Holding Text: (Un)Creative Writing in the Digital Age – Andrea Mason

Prior to Andrea Mason’s lecture today, we were asked to read an article from The New Yorker by Kennth Goldsmith, titled ‘Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet”’. This argued against the criticisms of people, students in particular, being distracted by the internet, and suggests that this ‘distraction’ is still a way of learning and taking in information, it just isn’t something accepted yet as a form of education.

“We are reading and writing differently—skimming, parsing, grazing, bookmarking, forwarding, retweeting, reblogging, and spamming language—in ways that aren’t yet recognised as literary.”

Goldsmith goes on to describe web surfing as a form of self expression. “Every click is indicative of who we are: indicative of our likes, our dislikes, our emotions, our politics, our world view.” He believes we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty when we emerge from a sleep like state of internet browsing. I don’t particularly agree with Goldsmith trying to redefine ‘dead time’ spent on the internet as something that has been engaging and creative; it all depends on the person and whether they take inspiration from what they have read or watched. If it contributes to something productive then the ‘dead time’ is not longer ‘dead time’. However I do agree that the internet is NOT making us less intelligent, as many would argue. We are reading and writing more than ever, it’s just making us more intelligent about issues other than the ones contained in libraries.

Mason started the lecture by comparing the ‘writing world’ to the ‘art and music world’. Despite all being within the creative industry, it is only acceptable for a piece to be reworked if it is in the form of art or music, this is even celebrated; however for a piece of writing to be acceptable it has to be completely original, if it is found to have been copied in any shape or form it will be slated. An example of this can be seen in Sherrie Levine‘s ‘After Walker Evans‘, a photograph of a photograph. This was both a scandal and success in the art world, both praised and attacked. More can be read about Levine’s work here.

The lecture then moved on to psychogeography, more specifically dérive, which is an unplanned journey through a landscape. Guy Debord defined it as “a mode of experimental behaviour linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.”, methodologies can be seen in William Burroughscut ups (see example in last post).

Many of us knew Burroughs from his novel Naked Lunch which I didn’t realise was made using the cut up method. David Bowie is another artist who uses this technique, inspired by Burroughs. Bowie would cut up his diaries and rearrange them, he claimed this was a great way to find things out about himself. This concept would be interesting if you combined it with Goldsmith’s idea about all of our ‘clicks’ on the internet defining us, (a more contemporary version of a diary), if we did cut ups of pages from our internet history I’m sure we would also find out more about ourselves and our likes, dislikes, emotions, politics, and world view. Like Naked Lunch, examples of cut ups in famous writing, can be seen in some of Bowie’s songs.

Below are different examples of cut outs:
Flarf, done with Google searches
Alt Lit, where the author draws its motif from the interent
Blackout poetry, where the words you don’t want to keep from a text are scribbled out to reveal a new piece of writing from the words left. Similar to ‘Tree of Codes’, discussed in Andrew Slatter’s lecture on Authorship.

These are influenced by Dada poetry, Dada was an art movement in the early 20th century. We then looked back at Kenneth Goldsmith’s work again, this time looking at poetry which draws from Dada traditions, i.e. Traffic, a transcription of travel reports, and The Weather, a transcription of weather forecasts.


Kenneth Goldsmith

We finished the lecture by creating our own piece of writing through cutting and pasting from sources of our choices, this can be seen in my previous blog post.

I thought today’s lecture was really interesting and I was entertained creating my own piece of writing by manipulating the words of others. However creative writing, the ideas behind it, and where it is going is not something that I am particularly captivated by and never have been therefore I don’t think this lecture topic is one that I will be likely to answer the essay question on at the end of the lecture series.

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