Leon Woltermann is a student of Southeast Asia at the Asia-Africa-Institute, University of Hamburg, Germany, focusing on digital society in Indonesia against the cultural and religious background of the country. He is interested in examining the interplay between innovation and tradition. He holds a BA in Southeast Asian Studies and MA in Digital Humanities. E-mail: leon.woltermann@gmx.de


The Death of Which Author? Unraveling Posthuman Authorship in Penyair Sebagai Mesin (2023) by Martin Suryajaya

Abstract: This paper examines the question of human-machine authorship as represented in the book Penyair Sebagai Mesin [Poet as Machine] (2023) by the Indonesian scholar Martin Suryajaya, which marks a pioneering exploration in the field of Indonesian literature. The book contains 176 poems generated by an AI model trained with texts of various Indonesian poets. In addition, the book encompasses some theoretical considerations, a description of the technical procedure, and analyses of the poems written by the human coauthor. Firstly, this paper aims to showcase the book’s uniqueness by addressing the difficulty of allocating it to a specific genre. Building on that, the paper explores different perspectives on the issue of the book’s authorship: Who are the agents involved in its construction and what are the assumptions that allow certain agents to be placed as authors over others? Subsequently, the paper aims to dismantle and compare these assumptions, each of which shape different standpoints towards the question of authorship by emphasizing certain aspects, elements, or processes in the construction of the book. The paper argues that the book facilitates diverging perspectives on the question of human-machine authorship. It demonstrates the complex and dynamic constellations between agents involved in its construction. In this sense, the book blurs the distinction between human and machine-generated writing while leaving the choice to the reader to take a perspective. Thereby, the book points to the predicament of to what extent we as humans are willing and prepared to cede parts of our agency to machines in cultural production.
Keywords: authorship, agency, posthuman, artificial intelligence, Indonesian poetry