Sunday Book-Thought 101

To read Shklovsky, Bakhtin, Lubbock, Turing, and Wittgenstein together is to recover a legacy of humanities computing that often gets overlooked in the history of computer science and software engineering. The literary perspective is important because it allows us to see the computer in a new light: more than a by-product of quantification, a metaphor machine. Turing machines should interest literary scholars because they embody a minimally viable model for generalized symbolic manipulation: reading and writing. Poetics should interest electrical and software engineers because it grounds computation in the long history of the written word. Turing’s thought experiments were meant to solve a mathematical problem, but their pedigree lies also in the study of textual meaning making and interpretation. Wittgenstein and Turing posed a problem similar to that of the formalists and arrived at a similar conclusion: a generalized algorithm for language manipulation.
Dennis Tenen, Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation (Stanford: Sanford University Press, 2017), p. 68.


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