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Authorship in computer-generated texts

chapter
posted on 11.02.2020, 13:24 by Leah Henrickson
Natural language generation (NLG) refers to the process in which computers produce output in readable human languages (e.g., English, French). Despite sounding as though they are contained within the realm of science fiction, computer-generated texts actually abound; business performance reports are generated by NLG systems, as are tweets and even works of longform prose. Yet many are altogether unaware of the increasing prevalence of computer-generated texts. Moreover, there has been limited scholarly consideration of the social and literary implications of NLG from a humanities perspective, despite NLG systems being in development for more than half a century. This article serves as one such consideration.

Human-written and computer-generated texts represent markedly different approaches to text production that necessitate distinct approaches to textual interpretation. Characterized by production processes and labor economies that at times seem inconsistent with those of print culture, computer-generated texts bring conventional understandings of the author-reader relationship into question. But who—or what—is the author of the computer-generated text?

This article begins with an introduction to NLG as it has been applied to the production of public-facing textual output. NLG’s unique potential for textual personalization is observed. The article then moves toward a consideration of authorship as the concept may be applied to computer-generated texts, citing historical and current legal discussions, as well as various interdisciplinary analyses of authorial attribution. This article suggests a semantic shift from considering NLG systems as tools to considering them as social agents in themselves: not to obsolesce human writers, but to recognize the particular contributions of NLG systems to the current socio-literary landscape. As this article shows, texts are regarded as fundamentally human artifacts. A computer-generated text is no less a human artifact than a human-written text, but its unconventional manifestation of humanity prompts calculated contemplation of what authorship means in an increasingly digital age.

History

School

  • The Arts, English and Drama

Department

  • English and Drama

Published in

Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature

Publisher

Oxford University Press

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© Oxford University Press

Publisher statement

Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. The definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.1226.

Acceptance date

05/02/2020

Publication date

2020-05-31

Copyright date

2020

Language

en

Editor(s)

Paula Rabinowitz

Depositor

Miss Leah Henrickson. Deposit date: 10 February 2020

Exports