Lonely Hearts

Microworlds or programs

Lonely Hearts is a collection of procedures which hang together to create an environment in which newspaper small ads can be generated. If you have done some programming before, using another language, you may be thinking 'Why not simply say that Lonely Hearts is a program?' The answer is that although you may often develop integrated collections of procedures in LOGO with the intention of using them always for one and the same purpose - defining, no doubt, some parent procedure which acts as a trigger to get everything going - none the less the procedures which exist at any one time in in LOGO's memory are no more than separate, individual tools in a workspace. Any of the procedures can be used independently of the others and nothing stops you writing a command or defining a new procedure at any time to interlink them in a novel way with a new aim in mind. For this reason substantial collections of LOGO procedures which deal with objects from the same general domain and allow experimention with concepts in that field are often called microworlds precisely to distinguish them from one-shot programs. Lonely Hearts is a mini-microworld.

The form of Lonely Hearts advertisements

For an example of the type of small ad which Lonely Hearts can generate, I slipped into LOGO in the middle of writing this page, loaded the procedures into the workspace, typed print lonely and this is what I got

INTELLIGENT FARM OWNER 59 YEARS SEEKS BLUE EYED BUS DRIVER 16 YEARS FOR DRIVING LESSONS DIAL 13 62 95 STRAIGHT AWAY

An advertisement like this is patently a string of words. (Whoever charges you for it would no doubt simply count the number of words.) But this string conceals a structure which a comparison with other similar ads would begin to reveal. Reducing the content to its bare bones it declares that someone is looking for someone else for some reason and it identifies some way to make contact. More succinctly we could represent the string as:

SOMEONE SEEKS SOMEONE WHY HOW

The purpose of Lonely Hearts is to package instances of these basic constituents together at random in order to generate new advertisements. It is the linguistic equivalent of the picture book with pages split in three horizontally which allows you to create comic characters by interchanging the heads and bodies and feet. It is also a close relation of the Victorian game 'Consequences' in which each player composes independently one of the lines of a story filling out the following pattern:

Normally this story is developed on one piece of paper which is passed from player to player. Each in turn writes his or her line and folds over the paper before passing it on to the next player so that none of the preceding context is visible. When the round is complete, the paper is unfolded and the story read out. Applause (or groans) follow.



Ron Brasington
Department of Linguistic Science
The University of Reading
Reading
UK

E-mail: ron.brasington@rdg.ac.uk