The Crypt-machine 秘語靈機


PLAY: make 'echo poems' (start --> go to 'Echo')
(program written in Director-Lingo; played on PC only)

Linda Lai / Keith Lam (2004) at the Writing Machine Collective 1st edition (WMC_e1), June-July 2004

The Crypt-machine is an open space of poetry and text-image interplay.

Technically, the Crypt-machine is a server application that stores retrievable texts and images for viewing. Preset feedback loops enable texts and images to split, converge, reproduce, multiply and mutate based on mathematical principles digitally pre-programmed. After the principles of algorithm, simple units lead to extended possibilities of expression. It also allows content-filling as well as simple re-programming.

As a creative tool, the device looks at written texts and photographs as both visual codes of hidden and multiple meanings. It carries two main operations.

(1) The first is called "Photo-montage." The "Machine" carries pre-selected photographs and texts. Users are supposed to input their own text and photographic images. With given rules, photographs would go through processes of disintegration, re-ordering and morphing. Photos and texts would go through (re-)combination based on set and modifiable rules to form new photo-text dialogues.

(2) The second is called "Echoes." Preset poetic structure – designed as permutation based on the counting of lines, rules of repetition and variation, and automatic mix-and-match – allows visiting poets to dive into a world of surprises. As the visitor becomes more familiar with the basic "echo" structure, they can then input their own texts to deliberately modify the members of the data pool in order to modify the meanings of the outcome.

The unique feature of the Crypt-machine is, therefore, that it encourages active participation and co-creation on two levels.
*First, visitors are invited to rewrite the rules within set parameters to create new possible combinatorial results.
*Second, visitors are free to spend as much time as possible to input their own texts on the spot to create new poetic works.

In brief, interactivity in this work is materialized as a dialogic device by which readers input their own texts and images and, based on pre-mapped levels of difficulties, the more advanced readers may alter certain paths of the tree structure to allow more sophisticated operations.

In order to allow the algorithmic principle to work, the Crypt-machine has chosen poetry rather than other literary forms. This is to ensure the openness of the work, a cyber-textual quality, so that it is not just a preset journey with set tasks to accomplish like most hypertext narratives are after.

秘語靈機 是一處開放性的詩作與圖文對話的空間,內中又分為兩個獨立的空間。一部分叫「影像蒙太奇」,訪者可按預先編排的計算程式去改變影像的模樣,也可輸入即興而來的語句去配合影像,預設的程式會自動為你排序。如果喜歡的話,還可以自行變動程式,拓展變奏的幅度。第二個空間叫「回音」,內置的資料庫存有一大堆的零散句子,和某個數量的「回音」句語。根據預編和可自行變動的算式、詩句數目的變動,配合回音句的重複和間隔上的變奏,引領訪者進入沒有預期的「詩」的經驗和效果。熱身運動完成了,訪者還可以搖身一變為合作的夥伴詩人,自行變動程式,又或掌握「回音」機器的特性,自行輸入別有用意的句子,去調校資料庫的性質,翻玩出新的「詩」文法、語調。你的詩可以是連篇私人暗語,訴說自己的隱衷,也可以是火辣辣的諷喻,罵盡社會不公,又或純作耍樂,玩弄時下流行俚語,為詩的定義作大翻新。

秘語靈機 鼓勵互動、協作,訪者既發現、再參與,進到創作性的介入,一反時下網上多線敘事的局限性,支取演算法的潛質,朝著簡易人工智慧的大方向實驗制動文本更多的可能性。