By Kenneth Goldsmith September 11, In the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not. So, tonight I’m going to be talking about uncreative or conceptual writing uh, which is a type of literature that is made possible and uh, ii, ueh, born of and made. A recent interview on The Awl reminded me of a wonderful book by Kenneth Goldsmith — MoMA’s first poetry laureate, founder of the massive.

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Please contact mpub-help umich. For more information, read Michigan Publishing’s access and usage policy. Digital technologies have uncreatife changing the world of publishing in obvious ways and in not-so-obvious ways for the past several decades. Today, texts and other media can be copied, edited, remixed, and globally distributed again and again with relative ease.

Managing Language in the Digital Ageexplores a few of the less obvious implications of digital media and asks questions about where the lines between authorship and appropriation should be drawn—or whether they should be drawn at all. But clearly, the Internet has happened.

And the examples Goldsmith explores in Uncreative Writing seem to have either presaged or, having appeared more recently, taken full advantage of the techniques the web enables.

Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age

According to Goldsmith, conventional literary practices have some catching up to do. Uncreative Writing presents several examples of ways in which that catching up might be accomplished. Goldsmith attempts to show that sampling, copying, and appropriation have been the norm in kdnneth artistic mediums for decades. Taking full advantage of digital remix culture is one way the literary world is following suit.

Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age by Kenneth Goldsmith

Remixing, reusing, repurposing, recopying, reframing, repeating, and regurgitating all become themes throughout Uncreative Writing. These works also explore the creative consequences good and bad of appropriation and copyright. He discovers that even in re-enactment, a creative dimension emerges. The act of choosing and reframing tells us as much about ourselves as our story about our mother’s cancer operation. This information is its own kind of language, with its own systems of encoding and decoding.


It can be handled as mere storage, or it can be manipulated in surprising ways. What do the results of this odd manipulation imply? Does the manipulation mean anything? We are at the mercy of all this accumulating language; its mass exerts an undeniable pull on the way we live, work, and create.

These possibilities for transformation introduce a threatening? What we see one way can be so easily morphed into something different by anyone with any inclination. Are we—as writers, publishers, and educators—comfortable with these possibilities?

The idea of built-in delegation implies a clear distinction between concept and method. It is as if by merely combining an idea, the right technology, and any ability at all, something interesting is bound to happen. The work of these visual artists and their unique approaches to creation are laid out as precursors to the kinds of digital methods that so interest Goldsmith today. Morris makes a dedicated and ultimately successful attempt; the blog comprised of each day’s one-page dose of Kerouac is still available online, and has since been published in print.

In a weird example of recursivity, a student named Emily began re-typing Morris’s posts in the comments section for about two weeks, having been inspired by her own class assignment.

Three chapters address the growing tendencies of authors to take the most mundane details from daily life and turn them into poetry. Here the work of Vanessa Place, an attorney who transforms her case files into poetry, is juxtaposed with a s collection of versified court testimonies.


This early twentieth-century work serves as a road map for the kinds of appropriation that continue today, facilitated so neatly by digital media. Goldsmitb beyond these computer-aided collections of data, Goldsmith transitions on to the idea of computer-authored works. Many of his examples here focus on the machine rather than the human. Considering the less conventional ways readers interact with and consume texts, he also observes: One implication of this style of text consumption is that our creative and composition habits may be leaning this way as well: Here we no longer have monkeys at typewriters, but bots and spiders, clicking away to produce the next Shakespeare.

Uncreative Writing is newly published by Columbia University Press, and sadly its composition at times seems careless and its presentation full of distracting typographical errors. A more carefully proofread second edition would be very welcome.

Uncreative Writing

Overall, Goldsmith balances the new with the old very well, reminding us that changes in how we manage words are inevitable and not to be feared: Certainly his examples succeed in opening up and making uncreatove the notions of textuality that we take for granted.

While many of our current approaches go without saying, Goldsmith invites us to start talking about them and taking them more seriously. She blogs about her writing and design projects at http: Skip to main writinf Skip to quick search Skip to global navigation. About Editors Subscribe Submit Contact. Current Archive About Editors Submit. Review of Uncreative Writing: Volume 15Issue 1Summer Managing Language in the Digital Age.

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