Monitor Calibration Report

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In the box of my new monitor: a report on color and grayscale brightness. Since I got two monitors, I can verify (for nerds like me who really enjoy algorithmically-generated objects like this) that this isn’t canned but actually unique to the monitor.

Javascript Variable Names from Amazon.com

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This month, I’m participating in the Critical Code Studies Working Group. As part of that, this post focuses on a detail of tiny size but vast proliferation: JavaScript variable names. They are created by humans or machines for other humans or machines. Regardless of how they were generated, variable names are chosen by someone (a programmer) or something (minimizing or obfuscation software). They are texts written across the web, hidden just below the surface of the browser and easily accessible, yet they do not form the written text we see on the screen or the semantic markup of HTML.

Specifically, this post focuses on a list of all 175 JavaScript variable names from amazon.com, which can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1Oe7ic9. At first glance the JavaScript variable names are seemingly random, but on a closer read they fall into a few different categories, which may help us better understand them.

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White-On-White Spam Text

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From a series of spam emails going around recently. Ad text in black at the top, a very long paragraph in white at the bottom. Appears to be random snippets of restaurant reviews.

Junk Mail/Artist Book

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An amazing thing arrived unsolicited in the mail yesterday. It included the above items: a fake email printout from a boss to a sales person telling them to buy my car, a fake handwritten note at the bottom to me, and a fake handwritten note on fake legal pad paper.

It’s pretty easy to see through this and realize it’s junk mail, but the overall complexity of the package, the way my name and the make/model of my car is integrated, makes for a pretty amazing object. This will certainly be added to my collection of algorithmically-generated artist books and ephemera.

Every Service Provider

Every service provider used by visitors to my website in 2014, via Google Analytics. View the entire list below; download the list here.

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Algorithmic Text in “Gulliver’s Travels”

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From “Gulliver’s Travels”, part 3, chapter 5:

“The first professor I saw, was in a very large room, with forty pupils about him.  After salutation, observing me to look earnestly upon a frame, which took up the greatest part of both the length and breadth of the room, he said, “Perhaps I might wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative knowledge, by practical and mechanical operations.  But the world would soon be sensible of its usefulness; and he flattered himself, that a more noble, exalted thought never sprang in any other man’s head.  Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.”  He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks.  It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room.  The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others.  They were all linked together by slender wires.  These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order.  The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.”  The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed.  He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes.  This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down.

Six hours a day the young students were employed in this labour; and the professor showed me several volumes in large folio, already collected, of broken sentences, which he intended to piece together, and out of those rich materials, to give the world a complete body of all arts and sciences; which, however, might be still improved, and much expedited, if the public would raise a fund for making and employing five hundred such frames in Lagado, and oblige the managers to contribute in common their several collections.

He assured me “that this invention had employed all his thoughts from his youth; that he had emptied the whole vocabulary into his frame, and made the strictest computation of the general proportion there is in books between the numbers of particles, nouns, and verbs, and other parts of speech.””

Above: an illustration of the text-generating machine, from the text.