My prior experience with coding of any variety has been limited to HTML and PHP, and while those languages obviously offer creative possibilities in terms of website building, this exercise was a creative end of coding I’d never considered in much depth before. The idea of a “chatterbot” mostly reminds me of AOL Instant Messenger bots that I had encountered in middle school. I thought little about the origins of those at the time, though I realize now they were probably written in Python or some similar language, and the code itself would pretty closely resemble what I wrote for this lab. In that capacity – as an online interactive entity that can be used for entertainment purposes and adapted to a myriad of different chatterbot ‘personalities’ – I think there is a lot of creative potential in this type of coding. Bots can be simple, like Eliza, but the more work one wants to put into them, the more complex and richly interactive they can become.
At the same time, I see a sort of paradoxical limitation in the idea of an interactive coded entity. There’s theoretically no limit to the number of responses that one could code into a program like this, but it’s not as if a unique response could be coded in for every possible input the program could be given by the person interacting with it. Even in the most sophisticated examples of what could be considering a chatterbot – something like Siri, which incorporates Internet searching, GPS and other capabilities far beyond something as simple as Eliza – there’s always going to be certain inputs that result in a generic “I’m sorry I can’t help with that”-type of response.
From a creative or literary perspective, that seems like a major limitation of the bot, and perhaps of coding as a whole. There’s always going to be an end point to the level of interaction a program can offer. The strictly logical nature of coding, no matter how complex or sophisticated it is, separates it from the more subjective formats of writing or visual art. There certainly is creative capability in code, but to me it feels more constrained than many other forms of creative expression.