Digital Technology and Innovative Poetry


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This is a thesis investigating the use of digital technology in creative writing, with a focus on innovative poetry. Three research areas explore this through theory, practice and reflection. These are preceded by an introduction to digital poetry, including an overview of the field.
Chapter 1 describes the use of digital technology in appropriative writing, using digital methods to collect and re-organise text from social media to produce two books. Appropriative, allegorical or conceptual writing is discussed in relation to these books and more generally. This discussion includes reflections on the ethics of appropriative methodologies, with reference to writers such as Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place.
Chapter 2 explores the possibilities of digital technology for procedurally transforming existing texts to produce new ones. Two creative projects are discussed, the first using spreadsheets to transform by mechanistic word substitution and the second using databases to transform by reduction and Ëśwriting through'. These are contextualised and discussed in relation to the work of John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, the Oulipo and others.
Chapter 3 investigates permutational and combinatory works and the use of machine methods to introduce programmatic randomness. A range of online works are described premised on aleatory selection from lists. The poetics of chance is discussed in relation to digital and non-digital combinatory works including Raymond Queneau, Alison Knowles and Nick Montfort.
The human-machine dynamic is viewed as collaborative rather than competitive, with the machine envisaged as an adjunct to rather than an alternative to human practice. Processual methods are regarded as having most value when combined with non-processual and non-schematic elements.
Originality is considered as a valid concept for procedural works, residing at the level of ideas and design.
The procedural works discussed in the thesis are contextualised within a broader personal poetics of inclusivity, playfulness and humour.
Date of Award11 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorROBERT SHEPPARD (Director of Studies) & JAMES BYRNE (Supervisor)


  • innovative
  • poetry
  • poetics
  • oulipo
  • conceptualism
  • generative
  • procedure
  • process
  • writing
  • digital

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