Reading Earth/Worm Poetry

Nik Gaffney and Martin Howse Earth Coding Masterclass What could it mean for nonhumans--wind, worms, world/earth--to "write poetry" through computer coding language? In the Earth Coding workshop led by Nik Gaffney and Martin Howse, this question (among others) drove me toward a greater understanding of the embeddedness of technology in nature, while also showing how a creative misuse of advanced technologies can provide new ways to relate to and appreciate the earth and its nonhuman inhabitants. By foregrounding the fact that the materials—silicon, copper—that provide the basis for computational circuitry were originally mined from the earth and formed into shape through myriad industrial processes, the workshop also the illuminated the continuum that exists between "natural" matter and "computational" matter. Through exploratory field trips that focused our attention down into the earth, we opened a window into a world of telluric currents and fugitive radio waves that normally would remain unnoticed or inaudible. This was achieved through iterative, performative processes in the field: at one point, we plunged a circuit board into the soil to listen for what the earth (and a few worms we found there) might have to "say:" the currents thus detected were fed directly into a computer where they were "translated" via Python program into letters and spaces of the English alphabet. This process resulted in a "worm poetry.” This process quite literally returns circuitry to the earth from which it once came, in effect inducing the earth (and its intimate inhabitants, worms) code itself. A question I am still trying to answer: does fitting our earth/worm data into English characters render the worm "silent" insofar as it fits their energy emissions into a human framework? Jonah Chambers

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