The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics

Andrew Klobucar (Ed.)

by Andrew Klobucar (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Sharla Sava (IBM), Maria Lantin (Emily Carr University), Simon Overstall (Emily Carr University), Kedrick James (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Esteban Morales (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Rachel Horst (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Maria Aladren (MCVTS Theatre High School), Charles Baldwin (Independent Scholar), Rob Wittig (University of Minnesota), Anastasia Salter (University of Central Florida), Anna Nacher (Jagiellonian University, Poland), Taeyoon Choi (School for Poetic Computation), Rui Torres (University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal), Effiam Yung (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Daniela Côrtes Maduro (University of Coimbra, Portugal)

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Edited by Andrew Klobucar, “The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics” arrives at an important historical moment. As the COVID-19 global pandemic reveals just how unstable our rules of interaction have become, this intelligent volume reveals the force of community in times of contingency. This community is of a special sort—digital and networked—and demands an active struggle for identity and meaning. Absent are notions of community based on surrender; present are aesthetics of harmony through engagement. Informed by his theoretical and pedagogical experiences, Klobucar has demanded a high quality of scholarship from his international colleagues, and each chapter illustrates that which can be achieved when quantification and poetics are understood in terms of each other. From the theoretical (forms of Wreading digital poetry described by Rui Torres and Daniela Côrtes Maduro) to the instructional (the Swarm Pedagogy of Maria Aladren), there is a rich range of topics and applications present throughout the volume. Simply put, Klobucar has provided readers with a landmark work of digital humanities.
Because the chapters are original and lively—this volume could easily have become a dry and technical catalogue of techniques—there are many audiences for this book. Individual scholars of digital humanities will want it on their bookshelves, and graduate instructors will order it for their students. And, of course, libraries will surely order it. Because the authors represent international programs of research—from Portugal, South Korea, and the US—the volume holds the potential to have a global reach.

Dr. Norbert Elliot
Research Professor
University of South Florida

The book has a cluster of brilliant and resonant through lines: the swarm and the individual, the sculptural sense and aural sense at once of text and textuality, pedagogy in the covid and post covid age and the need for emergent digital forms and the history of such forms. The Cicada emerges as the primary metaphor throughout, which is timely and potent. Text like these sentences is essentially bent lines in a pale field, sculptural codified forms that imply voice, both authorial and literal.
Moving from the Naturalist mores and the epochal Whole Earth catalog to concrete poetry, sound art, algorithms, digital forms and swarm intelligence back to the classroom, be it virtual or soonish back to brick and mortar, this book finds cohesion and the message that the digital freedom of form is as crucial and essential as individualism itself.

Jeremy Hight
Washington State University

A clear-headed anthology of field reports and field guides from the leading edges of collaborative digital poetics. This timely collection, seamlessly swerving from the lyrical to the practical to the speculative, will be of great value to both practitioners and educators (and everyone in between).

Allison Parrish
Arts Professor

With its succession of captivating, intelligently written essays, “The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics” offers reflections on exploration and discovery, as well as documentation and speculation, pertaining to collaborative potentials held by digital media and networks. Here “the art of programming” (sometimes alternatively, inventively defined) is witnessed, illustrated, empowered, and effectively proven as an, “ongoing, perhaps even interminable process of trial and error driven by constant collaborative feedback” that its Introduction declares. The book establishes the authority and power (or “logic and control”) of the algorithm and illuminates areas within a range of disciplines that have been preliminarily attended to, and that would also benefit by further attention and investigative pursuit.
“The Community and the Algorithm”, addressing contemporary work being done in this transformative era, including some essays that are situated within the framework of the current global pandemic, succeeds in underscoring our need to build understandings as to how algorithmic application and thinking may function as a part of our networks, and have the ability capacity to conduct multiple inputs into meaningful communication. Presenting vital evidence— such as in-class collaborative exercises and other useful educational applications, as well as practical imaginative possibilities being enacted at present, and a sense of the types of digital media work that will be more common in the future—readers of this volume will build new regard for the value of now crucial online tools we use to create, communicate, and build insight.
This collection features a wide range of alternative all-star practitioners (not “big name” critics or theorists), who allure and entice readers to be drawn in—if not captivated—by its progression of variant essays, each of which addresses how we can (and do) work together with computers to create progressive settings in the arts and education spheres. As one essay declares, one might argue with some of the historical attributions that appear in the book or against the notion that poetic words are always indeterminate. Nevertheless, each essay in the book demonstrates the importance of collaborative, interactive networking in arts and education as both a process and practice.
“The Community and the Algorithm” informs its readers what an algorithm is and what its practical and conceptual potentials are as the twenty-first century moves forward. While several essays emphasize pedagogical application, others take us beyond the classroom or museum and into the world at large. In short, these essays dig fortified trenches that other professors, programmers, and artists will follow into the digital future. This volume takes a deep look into what algorithms do and how collaborative networking in the arts and humanities forcefully serves to create a progressive activity with thoughtful, unique processes applied in classrooms, artworks, communities, and “Everything”.

Dr. C.T. Funkhouser
Professor, Humanities & Social Sciences
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Current debates about the coming impact of generative artificial intelligence have focused primarily on the role of these algorithmic systems in individual creative and professional activities. […]
By shifting attention towards the potential for algorithmic activities in creative communities, this collection makes clear how limited the terms of the debate have been. Klobucar’s collection intervenes into this widespread mixture of panic and celebration about algorithms by challenging three fundamental assumptions we see in popular conversations: the unstated premise that the algorithm is uniquely contemporary, a technology-driven phenomenon; the focus on individual professional or creative activity; and the assumption that algorithms ultimately are in conflict with human agency. […]
Klobucar offers a corrective to our current ChatGPT panic. But any collection like this is also making a claim to define a field or area of inquiry, and so I hope that this collection prompts us to pay more attention to the stakes of this kind of disciplinary reorientation, even if it doesn’t quite provide an answer. What happens when we frame a bunch of analog creative practices as algorithmic?

[Extract from book review appearing on 'Electronic Book Review': Punday, Daniel. “Expanding the Algorithm”, Electronic Book Review, January 7, 2024,]

Digital media presents an array of interesting challenges adapting new modes of collaborative, online communication to traditional writing and literary practices at the practical and theoretical levels. For centuries, popular concepts of the modern author, regardless of genre, have emphasized writing as a solo exercise in human communication, while the act of reading remains associated with solitude and individual privacy.

“The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics” explores important cultural changes in these relationships thanks to the rapid development of digital internet technologies allowing near-instantaneous, synchronous, multimedia interaction across the globe. The radical shift in how we author and consume media as an online, electronic transmission effectively resituates the writing process across the liberal arts as less a solitary act of individual enquiry and reflection, and more an ongoing, collaborative process of creative interaction within a multimedia environment or network.

Contributions in this anthology demonstrate a robust history and equally diverse contemporary approach to multimedia interaction for literary and artistic ends. Central to all media formats, computation is explored throughout this volume to critically examine how algorithmic procedures in writing help bring forward many key concepts to building creative communities in a digital environment. Each chapter in this book accordingly introduces readers to various new collaborative experiments using a broad range of different digital media formats, including VR, Natural Language Generation (NLG), and metagaming tools.

This book will appeal broadly to students, instructors, and independent artists working in the digital arts, while its emphasis on social interactivity will interest theorists and teachers working in theatre, social media, and cyberpsychology. Its secondary focus on computation and media programming as a site of artistic experimentation will also interest programmers and web designers at various professional levels.

List of Figures and Tables

David Jhave Johnston


Introduction - The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics
Andrew Klobucar
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Part I. Foundations

Chapter 1 Wreadings: Digital Poetry and Collaborative Practice
Rui Torres
University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal
Daniela Côrtes Maduro
University of Coimbra, Portugal

Chapter 2 Community Code: A thing, something, everything and nothing
Taeyoon Choi
School for Poetic Computation

Chapter 3 Cicada
Charles Baldwin
Independent Scholar

Part II. From the Hive to the Classroom

Chapter 4 Digital Swarm Techniques: A Case Study to Teach Digital Collaboration and Disrupt Power Structures in Education
Maria Aladren
MCVTS Theatre High School

Chapter 5 Maker Generation? The Uncertain Future of Students as Interactive Storytellers
Anastasia Salter
University of Central Florida

Chapter 6 Netprov: Collaborative, Online Roleplay as Art Form
Rob Wittig
University of Minnesota

Part III. Interactivity in Action: Current Case Studies

Chapter 7 Text Sonification and the Literacoustics of Language-to-MIDI
Kedrick James, Esteban Morales, Rachel Horst, and Effiam Yung
University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Chapter 8 The GTR Language Workbench: A History of Creative Computational Collaboration
Sharla Sava

Chapter 9 I Am Afraid: Voice as Sonic Sculpture
Maria Lantin and Simon L. Overstall
Emily Carr University

Chapter 10 Afterwords: As We May Enact
Anna Nacher
Jagiellonian University, Poland

Author Bios


Andrew Klobucar is an Associate Professor of English at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey, specializing in electronic literatures. His research on experimental literary forms and screen-based writing critically analyzes the transformative effect digital technology continues to have across the arts.

Electronic Literature, Procedural Poetics, Algorithmic Text Tools, Language Games, Metagaming, Improvisation, Social Network Theory, Cyberpyschology, Cybertexts, Social Media

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Community and the Algorithm: A Digital Interactive Poetics





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


19 B&W

Publication date

September 2021