In November, [James] Somers, a developer for Genius, released an app calledDraftback.1 It’s a fascinating experiment that treats writing like data. After years of trying to build a program, Somers realized that Google Docs was already saving every keystroke we enter. So he hacked Google Docs to play documents back to their authors, materializing on the screen with every stutter-step inherent to the writing process. In its latest form, Draftback is a Google Chrome extension that can reach deep into the archives of any Google Doc you have editing rights to, make sense of all that writing and rewriting you innocuously poured into it, and beam it right back to you, backspaces and all. It doesn’t matter if your document was created before or after you installed Draftback — the keystrokes have been buried the whole time. Draftback can unearth any fossil.
George Orwell on writing, from Politics and the English Language. Good rules to write by for everyone, including Waubonsee students:
Raymond Carver signing books, New York City, 1988
Does an author have the right to prevent people from copying their book(s) for free? Should authors have this right? Does it matter?
The concept of the GAN (Great American Novel) seems to have been born in the late 1860s. In an 1868 TheNation essay, Civil War veteran John William DeForest—himself an aspiring GAN-ist—described the GAN as “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence,” a work that painted “the American soul.”
You’re a 16-year-old Muslim kid in America. Say your name is Mohammad Abdullah. Your schoolmates are convinced that you’re a terrorist. They keep typing in Google queries likes “is Mohammad Abdullah a terrorist?” and “Mohammad Abdullah al Qaeda.” Google’s search engine learns. All of a sudden, auto-complete starts suggesting terms like “Al Qaeda” as the next term in relation to your name. You know that colleges are looking up your name and you’re afraid of the impression that they might get based on that auto-complete. You are already getting hostile comments in your hometown, a decidedly anti-Muslim environment. You know that you have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but Google gives the impression that you do. And people are drawing that conclusion. You write to Google but nothing comes of it. What do you do?
This is guilt through algorithmic association…