Art By Algorithm

Leon Neyfakh profiles Darius Kazemi, a botmaker whose “dozens of projects have won him admirers among a range of people so wide it suggests the world doesn’t quite have a category for him yet”:

Kazemi’s first foray into the field was called Metaphor-a-Minute. The way it worked was simple: The bot would pull nouns and adjectives from an online dictionary called Wordnik, and arrange them in a particular order so that each tweet presented a metaphor both bizarre and fleetingly plausible. (Examples: “a premonition is a warren: defenseless and tacit,” “an impression is a mucus: nondomestic, rootlike.”) The effect was that of a very smart but helplessly confused alien being trying to make sense of the English language. To date, the account has generated nearly half a million metaphors.

From there Kazemi was off to the races.

He made a RapBot that used a rhyming database to write hip-hop verses. He created Amirite, a hammy jerk of a bot that makes corny, often nonsensical “am I right” jokes that sometimes strike a nerve: “Wendy Davis? More like Trendy Davis, amirite?” His Startup Generator lampooned tech culture with a constant stream of dubious business ideas (“Paypal for dropouts”).

More recently he created his most popular bot to date, Two Headlines, which crawls the latest news stories on Google, picks two at random, and switches important keywords to generate a series of broken windows into the popular conversation: “Beirut seeks love advice from Katy Perry”; “Iran Is Working On Smart Contact Lenses That Can Monitor Your Body’s Health.” Bogost now considers himself part of Kazemi’s growing fan base, waiting for the next bot to be born. “You have a favorite comedian or favorite artist and you look forward to what they say, because you want to see the world through their eyes,” [professor Ian] Bogost said. “The same kind of thing is happening with Darius.”