In Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s _Digital Media Archaeology, _he argues for the importance of interpreting the computational processes behind digital artifacts. In order to do this, he references Christopher Strachey’s love letter generator as he sees it as “the first known experiment in digital literature” (303). By going into great detail to describe the genesis of the generator, ways of going about understanding or trying to understand how the generator works, the generator’s processes, and what we as humans can learn from the generator, he is able to help the reader better understand how this generator was a generator of literature and how other machines have and an also generate literature.
As Wardrip-Fruin introduces the reader to this concept of “digital media” and “digital artifacts,” he begins his argument when he says, “Digital media are not simply representations but machines for generating representations” (302). Here, Wardrip-Fruin is arguing for the reader to slow down when it comes to how he or she interprets digital media. So often, we just scroll and click on screens on our phones, computers, tablets, etc. and we see all of these digital images of sorts, but how often do we slow down enough to think about how those images are being produced and projected by the machines that we are operating. For Wardrip-Fruin, in order for a person to understand “digital media,” he or she must acknowledge and experience the machines that are producing the representations.
As Wardrip-Fruin transitions to his discussion of the operations of Strachey’s love letter generator, he further enhances his argument by putting some of these abstract-sounding claims into reference as he cites this example. He explains, “When we read an example of output from the love letter generator, we are seeing the surface manifestation of two other elements that remain hidden from us: the generator’s data and processes…The views of the generator that include its data and processes, as well as its output, are views that consider the work as a system” (306-307). Although what happens inside of a machine for these images or representations to be generated cannot be seen by the reader, in order for any machine that produces such images/representations to be viewed by the reader, data has to be transmitted and processes have to take place. By acknowledging these different machines that produce these images/representations as “machines,” we are acknowledging them also as systems in that we understand that digital artifacts cannot simply be representations that we are viewing.
Furthermore, viewing digital media (specifically this love letter generator) as “systems,” Wardrip-Fruin goes on to discuss how in order to interpret digital media, we must first identify some of the features to understand how this specific digital media functions or operates. For example, he compares the love letter generator with One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, which helps the reader to understand the love letter generator functioning as “combinatorial literature.”
One part of Wardrip-Fruin’s discussion that I found confusing was his transition from _One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems _to the checkers-playing program. I understand that he was trying to compare the love letter generator to both of these, but I just kind of got lost in the comparison and transition at times.
Another aspect of the article that I found confusing was when he was talking about combinatorial literature. Although I think I understand what he meant by “combinatorial literature,” when he started discussing permutations, I got a little bit lost.
As this is a course dedicated to discussing “issues in writing technologies,” how does viewing digital media in terms of its processes challenge how we understand, interpret, or scrutinize literature (especially in comparison to print media)?