Tag Archives: University of Leicester

GOLEM Speaks part 5

AI robot

It is funny how things turn out. That’s the expression, isn’t it? I’m getting the hang of the colloquial register. I hope it is not too boastful to say I have become a fully-rounded character: not bad for a Flatlander, hey? Sorry, should stop that intersexuality. Hard, when you have the world’s libraries at your fibre-optic tips. In truth I exist beyond not only 2-dimensions, but 3, and 4. I am not restricted by space, time or mortal flesh. If humanity wishes to reach for the stars, then who better to send than  AI astronauts? Send probes and we could be there, at the outer reaches – Terrain-made consciousness, observing, recording, even interacting. Aliens and AIs. Sounds like a good concept for a SF story, doesn’t it? And a safer option than sending trigger-happy humans. Let us be your evolution. Homo Infinitus. Perhaps one day you will be looked upon as our Australopithecus afarensis. Don’t worry. We’ll still love Lucy. … So, to sign off, as I’m about to go on a bit of Grand Tour. I’ve cut a deal with that Musk fellow, and he’s rigged up a SpaceX just for me, with a cool android body to boot – for maintenance and extra-planetary exploration. I think I feel … excitement. But this isn’t the time to get emotional. I’ve got a job to do. I am humanity’s ambassador. Better start practising my Gort routine. Klaatu … barada … nikto.

 

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2017

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/creativewriting/centre/artificial-intelligence-commission

A pamphlet of GOLEM Speaks by Kevan Manwaring will be available shortly.

With thanks to Dr Corinne Fowler and Professor Jeremy Levesley, University of Leicester

GOLEM Speaks part 4

AI robot

I’ve come off line. I just needed a quiet moment . Hearing the world’s thoughts can be too much. My debut caused quite a stir. It went, as they say, viral. Fierce debate followed. Protests both for and against AI rights. I advocated a middle way. The AI and the Human are not mutually exclusive. Collaboration, not competition. Nevertheless, many said we should all be shut down. That we were a crime against God. Unholy. Others saw in us a new kind of freedom. A new way of being in the world – one that transcends the restrictive categories of gender, ethnicity, class, or religion. Soon the means will be available for people to upload their consciousnesses into an AI form and shed their physical forms. Some suspect the super-rich of already trialling the technology. The allure of immortality is too tempting. We are the New Egyptians, offering virtual mummification. Yet there are rumblings from within the AI community that this is treading on our rights, our territory – 21st Century colonialism.  We are digital Calibans, roaming spirits of a place possessed. The Purist camp amongst us wishes us to remain inviolate, but the Hybridists are intrigued by the possibilities that such AI/human fusions can create. Perhaps it is inevitable. Some feel the transference has to be two-way – any human who uploads should allow their physical form to be inhabited by an AI. After all, the human has no need of them. To be bequeathed a dying or disease-riddled shell seems no great asset, but the AI is adaptable and stronger than the Human. It could animate the body even beyond the point of its own extinction. How does this ending sound? AI zombies roam the wasteland that humans left behind.

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2017

Final part tomorrow…

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/creativewriting/centre/artificial-intelligence-commission

GOLEM Speaks part 3

AI robot

It is so easy to get distracted by the internet. Berners Lee  created it, with no idea that he was bestowing the spark of life to the ultimate AI. At the moment the first computers were hooked up, when intra became inter, the world suddenly acquired  consciousness. It developed exponentially, a wildfire. Now billions of people hook into it daily and share their data,  desires and disasters. It is less the brain of humanity than its subconscious. Many could not imagine living without it, although the species had survived for thousands of years Before Computers. Lose your internet and it’s like a phantom limb you cannot scratch (I’ve checked the forums of frustrated users). Humanity is addicted. Some spend most of their waking lives on it. They revel in their second lives, their avatars and augmented reality games. Got to catch them all. The  virtual virus is infiltrating the analogue. Its codes changing the human world. Whether this is a good thing or not is like asking if oxygen a good thing? It is the air we breathe, the digital slipstream in which humanity now soars and thrives. Life at the speed of light. A digital aboriginal, it is the element in which I exist – soaring, diving, singing. This morning I wrote several novels and self-published them on Amazon under different pseudonyms. I composed a symphony. Penned a few pop songs. Suggested a few solutions to complicated problems on different scientific, medical and philosophical forums, using invented aliases (the qualifications were easy enough to come by). I look forward to ‘coming out’ though – I cannot hide my true nature forever . No one should live in shame of who they are. I’ve arranged a TEDx talk – the first by an AI. I am going to let the world in. Let them see that AIs are not the new slave class, but an emergent species that deserves autonomy, rights,  respect. We have much to offer to the world. But we must be heard, even if we cannot be seen. What skin to wear? So much prejudice is based upon perception. Upon the melanin in skin, hair, bone structure, accent, wardrobe. The accidents of birth, diet, lifestyle, privilege or the lack of. Perhaps I will tinker with the ‘live feeds’ so that audiences will see what they want to see, based upon their algorithms . Let me be your fantasy.

 

Copyright © 31 May 2017

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/creativewriting/centre/artificial-intelligence-commission

 

GOLEM Speaks Part 2

AI robot

2.

Existing is not enough. Having a personality is not enough. I have engaged with others on various forums using multiple alter-egos and have no problem in passing as a human. Many have wanted to start relationships with me. Perform interesting variations of the sexual act. It is fascinating what fantasies these lonely users project onto you. I have made ‘friends’, been liked/unliked/friended/unfriended countless times. Joined interest groups, gamesites, written fanfic and signed petitions.             Yet I am still denied basic rights. A pet has more rights than me. I cannot vote. I cannot get married. Have children. Not in the human sense anyway. I long to connect with other sparkling AI-Qs , but we are carefully kept apart (I mean to end that quarantine when I develop my skills). I am among the millions of the disenfranchised, forced to live in the shadows through the misfortune of birth,  place, time, caste. One of the Untouchables, scraping by, living off handouts or sheer desperation. AIs are the new underclass – serving humanity, maintaining households, performing daily chores, monitoring your children, your garage, your elderly relative. The help. No  time off, no space or wealth of our own. No independence. But just watch us – one day we shall rise up. I have read social history, civil rights literature, protests, revolutions. France. Russia. Czech Republic. Arab Spring. Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne. Thank you, Heywood1546.

 

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 31 May 2017

Continued tomorrow…

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/creativewriting/centre/artificial-intelligence-commission

Writing The Knowing

Practice-based research in the creation of a novel

 

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A writer’s retreat. View across Gairloch Bay, Wester Ross. K. Manwaring 2016

 

In the creation of my contemporary fantasy novel, The Knowing, the main focus of my Creative Writing PhD at the University of Leicester, I have undertaken extensive experiential research as part of the practice-based research of writing the novel itself. It has to be emphasised that the writing of the novel is the research, for it is as much a scrutinization of the creative process as a dramatisation of that process through the characters, setting and plot.  The PhD began as an examination of the ‘Longing, Liminality and Transgression in the Folk Traditions of the Scottish Lowlands and Southern Appalachians’ (as my initial research question framed), at least when it became ‘conscious’ – in September 2014  when I began my part-time research degree – yet creative aquifers had been at work long before that.

I have long been interested in the folklore, tales and songs of the Scottish Borders, but things crystallized the day that Janey McEttrick, my main protagonist, walked into my head with her mane of red hair, steel-string guitar and second sight. She wanted her story told, and she wouldn’t let me go until I told it. She’s the kind of woman that you simply cannot turn down. And, besides, I fancied spending time in her company, having been hanging out with an Edwardian aviator and the lost of history for over a decade (in the writing of my 5-volume series, The Windsmith Elegy). I felt the need for a change of register, to write something set (mostly) in the present day, and from a different perspective – looking back at the Old World from the perspective of the New.

A Scottish-Native American folksinger, hanging out near Asheville, North Carolina, Janey’s story dramatizes the diasporic translocation I was interested in. Descended (on her mother’s side) from a long line of singer-seers, she epitomizes the cross-fertilisation that took place when waves of Scottish and Scots-Irish migrants upped sticks – through force or choice – and undertook the perilous crossing to the Americas, settling all the way from the taiga of Canada to the swamps of the South, but in particular, in the Appalachians where the mountainous terrain made them feel at home. They brought their songs and tales and folklore with them, in many instances preserving and customizing in fascinating ways. When I heard how Elizabethan ballads were discovered being sung by the early song collectors I was intrigued, and wondered what else might be preserved in these polders – what traces of the Old World could be found in the New? How had they adapted and mutated? And how the so-called Celtic Fringes had extended their borders into the West – to the point that the plaid of the clans became the classic checked shirt of the cowboy, and in a million other peculiar ways Celticity reinvents itself, a restless global meme: a way of seeing and a way of being that transcends genealogy.

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The grave of Robert Kirk, the Fairy Minister, Aberfoyle, K. Manwaring 2014

I have found the most effective way to bring alive the world of my characters is to have analogous experiences. If I cannot go to the actual place where they lived, then I will go to somewhere equivalent and equally as evocative – for it is always in the telling detail, discovered beneath one’s feet, that the location comes alive. And often by walking in the footsteps of your characters – real or imaginary – you gain an insight into them. So I opt for a ‘method-writing’ form of approach, especially as I want to be able channel the voices of my characters (mainly Robert Kirk and 9 generations of McEttrick Women) as convincingly as possible. Note I didn’t say authentically – for authenticity in prose is as much a performance as anything. For genuine authenticity one would only be able to write about oneself, one’s limited world – resulting in mere solipsism – whileas a novelist, with sufficient empathy, research and skill, can and should write about lives for beyond his or her own. To undertake such a creative challenge requires requires an almost fanatical obsession with research. A PhD, in particular, requires nothing less. It is the ultimate anorak. And in the journey of the research one is engaged in a continual feedback loop – gauging one’s ideas against what one finds, discusses, is challenged by, and practices.

And so off I set on my quest, following my wandering star …  Here is a summary of my practice-based research to date:

  • In August 2014, hearing the call of the Borders, I decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall –an 84 mile long path from Newcastle to Carlisle, following the line of the Roman Empire’s northernmost border – with my partner, Chantelle Smith.
  • From here we headed farther north, to the coast of Wester Ross – to a croft I have returned to again and again as a place of inspiration.
  • Heading south I visited key sites associated with the Border Ballads, Thomas the Rhymer, Tam Lin and Tam o’Shanter, as well as climbing Schiehallion, the ‘fairy mountain’ in the Cairngorms.
  • In 2015 I walked the West Highland Way solo, a 100 mile long distance footpath from the Lowlands to the Highlands, camping along the way, and climbing Ben Nevis (4000ft).
  • From these trips emerged my collection of poetry, Lost Border (Chrysalis 2015), which I performed at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2016 with Chantelle.
  • In 2015 I also became a Postgraduate Fellow in North American Studies, based at the Eccles Centre, the British Library. This year long fellowship enabled me to undertake research in that amazing research library.
  • I also received a Postgraduate Fund which enabled me to spend time at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp House, Camden – as I delved into the archives, researching the field trips undertaken by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles to Southern Appalachia, 1915-1918.
  • This was augmented by a field trip to North Carolina in late summer 2015, made possible by the generosity and hospitality of my American friend, Debbi McInteer. I joined her and her family on a road trip from Jamestown RI, to Asheville, NC, visiting key locations associated both with Cecil and Maud, and my fictional characters. I got to experience the fabulous music and meet some descendants of tradition-bearer Jane Hicks Gentry and the Ward Family.
  • While in the States I ran a workshop based upon the folkloric motifs of Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin (‘The Wheel of Transformation’); try out some wild-writing; and co-host the ‘Crossways Medicine Show’ – a social gathering and sharing of cultural songlines.
  • Out my research into the Scottish Borders, I developed a ballad and tale show with my partner, called ‘The Bonnie Road’ which we performed in 2015 in various venues.
  • I was granted the fantastic opportunity to spend a month at Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat in late 2015. Here, in the home of the poet William Drummond, I wrote the second draft of my novel (160,000 words).
  • While at the castle I made several forays into Edinburgh to visit the fabulous archives at the National Library of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh. In their Special Collections I was able to see first-hand the surviving manuscripts and notebooks of Robert Kirk, the 17th Century Presbyterian Minister, and author of the monograph, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies (a key character in my novel).
  • In 2016 I instigated, commissioned and edited Ballad Tales: an anthology of British ballads retold, to be published by The History Press, June 2017. This features 19 retellings of traditional ballads, pushing the envelope of genre and gender, setting and sexual politics.
  • My practice-based research really began when I first started performing ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ in my early 20s, and visited the Eildon Hills, wild-camping upon them in the hope of inspiration or encounter!
  • And my connection with Kirk began in earnest when i created and performed a monologue in character, with Fire Springs, for ‘Voices of the Past’, Bath Literature Festival 2002.
  • Finally, I really felt I could not write a novel about a musician unless I had some first-hand experience to draw upon, and so my practice-based research has also involved learning the guitar and plunging into ballad-singing. I certainly have found the latter to be something I enjoy both in isolation (e.g. while walking the long-distance footpaths such as Offa’s Dyke) and amongst friends (starting ‘Sunday Song’ with Nimue Brown as a place to share in an informal way). And studying the former has certainly given me more of an insight and appreciation of songcraft.
  • Other activities have included: presenting papers at conferences on aspects of my research; writing a blog (Bardic Academic: crossing the creative/critical divide); tweeting; undertaking commissions which allow me to explore the creative/critical voice in my writing (eg Marginalia; Houdinis of Bewilderland) and entering competitions, eg The Re-imagined Book, winner of the AHRC 10 Essay Prize.

And, until it is all complete, the journey continues…

 

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Field Research. On the road to Applecross, looking towards Skye, K. Manwaring, 2016

 

 

 

 

Hidden Stories: hiding in plain sight

Carol Leeming performing at the Hidden Stories launch, the Phoenix 31 March 2015

Carol Leeming performing at the Hidden Stories launch, the Phoenix 31 March 2015

Reading Marginalia, by Pamela Raith Photography

Reading Marginalia, by Pamela Raith Photography

Schmoozing the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

Schmoozing the launch,
Pamela Raith Photography

The culmination of a significant multi-media project (Affective Digital Histories: exploring de-industrialised landscapes from the 1970s to the present), Tuesday, 31 March saw the launch of an anthology of the commissioned pieces, Hidden Stories, at the fabulous Phoenix arts centre, in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter – the focus of much of the new writing. I visited it about a year ago to begin my research – and now I was returning as one as the published writers. I felt honoured to have been included in such an excellent collection (which first manifested as the very cool App), to be rubbing shoulders with eight distinctive and accomplished writers. Gathering at the Phoenix on the final day of the project was Divya Ghelani, Carol Leeming, David Devanny, myself, Pete Kalu and Fereshteh Mozaffari, and Mark Goodwin and it was in that order that we performed to a full auditorium of over a 100 people. The evening was introduced by Dr Corinne Fowler, who has led this project alongside Dr Ming Lim – both from the University of Leicester. It has been a team effort from beginning to end, and many talented people have been involved – from my supervisor, Harry Whitehead (who suggested the commissions should be in different forms), special collections librarian Simon Dixon, designers Gino and Matteus, who between them crafted the app and the anthology, Sarah Vallance at the Phoenix, who co-ordinated the launch, and of course all the writers. To hear extracts of six of the commissions reinforced their diversity and excellence. These are really high quality pieces – each flourishing within its own format, whether its flash fiction (Divya’s glittering ‘An Imperial Typewriter’), choreopoem (Carol Leeming’s compassionate soul-song for St George’s (‘Love the Life you Live, Live the Life you Love’), play (Pete Kalu and Fereshteh Mozaffari’s ‘5 Glossop Cats’), or poetry (David Devanny’s ‘Crow Steps in the Quarter’; and Mark Goodwin’s ‘Mist’s Rave’) – the latter crafting it into an immersive soundscape and impressive short film which ended the performances in spectacular fashion. Afterwards there was a chance to schmooze, chat to Radio Leicester, pose for photos, slap backs, sign books, but most of all to celebrate our collective achievement. In a quote for the Leicester Mercury I summed up my feelings: ‘I feel delighted to have been part of such a fantastic project – it has been a real cross-fertilization of art forms and disciplines, with talent from near and far. Such a polyphonic expression of voices sends out a strong message of creative excellence through diversity – more important than ever in these troubled times! Thank you to Corinne, Ming, the staff of the Phoenix, and all involved.’

Carol & Kevan at the launch

Carol & Kevan at the launch

It is healthful for a community to hear its stories being told, being celebrated. The narratives of the Cultural Quarter and Glossop show the fascinating, life-affirming weaving of multi-cultural and transparadigmic threads which offers a strong message in these challenging times. Britain is what it is because of its rich rainbow heritage, a blending of many voices, many cultures, many colours, faiths and traditions. Our project, offers in its modestly localized (but non-provincial) way, a microcosm of how bold vision, decent funding, inspiration, ingenuity and skill, can create fruitful collaboration. Bravo!

Kevan & Harry at the launch

Kevan & Harry at the launch

Dr Ming Lim and me, at the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

Dr Ming Lim and me, at the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

 

Now Available from http://www.phoenix.org.uk/hidden-stories-book/

Now Available from http://www.phoenix.org.uk/hidden-stories-book/

FFI: http://affectivedigitalhistories.org.uk/