R.I.P. horse_ebooks

The recent discussion in Netmed about order emerging from the apparent disorder of the internet, and our need to create meaning in meaningless texts, got my thinking about one of my favourite Twitter accounts, @horse_ebooks.

This is a spam account that uses an algorithm, which were a major discussion point in last week’s readings, to collect and post random fragments of text from the internet, interspersed with various links to pain ads.

Despite these posts being completely random, there still emerged a meaning, although this might have been different for every individual. We, as humans, strive to find meaning in everything, and even in these seemingly pointless collections of words, posted by what we thought was a robot, we found truly poignant and poetic phrases.

Some of the accounts best works include “I will make certain you never buy knives again”, “We all agree, no one looks cool”, and my personal favourite, “Everything happens so much”.

This exemplifies the notion that we must find meaning in every text, despite there being no narrative at and the words appearing to be random.

The account has achieved a huge fanbase, with well over 200,000 followers, and has spawned a series of merchandise, fan art, and even fan fiction, displaying the overwhelming power of the networked internet.

The account plays on the old notion that given enough time, a million monkeys on a million typewriters would eventually type out all of Shakespeare’s work, purely random; everything will happen eventually.

But like these networks, everything wasn’t as it seemed. The account, which was originally one of a series of spam accounts for specific ebooks (others include action_ebooks etc), was bought by Jacob Bakkila in 2011, an employee of Buzzfeed, and horse_ebooks’ actions after this became part of a prolonged ‘performance art’ piece by the creator. This art included a link with a similarily ‘random’ Youtube account, as seen through this video:

I think this shows how with new media technologies, they are often developed with one specific purposes, but are commonly ultimately used for very different means. This is an account that was originally created in order to spam Twitter about horse Ebooks and just post ads, being bought by an artist and used to post random strings of words to nearly a quarter of a million followers. The network is a powerful thing.

I think Daniel Sinker summed it up best in his ‘Eulogy For A Horse’:

It was often also beautiful and, in a way, meaningful. Beauty and meaning, built from randomness.


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