TEAnO, or the computer assisted generation of manufactured aesthetic goods seen as a constrained stream of technological unconsciousness

Paolo Ferrara

TEAnO – Etnoteam spa

e-mail: pferrara@etnoteam.it


Gabriele Foglia

TEAnO – Infostrada spa

e-mail: gabriele.foglia@infostrada.it


Marco Maiocchi

TEAnO – I.NET spa – Politecnico di Milano

e-mail: m.maiocchi@inet.it


TEAnO (Telematica, Elettronica, Analisi nell'Opificio) was born in Florence, in 1991, at the age of 8, being the direct consequence of years of attempts by a group of computer science professionals to use the digital computers technology to find a sustainable match among creation, generation (or re-creation) and recreation, the three basic keywords underlying the concept of “Littérature potentielle” deployed by Oulipo in France and Oplepo in Italy (see “La Littérature potentielle (Créations Re-créations Récréations) published in France by Gallimard in 1973).

During the last decade, TEAnO has been involving in the generation of “artistic goods” in aesthetic domains such as literature, music, theatre and painting. In all those artefacts in the computer plays a twofold role: it is often a tool to generate the good (e.g. an editor to compose palindrome sonnets of to generate antonymic music) and, sometimes it is the medium that makes the fruition of the good possible (e.g. the generator of passages of definition literature). In that sense such artefacts can actually be considered as “manufactured” goods.

A great part of such creation and re-creation work has been based upon a rather small number of generation constraints borrowed from Oulipo, deeply stressed by the use of the digital computer massive combinatory power: S+n, edge extraction, phonetic manipulation, re-writing of well known masterpieces, random generation of plots, etc. Regardless this apparently simple underlying generation mechanisms, the systematic use of computer based tools, as well as the analysis of the produced results, has been the way to highlight two findings which can significantly affect the practice of computer based generation of aesthetic goods:

·        the deep structure of an aesthetic work persists even through the more “destructive” manipulations, (such as the antonymic transformation of the melody and lyrics of a music work) and become evident as a sort of profound, earliest and distinctive constraint;

·        the intensive stream of computer generated “raw” material seems to confirm and to bring to our attention the existence of what Walter Benjamin indicated as the different way in which the nature talk to a camera and to our eye, and Franco Vaccari called “technological unconsciousness”.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)



1.      The nature of the beast: the potential literature


In 1960 François Le Lionnais, as an offspring of the Collège de Pataphysique, founded the Oulipo. The name of the group is an abbreviation of Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Workshop of Potential Literature). During numerous sessions following the foundation, the members discussed what they later referred to as the mechanics of the art of literary creation. In 1961 François Le Lionnais conceived the term “potential literature” to set up a literary framework for the work Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes (One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems) by Raymond Queneau. Actually he didn’t provide a real definition for such new-born notion which actual meaning could only be derived by a number of samples: the potential literature does not fix one and for all the sequence of the textual elements which a literacy work consist of, it fixes instead the formal methods to be used to re-structure such elements in order to generate an instance of  the class of all possible texts..

A potential literary work can thus be “played” rather than read: the user is provided with the game rules and a set of and the basic elements to be combined and recombined according to the given rules.

One of the most famous formal methods proposed by Oulipo is the Jean Lescure's ‘Méthode M ± n’. As Lescure says:

«La méthode M ± n, que l'on propose d'abord sous la forme encore limitée dite S + 7 (forme qui a donné à la méthode son nom), consiste à remplacer dans un texte existant (de qualité littéraire ou non) les mots (M) par d'autres mots de même genre qui les suivent ou les précèdent dans le dictionnaire, à une distance variable mesurée par le nombre des mots. Aussi S + 7 veut dire simplement que l'on remplace tous les substantifs d'un texte par le septième qui le suit dans un lexique donné» [1]


According to Lescure’s statement, Keats’:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing


Could be turned into N/Adj/Adv (nouns/adjectives/adverbs) + 3 Keats’[1]

A thirst of beaver is a judge for evermore:
Its love-kindness increases; it will nevertheless
Pass into notification; but stoutly will keep
A bowler quixotic for us, and a sleep-car
Full of swell dregs, and health insurance, and quixotic breechblocks.


However, the “combinational itch” is not confined to the literacy domain. Similar researches have been carried out by Oupeinpo, founded for the first time in 1964 (and re-founded may times in later years); an interesting example of formal painting method proposed by Oupeinpo is the so called “proportioned colour painting”, consisting in the pre-definition of the exact percentage of each colour which must be present in the final picture[2]. More formal painting methods applied by Oupeinpo are described in [2]

A further example of combinational painting is represented by  a mobile electro-painting with on-off lights entitled " Jazz " by Frank J. Malina, which made available 211 (i.e. 2048) different combinations to the observers [3].

Actually. it must be noted that Oulipo and Oupeinpo are just the best known one of several OuxPo’s imagined by Le Lionnais, who also defined the OuReliPo (Ouvroir de Religions Potentielles), the OuMuPo (Ouvroir de Musique Potentielles), the OuCuiPo (Ouvroir de Cuisine Potentielles), etc.


2.                Many years later, someone yelled: «Remember the Alamo!»


Since the very first steps of the Ouplipian mice[3], the generation of instances of texts of potential literature was performed by hand, even when such rules were extremely arduous to follow. Or better, the challenge was to defined more and more sophisticated rules (and consequently sophisticated text generations or manipulations)[4] revealing in this the underlying enigmistic spirit of the Ouplepians.

In 1982 Paul Braffort and Jacques Roubaud founded the ALAMO or the Atelier de Littérature Assistée par la Mathématique et les Ordinateurs during a workshop held in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon by the Oulipo; the aim of ALAMO was to explore the potential of digital computer technology applied to the generation of potential literature. As first results ALAMO made available a number of software programs aimed to exploit the potential of the combinatorial literature like Litanie by Jean Meschinot”, Baci by Quirinus Kuhlmann, Sonetti by Queneau, Dizains by Bénabou” (strophes of ten verses), Triolets by Braffort” (ballads of eight verses)[5]

Following the example of ALAMO, TEAnO - , Elettronica, Analisi nell'Opificio - was born during the conferefence “Attenzione al potenziale – il gioco della letteratura” (Beware of the potential- the game of literature) held in Florence in may 1991. He was born at the age of 8, being the direct consequence of years of attempts by a group of computer science professionals to use the digital computers technology to find a sustainable match among creation, generation (or re-creation) and recreation, the three basic keywords underlying the concept of “Littérature potentielle”.

The name is the direct consequence of the trial of finding some equivalent of fighting at Fort Alamo; Barletta was felt too much against our French guests, so that the only possible choice was another historical place: Teano. Suddenly TEAnO as acronym.

The works of TEAnO spread on three main directions:

·          Automatic generation of some “artistic” works;

·          Support to the creative generation of artistic works;

·          Studies and formalisations of creative and artistic operations.

During its life TEAnO produced many works in the above directions, and organised many public events to issue results and to promote activities.

In the following paragraph some examples of the production are reported, in order to present the working activities of the group.


2.1 Automatic Generations


We list some examples of automatic generations, ordering them according to the growing complexity of the used models.

2.1.1.     Pataphysics


In 1983 “Jarry e la Patafisica” was a big event organised in Milan, with a big exhibition and various happenings related; within the exhibition a computer room was set up by TEAnO, allowing the visitors to generate automatically various literature creations; the generations followed typical oulipians rules, such as S+n, antonymic substitutions, combinatorial generations, etc.[4] Among the generation of “pataphysic” proverbs, horoscopes or manipulation of well known poems, we report below the result of the generation of plots; each character was modelled as a finite state automaton, able to perform some actions, each of them able of influencing the other automata; the concurrent execution of them provided examples such as the following:


The Cardinal

The Religion


The Sin


The Religion meets God.

In a dark night, the Cardinal meets God.

Following dirty intrigues, The Religion meets the Cardinal.

God meets the Sin.

The Sin meets the Religion.

Suddenly, the Cardinal gets married to the Religion.

God kills the Cardinal. and the Sin get married to the Religion.

The Sin kills itself.

The Religion get married to God, and both were happy forever.



The interest in the example is not, of course, in the result, but in the possibility to model narrative plots, we will find also in further more sophisticated works.


2.1.2.     Artusi’s recipes


Following the master of ‘800 Italian cooking, Pellegrino Artusi, a classification of the ingredients of recipes has been organised, and a kind of substitution of them (following an S+n algorithm) inside of the text has been performed, obtaining new creative recipes [5]. Among them, the followings, the former absolutely foolish, the latter more than edible:

Snail ice cream (Original: Lemon ice cream)

Courgette: 300 grams; brandy: half a litre; snails: no.3

Use snails from gardens, having them a better flavour in respect to the foreign ones. Boil the courgettes in the brandy, add some piece of loin of the snails; boil for 10 minutes with open pan. Let the syrup cool, and squash the nails inside. Put in the ice cream machine. This quantity will be sufficient for six persons.


Apples with Calvados (Original: cream cheese with coffee)

Mix slowly apples and calvados. Add dowder of a courgette. Serve in a cup.


2.1.3.     Tales


According to the Propp’s work on Russian tales scripts, a generative algorithm has been set up, with the proper contextual constraints, in order to produce original magic folk tales; changes in the constrains allowed to change the culture of the generated tales.

Many works regarding the generation of folktales using the Propp's approach have been performed within TEAnO since 1983. Such works range from simple generation programs, strictly adopting the syntax proposed by Propp to generate Russian folktales, to more sophisticated ones trying to tune this mechanism for generating folktales belonging to the Italian folklore and the latter was used to create scripts for some performances of traditional wooden puppet theatre. The most interesting results are described in [6].

Nevertheless, some activities have been carried out in order to try to find a more sophisticated and general purpose "novel generation engine", which led to the work of Claude Bremond.

As known, the analysis developed by Propp is based on four axioms [7]:

a) The constant, stable elements of a folktale are the actions (Propp call them "functions") performed by the characters, regardless who is actually performing the action and how. They are the basic building blocks of the folktale.

b) The number of such functions in a folktale is limited to 24.

c) The sequence in which the functions follow each other is always the same (that is each function is independent from the other)

d) All the folktales have the same structure.

In [8], Claude Bremond tries to make a step further in the work done by Propp by contradicting the basic axioms and generalising the morphology proposed by Propp to any kind of novels and not only folktales. Following Bremond, the new four axioms for the morphology of a novel are:

a) The basic building block is still the function as in Propp's work, but such functions are not limited and are grouped into sequences to generate the whole novel.

b) A novel is a sequence of "elementary sequences". Each elementary function (processes) consists of three functions corresponding to the three mandatory components of the elementary sequence:

1) a first function (an event to be foreseen or a behaviour to be taken) that "opens" the process related to the elementary sequence and provides its rationale;

2) a second function that implements the process in terms of actual events and/or behaviours

3) a third function that "closes" the process related to the elementary sequence under the form of a result that has been (or has not been achieved)

c) With an elementary sequence, a function does not necessarily force the subsequent one (contradicting Propp) and each elementary action is described by a "virtuality graph":

Fig 1: the virtual graph for the development of elementary sequences


d) Elementary sequences can be combined in different ways to form "complex sequences". Two examples of links between elementary sequences are the following:

          "bout à bout": the third function (the closure) of an elementary sequence implements the first function (the opening) of the subsequent elementary sequence;

          "enclave": the functions which an elementary sequence consists of are exploded in nested elementary sequences which functions can be in turn exploded in other elementary sequences and so on.

Generated examples are the following, the former in a schematic structure, se second in a more complete narrative form:

First example:

The dragon kidnapped the king father of the beautiful princess.

The beautiful princess proclaimed a ban.

The valiant archer left secretly taking the brave horse.

The valiant archer flow to the bounds of the world with the brave horse.

The valiant archer set free the king from the dragon.

The dragon prosecuted flying the valiant archer.

The valiant archer hid himself.

The dragon failed the prove and killed himself.

The valiant archer became beautiful.

The valiant archer married the beautiful princess.


Second example (a fragment)

After having tied and gagged the kingdom’s wizard, the cyclops Cecyl stole the magic potion. Immediately after the misfortune, heralds were sent to inform the near kingdoms about the fact, calling for valiant knights.

The groom Huliev, after having heard the complaints of the courts, decided autonomously to leave for removing the misfortune.

The wizard Basil asked Huliev to share all the wheat reserves with the poors of the kingdom for fighting the hunger, promising his helps.

Basil and Huliev, together, decide to share the objects according to their own needs, and the wizard prepared a magic potion for Huliev, cooking barks of trees hundreds years old.

Near to the river Huliev found a small boat, went on it and, very quickly, arrived to his destination.

Huliev, confident on his capabilities and possibilities, invited the cyclops into the arena, where they should have been running among lions, rushing off without being eaten. The longer in surviving will have been the winner.

The run was very difficult, and logs on the way was adding difficulties, but Huliev arrived to the goal as first.

While the cyclops went hiding himself in the dungeons of the castle, Huliev followed him and imprisoned him till the end of the his days.



Following the approach of C. Bremond seems to be possible to synthesise novels having a structure that is much more sophisticated if compared with the folktales originating from Propp's axioms.

A work group is evaluating the generation of really interactive novels (or interacting scripts) using the logic proposed by Bremond to be performed on a multimedial computer workstations or on the (future) interactive TV. The interaction between the user and the generation program would be possible by means of an "emotional joystick", that is a sort of "crystal sphere" changing colour depending on the evolution of the interactive novel. A first rough prototype of such emotional joystick is currently being developed.


2.1.4.     Antonymic music


Antonymic transformation refers to the substitution of some (or all the) words in a text with their “opposite” (white with black, earth with see or with sky, and so on). Which is the antonym od a tune? TEAnO assumed an algorithm to define it, providing both antonymic texts and tunes.

The "antonymic poetry" is another canonical constraint proposed by Oulipo[1]: it consists of the substitution of all the "meaningful" words in a given poetry with words having exactly the opposite meaning. Typically, since it is not possible to define an "absolute antonym" of a specific word[6], a context dependent substitution is performed and, in general, many different results can be achieved from the same text to manipulate.

For example, the following short passage from T. S. Eliot:

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces

After the frosty silence in the gardens

After the agony in stony places

The shouting and the crying


can be turned in:

Before the darkness black under dry feet

Before the burning shouts in the rooms

Before the birth in grassy places

The silence and the laughter


TEAnO has applied this techniques to texts (both prose and poetry) and to music as well, so to obtain the so called "antonymic music".

The generation of antonymic music is based on the following mechanism, which in some sense resemble the one adopted for antonymic poetry [9]: after having drawn a given melody on the pentagram, the "average value", a sort of "musical centre of gravity" of such melody is determine as a specific position on the pentagram and, then, all the notes of the melody are reflected above and under the average position. Finally, the antonymic melody is "normalised" (shifting of all the notes by a fixed number of position on the pentagram) in order to bring all the antonymised phrases to the same tonality.

The following is an example of an antonymic transformation [9]:


Fig 2: An antonymic transformation on a musical phrase (the centre of gravity is F)

This is essentially a mathematical/statistical approach, based on some statistical assumptions:

a) a note appear more frequently in a musical phrase is considered more important for the melody than another that is repeated less frequently and has the same intensity and duration;

b) a note having a longer duration is considered more important for the melody than another with less duration but same intensity and frequency

c) a note with a higher intensity is more important for the melody than another having the same frequency and duration but a lower intensity.

With the help of commercially available computer programs, a number of experiments have been realised on some well known songs, using the antonymic techniques for processing both music and lyrics: for example, "Le feuilles mortes" by J. Prevert and J. Kosma has been transformed into "Le racines vives" and "Blowin' in the wind" by B. Dylan into "Breathin' in the lull".

The work performed on antonymic music led to the idea of the design of a "musical workstation" for standard PC's, a sort of "virtual juke-box" able to play the same record in a hundred thousand billions of different ways [9]: for example, different and interesting results can be obtained by varying the parameters for the determination of the musical centre of gravity and/or changing completely the transformation algorithm.

This musical workstation allows to enter a melody and to apply to it one ore more pre-defined transformations; it is then possible to listen to the achieved results and to print the related scores.

One of the most promising evolution of these techniques for music manipulation could consist in thinking of such transformations as algebraic operations on a an "algebraic musical structure" (e. g. a group or a linear space) and deriving from it the basic properties of different classes of melodies.

A feasibility study is currently being carried out on this subject on the basis of the overall structure [9] described in the following figure:



Fig 3: an overall architecture for the musical workstation


2.1.5.     Cocktails


A model of cocktail has been built, and a knowledge base of the official standard cocktails has been set up, to be used as a basis for an automatic generation of new cocktails, through artificial intelligence “ by example” methods.

Among the cocktails generated:


14 parts of cachassa

1 part of peach brandy

2 drops of angostura

2 drops of lemon juice

a cherry

mix with ice


2.1.6.     Recipes


The works on the cocktail has been refined, adding complexity of working operations, in order to generate automatically cooking recipes. The works are provided in this conference [10].


2.1.7.     Metaphors


A model of metaphors as partially overlapping knowledge representation frames has been set up, able to generate automatically new metaphors, as a way to stimulate new understandings. The model was able to generate metaphorical phrases such as:

I cant digest your ideas.

I devoured your book.

I’m thirsty of kwowledge.


2.2 Support to creative generation

2.2.1.     Anagrammatic poetry support


Some of the Oplepo productions was related to the constructions of poems in which each verse was an anagram of a previously defined set of letters; a program has been developed to help the authors in this kind of work.

Following in the footsteps of  G. Perec (who published in France the work "Ulcérations" composed exclusively of anagrams of the French word ulcérations) and R. Campagnoli (who published in Italy the work "Edulcoranti" composed exclusively of anagrams of the Italian word edulcoranti), this editor helps the user in writing poetry or prose consisting exclusively of various anagrams of a selected word. It allows to:

a)         define the selected word to anagram;

b)         to define a fixed section within the word that will not be changed during the anagram

c)         generate the complete list of all existing anagram (taking into account the constraint due
to the fixed part of the word)

d)                 browse and select the desired anagram and edit it on the screen by adding blank spaces
This is a really a suitable subject for the exploitation of the combinatorial power of computers as a powerful help for the humans in the creation of original works. The English word "loutishness" can generate up to 39916800 anagrams but, keeping the part "theloss" fixed and generating all the possible anagrams, we can obtain the response: "the loss in us".


2.2.2 A tool for the production of definitional literature


A piece of definitional literature can be generated from a given text by substituting each "meaningful" word (such as nouns, adjectives and some adverbs) with its definition contained in a given dictionary and iterating this procedure for a number of times [1].

Using this technique, it is possible, after three steps, to generate a text of approximately 180 words starting from a sentence of six words. For example [1]:


STEP 0:           The cat has drinks the milk.


STEP1:            The carnivorous, domestic and digitigrade mammal drinks the white sweet liquid                     produced by the females of the Mammalian.

STEP2:            The meat eating, living in places populated by humans, and walking on fingers                         mammal ...


This interactive tool helps the user in defining one or more (specialised or general purpose) dictionaries to be used in the step by step process, allows to define the words to be substituted and the number of steps to apply.

2.2.3.     Palindromic sonnet support


The generation of palindromic phrases is a cumbersome work, but to build a palindromic sonnet is an extreme trial; a program helping in it has been developed.

The sonnet is a very complex maze based on a well known and very successful set of constraints since a number of centuries. In the specific case of the palindrome sonnet a new constraint has been added to the usual ones: the same text must be readable starting from the first character of the first verse as well as starting from the last character of the last verse.

The palindrome constraint sets up a complex grid of correspondences and reflections that have to be satisfied in order to accomplish the required rhymes and metrics.

The following is an example of the templates (generated by the editor) for a palindrome sonnet accomplishing two different rhyme structures[7], obtained just by enter the first verse, which can give an idea of the complexity of the composition:






was alone in the sun

was alone in the sun


































After that, the user can proceed by adding spaces for separating words (e. g. in the last verse) and entering the missing part of the sonnet: any entered character will be reflected by the program in the appropriate positions (depending on the specific rhyme structure) to ensure the validity of all constraints. During the sonnet composition, the "*" characters indicates to the user where it is possible to add new character without violating the constraints.

Furthermore, the editor provides a number of functionalities for helping the writer to select the desired rhyme structure from a dozen of pre-defined schemes (e.g. ABAB-BABA-CDC-DCD or ABBA-ABAB-CDE-CDE or ABAB-ABBA-CDE-DEC), to define new rhyme structures and to choose the number of characters taken into account for each rhyme.


2.3 Studies on formalization

2.3.1.     Scripts formalisations and algebraic models of Telenovelas


Analysis of movies script structures has been executed through Petri Nets, allowing a formal distinction between plot and narration; trials in changing the narration on the same plot has been carried on. More, some algebraic model of telenovelas have been carried on toward the generation of “successful” movies.

As well known, telenovelas present a very established and peculiar structure that can be described by means of few simple rules:

a)         A fixed set of characters

b)         A fixed set of closed places in which all the actions are developed

c)         A number of related (but independent) narrative processes which evolve in parallel

This consideration can lead to the definition of an algebraic structure and a set of operation based on it, to be used for generating "canonical" telenovelas:

T = {t,P,S}

where t represents the time, P is the set of all involved characters and S is the set of all possible closed places.

This first description provides only a static view of the set of telenovelas; to describe the development of all actions, a structure called "script" has been defined:

x = <T, L, F>

where the first item, T, is a static description of telenovelas, the second, L, is a function (functions are typically the elements describing transformations of other elements) having specific properties and called "placement"; the third component, F, is another function, called "focus".

During the development of the script, the various parallel stories evolve in parallel, characters interact each other and move from one place to another. At any time, the placement function has the goal of describing the distribution of characters over the different places and their transitions from place to place; on the basis of the so determined distribution, it is possible to apply the focus function in order to find out the most interesting place (that is the place in which the performed actions have the highest narrative tension) in order to focus the script on the actions happening in such place.

One of the most interesting implications of a so defined structure, describing an abstract telenovela, is that it allows the definition of a sort of telenovela engine, consisting of "elementary telenovelas" that can be composed in order to obtain a whole family of "canonical telenovelas".


2.3.2.     Recipes


A formal model of cooking recipes has been set up, according to a definition of ingredients and working steps, introducing a metric and the concept of “distance”, allowing an evaluation of a recipe copyright violation [11].


2.3.3.     Aesthetical translation


Is it possible to translate an artistic composition into another of different nature (e.g. a poem into a painting) preserving the “aesthetical emotion” of the observer? This is the goal of this research line. The main lines followed are resumed here.

An art A can be characterised by a set of features FAi.                            

A={FAi} , i=1..NFA

Each feature can assume a set of enumerated predefined values VAij.

FAi: {VAij} ,i=1..NFA ,j=1..Mai

A manufact O belonging to the art A is characterised by a set of values:

O(A)={vaij} vaij Î Vaij



PAINTING={form, technique, size, composition, colours, ..., subject}

form={square, horizontally rectangular, vertically rectangular, oval, ..., round}

technique={oil, water-colour, ..., composite}


subject={abstract, pastoral, town, sea, ..., feminine portrait, masculine portrait}


La Gioconda={vertically rectangular, oil, small, ..., feminine portrait}



POETRY={schema, verses, phonemes, ..., subject}

schema={sonnet, ... , prose}

phonemes={prevalent a, prevalent e, prevalent i, ..., liquids, ...}



L'infinito={sonnet, endecasyllabs, ...}


To simplify computations (as it will be clear in the following, we can represent a manufact as an array of Boolean, using as indexes all the possible enumerative values:

O(A)={vai} i=1..S MAk, k = NFA

In the example above, the result would be:


La Gioconda={0,0,1,0,...,0;1,0,...,0;...;...;0,0,0,0,...,1,0}


Given two artistic disciplines A and B, relationships can be provided between the related features FA and FB, to map the artistic discipline A on B (in general the relationships are not reversible).

We can assume that each FAi will contribute to some extent to different features FB's, and, more in general, each vaij will contribute to different vbij.

We can define a mapping matrix MABij which elements are defined as:

mabij i = Sum MAk,j = Sum MBh

k = NFA, h = NFB

and represents a weight (e.g. on a range 0..1) of how much a value from A influences values on B.
























































































































































































































where sonnet, prose, ... refer to the poetic structure; prevalence of vowel a, e, ... to the sound of the vowels; liquids, ... to other letters; and correspondingly, square, horizontal rectangle, .. to the shape of the painting; oil, watercolour, ... to the technique; abstract, pastoral, town, ... to the subject, and so on.


Given the opera O(A) composed in the art A, it is possible to translate it in the art B:

O'(B) = maxf(O(A) * MAB)

where the operation * represents the usual multiplication of an array by a matrix, rows by columns and the operation maxf indicates that, for each of the NB features of O'(B), the maximum value of O'(B) within the single feature is set to 1, and all the others to 0.


As an example, the transformation of a soonnet into a painting, executed following the suggestions obtained through the method.



S' i' fosse foco, arderei 'l mondo;
s'i' fosse vento, lo tempesterei;
s'i' fosse acqua, i' l'annegherei,
s'i' fosse Dio, mandereil' en profondo;

s'i' fosse papa, sare' allor giocondo,
ché tutt'i cristiani imbrigherei;
s' i' fosse 'mperator, sa' che farei
a tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo.

S' i' fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
s' i' fosse vita, fuggirei da lui:
simìlemente faría da mi' madre.

S' i' fosse Cecco, com' i' sono e fui,
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre,
e vecchie e laide lasserei altrui.




3.                Suddenly, the technological unconsciousness bursted in


The interaction between humans and computers can be thought as divided into two different (but equally interesting) classes of activities: the productive interactions and the experiential interaction [12].

During the productive interaction, the computer is used as a tool for producing an outcome in the real world (for example the interaction with the word processor for writing this paper) that is considered more important the experience of the interaction itself. On the other hand, experiential interaction essentially consists of the use of the computer as a medium for being engaged in a sensorial (aesthetic) experience: that experience is real goal of the interaction (for example the interaction with a computer game or the plotting of fractal coloured diagrams of the Mandelbrot set).

Both such classes of interaction are based on the exploitation of the complementary characteristic of human thinking and computer processing capabilities in order to try to create something "new" and "aesthetically worthwhile".

All the activities of the members of TEAnO are intended to explore this twofold potential of the human-computer interaction. Within this framework, we can highlight a first basic question: is there something new created by the usage of the huge computational power of a digital computer in actualising a massive amount instances of instances of potential literature (and not only literature)? Is it just a matter of a greater throughout and of higher production speed and greater processing capability? Or, rather, within the huge mass of artifacts one can find something which is a specific consequence of the human interpretation of the computer generated stream of material?

Looking back at the various attempts made by TEAnO in the last years, we it seems to us that something similar to the “technological unconsciousness” could be foreseen, as it has been defined by F. Vaccari regarding photography on the basis of Benjamin’s observations in “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reprodizierbarkeit”.

Vaccari saysthe concept of “activity” is essential to the concept of “unconsciousness”; an “activity” according to rules which escape from the control of consciousness, and which meaning can directly be linked to the term “production”. The unconsciousness is an independent production centre, building and structuring to the unstructured elements streaming through it. Every time than that the human being delegated to a tool based on a certain technology his own activity, we can find a sort of  “frozen” or “hard” consciousness compared “frozen” or “hard” consciousness compared to that plastic and active one typical of the human being [13].

Form this point of view the technological unconsciousness must be seen as a mere extension and enhancement of human faculties. Rather it demonstrates a sort of autonomous capability, as if the tool were a fragment of unconsciousness in activity [13]. As the use of the photographic technology destroyed the idea of the existence of privileged point of views, in the same manner seems that the use of the computer technology to actualise the potential literature destroys the intrinsic (even if unexpressed) constraint of creating “meaning”, always present in the manual production of this kind of aesthetic manufactured goods. Whatever meaning we would give to the word “meaning”.

The fruition of the aesthetic artefact is changing as well, as a consequence of a changing relationship between originality and contingency of the produced work. Regarding this changing, in [4], the author says: we preserves these fragments[9], even in contrast with the essence of a “literature generating machine”, crystallising on paper a single infinitesimal event with an innumerable series of event , with a special taste for the fruition and re-fruition, as men who, living in a civilisation that evolves by destroying the paste, is aimed to collect and preserve its traces. We are not able to dispose an aesthetic artefact even it is possible to get billions of similar ones.



4. Essential references


[1]       Oulipo - La Littérature potentielle (Créations Re-créations Récréations), Paris,1973

[2]       B. Eruli (edited by) Il gioco della letteratura - Attenzione al potenziale!, Firenze, 1994

[3]       L’Observatoire Leonardo des Arts et des Techno Sciences: http://www.olats.org/ about the art works by Frank J. Malina

[4]       TEAnO, “Quaderno n. 2 - Antologia di letteratura potenziale”, 1996

[5]       TEAnO, “Artusi S+n”, Millelire Publisher, 1995

[6]       M.Maiocchi - "A program telling folktales" - Journées d'études internationales sur littérature et informatique, Paris, 20-22 April 1994

[7]       V.Propp – Morfologia della Fiaba – Laterza

[8]       C. Bremond - "Logique du récit", Editions du Seuil, Paris 1973]

[9]       E. Fagnoni, M. Maiocchi - "La musica antonimica" - Proceedings of the 2nd meeting of Vejo Knights, Fonit Cetra, 1993

[10]     P.Brotzu, M.Maiocchi - A Generative Approach to Variations in Production Processes – GA 2000 - Dec 2000

[11]     P.Brotzu, M.Maiocchi – L’algoritmo in pentola – Conference on Copyright of cooking recipes – Campione d’Italia, 1996

[12]     B. Laurel, "Computers as Theatre", Addison-Wesley, 1991

[13]     F. Vaccari, “Fotografia e inconscio tecnologico”, 1994

Many other works and information can be found at http://www.teano.it.


[1] This example of M ± n is reported by E.Vos in “Interactive Fiction; Scilit; das Gedicht als Gebrauchsgegenstand; Littérature Potentielle – Four Views on Literature and Technology”, Tecnology, Cahiers Interdisciplinaire et Internationaux. The first verse of the manipulated Keats’ work is cited by Le Lionnais in the second Oulipo’s manifesto.

[2] Following such method, Thieri Foulc produced a collage entitled “The red and the black”, realised by means of 5000 red squares and 5000 black squares

[3] The Oulipo’s members liked to define themselves as "mice that have to build the maze form which they try to escape"

[4] Regarding this, we must mention the work “Edulcoranti” by R. Campagnoli consisting of a poem in which each verse is an anagram of the italian word edulcoranti. The same restriction was already been used by George Perec to create “Ulcerations”.

[5] An overview of the overall production of ALAMO is presented in “Action poétique” n. 95, 2nd quarter 1984. A brief summary of the ALAMO’s software tools is reported in [2].


[6]What could be, for example, the "absolute antonym" of white? Black? Coloured? Non white?

[7]For evaluating rhymes, only the last three characters of each verse are taken into account

[8]The "*" character stands for any sequence of character still missing in the structure

[9] Referred to fragments of text generated by means of one the TEAnO products, called Oulipoit