Global index of the decay of the aura of language

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Measuring our distance to Dada


Raymond Roussel

Our starting point is twofold:
1) the work of Raymond Roussel, considered as a precursor of Dada
2) the recent transmutation of language into a global market ruled by Google et al.

Raymond Roussel - In 1912, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia attend Roussel's theater play Impressions d'Afrique whose scandal anticipates the future Dada performances. Roussel becomes «an absolute master» for Duchamp and will influence Dada, Surrealism, OuLiPo or Nouveau Roman.

Homophony - In his posthumous text, How I Wrote Certain of My Books, Roussel describes his method: «I chose two similar words. For example billard and pillard (plunderer). Then I added to it words similar but taken in two different directions, and I obtained two almost identical sentences thus. The two sentences found, it was a question of writing a tale which can start with the first and finish by the second.».

For example, «Les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux billard» (The white letters on the cushions of the old billiard table) must somehow reach «Les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux pillard» (Letters by a white man about the hordes of the old plunderer).

Dadamètre - Although it is pre-dadaïst, this method described by Roussel, playing with homophony and equivocation, will be considered here as representative of Dada in the field of language, by virtue of its capacity to free the Imaginary dimension. It shows a mechanisation of literary production, echoing the painting machine in Impressions d'Afrique. Nowadays, as our most intimate behaviours (language, work, desire, ideology...) are accounted for within stock market indexes of a globalized finance, we make one step further towards the decay of the aura and look for new global indexes, but in the fields of art and language. The Dadameter is the first of this new indexes ; it aims at measuring the density of Dadaïsm (or Roussellism) in language. The more homophony between words that are semantically closely related, the higher will be this density.

From Dada to Google - By downloading massive amount of textual information from Google and analyzing it using recent breakthroughs in the field of graph theory, we try to have a glimpse at this large scale structure of language. The main features are the Dadamap and the semantic graph: R.R.Engine. If you want to know more about how all this was built, you should go to the Methodology section. You will also find a lot of documentation here

This study has become possible because of the recent transmutation of language into a global market ruled by Web 2.0. A taylorisation of speech that brings one step further the attempt of mechanisation of language initiated by Roussel. However, whereas his work triggered a liberation in the artistic field, the present commodification of speech participates in a post-control device within a post-spectacular economy driven by Google & al. You may learn more about this present-day context by looking at the Google Adwords Happening on semantic capitalism, or reading about taylorisation of speech.