Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Autocorrect Autoimmunity: Order Gone Wild

Any object can be examined by testing it to see at what point it stops being itself and starts being something else. It's an OOO way of reading a poem, for instance. Try as hard as you can to turn “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into Macbeth. How many steps do you need? At what point is it totally ambiguous whether you're looking at a distorted version of “Twinkle” or at a distorted version of Macbeth?

Just like an optometrist, I take ambiguity to be a symptom of some kind of accuracy. Once you get down to the level of “is it number one or number two” (where the optometrist is rotating two very slightly different prescriptions, but so subtle you can hardly tell), you are finding out something accurate about how you see.

Autocorrect operates in the same region. Autocorrect changes what you type to match some other word, of which your typing is taken to be a distortion.

Now this becomes trouble when you are good enough at writing to want to distort some words, and autocorrect keeps pulling your word back into the gravity well of expected spellings.

And this gravity well keeps getting stronger and stronger. At some point, it becomes impossible to type what you want to type, and autocorrect stops being autocorrect. Autocorrect itself has been distorted into something it isn't: a mashup app that just distorts what you write, without rhyme or reason--in the name of reason!

Take note Autocorrect designers: autocorrect is about to exit its usefulness region for some frequent users. Perhaps soon all users will be affected. Imagine autocorrect tweaked to the point where someone who can't spell at all can write a decent letter, but you, who can spell quite a lot, end up with complete gibberish.

I'm saying this because the newest versions of Google and Word is as aggressive as my iPhone now is. I can't type Derrida's word différance normally (left to write, in a couple of seconds). I need to go back and re-enter the e-acute and the /a/. If I treat the word as a vector (i.e. normally again, as part of a sentence with a certain spatial and temporal direction, left to right and then to now), I actually can't type it, because it keeps turning back into difference. 

Autocorrect has now made it impossible to distinguish between speech and writing--which was the precise point of Derrida's deliberate misspelling, to create a word that looked one way and sounded another, with an unpronounceable difference between them.

Autocorrect is logocentrism in action, pulling words into a shape determined by some strange attractor of correctness outside the sentence.

Autocorrect is ruining the ability to write. In order to facilitate the ability to write. Autoimmunity anyone? The very attempt to produce smooth functioning has made writing incredibly unsmooth and vorhanden. Why, just last year I was able to type différance with ease. Jesus, that last time I tried to paste it, and simply hitting the space bar caused it to “correct” into difference. 

What can we conclude? Well at least we can conclude that language really isn't and can't be logocentric, just as Derrida argued. It only works if it's shifty and fluid and capable of being broken and rearranged.

Also, it's like that joke about the totalitarian country. I tell you that because of censorship, I'll write to you in blue ink if I'm under surveillance, being persecuted, etc. I write you a lovely positive letter in black ink. The last sentence reads “Everything is wonderful; the only problem is, I can't find any blue ink.”

I now have to use all kinds of manual tricks to turn the black ink into deconstructive blue ink. Despite the fact that language is a blue-inky kind of a deal. Such is the state of autocorrect.

1 comment:

cgerrish said...

It's not this easy in every realm, but...

1. Open System Preferences (choose Apple > System Preferences).
2. Choose Keyboards.
3. Click the Text tab.
4. Deselect the tick in Correct Spelling Automatically.

If there were such a thing as artificial intelligence, you could specify that auto-correct should only correct spelling when it's appropriate and desired.