Contact Information

Computer Science Department
Colgate University
McGregory Hall, 3rd Floor
13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, NY 13346
(tel) 315.228.7719
Charlotte Jablonski, Administrative Assistant

Event Detail

Dept Tea: Hard Questions about Soft AI in Japanese Literature Today

Start: Tuesday, March 27, 2018, 11:30 a.m.
End: Tuesday, March 27, 2018, 12:20 p.m.
Location: 319 McGregory Hall

Speaker: Prof Scott Mehl, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures

Abstract: This talk will begin by examining recent developments in Japanese literature written or facilitated by artificially intelligent means. First, there's the phenomenon of the guzen tanka ("unexpected tanka," in one translation). In late 2014, a program was created for the purpose of extracting "unexpected tanka" from the pages of Japanese Wikipedia--stretches of text that fit the 5-7-5-7-7 metrical pattern of the Japanese tanka poetic form. These poems were posted to Twitter, and subsequently a selection of these "unexpected tanka" was published as a book (2016: _Guzen Tanka_), eliciting reactions from various media outlets and from specialist tanka journals alike. As for prose, in March 2016 it was revealed that one of the stories that had been chosen in the first round of judging for the Hoshi Shin'ichi Prize had been written using a computer program; although that story did not ultimately win the prize, its first-round success made news in Japanese and English-language media. I'll analyze the reception of these computer-generated/computer-facilitated texts in light of important precursors in Japanese literary history, including the famous predictions of the end of tanka (Kuwabara Takeo, Masaoka Shiki); and the cult of spontaneity (Masaoka Shiki, Ki no Tsurayuki). This presentation will finally consider how these technology-based texts add depth to our understanding of the notions of creativity and literariness in the contemporary scene.