‘Assume No Readership’ – Kenneth Goldsmith (2014)

Whether or not you agree with Kenneth Goldsmith, you gotta admit that he occasionally says some pretty interesting things.

Web link: http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/kenneth-goldsmith-assume-no-readership

In this 2014 video, ‘Assume No Readership’ by Louisiana Channel, Goldsmith begins by reading a newspaper article about the Nobel Prize, declaring the article to be a short new poem. He uses this reading as a springboard for discussing his own creative work. In Goldsmith’s words:

My ideas come become because I respond to technology. I think that where technology leads, art follows – not the other way around. And we’re living in a time of such incredible technological changes that just listening to technology gives me amazing ideas. […] The ways in which I write are digital ways, even if they appear on an analogue page.

Goldsmith believes in the versatility – and, indeed, limitlessness – of poetry as a genre. Using digital means, he says of his own ‘poetry’ that ‘in a sense, I haven’t really written it. I’ve just sort of moved it onto a pedestal for everybody to examine. […] Any angle you hit on that thing is going to be right.’ This obnoxiously-über-postmodernist approach to authorship is made possible by new tools for the manifestation of creative intention.

‘What can literature possibly be in the digital age?’ Goldsmith asks. ‘I think one of the great tragedies of poets is that they assume they’re being read. And they’re not being read.’

Dedicate 16.5 minutes to watching this video, get fired up, and then use what you’ve learned to upset your friends at your next Zoom cocktail party.

Sunday Book-Thought 141

I asked in the first sentence of this chapter what happens to the act of reading when your novel knows where you are standing while you read it. And so there is another kind of answer that comes into view: reading produces new kinds of traces. The Silent History produces entirely new data about readers’ behavior. We can watch the reader as she moves through the novel – it is possible for Horowitz and Quinn to know how far each reader has read in the story, for instances, and how fast they read it, and on what day; readers’ imaginative responses, in the form of those field reports, are gathered and selectively added to the novel itself; Horowitz and Quinn know when and how often field reports are accessed. If they wanted to they could determine exactly when a reader stopped reading and where they were in the novel.
Amy Hungerford, Making Literature Now (Stanford: Sanford University Press, 2016), p. 111.