Thursday, June 18, 2009

Automatic Writing

So, all the way back on June 2 (has it been so long?) I Bflogged the University of Chicago's automated and semi-automated academic-ese sentence writing tools. Ha ha, funny, poking fun at overwrought academic writing, amusing diversion, etc. etc.

And then...

And then this floated through my RSS feed, courtesy Michael E. Smith at the Publishing Archaeology blog: "Hoax Paper Accepted by Benthan Publishers OA Journal." The issues of publishing low-quality papers and bad (non-existent?) peer-review processes are addressed by Smith, as are the "you pay us a buttload of money and you can read any paper you want at our conference" CV-padding conferences. (Yes, apparently this is a successful business model.)

But what blew me away were the two context-free text generators. Where context-free = meaningless gibberish that only sounds like its saying something. And these do not generate paltry sentences. These generate entire papers!

SCIgen, from the nice folks at MIT, will write whole computer science papers, with tables of contents, funky titles, charts, graphs, references, abstracts, data, conclusions... the whole enchilada. And kindly provide you with a .pdf. Now, one purpose they propose for this is to submit context-free papers to conferences that you suspect have low standards for selecting presenters (see successful business model, above). In fact, on the SCIgen page, they give case studies on submitting said context-free papers and talks for conferences, and what happened next. Really interesting reading.

The Postmodernism Generator: Communications from Elsewhere. Hit refresh to see a whole new work. Again, references and everything (no charts and graphs, though. I will content myself with the boat picture at the top of the page, and "However, Foucault uses the term ‘predialectic narrative’ to denote not desublimation as such, but postdesublimation.") I do like the disclaimer in small print at the bottom of the page, "The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator."

I'm not sure I have a point, except holy crap. And the context-free name of the band I don't have? I'm going with either "Buckaroo Vera and the Small Plain Dealers" or "The Metaphysical Bishops."


Bavardess said...

I'm sure I have read articles that were the product of the Postmodernism Generator. The kind you spend hours ploughing through, and when you reach the end, you're none the wiser and you feel vaguely duped. I wonder how many undergrads have resorted to these engines for their course papers? It's a cut above the standard cut-and-paste plagiarism.

Digger said...

I think the use of "as such" is a giveaway.

Normally, I fail plagiarized papers. But if I thought it came from the Postmodernism Generator, I'd give them the opportunity to re-write it in plain English. Under supervision. With popcorn (for me).