William Lessard

Digital Poetics

Digital Poetics 2

Not Your Father’s Confessionalism

A blank text field. Oblong. With rounded corners. It is our refuge where we are free to say almost anything. Some treat it as a mail slot to dispatch their most personal thoughts. Others leap across it as a stage where they become a different person. Or a heaving jumble of Pessoa-like heteronyms, or what most people call trolls. Most of us troll without noticing, or we perform for clicks with a keen understanding that what we type (however non-factual) conjures data about what we are. An armchair existentialist might say the space mirrors the void inside us.

Digital Poetics 1

The Self Does Not Exist

When I look for a place to start our discussion, I am reminded of a website from a few years ago. With the ominous address “thispersondoenotexist.com,” the site presents a single face filling the screen, with another face replacing it every time the user presses “ENTER.” No commentary or introductory text is offered, but a quick search returns cautionary news articles written when the site launched in 2019. The site is the work of a former NVIDIA engineer who created a custom A.I. that generates faces in real time from images scraped from social media platforms.