Short for robot, a bot is a computer program designed to operate autonomously, performing scheduled, responsive, or real-time operations in a computer, through the Internet, and/or on social media networks. What distinguishes bots from other kinds of software is that they interact with and/or produce content for humans, often assuming a human persona.
Bots that process and generate language are among the oldest e-lit genres, starting with Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA, a chatterbot that engaged users in conversation through text entered and displayed in a computer terminal. Chatterbots are usually characters, narrators, or speakers and are present in interactive fiction, videogames, and smartphones. Other literary subgenres of bots generate poetry in many traditional or invented forms (haiku, couplets, sonnets, and more), using a variety of generative techniques (n-grams, Markov-chains, templates, variables, etc), and corpora (self-contained, data mining, streaming APIs, user-generated, dictionary services, and more). Social media networks, especially Twitter and Tumblr, have proven to be hospitable environments for functional and artistic bots because they operate as publishing and development platforms that encourage automation and produce massive data streams. In the past few years, the number of artistic and literary bots created for social networks has grown exponentially.
To best capture this vibrant moment in the development of this e-lit genre, we have chosen to showcase eleven Twitter bots that artistically engage language in different ways. We hope this little net of bots inspires you to follow, remix, and create your own bots.