This is a concept map of how stories are told. An event occurs, sensory input is stored in the brain, it is recalled, translated into words, given meaning, symbols, context, etc.
I have never been a big reader of newspapers or watcher of the news. It is a limited, controlled stream of information that is chosen by the network or company. Those networks and companies are funded largely by advertising. Therefore, large businesses control our news sources, only letting the information they deem worthy to be released to the public. So much information slips through the tines of the news-fork system. I wanted to take newspapers, daily accumulations of stories, and limit them even farther in order to generate new stories. Instead of taking the news at face value or even reading between the lines, I am interested in returning to the actual construction of language, to semiotics.
Working solely with University of Michigan print publications, I began by choosing words myself, making blackout poetry. This was a hard endeavor to undertake because the subject matter of the newspaper did not lend itself to much of interest. It was tiring to compose in this way and not systematic enough for my taste. Sometimes delightful things would happen, but it didn't delve into sentence construction and the English language like I wanted it to. It was just a way of making pretty a word combination:
Then I found out about John Cage's system which he calls "CIRCUS ON ______". He would take existing writing and find words that began with certain letters, extracting an acrostic poem. Those words could then be used to create something new. I did this with an entire copy of The Statement from September 29, 2010. The main article was on stem cell research so that was the acrostic I pulled out. I have quoted the resultant words, grouped by article, below:
stories the Elmo Mark CEO effort leader
Society the event Mexican Chilean echo listserve
save to eat meet campus events like life
SEARCH THE Eva molecular cure Europe least lives regenerate eats seconds. Even athletes reason claims human stem treat Emory more corridor established, last last right. embryos. state embryos also researchers California housed stem that executive Michigan, calls eventually lead lines regulation existing stem embryonic According received couples. human stem that embryos. Morrison called embryonic Last law researchers each start embryo analyzed recommendations Congress, hanging said. that economic Michigan Cell Economics like left research even stem embryonic amendments Rivet, countries hours stem the Economic Michigan, Carl evaluated Lastly, looked research embryonic strides even and researchers come hope
Sixty those —entirely midnight crowd exhibitionists. lewd lists Review end Street. excessive a responded could he supervising the encourage mean campus, else list, lists Review’s editor survey each and rankings can he say.” the emphasis majority categorizes everyone labeled list reputation each scene especially and randomly campus here school. the evident meets Cervi, events like like responsibly everybody sometimes enter as
STATEMENT told episode my college even legal lawyers reasons), entourage surround exploitation a realized create how show to every minutes conversation emotional like legally reaction enough. sound episode air realized chapter hope"
While I found John Cage's method interesting, I want to make sentences that contain the correct parts of speech. I want to make something where I can interchange words, and therefore meanings, to take a closer look at semiotics. In what feels like the opposite of MadLibs, I want to come up with systems of extraction for different grammatical parts of speech in the English language:
I have come up with several different systems I am going to try on the same newspaper:
1. MASH: When I was a kid we would play a game called MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House) which was meant to predict the outcome of your future. You would make categories like job, salary, husband's name, pet, wedding dress color, etc. and then use a number (determined "randomly") to systematically count through all of the listings. Each time you hit the magic number, that option was crossed out. If there's only one thing left in each category, it's left as the final "answer." I want to try this system using the date of publication as the number (specifically the number denoting the day of the month).
2. Alphabetical: Choosing only parts of speech that start with the same letter to create alliterations.
3. Take the first noun from the first article, the second verb from the second article, the third adjective from the third article, etc. and create one sentence that sums up the whole publication.
I am sure that I will come up with more systems to test out and I will add them to my list. Once I find one that I like, I would like to employ it on a whole series of papers. The next step will be to take my chosen words and create something new out of them.
I found some other interesting work that relates to what I'm doing. First, here's an interesting video called Everything's a Remix:
It mentioned a book called The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs. He takes other writing, cuts & folds it, and creates a new work. Pretty cool if you ask me!