Louise O`Hare on Automatic Writing / Instant Publishing

Louise O’Hare

8 May 2013
It's a bit self-referential isn't it? Writing something about our Friday Salon on 'Automatic Writing / Instant Publishing' for the ICA Blog.

Dear All,

It's a bit self-referential isn't it? Writing something about our Friday Salon on 'Automatic Writing / Instant Publishing' for the ICA Blog. But the conceit seems a useful way to introduce the project, especially as I am listed as from an organisation promoting self-publishing, and the instant self-publishing platform one automatically thinks of is this.

Not that this blog holds quite the potential of the original form.  Forgive the Institutional Critique but isn’t it slightly depressing how the PR departments of arts organisations have latched onto something originally associated with self-published independent critical writing and turned it into another marketing format to go with their incessant face-twitting. A 'Blog' once implied that content was un-censored, but it has expanded in meaning (or is that use), and ‘blogs’ don’t only exist as discrete un-edited sites, but can also be part of larger ones. Frieze’s blog, for example, sits on their website alongside their archive and seems to differ only from the magazine in that 'posts' are content that has not been printed.  And through it's reverse chronological ordering – content presented so the most recent post appears first, like an email thread. Such back-to-front linearity enables ordering by newsworthiness, but doesn’t create writing with more immediacy per se.

An example of an experiment that played with blogs, and what might constitute ‘automatic writing’, is Matthew Stadler’s ‘my personal weblog’. Stadler is a writer who decided to make use of the Amazon Mechanical Turk, (an online ‘marketplace for work’ and Amazon-run site that offers simple data entry jobs to user/workers who are paid per task), to outsource the writing of his blog, devising ‘a kind of automaton, a machine for producing new texts without the intervening force of my tastes, my authorship’.

Stadler ran the blog for a while, continuing this attempt to ‘liberate text from authorship’ until he found the posts unbearable and himself editing the writing, finding that ‘experiment undermined with every improvement’. The project now only exists as a text on his website subtitled ‘the end’  - which perfectly evokes the limits of online publishing.

The web is a kind of communal insane person who never stops muttering to himself

Stadler is also a publisher; he understands that the alleged immediate distribution offered by the web can be more private than handwriting a letter and hoping someone might find it. And if publishing can be thought of as simply ‘making public’ then perhaps it might be better to consider it in spatial and bodily rather than virtual terms. It seems meaningless to attempt to formulate an argument about the point at which public address becomes ‘making public’,  but the combine, ‘automatic writing/instant publishing’ which might have been 'automatic publishing/instant writing', or even 'instant automatic /publishing writing', hopes to address an expanded idea of writing. Not as typed text, but as a performative process: a making that either embraces or deliquesces self-consciousness – the awareness of being in public, of seeing how one appears,  be the audience imagined or real. It might then always be something like an exercise in embarrassment or in self-reflexivity, in being horribly aware of being there in the instant, in the moment of reading your writing as you write it.

Louise O’Hare
Publish and Be Damned

The Friday Salon Instant Publishing/Automatic Writing is on Friday 10 May at 3pm

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