HSS8121 Out of Bounds + Yossarian (themes and associations)

Its been a good year for unexpected projects so far, which I suppose is more or less the point. Recently a lot of them seem to be falling under the broad heading of ‘finding themes and associations’, which seems to be a large part of my practice at the moment.

The main example, and a side-project that I’m very pleased with so far, has been the Out of Bounds Poetry Project. Long story short, some big-name poets took this anthology on tour, performing poems relating to place, ethnicity and various other themes – you can watch some here. Since then, a number of people at Newcastle and Stirling University have been working to present that material in an engaging way online, and that’s where I came in.

The work I’ve been doing can basically be summed up as watching every poetry video, making detailed notes on its themes and content, and then trying to come up with different connecting principles to help present the material in a coherent and interesting way. Fingers-crossed the end result will be an engaging experience that brings the best out of the poems and the poets’ performances.

OOB newcastle screenshot

I’ve really enjoyed this work, and not only because it helped to validate all that literary analysis I did during my A levels and ungrad. Its been an exercise in finding the common themes and elements between the different videos, as well as the potential effects of juxtaposing them. All in all, I made a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of mock-ups, which was more interesting than it sounds.

OOB branching paths screenshot

What made me think critically about all of this was a the last Enterprise and Research Methods class we had, with Daniel Foster-Smith, one of the co-founders of the creative search engine Yossarian. Its an awesome project, and I recommend you spend the five minutes it takes to check it out for yourself, but tldr: it aims to use lateral and metaphorical associations, rather than direct connections, to help you think outside the box. Trust me, the website explains it better.

Yossarian landing page

It represents the intersection between a some of the things I’m currently doing (themes, association, visual representations) and both the linguistic and literary aspects of my undergrad. I’m currently exploring how I might apply Yossarian (or the principles behind it) to Out of Bounds and the other projects I’m working on. Below are two examples of the sort of associations the search engine produced for three of the main OOB themes (waterbondaries and voice) with just a few minutes of exploring:

Yossarian water Yossarian boundaries
Yossarian voice

There’s probably a lot more digging to do here. The algorithmic processes that Yossarian uses to produce these associations are interesting, but something I’ll need to investigate a bit more if I want to understand. I’m aware that I’ve mostly been moving from thing to thing a lot recently, not really developing any one idea a huge amount, but that’s the nature of research sometimes. Its all still on the table, hopefully a larger idea will spring from something soon.

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