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Vernacular Language Processing




Vernacular Language Toolkit

Knowledge and information organisation are deeply intimate acts, which relate to how we envision the world. However, in many fields such as computational linguistics, library & archive studies or data science in a broader sense, standardised tools are the norm. The Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK), for example, is a widely used collection of tools for data analysis and data organisation. NLTK provides ways in which to sift, weigh, or process textual information through what is called "natural language processing".

Starting from the premise that "it matters how we arrive at the places we do" (Ahmed, 2006), VLTK (Vernacular Language Toolkit) proposes a vernacular approach to processing language that rethinks how to orient by considering what it means to be orientated. VLTK is a research trajectory around vernacular knowledge grammars, such as categories, metadata, linked data, or tags, but also other ways of textual treatment that are not applicable to all of “natural language”, but instead are focused on a particular grouping of texts.

VLTK is a toolkit...

... that thinks about text processing tools, questions them, talks about them, in order to explore their vernacular possibilities.

... that explores informal/vernacular/sociality aspects of formal text processing systems.

... that explores textual data as vernacular matter, through reading systems, exercises, small scripts, ...

... that plays with standards and taxonomies that shape structured data.

... that stays close to the specifics of the material it is processing.

... that resists the protocols of rigor as they have been traditionally manufactured.

... that gestures to what the textual matters do, rather than say.

... that prefers the anecdotal to officiating structures.

... that looks for the possibilities of movement within existing parameters.

The project is a collaboration between Manetta Berends, Julie Boschat Thorez and Cristina Cochior and will be launched in December 2021 as a print publication consisting of a series of interviews, prototypes and artistic contributions. For this trimester, the VLTK work will be channelled through Cristina Cochior.

Special Issue 16

What would vernacular processing look like?

For the Special Issue 16, we invite you to speculate with us on what VLP could be as a field. How do we align computational processing with the particularities of the textual material being structured? And how do the resulting "markers of difference" or "homing devices" shape the mode of navigation? How do we generate text in a vernacular way?

We will create a printed reader that will bring together your bibliographic work in relation to the subject. The reader will be launched during an evening of performances of the experiments in context-specific language processing.

In the weeks 2-4 of the trimester we will start gathering a collection of textual matter as possible material to work with. In groups of 3 or 4, we bring a collection item to each of the three sessions and discuss it altogether.

In the week 7 we fix the selected texts and ways of processing them.

In the weeks 8 and 9 we consider the publication as a whole.

In the weeks 10-13 we will focus on production.


Week 1

Tuesday, 21st of September

pad for today


  • Introduction to XPUB16
    • NLTK to VLTK, technofeminist vernacular, examples: vernacular processing / material / distribution, structure of the special issue


  • Introduction to prototyping classes
    • python, jupyter notebooks

Wednesday, 22nd September



Week 2

Monday, 27th of September

Prototyping, with Michael and Manetta

Tuesday, 28th of September


Cristina and Steve

  • In pairs of three/four, bring a text or an audio recording to discuss
  • What does it mean to be orientated? What is the relation between orientation and navigation?
  • Scores for orientating ourselves through the texts of the day

Main texts:

  • Orientation in a Big World: On the Necessity of Horizonless Perspectives, Patricia Reed
  • Queer Phenomenology - Introduction, Sara Ahmed

Further reading:

  • Dear Science, Katherine McKittrick
  • Vernacular Values, Ivan Illich
  • Control and Freedom, Wendy Chun
  • Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective, Donna Haraway

pad of today

wiki page for today

Week 3

Monday, 4th of October

Prototyping with Michael and Manetta

11:00-17:00 in the aquarium

pad of today:

Tuesday, 5th of October



  • In pairs of three/four, bring a text or an audio recording to discuss
  • Vernacular processing: what is a vocabulary?
  • How do structures orient us?
  • Annotating with magic words


  • Vernacular Order, Official Order, James Scott
  • Abstracting Otherwise: In Search for a Common Strategy of Arts and Computing, Goda Klumbytė and Loren Britton

Further reading:

  • Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface, Johanna Drucker
  • Eros in the library: Considering the aesthetics of knowledge organization, Melissa Adler
  • The Trouble with Access / Toward Reparative Taxonomies, Melissa Adler
  • On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading, Laura E. Helton

pad of today

Wednesday, 6th of October



Link to session (wiki)

Week 4

Monday, 10 October

Prototyping with Michael

Review reading for today:

Tuesday, 12th of October

Manetta and Cristina

  • In pairs of three/four, bring a text or an audio recording to discuss


  • On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?, Timnit Gebru
  • Politics of Transcription, Mary Buscholtz

pad of today

Week 5

Autumn vacation

sleep tight, have some rest and dream about this mantra:

   rejection as a discourse
   rejection as a continuous renegotiation between filters
   rejection as exclusion
   rejection as fractal
   rejection as spectrum
   rejection as contingency (really like this)
   rejection as violence
   rejection as oppression
   rejection as ritual
   rejection as defensive spell
   rejection as misunderstanding 
   rejection as border
   rejection as layer
   rejection as interface
   rejection as a selection process
   rejection as a filter
   rejection as incomplete structure
   rejection as foundation
   rejection as truth / honesty
   rejection as clarification, transcription, simplification
   rejection as interpretation/translation
   rejection as digestion/metabolization
   rejection as instrument
   rejection as curation
   rejection as invitation
   rejection as inclusion
   rejection as care 
   rejection as direction
   rejection as orientation
   rejection as negative ontology for identity formation
   rejection as tactic 
   rejection as a trigger for action
   rejection as turning point
   rejection as plot twist
   rejection as suspense
   rejection as narration and world-building
   rejection as an act of love
   rejection as a metaphor
   rejection as heritage

Week 6

No classes, self-study week

Week 7

Monday, 1st of November

11:00-17:30 Prototyping (with Michael & Manetta)

Pad of the day:

Tuesday, 2nd of November


Clara Balaguer - matrix vernacular, the eye and the ewe

Week 8

Monday 8 November

11:00-17:30 Prototyping, with Michael and Manetta

Pad of the day:

Tuesday, 9th of November


Danny van der Kleij - vernacular in the software

Wednesday, 10th of November


Steve + Cristina + Michael + Manetta + Aymeric?

Week 9

Monday 15th November

11:00-17:30 Prototyping, with Michael and Manetta

Pad of the day:

Tuesday, 16th of November



Wednesday, 17th of November

11:00-14:00 proto-free, free, and post-free culture with Aymeric

Thursday, 18th of November



Clara Balaguer - individual tutorials


Week 10

Monday 22nd November

11:00-17:30 Prototyping, with Michael and Manetta

Pad of the day:

Tuesday, 23rd of November

11:00-17:00 @ Varia

  • 11:00-13:00 API discussion
  • 13:00-14:00 lunch break
  • 14:00-15:00 updates with the whole group
  • 15:00-15:30 Chae / Gersande
  • 15:30-16:00 Vernacular maps
  • 16:00-16:30 carmen mitsa miri grgr
  • 16:30-17:00 subgroup


- Objects of Intense Feeling: The Case of the Twitter API. Taina Bucher

- There is no Software, there are just Services: Introduction. Irina Kaldrack and Martina Leeker

- API practices and paradigms: Exploring the protocological parameters of APIs as key facilitators of sociotechnical forms of exchange. Winnie Soon and Eric Snodgrass

pad of today

19:00-20:00 @ WDKA

Wordmord presentation

Friday, 26 of November


Danny van der Kleij

@ WDKA, fish bowl

pad of today

Week 11

Monday, 29th of November

11:00-17:30 Prototyping, with Michael and Manetta

Pad of the day:

Tuesday, 30th of November

11:00-16:00 with Steve and Cristina

pad of the day

Week 12

Monday, 6th of December

Tuesday, 7th of December


Friday, 10th of December

10:00-12:40 Tutorial slots for function subgroups and API politics work group

10:00-10:40 Vernacular Maps Group

10:40-11:20 empowerment-replacement-and-i-wish-your-question-has-been-answered group

11:20-12:00 API politics??? (need to write the code of conduct of the api key)

12:00-12:40 ETC group(Chae only)- online

Week 13

Tuesday 14th December

11:00-11:30 intro/content team

11:30-12:00 launch team

12:00-12:30 api & event-mode team

12:30-13:00 website team

13:00-14:00 lunch break



14:40-15:00 ETC group

Friday 17th December

Publication Launch @ Varia

Pages in category "Vernacular Language Processing"

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