Markov chants

From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki

Enactment of a Markov chain. A Markov chain is an abstract model or representation of things based on a chain of events linked with transitions based on (probabilities) of succession. As an example, Markov chains can be used to generate a new text based on an existing one.

220px-Markovkate_01.svg.png markov.jpg

Performance Instructions

Each participant is a "node". You need one node for each unique word in the seed text, with pen & a sheet of paper.

A "seed" text is selected that contains a number of repeated words, and whose number of unique words does not exceed the number of particpants (accounting for 1 or 2 participants as input/output).


The text is read slowly word by word by the reader.

On reading the first word, the reader points to the first node who will now "claim" the word. The claiming node writes the word at the top of their list and raises their hand.

The next word is read, and the word is assigned in a similar fashion to the next free node who writes the word down and raises his or her hand. In addition, the first node (who's hand was raised upon the reading of the second word), lowers their hand and writes the second word down on their list below their initial (claimed) word. Only the first word is the "claimed" word.

Words are continued to be read. Each time, the node who's hand is raised upon hearing the word, lowers their hand and records the word on their list. If the spoken word has already been claimed by a node, that node raises their hand (and the reader simply pauses before continuing to the next word). If no node raises their hand, the reader assigns the word to the next free node (by pointing) and that node writes the word at the head of their list and raises their hand). Words are continually read according to these rules, each time the node with raised hand lowering their hand to record the spoken word, and the node who has claimed the spoken word raising their hand. In the event a word is repeated immediately after itself, the claiming node would first lower their hand, record the word on their list, and immediately raise their hand again.

When the final word has been read, the reader declares "end of file". The node who's hand is raised lowers it and records the code EOF on their list.

Regeneration (reconstruction)

All nodes place their finger on the second word on their list. The first node begins by reading their initial word and then the second word, the first node then moves their finger down to the third word in the list. Each node upon hearing their *claimed* word, speaks the word at which their finger is pointing and immediately moves their finger to the subsequent word.

Regeneration (generative)

Same as above, but each time the claiming word is read, the node may choose a word at random from their list (not including the first (claimed) word).


Example texts were drawn from Language to cover a page (sample page above -- we didn't use that poem in particular), early writings of Vito Acconci (ISBN 0-262-01224-3)

Markov hetouchedup.png Markov diagram.png Markov hecalledherhello.png Markov hedheller.png Markov l.png


See related assignment: Poetry generators


  • Generative Garfield comics? Garkov!