An Infinite Continuum of Spewage: Bayesian Filtering and the Reinvention of Spam

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • ‘Press Delete’ – The Politics and Performance of Spamculture

Presentation Title:

  • An Infinite Continuum of Spewage: Bayesian Filtering and the Reinvention of Spam

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Abstract:

  • // … it is unreasonable to
    // assume that any finite number of samples can appropriately
    // represent an infinite continuum of spewage, so we can bound
    // the certainty of any meausre [sic] to be in the range:
    //
    // limit: [ 1/featurecount+2 , 1 – 1/featurecount+2].
    — crm_markovian.c, crm114-20070810-BlameTheSegfault.src

    Norbert Wiener said if you compete with slaves you become a slave, and there is something similarly degrading about competing with spammers.” The writer is Paul Graham, the prominent Lisp programmer; the quote is from his 2002 essay, “A Plan for Spam”, one of the most influential documents in the the anti-spam movement. (Graham 2002) Influential for three reasons: first, because it suggested a way to get to grips with spam, to turn it into an object; second, because it won, effectively destroying spam as it then existed, sidestepping its social complexities to attack it on a precise technical point; and finally, because it lost, the pure and elegant technical attack being based on a new set of design values and social assumptions, interstices into which spam moved, transforming itself in the process, and accidentally producing a literary experiment on the grandest scale in human history.

    Full text (PDF) p. 369-371

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