I was re-reading Mark Sample’s call for bots of conviction, for protest bots, for bots so topical and on-point that they can’t be mistaken for bullshit. Per Sample, such bots should be
- topical – “They are about the morning news — and the daily horrors that fail to make it into the news.”
- data-based – “They draw from research, statistics, spreadsheets, databases. Bots have no subconscious, so any imagery they use should be taken literally”
- cumulative – “The repetition builds on itself, the bot relentlessly riffing on its theme, unyielding and overwhelming, a pile-up of wreckage on our screens.”
- oppositional – “protest bots take a stand. Society being what it is, this stance will likely be unpopular, perhaps even unnerving”
- uncanny – “The appearance of that which we had sought to keep hidden.”
The only bot I know of by a historian that meets these criterion is Caleb McDaniel’s Every3Minutes. Lord knows my drawer full of bots does not meet any of those criteria, save perhaps for the ‘uncanny’ in Sample’s sense for @tinyarchae in that it takes the awful social dynamics present on many (most?) archaeological fieldwork and pushes the needed all the way beyond 11.
But my bots are not bots of conviction. They are not very good, truth be told. So I wondered aloud on twitter yesterday what would make for good archaeological or historical bots? I thought maybe
- a bot tweeting datasets lost to ideological cleansing?
- A bot pointing out the unprovenanced antiques in museums?
Others chimed in. I’ve gathered their suggestions here in case anyone was looking for inspiration.
So… maybe you might come and make simple bots with me in May, and we can revisit this question: