EVP Spambot Poetics


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