The Book That Inspired Your Favorite Twitter Bots

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After graduating from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Kazemi entered the world of video game development, building programs that could systematically test new games for bugs. Kazemi also designed his own games—like many game designers, he considered games an art form as much as a technical accomplishment—until one day in 2012, he decided that the medium was holding him back from what he really wanted to express. It was around this time that Kazemi read a book of philosophy called “Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing” by Ian Bogost, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In the book, Bogost advanced a concept that greatly appealed to Kazemi: that it was possible to be a philosopher who didn’t write down ideas, but instead made objects that embodied them.

The “objects” Kazemi was moved to make after reading Bogost’s book were Twitter bots, a class of digital beings typically associated with irritating spam accounts that automatically send advertising messages to any Twitter user who mentions a particular word or brand name. Kazemi was hardly the first person to realize the potential in programming conceptually interesting Twitter bots—for example, Adam Parrish had already made the popular @everyword, which has been working its way alphabetically through the English language, tweeting one word every 30 minutes, since 2007. But Kazemi quickly became one of the medium’s most inventive practitioners.

-Leon Neyfakh, in the Boston Globe, on the work of Darius Kazemi. Read more from Ian Bogost’s book, and from the Longreads Archive.

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