May 26, 2006

Conceptualization by Anticipation

by Nick Montfort · , 11:48 am

When Oulipians discover that someone else used a particular ingenious constraint for literary composition long before they thought to “invent” it, they call this plagiarism by anticipation. Reading through Craig Dworkin’s excellent Anthology of Conceptual Writing that is online at UBUWeb — all the way through it, this time — I see that famous conceptual artist and writer Lawrence Weiner, in his 1970 “Tracce/Traces,” appropriated of the visual and interactive framework for Digital Ream, or close to it: there are fifty (rather than five hundred) single, white, linked words on dark gray (not black), appearing on consecutive pages. At least, Weiner’s typesetter (Dworkin? UBU’s Goldsmith?), using BBEdit 6.5 according to metadata in the pages, managed to get this digital discount — all about three years before I posted Digital Ream. Now it makes me wonder if the print version of Ream was also ripped off years before it was created…

At any rate, you should really check out UBU’s Anthology of Conceptual Writing to see if the authors stole any of the ideas you’re going to have in the next few months.

One Response to “Conceptualization by Anticipation”

  1. Jim Says:

    In point of fact, we have cascading plagarisms here. It all works backward from my “Ream Appropriations,” which Ream clearly anticipates:

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