Horse_ebooks was a Twitter account initially thought to be generated by a spam bot slipping under the radar. It became famous for seemingly randomly generated yet poetic tweets.
It was revealed in 2013 that the account had been, at least since 2011, the work of two media artists who had written each tweet in an attempt to impersonate a bot veering towards the poetic.
Alena Smith, a writer of twitter fiction herself, summarized the confused feeling that followers felt on the reveal:
We thought we had happened upon a trove of found art, and like a horde of minor Duchamps, we faved and retweeted these supposedly accidental, inexplicably engaging, ready-made bits of Internet nonsense, savvily designating them as interesting, as amusing, as meaningful. Instead, the disclosure that @horse_ebooks was already the intentionally curated work of two artists — two writers — put us back in our place as a passive audience: as performance-spectators, as fiction-readers.
She goes on to note that the work succeeded as art:
The fiction @Horse_ebooks wove was not the kind we typically find in books. The intention was not to tell a story but rather to involve us in an experience — an experience that could only exist on Twitter and, indeed, is reflective about ethical quandaries that arise specifically when humans are engaged with Twitter. (How do we know if we’re interacting with other humans when we can’t see them? What if they are robots? What does it mean to “follow” a robot? Are we becoming robots ourselves? Et cetera.) (post)
See Objet Trouve for the philosophy of found objects.
Wow So Portland! is a bot that we think actually *is* a bot, but it is still a work of art.