Assembly Lines: Web Generators as Hypertexts

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Assembly Lines: Web Generators as Hypertexts

  • Elizabeth Losh
  • University of California, Irvine

Creativity and Constraints

  • To users, popular web-based “generators” seem both to create original verbal or visual online texts and to output data that conforms to the conventions of a specific and recognizable pre-established genre.
  • Thus, web generators are both generative and generic.

Church Sign Generator

  • Textual Pleasures
  • “Ever wanted to rearrange the letters to make your own church sign? . . . Save it, send it to a friend, put on your website, or use it however you like. Enjoy!”

Web Generators and Social Subversion

  • Other conventionally forbidden activities of defacement include writing on blackboards, painting graffiti, and giving women tattoos.
  • Users are also allowed to personalize signifiers of authority, education, and privilege as visitors to put their own names on law enforcement badges, diplomas, military dog tags, and access passes.

Boarding Pass Generator

  • Mirror sites, objections from blogging communities proliferate in response to FBI raid charging “fraud and forgery”

Christopher Soghoian on the generation of names on watch lists

  • Sound-alike names
  • 30,000 people who have requested that their names be removed.
  • “Insecure Flight: Broken Boarding Passes and Ineffective Terrorist Watch Lists”

Deconstruction Engines

  • Interactive hypertexts have the capacity to create texts that are readerly and non-linear.
  • Organized by a “rhetoric of departure and arrival”

Poetic Machines

A Genre for Spontaneous Creativity and Play

  • Chance operations and cut-up texts

A Genre for Satire

  • Theoretical, scientific, and aesthetic pretensions can be lampooned because generators output automatic or pseudo-random results.

Postmodern Essay Generator

  • Inspired by the Sokal hoax, this generator outputs prose of pseudo-postmodern theory.
  • Creator Andrew Bulhak compares this simulation of scholarly prose to “mental debility” or the “ranting of a paranoid schizophrenic street preacher, or perhaps a USENET ranter” or the text of “eccentric pseudoscientic/religious pamphlets.”



  • The authority of supposedly peer-reviewed scientific conferences is similarly lampooned

Doing Things with Words

  • Anthropological perspectives on magic and linguistic formulae
  • Speech act theory

Threats, Curses, and Insults

Blessings and Compliments

  • """ Random Compliment Generator """ # based on the Random Insult Generator but modified for a work environment pronoun = ['you','my','thou'] verb = ['hard working', 'forward thinking', 'fast moving'] # doing words verb.extend(['quick learning', 'compelling','painstakingly', 'encouraging']) verb.extend(['amazingly'] adjective = ['intelligent', 'smart'] # describing word adjective.extend(['vigorous','energetic','resourceful', 'thorough', 'meticulous']) adjective.extend(['reliable','diligent','advanced']) adjective.extend(['avant garde','cutting edge','revolutionary','dynamic']) noun

Name Generators

Abstract Art Generators

  • Visual images can be generated as well as verbal expressions
  • Satire or homage?

PHP Coding Communities

  • Attitudes about expertise and mentorship
  • Attitudes about ownership of
  • intellectual property or participation in
  • a creative commons

The Virtual State

  • Online forms and middleware applications

Web 2.0 Generators

  • How do these compare
  • to recent critiques in print?
  • Questions of form and function

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