17.535 spam and subject fields

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jan 17 2004 - 03:05:21 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 535.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

   [1] From: Aimée Morrison (43)
                 <aimee.morrison@ualberta.ca> (by way
         Subject: RE: 17.528 possible research project?

   [2] From: Jessica Perry Hekman <jphekman@arborius.net> (17)
         Subject: Re: 17.532 spam and subject fields

         Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2004 07:40:18 +0000
         From: Aimée Morrison <aimee.morrison@ualberta.ca>
         Subject: RE: 17.528 possible research project?

>the use of homophonic misspelling
>Aa, ddullt movie stars Ceecrut for fame ! yte
>and elaborate mix of otiose and semi-homographic symbols
>Have meds?Valï(u)m, V|@gra, X(a)n@x, Som@ Di3t Pills Many M3ds POShVg

i have two immediate reactions to these, from a sholarly-interest perspective
(my obviously first reaction, because i get these too, is extreme annoyance
followed by deep concern for all the man-type person out there now made prey
to whole new kinds of anxieties under the constant barrage of notices of
implied inadequacy ...)

1. the semi-homographic symbols remind me of the kinds of mistakes that OCR
programs make: typographical confusion based on the machine's poor
comprehension of english mixed in with its good comprehension of visual
resemblance. in OCR, this is an undesirable kind of mixup.

1.a. (the flip side) but what's really neat is that it's human-legible as its
original, ungarbled form: valium, viagra, xanax, diet pills, etc. the
intended form is quite obvious to human reader, who have high

2. the homophonic and homographic constructions play on the multisensory
nature of human reading practices, a kind of aural/visual synestheticism we
must now recognize as part and parcel of the reading process. in an odd way,
this is computer-perplexing poetry, an encoded form of language meant to use
dumb machines to send complex illicit messages to human receivers. neat, in a

2.a. also, isn't this, in a way, a kind of poetic form? it plays on the seen
and the heard at the same time, mashing visual stimulus ('@' for 'a', or '|'
for 'l') with aural stimulus ('ceecrut') that requires non-trivial decoding --
but a non-trivial decoding that is near immediate, because we do not invest a
lot of time decoding our spam (unless we're in the market for diet pills or
penis patches or the digital oeuvre of paris hilton). apparently, we're all
much more sophisticated readers than we thought. huh. interesting for those
of us who teach poetry, i think.

thanks for starting the conversation, willard.


. ++++++++++++++++++++++++
Aimée Morrison Office: 4-14 Humanities Ctr.
PhD Candidate, Dept. of English Phone: (780) 492-0298
University of Alberta Fax: (780) 492-8102
T6G 2E5 Email: ahm@ualberta.ca

"If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who
studies the passion-stains on the bedsheets."
                                     ---- Irving Layton

         Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2004 07:40:57 +0000
         From: Jessica Perry Hekman <jphekman@arborius.net>
         Subject: Re: 17.532 spam and subject fields

> Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 11:22:27 +0000
> From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu>
> A related issue, though, is that as non-spammers we may now run into the
> same problems as spammers: we now need to design the subject lines for our
> legitimate message in such a way that the message will be recognized as
> legitimate. Often this can mean the avoidance of certain words such as the
> word "spam" itself. Of course, this precaution is meant for the human
> receiver of our message as we can be fairly confident that anti-spam
> filters aren't crude enough to label our message as spam based on the
> subject line alone.

Actually, I have seen people have problems sending mail to mailing lists
with "spam" in the subject line (or other trigger words): sometimes the
mailing list server tags the message as spam and rejects it; sometimes
list members' mail servers do the same. On at least one list I'm on, it's
a fairly frequent annoyance.


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