April 1, 2010
Four Letter Words consists of four units, each capable of displaying all 26 letters of the alphabet with an arrangement of fluorescent lights.
The piece displays an algorithmically generated word sequence, derived from a word association database developed by the University of South Florida between 1976 and 1998. The algorithms take into account word meaning, rhyme, letter sequencing, and association.
The algorithm's tendency towards scatological or "dark" subject matter is influenced by a variety of language and perception studies, especially Elliot McGinnies' 1949 study "Emotionality and Perceptual Defense."
While the piece was conceived with idea of displaying algorithmically generated lists, it was designed with flexibility and expandability in mind. The individual units can be connected ad-infinitum, and are theoretically capable of displaying any length of text. While Four Letter Words deals with a specific range of content, the technology can be easily expanded for future textual experiments.