Twitterbots: Making Machines that Make Meaning

November 30, 2020
Twitterbots: Making Machines that Make Meaning

The world of Twitterbots, from botdom's greatest hits tobot construction to the place of the bot in the social mediauniverse.Twitter offers a unique medium for creativity and curiosity forhumans and machines. The tweets of Twitterbots, autonomous softwaresystems that send messages of their own composition into theTwittersphere, mingle with the tweets of human creators; the nextperson to follow you on Twitter or to “like” your tweets may not aperson at all. The next generator of content that you follow onTwitter may also be a bot. This book examines the world ofTwitterbots, from botdom's greatest hits to the hows and whys ofbot-building to the place of bots in the social medialandscape.In Twitterbots, Tony Veale and Mike Cook examine not only thetechnical challenges of bending the affordances of Twitter to theimplementation of your own Twitterbots but also the greaterknowledge-engineering challenge of building bots that can craftwitty, provocative, and concise outputs of their own. Veale andCook offer a guided tour of some of Twitter's most notable bots,from the deadpan @big_ben_clock, which tweets a series of BONGsevery hour to mark the time, to the delightful @pentametron, whichfinds and pairs tweets that can be read in iambic pentameter, tothe disaster of Microsoft's @TayAndYou (which “learned” conspiracytheories, racism, and extreme politics from other tweets). Theyexplain how to navigate Twitter's software interfaces to programyour own Twitterbots in Java, keeping the technical details to aminimum and focusing on the creative implications of bots and theirgenerative worlds. Every Twitterbot, they argue, is a thoughtexperiment given digital form; each embodies a hypothesis about thenature of meaning making and creativity that encourages itsfollowers to become willing test subjects and eager consumers ofautomated creation.