Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

2024 Participants: Hannah Ackermans * Sara Alsherif * Leonardo Aranda * Brian Arechiga * Jonathan Armoza * Stephanie E. August * Martin Bartelmus * Patsy Baudoin * Liat Berdugo * David Berry * Jason Boyd * Kevin Brock * Evan Buswell * Claire Carroll * John Cayley * Slavica Ceperkovic * Edmond Chang * Sarah Ciston * Lyr Colin * Daniel Cox * Christina Cuneo * Orla Delaney * Pierre Depaz * Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal * Koundinya Dhulipalla * Samuel DiBella * Craig Dietrich * Quinn Dombrowski * Kevin Driscoll * Lai-Tze Fan * Max Feinstein * Meredith Finkelstein * Leonardo Flores * Cyril Focht * Gwen Foo * Federica Frabetti * Jordan Freitas * Erika FülöP * Sam Goree * Gulsen Guler * Anthony Hay * SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY * Brendan Howell * Minh Hua * Amira Jarmakani * Dennis Jerz * Joey Jones * Ted Kafala * Titaÿna Kauffmann-Will * Darius Kazemi * andrea kim * Joey King * Ryan Leach * cynthia li * Judy Malloy * Zachary Mann * Marian Mazzone * Chris McGuinness * Yasemin Melek * Pablo Miranda Carranza * Jarah Moesch * Matt Nish-Lapidus * Yoehan Oh * Steven Oscherwitz * Stefano Penge * Marta Pérez-Campos * Jan-Christian Petersen * gripp prime * Rita Raley * Nicholas Raphael * Arpita Rathod * Amit Ray * Thorsten Ries * Abby Rinaldi * Mark Sample * Valérie Schafer * Carly Schnitzler * Arthur Schwarz * Lyle Skains * Rory Solomon * Winnie Soon * Harlin/Hayley Steele * Marylyn Tan * Daniel Temkin * Murielle Sandra Tiako Djomatchoua * Anna Tito * Introna Tommie * Fereshteh Toosi * Paige Treebridge * Lee Tusman * Joris J.van Zundert * Annette Vee * Dan Verständig * Yohanna Waliya * Shu Wan * Peggy WEIL * Jacque Wernimont * Katherine Yang * Zach Whalen * Elea Zhong * TengChao Zhou
CCSWG 2024 is coordinated by Lyr Colin (USC), Andrea Kim (USC), Elea Zhong (USC), Zachary Mann (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), and Mark C. Marino (USC) . Sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (USC), and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (UCSB).

Critical Code Studies in Translingual Contexts - DHQ article on work by Daniel C. Howe.

Hello all, I'm a bit busy until Tuesday but will then be 'around'. Here's a link to my article in the DHQ issue:
... and also the abstract. I used 'possibility space' in the article just at the time when I should have used 'vector space' since Howe's work does explore a vector space even though it is one that is relatively simple, heuristic, and more or less arbitrarily applied for conceptual+aesthetic reasons; nonetheless, this is in contrast to the vast, multidimensional and more or less hermetic spaces which now threaten to dominate our practices. Note how the topography of the 'same kind' of space for one language is entirely different for another, despite 'the same code'. Who accounts for/interprets this, and how?


A code-critical close reading of two related works by Daniel C. Howe. The artist's Automatype is an installation that visualizes and sonifies minimal-distance paths between English words and thus explores a possibility space that is relatively familiar to western readers, not only readers of English but also readers of any language which uses Latin letters to compose the orthographic word-level elements of its writing system [Howe 2012-16a]. In Radical of the Vertical Heart 忄 (RotVH) Howe engages with commensurate explorations in certain possibility spaces of the Chinese writing system and of the language’s lexicon. Translinguistically these spaces and, as it were, orthographic architectures, are structured in radically different ways. A comparative close reading of the two works will bring us into productive discursive relationship not only with distinct and code-critically significant programming strategies, but also with under-appreciated comparative linguistic concepts having implications for the theory of writing systems, of text, and of language as such. Throughout, questions concerning the aestheticization of this kind of computational exploration and visualization may also be addressed. His website is


  • Dear John,

    I very much enjoyed reading your paper and exploring the artist's homepage. I am also fascinated by your work on digital language art!

    While reading your paper, I had a few associations, and therefore, I'd like to formulate those as questions. I apologize if these ideas seem obvious to you, as I am relatively new to critical code studies. My thoughts went directly to Claude E. Shannon’s stochastic analysis of the English language, specifically how often each letter appears. How does this 'tradition' of mathematizing language play into Howe’s art?

    Furthermore, I thought of the German computer philosopher from the early 1950s, Max Bense. He coined the term “Informationsästhetik” (information aesthetics), a cybernetical approach to thinking about language and texts. Bense tries to understand the beauty of art and literature through statistics, referring to the "programming of beauty" in terms of the material distribution of elements like words or letters. This concept could be combined with Derrida’s term “dissemination,” I believe. Lastly, this leads me to Bernard Stiegler’s term of “third or tertiary retention,” as explained in his books “Neganthropocene,” building on Derrida. Is there a relation between the code, the art, your understanding of the text, and the theoretical interrelation between deconstruction and “information aesthetics”? Could Max Bense’s aesthetics provide a contrast to Howe’s artworks?

    Maybe there is a connecting point to the function of the reader. If Bense’s “information aesthetics” constitutes the beauty of the artwork, what position is assigned to the reader? Does this concept perhaps relate to the sublime?

    Please disregard my comments if this is familiar territory for you. I look forward to reading your book and articles about digital language art!

    P.S. Regarding Chinese characters, I thought of Ernest Fenollosa’s study, "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry," where he also discusses the translatability of Chinese into English and vice versa.

  • This is fantastic, John! It made me think of how historically the mapping of techniques and technologies between languages (cf. Mullaney's work on the Chinese typewriter and computer) interfaces with this work. Given that tokenization is itself different across languages (some of which is down to the comparative size of data), how may we delineate between what is down to language (structure/form) and what is down to the availability of language (data).

  • Many thanks for both these comments, and thanks to any and all for viewing and taking part in this forum, specifically and generally. I'm very grateful on my own behalf and also on behalf of Daniel (a long term collaborator and friend) for the attention to this work of his in particular and to all that he has done for language art with computation. (We mustn't ever fail to mention his literary-practice-oriented NLP package RiTa.) I haven't been online enough just lately, so I'm glad I'm only a day behind with a few responses now ;)

    1. Shannon, Information Theory, 'language as choice and chance' all underlie Daniel Howe's practice and much that is done under the rubric of electronic literature / digital language art / language art with computation. But in the case of the two works discussed in my article, it's not so much chance or the stochastic exploitation of (letter) frequencies that are at stake. Howe has written algorithms, implementing a dimension of linguistic 'distance' (which is, yes, 'shaped' by letter frequencies), known as Levenshteinian, that is arbitrary but actually deterministic with respect to the (lexically established) orthographies of the languages' systems of inscription.
    2. An 'Information aesthetic,' is it operative in Howe's work here? Most certainly. The work visualizes – makes readable, as graphically inscribed traces of language – a linguistic topography based on underlying statistics: distributions of sub-tokens with respect to lexical tokens and their lexicon. This is proposed as conceptually, aesthetically 'interesting,' perhaps even 'beautiful.' If this aesthetic has a 'grounding' it could only be characterized as formal, conceptual: a 'statistical sublime' of English and/or Chinese spelling. The relation of this aesthetic to that of any human reading that is done as the words are 'found' – when their traversing Levenshtienian spaces – is another matter, related to phrase-making perhaps. Then in 'Radical ...' Howe introduces, explicitly, a separate, critical art/sociopolitical aesthetic. So: Bense: yes: I'd say that Howe is more of a successor to/follower of Bense, than in contrast.
    3. I find it harder to relate the concepts and idea you cite from Derrida and Stiegler to this project. For me deconstruction hinges on differances (sic) that are in excess of and thus deconstruct the tokens and tokenization of orthography and lexicons. More or less 'by definition' digitalized practices are constrained, precisely, by their dependencies on prior formal schemes of thus on regularly distributed tokens. However, these schemes (or regimes) themselves are contextually and historically determined. The point of my comparing Howe's work with English and Chinese is to begin to reveal (and deconstruct) some of this contextual and historical determination which with respect to language exceeds the differences (sic) that are encoded in what I now call orthotext: the cleaned-up corpora on which our current regime of computation seems to depend. (I'm afraid can't really get to any connection to Stiegler's tertiary retention here, or at this moment, anyway.)
    4. I think I tried to answer the 'role of the reader' question above, very much agreeing with you.
    5. Fenollosa's study: This is a big one, and believe me, I've been thinking about it as long as I can remember, since my first encounters, which were a long, long time ago. But, to be honest, I don't think it's of any particular help for understanding what Howe is doing in 'Radical ...' other than to reference a certain inevitable evocation of speculations on the part of non-readers of Chinese writing when they encounter this writing in their own aesthetic or literary contexts.

    Thanks for the kind words and yes, you've 'got it' in terms of what motivated me (at least in part) to write about Daniel's work in this instance. In my world, the 'text' is most definitely not identical to whatever the 'language' is, ontologically. This holds with respect to any linguistic artifact of any size or at any 'level' of linguistic structure (letter, word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, work, etc., etc.). This precept applies with even greater force of truth to any 'tokenized' or formalized analysis or rendition of the 'text'. Pointing out that the relationships between (tokenized) text and language-as-such are very different when the 'natural languages' (and their integrated systems of inscription) are different:— This is one of the ways that we can demonstrate the critical and code-critical efficacy of what I have here called a 'precept'.

  • @shadoof First of all, thank you very much for the detailed answers to my questions. I have learned a lot.

    I definitely agree with you about Fenollosa. It seems to me that this is a discursive text that runs parallel to Howe's riding off, but does not lead through the middle of the discourse.
    As far as tertiary retention is concerned, I need of course to add the concept of protention. In my opinion, and here I found Yuk Hui's texts plausible, the terms allude to the specific form of writing in the digital, that is, digital writing takes place on a third level of retention and protention.

Sign In or Register to comment.