augmented & reconfigured
by John Cayley   published by Counterpath Press  Spring 2023  ISBN 9781933996806
afterword by Garrett Stewart [ Programmatology ]

[n-gram] Loose Links

[n-gram] Loose Links are quasi-algorithmic micro-collages. They are also concerned with particular phrases or sequences of words but the play here revolves around the concept of the ‘longest common phrase,’ as developed in the context of The Readers Project. A longest common phrase is, for any attributed text, a sequence of its words that can be found elsewhere in a multi-author corpus and not attributable to the original author, proving, minimally, that it is still an attested, discoverable sequence in the commons of language. Longest common phrases are vital for certain conceptual literary practices. For the Loose Links they provide model links for its quasi-algorithmic processes of collage.

‘I had a visit today …’ and ‘And yet he couldn’t …’ are simple Loose Links. Because the typical English longest common phrase is between three and five words in length, these pieces start by searching for results containing the words of their titles and proceed with searches for other similar length phrases that are contained in a selected result and then in one or other result of subsequent searches. The procedure is characterized as quasi-algorithmic because it may be described as following regular procedural rules, but the choices for selection and use of instances of the terms — which longest common phrase? which search result? — are made by the author.

‘Period Bob’ is loose linked from an artificially constructed corpus of sentences all containing references to Robert Coover. Note that longest common phrases, used as textual collage links, usually provide a reasonable degree of syntactic continuity.

‘One may not, I believe, glean from this analysis of the writing subject that such a subject is to be distinguished from the writing machine is loose linked from Angela Carr’s English translations of a pioneering 1964 computational literary work by Jean Baudot.

Uncut is an accompanying commentary by the author. It is more properly a supply text but is placed here due to its status as commentary and its extensive, silent quotation of Baudot’s sentences in translation. ‘literary mind / carving dragons’ is a loose link that has been further constrained by adding semantically implicated terms when making searches for the linking phrases.