For our first brownbag in our self-directed Visualization Seminar, Ira gave us a chapter of From Complexity to Creativity: Computational Models of Evolutionary, Autopoietic and Cognitive Dynamics, by Ben Goertzel: Ch. 9, FRACTALS AND SENTENCE PRODUCTION about using the L-System (Lindenmayer System) for creating sentences. I was really happy about both the chapter’s argument and the L-system itself because they both evade expressivist theories of how language works, you know, that 19th-c idea probably traceable to John Stuart Mill that thoughts and feelings are this inchoate stuff that you shove into language, words envisioned as containers (or trash bins, really, if you are thinking catharsis). These theories have been overturned by deconstruction, or less obscurely, by Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. In any case, this kind of programming system which produces the beautiful visuals that go with fractals (in Benoit Mandelbrot’s work), because it is recursive and also because it allows for bracketing and incorporating environmental effects into a recursive growth system, generates these beautiful tree-like structures. It seems perfect for generating sentence structures as well. I want to use it in creating my novels of various genres that will ultimately be CAVE novels — not in any mimetic sense; the graphics will be produced by the words but not as pictures of what the words say.
This was great fun — y’all come next time!!