On Computable Texts and Images: Markov's Bequests

Co-Organizer: Sven Spieker (with Philipp v. Hilgers and Wladimir Velminski). Conference at the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin (April 2003). In 1913 the Saint Petersburg (Russia) mathematician Andrei Andreevich Markov (1856-1922) published a short treatise that was nothing short of revolutionary ("An example of statistical study on the text of `Eugene Onegin' illustrating the linking of events to a chain"). In his treatise Markov presented a method for using probability in the analysis of texts. Markov's method consisted in viewing random series of numbers as "chains" that are temporally dependent on each other. Today this method is called Markov Process and can be found in many computer-based applications in the areas of science, art, and the economy. The fact that Markov put his theories to the test by using literary texts is far from coincidental. Already in the 1920s Markovs analytical methods were adopted by linguists such as Roman Jakobson and in this way they entered the realm of culture and aesthetics at an early stage. In this context, the symposium addressed the question as to what extent the members of the Russian avant-garde assimilated Markov's advanced mathematics. Beyond that, the symposium's objective was to elucidate the process that led to the subordination of literary texts and the traditional arts to mathematical calculation.