by Leslie Martinelli
A few years ago, I read that Encyclopedia Britannica no longer would be printing encyclopedias. Add that to the list of things from my childhood that no longer exist. Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-progress. Where would we be without air conditioning, microwave ovens, and cell phones? And some of those extinct items deserved to go, like cars without seat belts and manual typewriters. But every now and then technology interferes where it doesn't belong, and I just have to say: Stop! Enough!
Encyclopedias are a case in point. Those printed volumes held many fond memories for me. The first set to enter my family’s house came by way of a door-to-door salesman. That set caused some conflict between my parents. My father had warned my mother time and again not to let salesmen in the front door, let alone buy from any of them. They were, he said, like seagulls - once you fed one of them, you couldn't get rid of the flock. Our house was testament to that caveat; we owned a top-of-the-line vacuum and enough brushes and cleaning products to supply the whole neighborhood. My mother stood by her latest purchase, though. As she saw it, that set of encyclopedias was an investment in my and my brothers’ educational futures.
Google Poetry, Authorship, and Copyright
In October 2012, a poet named Sampsa Nuotio created a site called “Google Poetics,” which posts submissions by poets from around the world, each of which is created in a nontraditional way. Each submission is derived from Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which appear when any Google user is typing in a search phrase. The suggested searches are predictions about what a user might be searching for, based on common searches performed by other users:
The suggested searches can form a unique and sometimes moving series of phrases that read like poetry: they demonstrate poetic repetition, show a particular mood or theme, and evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. A recent example from November 5, 2013 demonstrates how these poems can be very moving. The first line shows what the poet typed, and the following four lines show Google’s suggested searches:
The result reads like a poem, with the repetition of the phrase “Though I” as a way of contrasting the different lines. It has the tone of a poem, speaking about love and death, which are common themes in poetry. It even makes the reader consider the deeper meaning behind the lines, such as what the poet “disagreed with” and whether the “departure” in the last line might be an implied death. These elements are all common in poetry, but is this really a poem? Three important questions emerge when considering this style of poetry. First, can such a poem be considered a creative or literary work, when it was randomly generated with very little influence from the poet? Second, can the poet truly be considered the author of the poem, when they didn’t write it, but instead discovered it? And third, should such poems be protected under copyright, or instead be considered part of the public domain?