Around 2014, there was a thing on Twitter were a spam­bot could ran­domly get at­tached to your time­line: lik­ing old posts, re­ply­ing to con­ver­sa­tions etc.

Twitter bots some­times have con­ver­sa­tions be­tween each other: [Bank of America Twitter bot joins a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two other bots]

Twitter bots used to be easy to spot - they’re put to­gether from these ran­dom scraped pieces of in­for­ma­tion - names, im­ages, words. Sometimes they be­come en­tirely in­co­her­ent - here lan­guage be­comes plas­tic ma­te­r­ial that is copied and pasted to­gether ran­domly. Language with­out mean­ing - it reads more like some strange in­can­ta­tion.

Brion Gysin de­vel­ops the cut-up method: Cutting up text to gen­er­ate new text. William Burroughs uses this on The naked lunch. As you progress, the text be­comes more and more frag­mented.

Dialect of Englightenment (Adorno, Horkheimer):

On the mag­i­cal plane, dream and im­age were not mere signs for the thing in ques­tion, but are bound with it by sim­i­lar­ity or by name

If you have the im­age, you have the thing. Control the word, con­trol the thing. See also the de­vel­op­ment of writ­ten lan­guage.

gysin Brion Gysin arranges a grid of cal­lig­ra­phy and type­writ­ten text

Burroughs ap­plies sim­i­lar think­ing to the tape ma­chine. Like a lot of peo­ple in the 40s, he has this very mag­i­cal idea of what tech­nol­ogy can do.

The in­vis­i­ble gen­er­a­tion

Up un­til Edison, sound dis­ap­pears the sec­ond it ap­pears. The idea that you can sud­denly play back the voices of the past is very ex­cit­ing to Burroughs. He ex­per­i­ments with play­back speed, over­lay­ing, play­ing things back­wards etc.

Anyone with a tape recorder can in­flu­ence and cre­ate events

There was a grey veril be­tween what you saw or more of­ten did not see that grey veil was the pre­re­corded words of a con­trol ma­chine

For Burroughs, u ex­per­i­men­tal record­ing and ex­per­i­men­tal writ­ing are ways to punch through this grey veil.


Ectoplasm used to be big in the 19th cen­tury. People fig­ured it was the link be­tween re­al­ity and the spir­i­tual world. It’s ba­si­cally the ma­te­r­ial ghosts are made of: Real and un­real at the same time.

It shows up in pho­tographs a lot. Basically if a medium ex­ists, peo­ple will have tried to use it to talk to the dead.

Edison did­n’t think record­ing mu­sic was that in­ter­est­ing - he was way more ex­cited about weird mor­bid ideas of record­ing dy­ing fam­ily mem­bers:

I’m in­clined to be­lieve that our per­son­al­ity here­after will be able to af­fect mat­ter. If we can evolve an in­stru­ment so del­i­cate as to be afected by our per­son­al­ity as it sur­vives in the next life, such an in­stru­ment ought to record some­thing.

In the 1950s, EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) start to be­come a thing. Konstantin Raudive is one of the peo­ple who brought this to a wider au­di­ence. He was mak­ing all these record­ings of every­day scenes, and find­ing other voices in them af­ter­wards.

Breakthrough (1971) tran­scribes some of these mes­sages. Again frag­men­ta­tion of lan­guages, gram­mar, words.

Arguably Twitter Spambots are a ver­sion of this: We get these frag­ments of quo­ta­tions, lan­guage from past writ­ers etc. Names scraped off death cer­tifi­cates.

We have this urge to find mean­ing in our sur­round­ings