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Reading Tests

Popahna Brandes and Jack Henrie Fischer
Jan Van Eyck
Artists' Books
14 × 19.7 × 2 cm

A note about the words in the book – where they come from and what has happened to them.

Many of them, the ones on the right-side and the ones at the end, are “suspicious” words from Google Books, words from book scans which can’t be machine-read. Google offers these unreadable words as reversed Turing Tests to human readers in their project to digitize all the books in their digital library. These images of words have been gathered for this book in thousands of refreshes at the threshold to a PDF download. A human writer, in turn, has read the words for some rhythm of sense. In these tests she has rearranged them accordingly.The texts to the left are, in the first section, edited from a medium-sized dictionary used for dictionary attack, the machine procedure whereby every word of a dictionary is fired at an empty internet password field. The second section alternates verso and recto pages from Freud’s “Mistakes in Reading and Slips of the Pen”. These pages have been submitted and resubmitted to an optical character recognition which rotates, stretches, and darkens pixels in order to bring the image closer to what might be recognized as a letter. When a recognition takes place, the image becomes a text and can be highlighted, underlined, crossed out, edited – formal actions which turn out to hinder a reading conversion the next time around. This recursivity may proceed to the point of invention – that is, a new letter is found or drawn by the reading software. Raymond Williams’ essay “Means of Communication as Means of Production” is captured in the third section, erringly, as text, with all the mistakes this process must make from a low-resolution scan. A typographer has underlined some pertinent points within it.

At the end of the book, the suspicious, unreadable words are given over and over again to optical character recognition, alongside an interfering element – usually a curved line, the current standard for hindering spam-intending machine readers. These images, as well as whatever reading marks can follow from a recogition, are cut and straightened and moved around in each subsequent reading, on their way to becoming texts, but never completely assuming sense.

  1. Reading Tests

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