Reading & Writing Electronic Text - Week 3

Randomness, surprise and juxtaposition.



"Juxtaposition makes the reader an accomplice in the poem, forging the links of meaning."



The use of juxtaposition and the "gaps" that are created forces the reader to supply their own connections in order to make sense and meaning of the poem. This allows the reader to be an accomplice to the poem, involving them not only in the reading of the poetry, but in the forging of connections that supply meaning. In this way, each reader supplies their own unique meaning and no reading of a poem can be exactly the same. This creates a cyclical process of all parties involved in the creation of meaning from poetry.


Juxtaposition in poetry disrupts the reader from the mundane habits of everyday language, forcing them to stop and notice this gap, leading them to make sense of it. This element of surprise in the use of juxtaposition can be exciting because it is unexpected. The creation of pure randomness is hard for humans because we are always creating or supplying meaning in order to make sense of the world. In contrast, a computer's ability to create randomness far surpasses any human because it does not allocate any meaning onto words and thus can remove itself from the desire to connect these gaps with meaning. This proposes the idea that randomness can only be created if it is devoid of intention. Which makes me question, what is randomness? Randomness has an element of surprise, because the connections we are used to seeing are stripped apart and we are forced to find new ones in order to make sense of it. Dictionary definitions of randomness point towards randomness being without "definite aim" or having a "process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen." (Dictionary.com).


This reminds me of a game I used to play with my friends when I was younger. The game was simple - how many random words could you come up with as fast as possible that had no intentional connection between them? The person who could come up with the most, the fastest won. This would sprout screams of galaxy, spider, scissors, ocean, etc. And even then, couldn't you argue that everything has some sort of connection to each other? If everything exists within this universe, isn't it all connected somehow? Without trying to go too deep into philosophical and existential questions, can humans ever create something without any form of intention behind it? Can a computer?


If I was to ask, which would you bet to output a better selection of random words, a computer or human, which would you choose? Why? Maybe the beauty we humans find in the random outputs of computational poetry or generated text is the computer's seemingly effortless ability to create this randomness that we struggle so hard to do.


For me, randomness and juxtaposition both have the ability to create surprise towards the reader, but they differ slightly in intent. Randomness implies statistically chosen words or forms, devoid of intention while juxtaposition implies deliberate and intended choice between two things that "contrast" or "compare" to each other. Is randomness reserved towards computers and juxtapositions reserved towards humans? Can computers create juxtapositions?


Lastly, randomness and juxtaposition differ from each other in this gap of meaning. The bigger the gap, the more powerful the effect, because the reader is more involved in bridging the gap with their own meaning and connection. However when the gap becomes too big for the reader to cross, it enters into the realm of nonsense. The reader is unable to forge a connection of meaning and they do not know how to make sense of it. I think this line between the distance of the gaps and the difference between meaning and nonsense is an interesting one. Could this difference in gap also be the difference between randomness and juxtaposition?