Reading Machines, Penumbra, Saussure

One part of Reading Machines I found most fascinating was the section about Saussure and the discovery of anagrams within poems. Up until then, and I’m not sure how I feel now, I was not sold on Ramsay’s ideas about algorithmic criticism. It was interesting to hear about the linguistics founder treating signs, typically associated with meaning, treating them as data, like the way that Ramsay described. It’s interesting, but not really sure what it accomplishes and how it moves literature and criticism forward. By analyzes poems, in this algorithmic manner, Saussure found some anagrams, but does that change or create new meaning in the text? I feel like I’m missing something about his argument, or maybe its because I have never had the desire to crack open a text in this manner. It too closely resembles the scene in Penumbra where they focus so heavily on breaking into this text by hundreds of thousands of algorithms and then come up with: nothing. It shows that the material of a book can mean something, but perhaps it just means something different than cracking it through turning the text into data. Though Ramsay’s way of criticism the algorithm is just a tool to be used for literary analysis, so, in theory, Google must have come with something when cracking the Codex, obviously Sloane is not going to go into that though. This new way of criticism rubs me the wrong way, but maybe it’s supposed to.

One thought on “Reading Machines, Penumbra, Saussure

  1. It’s interesting you also found a connection to Penumbra. I did as well (with Kat’s thinking experiment), and so did someone else (mrsdalloway, I believe) in relation to how we kind of blindly trust the Googlers that code and create our everyday products. I wonder what it is about this text that made us all think about Penumbra? Perhaps it is something to do with the algorithmic way of thinking in relation to how Google seems to possess this programmatic black box with their search engine?

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