Captured by an Algorithm
porcelain plates, Kindle Popular Highlights from popular romance novels, scanned romance novel covers, Photoshop's Photomerge algorithm
Captured by an Algorithm is a commemorative plate series that looks at romance novels through the lens of the Amazon Kindle Popular Highlight algorithm. A passage in a Kindle e-book becomes a Popular Highlight after a certain number of people independently highlight the same passage. Popular Highlights show up as underlined along with the number of people who highlighted that passage. Each commemorative plate features a Kindle Popular Highlight from a romance novel and a landscape generated by running Photoshop’s Photomerge algorithm on scanned romance novel covers. Over seventy thousand individual acts of highlighting were used to determine the content for this work telling the story of the intense loneliness, grief, vulnerability, and discontent felt by the readers. This work reveals a glimpse of a positive, anonymous social network emerging unintentionally through this minor Kindle feature. This ongoing project draws attention to this existing example of collective social support to change society’s vision for the future of social technologies.

This multi-year, ongoing project incorporates the content of 100+ different romance novels as input (more are always being added). Though only a handful of books are recognizable in each plate, the input into each plate is all of the 100+ books. See the full list.
Each one of the following stories is created by assembling the sentences taken from three different romance novels by three different authors. I have a computer program pick randomly which book and which page I must use. Then I pick the most interesting sentence on that page. After I have ten sentences, I rearrange them into a story.
There is no colors, no jewels, no needlework. All that was left of him were the spiteful yearnings of a whining man. "Oh, but I can't!" When the man made no effort to take the coins, she put them on the edge of the tomb. Annabelle fell silent, her lashes lowering as she considered what she was about to say. Ignoring the brilliant sparks that danced across her vision like fireflies, Annabelle left the room with short, careful steps. She took them and smiled at him. What had happened hadn't happened yet. Victoria returned, white with rage and shock.
The air was soft with twilight, settling damply over the estate with no breeze to stir the thick atmosphere. Somehow she forced a shallow smile to her face. During these lessons, Miss Flossie listened to Victoria's diction, observed her every mannerism, and questioned her on her accomplishments and interests all the while nodding her curly head and fluttering her fingers in a manner that reminded Victoria of a fidgety little bird. Throughout the rest of the house, however, there was a vibrating, ominous tension that sprang from Lord Fielding and stretched its tentacles around everyone else. In a society that considered it vulgar ever to speak or think about mercantile concerns, there was nothing more ill-bred than a man who had made his career out of investing. Charles's gaze slid away from hers. Glancing up at the man, she saw the way he was studying his reflection. Was he going to walk away and leave her too? Slowly, he opened his eyes, but he saw nothing. He was sitting in his office when his heart stopped.
Approaching the back of her chair, he rested his fingertips on the curve of her shoulder. "Isn't this the most wonderful surprise you could imagine?" Victoria heard him, but her mind was on Jason, her heart filled with warmth for the man who has sheltered her when she came to England, given her beautiful things, teased her when she was lonely, and ultimately married her. Smiling, she closed the drawer. Taking the jewel from her hand, he pinned it between the collar points of her blouse. Maybe it was in her blood. Awful, terrible things. "Don't go near her," she said, amazed that her voice was steady. And she knew he had--she could see it in his face. Damn, damn, damn she thought as she tore down the stairs and ran out of the hotel into the rain.
Daphne, who had always been the girl everyone liked but no one adored, was suddenly proclaimed the season's Incomparable. She hurried to the lake with her satchel tucked under her arm. She said nothing, but her eyes were enchantingly curious. They danced to the accompaniment of men stomping their feet and clapping their hands to the lively rhythm of the tune. Her cheeks pinkened as she dipped her head, shyly. "We have a bargain." And, as hatred flooded his body and poured from his eyes, he made a solemn vow. The words washed over her. Nastasia. Understanding dawned. They both smiled, and for a moment Daphne thought that all would be well again, but as soon as the smiles faded, an uncomfortable silence fell across the room. Gillian fought the most irresistible urge to strike him. And when that happened, she knew she'd feel a glimmer of disappointment.
He looked up at the sky for a moment before answering. "My son is dead--I no longer have any use for legacies." He said his mother had been cold to him and his wife had been frigid. "And you didn't push me away." And the truth was, she hadn't. Sun was streaming through the old windows high above her head, and sharp, clear rays lit the white marble tomb in the archway to the left. A large hand lifted to the shimmering fall of her hair, and he combed his fingers through it, watching with fascination as the golden brown strands slipped across his knuckles. And then, just before she died, she whispered another name--Charles. Victoria flattened herself against the wall, feeling as if the security and peace of her world had been somehow threatened by what she had seen. It was the first entirely unselfish act of his life.
How had he found her in the dark and pouring rain? He reached the nadir of the stairs and stood before her with a nominal bow, looking unbearably smug. Funny what the threat of being burned alive could make one do. Sighing shortly, Jeremy pushed back a swath of honey-colored hair that had fallen over his forehead. "Go," he said again. No doubt it was a sign that the venom's effects were fading...but that didn't explain why she suddenly felt so relieved and peaceful. A strange fancy, but one she couldn't seem to dismiss. She did not have any emeralds. "You must take it from my hand if you want it," she warned. "Don't go anywhere," he murmured, smiling.
Elizabeth gave her head a haughty toss, glanced sympathetically at the flapping fish and then gazed at him with haughty condemnation in her eyes. Pausing to sip the spicy mixture, she savored the flow of warmth through her veins. His arrogant grin changed her mind. She was swamped by a feeling of utter hopelessness as she waited for him to destroy her with a few caustic words. "You really think I'll believe anything you tell me, don't you?" People glanced furtively at the woman, but they passed her without breaking pace. He lost his thought as he beheld the utterly comic sight of two stiff-backed women seated on a trunk together, prim and proper as you please, beneath a black umbrella in the middle of nowhere. After giving the pitiful infant one quick glance, he was convinced war was inevitable. He smiled at his angels. That piece of alarming news made Berta let out a muted sob before she lapsed again to sniffling and blowing her nose.
The words were slow and deliberate, and he waited as, with crushing slowness, the full weight of the name dawned on the daughter. "She's writing now," Derek had heard one of the housemaids tell another reverently, as if some holy sacrament were being performed. It suddenly penetrated that he was not mad, but instead was bent on revenge. "Damned rogue! Damned rogue! Damned rogue!" she whined. A broad shadow joined them, and they both glanced up to find Mrs. Hawkins standing before them, arms akimbo and a frown clefting her brow like the blade of an ax. A steady drizzle pattered on the leaves outside, and the clouds were low and heavy, giving an unnatural blackness to the night. "Is God not here too?" She put her key in the lock. His open hand closed. Infinity and falling, down and down and down, the way it was in dreams.