Pip Thornton 2016

{poem}.py aims to critique ‘linguistic capitalism’ by means of artistic intervention. The work makes visible the tension between the aesthetic value and the exchange value of words in online environments, where frequently used keywords are worth more than less commonly used vocabulary. Pip Thornton breaks down famous poems to their constituent words and ascribes the monetary value applied to each word by typical search engines. In William Wordsworth’s poem I wandered lonely as a cloud, the words ‘cloud’, ‘crowd’ and ‘host’ are relatively expensive. These values relate not to Wordsworth’s vision of a Cumbrian landscape, but to cloud computing, crowd funding and web hosting. We begin to see what happens to words when, taken out of their communication or descriptive context, they are allowed no other meaning but the most economically lucrative.

The process:

  1. Scrape the text of an online poem
  2. Feed the words of the poem through the Google AdWords keyword planner
  3. Return the poem to narrative order and format
  4. Add a checksum as ‘authorisation code’
  5. Print the monetised poem out on a receipt printer


Thermal receipts, poetry, Python software


2018 at the Open Data Institute

Data Types

Causal, Commercial, Identifiable, Open, Processed, Retrieved, Shared, Static, Temporal

About the Artist

Pip holds a PhD in Geopolitics and Cybersecurity from Royal Holloway, University of London. With a professional background in the police and the military, she holds BA degrees in History and Politics (Liverpool) and English Literature…
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