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When spam metamorphoses into literature

Today’s spam filters can be taught to block
messages containing specific words most likely to appear in the subject line or
body. As a response, the spammers sometimes combine, distort or switch the content
of message body and its subject line. This produces a virtual infinite range of
unique messages that, every now and then, can carry an (involuntary) literary
potential.

 

For instance, let’s assume a spammer has
several text sources as pools for the message’s body and subject line creation.
In our automated era, all he needs to do is to create a script that picks a
phrase from a pool, another phrase from another pool, and so on. You can see
the result below:

DADA SPAM

 

Although you might think this is our times’
invention, it actually dates at the beginning of the past century and belongs
to an artistic group called Dada. The avant-garde movement that
emerged in Zurich
right at the outbreak of World War I, openly professed the text cut-up and word
collage technique. Tristan Tzara, one of the Dada founders, included in one
manifesto specific instructions on how “To Make A Dadaist Poem“, which,
you guessed, details exactly the practice the spammers employ today in a more
technical manner.

 

But unlike their genuine literary
precursors (that you can read in an online facsimile edition
of Dada Review
), the contemporary “dada-spammers” are nothing than just
some unintentional epigones whose main contribution to the humanity is to trick
the spam filters. Of course, in addition to their (unmerited, in my opinion)
credits for “writing” poetry or, if you prefer, “spoetry” (the term Eva Wiseman
uses to designate these texts in her article “An
introduction to spoetry
“).

Dada Spam

 

As the filters’ detection methods recognize
common words, “dada-spammers” deviated towards rare, obsolete and sometimes
metaphorical vocabulary, more difficult to be classified as pertaining to spam.
With no intertextual effect in mind, “dada-spammers” no longer turned their
attention towards the newspaper that Tzara mentioned in his manifesto, but to
passages from classic authors such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens or
Hemingway they automatically extracted from Web sites offering literary content,
such as Project GutenbergTM, as revealed here.

 

In spite of the possible indirect “cultural
benefit” – that some recipients could lay their hands (and eyes) on volumes
they haven’t got the chance to read by now – the obvious detriments are spam
and occasionally… bad literature.

 

To conclude, I can only suggest that you
follow as a golden rule the passage I bolded in the three Tzara’s verses I quoted
below:

 

“Little cousin, boarding school girl, dressed
in black, white collar,

I love you because you are simple and you
dream

And you are kind, you cry, you tear up letters that have no meaning“.

 

Post
Scriptum 1:
For those of you that enjoyed the idea
of mixing content from text pools, maybe you would also like to try and play /
read some of Raymond Queneau’s works, available online. The founder of the early

About the author

Răzvan LIVINTZ

With a humanities passion and background (BA and MA in Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest) - complemented by an avid interest for the IT world and its stunning evolution, I joined in the autumn of 2003 the chief editors' team from Niculescu Publishing House, as IT&C Chief Editor, where (among many other things) I coordinated the Romanian version of the well-known SAMS Teach Yourself in 24 Hours series. In 2005 I accepted two new challenges and became Junior Lecturer at the Faculty of Letters (to quote U2 - "A Sort of Homecoming") and Lead Technical Writer at BluePhoenix Solutions.

After leaving from BluePhoenix in 2008, I rediscovered "all that technical jazz" with the E-Threat Analysis and Communication Team at BitDefender, the creator of one of the industry's fastest and most effective lines of internationally certified security software. Here I produce a wide range of IT&C security-related content, from malware, spam and phishing alerts to technical whitepapers and press releases. Every now and then, I enjoy scrutinizing the convolutions of e-criminals' "not-so-beautiful mind" and, in counterpart, the new defensive trends throughout posts on www.hotforsecurity.com.

Balancing the keen and until late in night (please read "early morning") reading (fiction and comparative literature studies mostly) with Internet "addiction", the genuine zeal for my bright and fervid students with the craze for the latest discoveries in science and technology, I also enjoy taking not very usual pictures (I'm not a pro, but if you want to see the world through my lenses, here are some samples http://martzipan.blogspot.com), messing around with DTP programs to put out some nifty book layouts and wacky t-shirts, roaming the world (I can hardly wait to come back in the Big Apple), and last but not least, driving my small Korean car throughout the intricacies of our metropolis's traffic.

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