The Exquistie Corpse: Engineering Humanity


The Exquisite Corpse is an adaptation to human-engineered technologies, testing formal and ecological theorems for high-density lifestyles, sustainable resource shared among urban organisms, and the play of public/private division in cross-species interaction. Got it?

The most familiar forms use so-called collaborative filtering: software that makes recommendations based on the buying patterns of like-minded consumers. Think of the “customers who bought items like this also bought” function on Your tastes, and the way they travel through the system, leave trails for the algorithms running the software to model — and this data is then passed on to someone else, and so on. Think of it as the cultural update of “daspada” transcribed to the realm of the digital — the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse anticipated this, and made it enjoyable.

Think of the advanced algorithms that now remix data, pattern matching, predicting our needs, inventing our desires before we know them. The common denominator is selection. The whole schemata runs on density, and the tools we use to navigate information become barometers of the deep cultural structure translated into pure information. As the twenty first century advances, this pattern will become more and more linked to the way we live . . . and the way we play.

At a 1935 meeting of their Surrealist group, Victor Brauner, André Breton, Jacques Hérold, and Yves Tanguy engaged in one of their many parlor games. hey folded a sheet of paper in fours, across a horizontal axis, and, taking turns, made their marks in the respective quadrants. In the resulting construction, Brauner’s many-eyed “head” gives way to Breton’s distorted upper torso, hands fondling two swollen breasts, which in turn gives way to Hérold’s egg-shaped mid-section nestled in the upper cone of Tanguy’s snarling, reptilian dog feet. he composite figure, as one of some two hundred similar drawings and collages produced between 1924–1949, is both a marker of the historical avant-garde and an epistemological apparatus that lives beyond its initial historical moment.

The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game

Daspada is a game that originated in India, now known as Snakes and Ladders:  –

Any version of Snakes and Ladders can be represented exactly as an absorbing Markov chain, since from any square the odds of moving to any other square are fixed and independent of any previous game history. The Milton Bradley version of Chutes and Ladders has 100 squares, with 19 chutes and ladders. A player will need an average of 39.6 spins to move from the starting point, which is off the board, to square 100. A two-player game is expected to end in 47.76 moves with a 50.9% chance of winning for the first player.

In the book Winning Ways the authors show how to treat Snakes and Ladders as an impartial game in combinatorial game theory even though it is very far from a natural fit to this category. To this end they make a few rule changes such as allowing players to move any counter any number of spaces, and declaring the winner as the player who gets the last counter home. Unlike the original game, this version, which they call Adders-and-Ladders, involves skill.

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