Not only flesh, or not only reading, may be set working by machines reading (or machines assessing, diagnosing, encrypting); so too may interlocutory situations. Searching for the citations that spiderweb out of D.A. Miller’s “Cage aux folles: Sensation and Gender in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White” (1986) — 104 in total, says google —  mounts a fleeting collection. (Perhaps the kind of discussion commodities have with one another, or perhaps interlacing conversations attached to names).

Where would it take us if we were to put all 104 in a footnote? Rabbit-holes sprint toward totality but never really get there.

A possible technique: build a database collating every citation, (Miller’s essay, by the way, is merely exemplary of how a close reading may generate research), topic model its distributions of self-description (perhaps looking to organize them by the publisher’s topic headings or perhaps just by whatever clusters around the citation in each case, with a radius of, say, 250 words), and abstract, from those topic models, a summary of critical engagements out of context — not in order to replace, much less try to subsume under an average, those conversations (many of which, to be sure, head in completely different directions), but simply to retrieve one distillate among others of a provisional totality.

One technophobia might posit that kind of automation fearfully, as so many or too many automatisms. Too much data-hoarding and too little analysis. Quicksand for the poetics of talking with the living.

One technophilia might single out (passionately) sites of automatic becoming. Another swirl (entropically) around sites of automatized becoming. Where does that move you? Into magnetisms.

 

 

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