Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pandora for Books?

So I'm prowling the Web 2.0-verse today in connection with ECIT, and I just came across Booklamp. It is project that, since 2003, has been scanning books and developing software that allows them to determine plot, pacing, characterization, and more of individual books. Apparently the project began Pandora.com existed, but the developers have now decided that describing their works as "Pandora for books" is an easy way to describe it for others. Another good summary article can be found here.

So what can you do with the tool? Well, eventually you could use it to find books that have a similar plot structure to one that you already like, but that, perhaps, are paced a little quicker. Because the system is based on their algorithms, it is supposedly impervious to advertising, instead delivering information only about the literature.

Booklamp is now trying to figure out what they should do with their technology, but I think it raises interesting questions for our profession. What would we learn from something like Booklamp that we can't learn from concordances? What role should computer-assisted reading play in determine a text's literary quality? Is it possible to outsource art criticism to a machine?

You can watch the video here.


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