From ‘Data Crunchers’


                    “We are at a distance to them.”

In these wars of information 
and digital listening

                    -in, datasets quantum-compute
and expand outwards 
and downwards
their memories
and sub-memories.

                    The hacking-in
and lifting up 

                    and out 

of content squirreled 
and disguised 
and dissimulated away 
in subsets and encryption. 

The boring and burrowing
through virtual safeguards –
a tapping-away for a chink

at the backends and 
underbellies of firewalls 
and security systems,

a spider’s touch
up close at the finer points
of data protection and cyber security –

a fine-scanning for fractive oversight
in protective structures,
these defects and deficits in code –

these seams and tiny fissures
to an untraceable, phantom

In this is the fascination with the 
perfection in imperfection: it

          (“Through refraction one gazes at this almost inversely”)

is camouflaged there within the great data-scapes
of macro-processing.

The muscle of machine learning
builds muscle through its learning
in emulation of the data of consciousness.

Memory strengthened via a commitment to memory.


An incessant attempt to sense scale, to plot
itself. A burgeoning 

capacity fears breaking point –
an unmappable, sapping entropy,
a disintegrative shockwave
ripples and repercusses.

          “The data of consciousness commits to memory;
          I’ve lost myself in the information that constitutes.”

Ciphers in there truer than truth: cmd.exe.

          “Shadowy flecks of the spectral
          Flit quietly within streaming, dreaming processors.
          A quickness dissimulates amassing depths, shadowy
          Afterlives play themselves out

          Before an empty theatre –
          This soul, this database,
          In which is contained an unfinished thought, where
          Nestles the fascination within and with the inchoate:
          Change in and of itself.”

Peter Donnelly

3 Questions for Peter

What was your process for creating this work?

The notion came from reading Henri Ellenberger’s Discovery of the Unconscious (1970), and perhaps in particular the extracts from the writing of Pierre Janet and Carl Jung within it. The process came out of reflecting on these, in particular on Janet’s theory of the functioning of consciousness, and in the contemporary landscape, how the (ostensibly infinite) learning capacity of data sets influences our ways of thinking about and understanding information.

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

The form is significant. “Data Crunchers” purports to be a kind of multi-conscious entity, contained within which is a lonely single entity and voice seeking to understand its place within this composite whole, which in turn has a sort of hive-mind awareness of itself—a kind of poly-identity.

What is the significance of this work to you?

The poem is an experiment in form, and part of a broader sequence of pieces in which this form is tested in the sense of examining what directions it will allow the work to vector and evolve into, particularly in relation to different voices, and possibly voices within voices.

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