Brain Versioning

Katie Clapham

The remediation of the human body to machine is not hard to imagine. Humans are already integrating machinery in to their bodies, whether that means upgrading themselves with hearing aids, rebuilding themselves with prostheses or simply walking around with a mobile phone attached to their heads. When the machine in question is digital, the flickering nature of the machine becomes harder to visualise. In fact the solution seems to be not to visualise it, but to ‘linguitise’ it. The way language must be coded to exist digitally, the body might have to be ‘linguitised’ before it can be digitised.

The piece I wrote to investigate this became a science experiment; the ideas, tools and methods were all decided on before I had any idea what the final poem might sound like and in some ways, whether the outcome poem would be successful in achieving my aims. The experiment was divided into two stages: the remediation of the brain into language and the remediation of the language to the digital setting. The keywords which relate to functions in the human brain were remediated into links that would activate the same parts of my digital version of the brain as would the corresponding parts of the human brain. For example, when the ‘sigbral nuclirtual’ of the digibrain is activated, it activates the functions co-ordination, movement and posture, the three functions the grey matter of the cerebral nuclei is responsible for in the human brain.

In order to make these functions appear ‘active’ I tried to find a way to create a text that would bring these functions to life, rather than to simply describe them. My investigation into a text that does led me to Ezra Pound and his ideogrammic method. Pound’s work on Fenollosa’s Essay on the Chinese Written Character led him to find a way to make writing define things without having to be distanced from them. It was a type of writing I felt would work well in a project that aims to show something real, rather than vaguely gesture towards a representation of it. As Pound says, the ‘ideogram does not try to be the picture of a sound, or to be a written sign recalling a sound, but it is still the picture of the thing; of a thing in a given position or relation, or of a combination of things. It means the thing or the action or situation.’ The method as suggested by Pound seems to include, metaphor, juxtaposition and image clustering1 as well as distinct terseness, formal beauty, short lines, concrete words, parallelism, pictorial quality and the delayed image.2

As for the experiment’s conclusion, the poem fails to function the way a human brain does because it has no facility to grow, adapt or even accept input. What I have produced is a basic remediation model, which serves to highlight what an upgraded version of this poem might have to include in the future. I have named this experiment poem Brain Versioning 1.0.


[1] – Yee, Cordell D. K, ‘Discourse on Ideogrammic Method: Epistemology and Pound’s Poetics’, American Literature, 59; 2 (May, 1987): 242-56. [Back to top]

[2] – Qian, Zhaoming, Orientalism & Modernism: the legacy of China in Pound and Williams, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995). [Back to top]