencia de
The Trope Tank
para el período 2016-2017, en MIT. En 2015 publicó la
novela generada parcialmente por algoritmos Lagunas, la cual —como el
resto de su obra el literatura digital— es accesible desde su sitio, Ha participado de exposiciones en América
Latina, Estados Unidos y Europa. Vive en Brooklyn.


Computer-Generated Books

Here’s a first effort (drafted, initially, at 2am on July 22) at a bibliography of computer-generated books.

These are books in the standard material sense, somehow printed, whether via print-on-demand or in a print run. I may include chapbooks eventually, as they certainly interest me, but so far I have been focusing on books, however bound, with spines. (Updated June 23, 2017: I added the first chapbooks today.) Books in any language are welcome.

So far I have not included books where the text has been obviously sorted computer (e.g. Auerbach, Reimer) or where a text has been produced repeatedly, obviously by computer (e.g. Chernofsky). Also omitted are computer-generated utilitarian tables, e.g. of logarithms or for artillery firing. Books composed using a formal process, but without using a computer, are not included.

I have included some strange outliers such as books written with computational assistance (programs were used to generate text and the text was human-assembled/edited/written) and one book that is apparently human written but is supposed to read like a computer-generated book.

I’d love to know about more of these. I’m not as interested in the thousands of computer-generated spam books available for purchase, and have not listed any of these, but let me know if there are specific ones that you believe are worthwhile. I would particularly like to know if some of the great NaNoGenMo books I’ve read are available in print.

Updated in 2016 11:43am July 22: Since the original post I have added Whalen, Tranter, Balestrini, and five books by Bök. 5:35pm: I’ve added Thompson and Woetmann. 8:37am July 23: Added Bogost. 8:37pm July 24: Added Bailey, Baudot, Cabell & Huff, Cage x 2, Huff, Hirmes. October 12-14: Added Archangel, Seward, Dörfelt. Updated in 2017 June 12: Added Morris, Pipkin. June 23: Added Clark, Knowles 2011, The Maggot, and four chapbooks: Knowles & Tenney, Parrish, Pipkin (picking figs…), Temkin. September 5: Added Mize. Updated in 2018 September 18: Added the first six Using Electricity books, Montfort, Perez y Perez, Parrish, Zilles, Bhatnagar, Läufer; also, Montfort 2018, King Zog, Goodwin. November 29: Added the three Constant 2013 books. Updated in 2019 February 21: Added Feldman, Giles, Lavigne x 2, Parrish (The Wcnsske…), Waller, Ye. March 5: Added Zolf. September 10: Added Allison, Donnachie, Marche, McConnell, and Soft Ions. September 25: Added Brzeski. October 31: Added Moure, Pentecost, and Reed.

Archangel, Cory. Working on my Novel. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Allison, Karmel and Gregory Chatonsky. Machines Upon Every Flower. Montréal: Anteism Publishing, 2019.

Audry, Sofian. for the sleepers in that quiet earth. Boston and New York: Bad Quarto, 2018.

Bailey, Richard W. Computer Poems. Drummond Island, MI: Potagannissing Press, 1973.

Balestrini, Nanni. Tristano. Translated by Mike Harakis. London and New York: Verso, 2014.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. and Emma Stewart. Exchange of Letters. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, third installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Gold Chocobo. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, fourth installment. Mount Vernon, 2018.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Or, the Whale. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, second installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Post Meridiem. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, first installment. Santa Cruz, 2016.

Baudot, Jean. La Machine a écrire mise en marche et programmée par Jean A. Baudot. Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bhatnagar, Ranjit. Encomials: Sonnets from Pentametron. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Bogost, Ian. A Slow Year: Game Poems. Highlands Ranch, CO: Open Texture, [2010].

Bök, Christian. LXUM,LKWC (Oh Time Thy Pyramids). San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. MCV. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. Axaxaxas Mlo. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Plaster Cramp. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Combed Thunderclap. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Brzeski, Samuel. I laugh while crying. And I barely cry. What’s wrong with me? TEXSTpress, Bergen. 2019

Cabell, Mimi, and Jason Huff. American Psycho. Vienna: Traumavien, 2012.

Cage, John. Anarchy (New York City, January 1988). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Cage, John. I-IV. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Carpenter, J. R. GENERATION[S] Vienna: Traumawien, 2010.

Cayley, John and Daniel C. Howe, How it Is in Common Tongues. Providence: NLLF, 2012.

Cayley, John. Image Generation. London: Veer Books, 2015.

Chamberlin, Darick. Cigarette Boy: A Mock Machine Mock-Epic. [Seattle]: Rogue Drogue: 1991.

Chan, Paul. Phaedrus Pron. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited, 2010.

Clark, Ron. My Buttons Are Blue and Other Love Poems from the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer. Woodsboro, Maryland: Arcsoft Pub, 1982.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: James Joyce & Rabindranath Tagore & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: Rabindra[na]th Tagore & Virginia Woolf & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: Sherwood Anderson & Henri Bergson & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

Daly, Liza. Seraphs: A Procedurally Generated Mysterious Codex. [San Francisco]: Blurb, 2014.

Donnachie, Karen Ann and Andy Simionato. A Nonhuman Reading of Sabri Cetinkunt’s Mechatronics (2006): Part A. The Library of Nonhuman Books, 2019.

Feldman, Shira. the limits of my language are the limits of my world. n.p., n.d.

Friedhoff, Jane. it is a different/friction. 2015.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. Written Images. 2011.

Funkhouser, Christopher. Electro þerdix. Propolis Press. Least Weasel Chapbook Series. 2011.

Giles, Harry Josephine and Martin O’leary. New Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (Dialecty). Book Works, 2018.

Goodwin, Ross. 1 the Road. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2018.

Hartman, Charles and Hugh Kenner. Sentences. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995.

Heldén, Johannes and Håkan Jonson. Evolution. Stockholm, OEI Editör, 2014.

Hirmes, David. Directions From Unknown Road to Unknown Road. [Handmade edition of 10.] The Elements Press: 2010.

Huff, Jason. Autosummarize. [McNally Jackson]: 2010.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler-Henry. Apostrophe. Toronto, ECW Press, 2006.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler. Update. Montréal: Snare, [2010.]

King Zog. Google, Volume 1. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2013.

Knowles, Alison, James Tenney, and Siemens System 4004. A House of Dust. Köln & New York: Verlag Gebr. König, 1969.

Knowles, Alison. Clear Skies All Week. Onestar Press, 2011.

Larson, Darby. Irritant. New York and Atlanta: Blue Square Press, 2013.

Läufer, Milton. A Noise Such as a Man Might Make. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Lavigne, Sam. SELF HELP BOOK. New York, NY: Self Published, 2018.

Lavigne, Sam. Taxonomy of Humans According to Twitter. New York, NY: Self Published, 2018.

Maggot, The. Heroic Real Estate Otter of the 21st Century., 2013.

Marche, Stephen. “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Wired. Dec. 2017, pp. 108-115.

McConnell, Gregory Austin. Today is Spaceship Day. n.p., 2019.

Mize, Rando. Machine Ramblings. n.p., 2016.

Montfort, Nick. World Clock. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. Zegar ?wiatowy. Translated by Piotr Marecki. Krakow: ha!art, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. #! Denver: Counterpath, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. Megawatt. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2014.

Montfort, Nick, Serge Bouchardon, Carlos León, Natalia Fedorova, Andrew Campana, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki. 2×6. Global Poetics series. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Montfort, Nick. The Truelist. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Montfort, Nick. Hard West Turn. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2018.

Moure, Erín. Pillage Laud. Moveable Books, 1999. BookThug, 2011.

Morris, Simon. Re-writing Freud. York, England: Information as Material, 2005.

Parrish, Allison. The Ephemerides. Access Token Secret Press, 2015.

Parrish, Allison. Articulations. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Parrish, Allison. The Wcnsske-Gonshanshcoma Reconstructions. QUEER.ARCHIVE.WORK, 2018.

Pentecost, Stephen M. Thomas Browne’s Commonplace Book., 2016.

Pérez y Pérez, Rafael. Mexica: 20 Years–20 Stories [20 años–20 historias]. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2017.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself. Austin: Raw Paw Press, 2015.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. no people. Katie Rose Pipkin, 2015.

Racter. “Soft Ions.” Omni. Oct. 1981, pp 96-148.

Racter, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Reed, Aaron A. Subcutanean. USA, 2019.

Rosén, Carl-Johan. I Speak Myself Into an Object. Stockholm: Rensvist Förlag, 2013.

Dörfelt, Matthias. I Follow. Series of unique flip-books with computer-generated aspects of animation. Made by the artist. 2013-present.

Seward, Rob. Death Death Death. VHS Design LLC, 2010.

Stewart, Emma. My Lovers Learn About the Economy of Debt. n.p., n.d.

Stewart, Emma. Slapping Bandaids on Earthquakes: Thoughts about life under surveillance. n.p., n.d.

Temkin, Daniel. Non-Words. Edition of 100, each with unique words generated by same algorithm used in @nondenotative. n.d.

Thompson, Jeff. Grid Remix: The Fellowship of the Ring. San Francisco: Blurb, 2013.

[Tiar, Louis-Charles]. Let us Now Praise 5,202 Persons. n.p., n.d.

Tranter, John. Different Hands. North Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998.

Walker, Nathan. Action Score Generator. Manchester: if p then q, 2015.

Waller, Angie. Seeing Like a Computer. New York, NY: Unknown Unknowns, 2018.

Whalen, Zach. An Anthrogram. Fredericksburg, Virginia: 2015.

Woetmann, Peter-Clement. 105 Variationer. Cophenhagen: Arena, 2015.

Ye, Katherine and A. Zhou. Hyperbible. SVN Systems, 2017.

Zilles, Li. Machine, Unlearning. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Zolf, Rachel. Human Resources. Coach House Books: Toronto, 2007.

#! Reading at MIT, Wednesday, 6:30pm

Nick Montfort presents #! in the atrium of MIT’s building E15, just steps from the Kendall T stop. It’s October 22, Wednesday, at 6:30pm, and thanks to the List Visual Arts Center. The book is Montfort’s new one from Counterpath Press, consisting of programs and poems. Please, come join me!

E15 Atrium

Computational Media Department at UCSC

Michael Mateas looks even more smug than normal – and he should – in the photo accompanying this UC Santa Cruz press release. He’s the chair of the new Computational Media department at that UC school, the first of its sort.

My collaborator & friend Michael, along with my collaborator & friend Noah Wardrip-Fruin, have made good on the suggestions of the report “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media,” the outcome of an NEH-, NEA-, NSF-, and Microsoft-sponsored workshop of which I was a part, along with about 40 others.

I’m glad, too, that Michael expressed how, while games are a critical part of computational media, the field’s potential goes beyond the current state of computer and video gaming.

It looks like computational media has a great future in Santa Cruz!

Zegar Światowy, the Polish World Clock

World Clock in Polish, displayed
World Clock (book, code) has now been published in Polish. The translation is by Piotr Marecki, who translated the underlying novel-generating program and generated a new novel in Polish. ha!art is the publisher, and the book appears in the Liberatura series, which also includes some very distinguished titles: The Polish translations of Finnegans Wake and of Perec’s Life A User’s Manual, for instance.

The Polish World Clock on the shelf

My Boston-Area Events This Fall

Yes, the first event is today, the date of this post…

September 12, Friday, 6pm-8pm

Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
“Collision21: More Human” exhibit opens – it’s up through October 26.
“From the Tables of My Memorie” by Montfort, an interactive video installation, is included.

September 18, Thursday, 7pm-8pm

Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA
Montfort reads from #!, World Clock, and the new paperback 10 PRINT

September 24, Wednesday, 7:30pm

Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
Montfort joins a panel of artists in “Collision21: More Human” for this Art Technology New England discussion.

October 22, Wednesday, 6:30pm-7:30pm

The Atrium of MIT’s Building E15 (“Old Media Lab”/Wiesner Building)
Montfort reads from #! at the List Visual Arts Center

November 15, Saturday, 9am-3pm

MIT (specific location TBA)
Urban Poetry Lateral Studio, a master class by Montfort for MIT’s SA+P

December 4, Thursday, 5pm-7pm

MIT’s 66-110
“Making Computing Strange,” a forum with:
  Lev Manovich (Software Takes Command, The Language of New Media)
  Fox Harrell (Phantasmal Media)
  moderated by Nick Montfort
The forum will examine the ways in which computational models can be used in cultural contexts for everything from analyzing media to imagining new ways to represent ourselves.

A Koan

The disciple went to Minsky.

The disciple told him of his project, to develop a story generator with different components, a collaborative system that collaborated.

Minsky asked if a specific author was to be imitated.

No, the disciple said, the project seeks to do what only computers can do, to use computational power in new ways. And yet, the disciple admitted, the system models human creativity, techniques and processes that people use. Hesitantly, the disciple said, “it does seem contradictory…”

“You can do both,” said Minsky.

At that moment, the disciple was enlightened.