Linguistic Overflow in Linguistic Capitalism

Otso Huopaniemi will present his paper “Linguistic Overflow in Linguistic Capitalism” at PSi#23 in Hamburg on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Conference program here


“The presentation focuses on the abundance of digitally mediated text prevalent in the media ecologies of the 21st century, which can be seen or rather bodily experienced to form a wave or overflow of encoded information, an overcrowding of text on ubiquitous screens. In particular, I will examine the excesses and leakages of machine translation, a performatively advantageous technology that creates massive amounts of textual noise or debris despite having developed tremendously since its early, World War II days. Multinational concerns such as Google “have created the first global linguistic market and demonstrated that linguistic capitalism is a lucrative business domain, one in which billions of dollars can be realized per year” (Kaplan 2014, 57). Machine translation, for its part, comes to the stage as a medium designed to provide global linguistic flow, manifest in Warren Weaver’s depiction of it as the “Tower of Anti-Babel,” a wondrous cosmopolitan system that overwrites global linguistic divides the origin of which are depicted already in Biblical myths. What was intended to create flow, ever easier crossing of linguistic, geographic, and cultural borders, tends in practice to create overflow in the form of textual haze that leaves the users of the technology—digital nomads, refugees, ordinary people—confronting new resistances. As an artistic researcher and performance-maker, I approach linguistic overflow in linguistic capitalism from the perspective of its implications are for performance and performative writing.”