Making Pretty Things for Robots
Robots Can Cry at the Beauty of a Rose…if it has the Right SEO
Jacky Fitt’s relationship to aesthetics fascinates me. When I’m done writing this, and before you read it, she may rewrite these first few words in order to make them more attractive to the robots of silence and algorithm to whose will we internet explorers are beholden. She is also going to be applying the science of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, behind the scenes crafting ‘metadata’. Invisible to us, she will define this story in a way that makes it more likely to be noticed by the algorithms written into search engines. In essence, Jacky’s going to be making this piece of writing more attractive to the search engines in the internet. Put another way, she’s going to make it prettier for robots.
Which may or may not beg the question: Who is Jacky Fitt?
I’ve never placed this question to her directly, so she might have her own answer to it, but from what I can tell Jacky Fitt is this: she is a robot’s artist. If the slowly-growing-more-intelligent robots of the internet have any lists of artists whose work they just get jazzed over, Jacky’s name has got to be on some of those lists.
She’s our SEO expert, over here at daCunha. When we finish our meandering, humanistic offerings of most gooshy and unmathematical art, of various attractiveness to the mostly human audience with which we interact, we give that squishy art to Jacky. After her treatment of it, we invite a whole different audience to scrutinize it: an audience of numbers and logic, but an audience with every bit as much interest in choosing the more attractive option.
They have that interest for a simple reason. These algorithms that Jacky’s so expert in attracting are tools designed to help us find things that we, in turn, like.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Jacky’s got some strong attitudes about the aesthetics of touchable things. It’s people like her who taught the robots how to choose. To me, it follows that she’d write something like “To Have and To Hold: Texture and the art of the tangible.”
It’s a brief and gorgeous treatise in Wait… What? Where she talks about how kids these days (kids these days! Those kids…) have been acting like they love old, real things that they can touch. In spite of all the technology making music easy to get, kids these days (kids!) have been buying more vinyl records than their grandparents. They’re going through all the inconvenient rigmarole of getting a machine they can’t carry in their pocket to play music from discs that they can’t shuffle or search through or compile into playlists or anything. Jacky observes that we “define ourselves by what we own; this nonverbal communication conveys to others a sense of who we are.”
We want things we can touch and show to other people, she says. This expert in our relationship with our robots has some amazing things to say about our relationship to our nostalgia.
I fancy myself something of a music buff. I say that with a twingy-twitch of self-consciousness, because if anyone came over to my house, had dinner maybe, and listened to me talk for a while about the most recent band that’s been getting my head bopping—Alter Bridge, for those interested to hear—if, in that situation, they ask the reasonable follow-up question, “Could I see your album collection?” then I’d feel a bit awkward, because I’d be forced to show them my saved albums on Spotify.
Fact is, while I do own a lot of albums, I don’t own a lot of touchable albums.
Which makes me part of the force ushering in a world detailed in a piece of short fiction I happened to be reading at the same time as Jacky’s story.
Before I get ahead of myself, you ever read some fiction and imagine the movie adaptation of it while you read? Happens to me all the time.
So what happened to me was, I had two tabs open in Chrome. One was open to Jacky’s “To Have and to Hold” that I’ve mentioned above.
The other tab I had open was a story by Grey Drane called “On the Threshold.”
I tell you, I was glad that day that I’m incapable of concentrating, because I kept jumping between the two tabs.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the good fortune to read anything by Grey. I think he’s a visual magic-maker. If one purpose of fiction is transportation to another world, then Grey’s my own personal Chief O’Brien.
He successfully beamed me over to a near-future science fiction world where people’s sense-experience of reality is augmented by technological aid. In that universe, it’s a hazard to have your perceptions hacked. Which breeds a wariness towards perceptions in general, especially when perceptions might be affected by the robots.
I had the exquisite experience of reading Grey’s visual, touchable story, and imagining its cinematic adaptation, and in service to that experience I had Jacky’s essay acting as the perfect narration to the experience.
As the climactic moment in Grey’s story came nearer, and the protagonist, Sara, questioned more and more the augmented reality where she lived. In a sense, she was having a serious moment that somewhat mirrored my physical sense of lack conjured by Jacky’s exploration of tangible aesthetics.
And just as I read the climax of Grey’s story, Jacky’s came to its point.
Now I want to see that movie.
Brought to you by “To Have and to Hold: Texture and the art of the tangible” by Jacky Fitt and “On the Threshold” by Grey Drane.
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