Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text

Tale of a Great Sham(e) Text is an electronic text first inspired by the consideration of citizenship.  

One day I went on a tour around Glasnevin Cemetery, the tour celebrated the women of the 1916 rising and mentioned Anna Parnell, the sister of Charles Stewart Parnell (who ran the Irish Parliamentary Party back in the 1880s).  I’d not heard of her, so I casually did a Google search to uncover more.   Well….  That was the moment.   I needed to know more and decided to devote some research time to Anna Parnell.  She has written a book about her experiences during 1881/2, enlightening her readers about the Ladies Land League, set up to take on the work of the Land League once Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell were imprisoned in 1881. The League helped tenant farmers in the late 19th C. To abolish Landlordism, politicising the mostly catholic rural tenant farmers.

The Land League had a political message that was shared at public meetings.. 10, 20 thousand people were reportedly attending these meetings. Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt were jailed in 1881, their arrest resulted in the No-Rent Manifesto, encouraging farmers to strike until the prisoners were freed. The histories of the Land War are taught in schools around the country, no student is left without a knowledge of it.. but the sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, who was asked to carry on the cause while they were in imprisoned ?    She is not so well known!   

The records kept by the Ladies Land League were destroyed by a fire on Henry St in Dublin, during the 1916 Rising. Anna Parnell was one of the women to light the torch for the beginning of the womens nationalist movement in Irelands Independence along with her sister Fanny Parnell.

So, I kept searching and found she had written a book. It is out of print, you have to buy it second hand on Ebay ..

Anna Parnells book  is a memoir of the Ladies Land League: The Tale of a Great Sham.  It was written in 1909 and published posthumously in 1986 by Arlen House, with an introduction by Dana Hearne.

Reading the text inspired my creative process, I break the text into short phrases, discontinuous sentences. Anacoluthons or logical incoherences. Anacoluthons are the sort of things that get added into sentences as ‘internal thoughts’, changing of syntax in a sentence..  It is a practice I do all the time, creating weird sentences out of the double dot.

It is also inspired by the sonic agency surrounding politics and the political demo.   I am sure we have all been on demonstration marches and really been inspired by the chanting. The rhythmic urgency, the noise and feeling of entrainment of being amongst the other protesters. It is an intense feeling. “See no homeless, hear no homeless, help no homeless”; “pay no rent”; “When sleeping women wake, mountains tremble”. We all know the chants.. My aim is to locate sound with political reality, to locate it in historical struggle and also see it alongside present day struggle? Brandon LaBelle has asked if there is a “potential to embed sonic thought in contemporary struggle?” in Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance (2018), leading to a reflection of Salomé Voegelin’s ‘sound’s invisible formlessness’ in Sonic Possible Worlds (2014) and its power alter the visible.

In 1881 Anna Parnell was giving stump speeches “Now, Ladies, I am going to speak to you. There is a great deal of practical work for the ladies of Ireland to do now”. Parnell urged female audiences to engage in political activity, not to challenge but to circumvent by being strategic. Parnell encourages the national duty to protect homes and their neighbours’ homes. Irish women were inspired to literally go into hand-to-hand combat with landlords, bailiffs, soldiers and police. Thirteen women of the Ladies Land League were charged. The British Attorney General in Ireland at the time justified this by accusing the women of “unsexing themselves” by virtue of their involvement of political activity in the public sphere. (Côte and Knight 1991, 206). The Land League no rent manifesto was being carried on by the women, and the British Attorney General, accuses the women of being a screen (a petticoat screen) for the men.

One of the women, Hannah Reynolds, was imprisoned under the statute that empowered magistrates to send to prison “persons not of good fame”.  She was sent to Cork Gaol for one month. She had a small cell, was confined for 22 hrs a day, wasn’t allowed to wear her own clothes. She was permitted to receive one visitor. Meals were sent in by the Ladies Land League and Brass Bands would keep her spirits up by playing beneath her window (Côte and Knight 1991, 208)

Following the arrests of these 13 women.   Anna Parnell advertised in The Nation, for an act of simultaneous meetings throughout the country, to take place on on 1 Jan 1882, 1.30pm.

On 1 Jan at 1.30pm all the Ladies’ Land League held their meetings.


So, the work is about protest, about agency and about simultaneous noise.

I use blocks of sound, blocks of visuals. I ask for participation.


Côte. Jane. M., Knight. Daniel. M. Fanny & Anna Parnell: Ireland’s Patriot Sisters. Macmillan. 1991.

LaBelle, Brandon. Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance. Goldsmiths Press. 2018.

Parnell, Anna. The Tale of A Great Sham. Arlen House. 1986.

Voegelin, Salomé. Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound. Bloomsbury Academic. 2014.

Twitter Bot

The process of creating a twitter bot is a matter of simply deciding what it is you want to Tweet and just jump in.

Kate Compton has done the hard work for us. http://tracery.io/ is the space to visit to get your first steps of twitter botdom organised. She published a paper back in 2015 about practices for interactive fiction and generative text. George Buckenham has developed the wonderful Cheap Bots Done Quick, using Tracery.

Go over to Cheap Bots Done Quick and log in with your Twitter account. You can start building the bot straight away!

It is also easy enough to work out if you have any errors in the script, the box at the bottom of your screen will light up red!

Tips: always make sure there are two brackets .. an open [ and a closed ] .. and that you use a comma between every rule.


I started off the Tweet Bot for Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text using a short origin:

	"origin": ["1882: Thirteen women are imprisoned, please send #alternatives# \n This tweetbot is inspired by the words of Anna Parnell (1852-1911)"],
	"alternatives" : ["brass bands.", "food.", "books.", "clothes.", "support.", "warm clothes.", "hot food."]

Yes, it is basic, but it illustrates the element of using a static sentence starter along with random text generation for the object of the phrase. This tweet bot ran for 5 months, from April 6th 2019 – August 13th 2019, posting variations once a week. I wanted to create a repeating theme, a leitmotif, a visual block of text, always there, heard through the reader’s imagination. A silent voice.

Text is a useful medium to work with to create repetitions and re-generations. Cheap Bots Done Quick is perfect to design the behaviour of single words, lines, phrases and verses.


When considering how to progress Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text I decided to concentrate on sounding and visualising more phrases from the text. I have previously created a number of graphics for the Twitter feed already. Banners, something that you might see in a protest or a demonstration march, designed to appear in any order.

Converting the Banners into SVG

To convert the images into a text format I needed to use SVG, Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML based format. I simply converted the images using Image Vectorizer. Image Vectorizer is available on the App store for around 5 eu.

Storing the SVG

Converting images to SVG is easy, the tricky bit is storing them online. I’m not totally sure why, but WordPress and Imgur definitely do not accept SVG files. I went digging and have come up with an answer to the hosting problem. You can host .svg files in a Gist. Go to GitHub and create an account, once you are logged in it is possible to create a repository called a Gist. Upload your .svg files, select the RAW tab of each file you would like to link to, and the copy the URL that appears in your browser. This Git Raw URL can be transferred using the brilliantly simple GitHack.

Linking the Graphics to CBDQ

To modify the bot text to incorporate images I simply altered the code from the initial experiment, which I’ve included further back in this post.

The #phrases# tag is the placeholder for all the quotes taken directly from the text. The #images# tag is the new placeholder, and this is where I pasted all of the links to the svg files stored in the Gist.

	"origin": [" #phrases#  {svg <svg xmlns=\"http://www.w3.org/2000/svg\" xmlns:xlink=\"http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink\" width=\"256\" height=\"128\"><image width=\"256\" height=\"128\" xlink:href=\"#images#\" /></svg>}"],

Tweets of the visuals and phrases are now completely automated.

Next Steps

Hooking up the SoundCloud account using an RSS feed can be done using dlvrit. Again the process is simple. Go to the settings tab in your Soundcloud account and make sure “Include in RSS Feed” is ticked, copy the link for the feed and add it to your dlvrit account.

That is it. Bots are created. Sounds and visuals are tweeting away. The record and responses to Anna Parnell’s Tale of A Great Sham will continue in this next part of the work. The source code is freely available on CBDQ.

If you want to know what a Twitter Bot is .. go check out this wonderful Wiki on Bots.

Creating QR Codes

The interest in QR codes has inspired me to discuss the creation and possibilities in more depth.

The desire to use them stems from their relatively simple method in communicating. QR Code is short for Quick Response Code, and they provide a link between the physical world and digital.

Their ideal size is no smaller than 3cm square, this is to do with ‘scan-ability’, they need to be 33cm square to read at 3m away. Use the formula: Distance between QR and Scanner / 10

So.. what can a QR do?

It can link to a website, a business card, contact card (all of which can hold other details)

It can store wireless network credentials, which after a mobile phone scans the code, will automatically enable a link

It can send an SMS, send an email, call a number, add an event to a calender, provide geo-location (I’ve chatted about the possibilities of Kepler.gl in a previous post).

A QR code is also useful for displaying plain text on a mobile phone. So, to display quotes, program notes, directions, and acknowledgments, is relatively easy.

I’ve discovered Bixby on my Samsung phone works really well with QR codes.


Depending on the size of the QR code, you can store all sorts of information.

A really easy way to create them is in Excel, with the add-in called QR4Office. Go to the Insert Menu > Add-ins > search for QR4Office. This add-in will work in Powerpoint, Word, or Excel. It’s useful, free, and is also available direct: QR4Office. Another option is QR Code Monkey, which is a free online QR generator.

@taleofagreatshametext on Twitter

Audience Engagement

Participating in the Electronic Literature Organisation 2019 Conference and Media Arts Festival was an incredible experience. Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text was shared as a work-in-progress at an Artist Talk in one of the Boole Lecture Theatres.

Since returning from the conference, the second part of the work has included the creation of a SoundCloud element for the electronic text. This page includes the initial audio segments that, when played as a playlist, will sound another element of the work.

The work will continue to develop through the uploading of more fragments, so please follow and visit.

Currently I am investigating the Twitter engagement as data from which I can create sound. Previously I have used Chirbit to upload text-to-speech audio to Twitter, and the results have then been processed in Metasynth. Recently a friend introduced me to Kepler.gl a geo-spatial data analysis tool. I’ve started gathering my Twitter data..

Twitter engagement from TaleOfAGreatSham(e)Text: small… but it should be enough to use as a data set for sonification

It is a small data set, I’ve only been Tweeting since April 2019, so this should provide some interesting audio. Previously in compositions I have asked for audience participation at various points, as a user/listener, as a participant in the creation of audio material, and now as a data set to be used in the production of audio.

I have organised a visualisation of the impressions and the engagement rates of the Twitter feed of Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text in kepler.gl and will import to Unity within the next few days.

Twitter data visualisation using Kepler.gl

Media Disrupting the Public Space

Part of my interest in Anna Parnell is that she and the other members of the Ladies’ Land League ran United Ireland, an Irish newspaper originally distributed by the members of Land League before they were imprisoned. “This running of United Ireland was the pleasantest part of all the work of the Ladies’ Land League; it was something that could, at any rate be done, and did not seem so painfully like trying to make ropes of sea sand.” (Parnell 1986, 123). Anna Parnell was instrumental in using the medium of the newspaper in a call for action when she advertised for all the branches of the League to meet simultaneously at 1.30pm on 1st January, 1881.

De-stabilising the ‘powers-that-be’ and the ‘parliamentary process’ is an area that Derrida also highlights. His statement: “the power of the media that, in the 1920s, before television, were profoundly transforming the public space, dangerously weakening the authority and the representativity of elected officials and reducing the field of parliamentary discussions, deliberations, and decisions” (Derrida 1994, 99), illustrates how the media can amplify the incompetence of politicians as well provide the promotion of silhouettes in Plato’s cave.

Further, I think that newspapers are still providing us with much needed questioning regarding the politics Brexit. For example, Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times provides some interesting suggestions for blocking a Hard Brexit. This call to action is designed for us to sit up and re-visit the ghosts of the past, to look out of the cave. Through the investigation of history we can form more interesting solutions to an age-old problem. Brexit has certainly inspired my own research on the history of Ireland and it would be great to see some creativity appear in the negotiations.

Anna Parnell, in advertising for help to support the imprisoned women; Derrida, in providing a hauntology of spectres; and Fintan O’Toole, rallying the absent Sinn Féin MPs, inspire the next part of my creative journey surrounding Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text.


Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. New York and London: Routledge. 1994.

O’Toole, Fintan. “Ireland can stop a no-deal Brexit. Here’s how” in The Irish Times. August 2nd, 2019. [Online] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-ireland-can-stop-a-no-deal-brexit-here-s-how-1.3972121 [Accessed 3rd August 2019]

Parnell, Anna. The Tale of a Great Sham: First Publication of an Historic Memoir. Arlen House. 1986.


Before the creation of the work begins there is usually a period of pre-composition. This is the process of deciding which sonic, text and visual materials to use when producing the final work. It also involves the consideration of what platform or medium with which to present the work.

Working with sound, language, multimedia, computers, networking and digital culture has been my research for the last seven years.

Here I note my inspirations of Sonic Art, Electronic Literature and Anna Parnell (1852-1911). I also discuss my early process when creating the sonic, visual and text components during the pre-composition of Tale Of A Great Sham(e) Text.

Sonic Art

When designing a sonic art work one of my first considerations is how will a participant, audience member, user, or listener interact with the work? A feature of electroacoustic work and sonic art is the focus on the act of listening, described by Andrew Hugill as “a distinctively acousmatic experience that equates to an act of composition.” (Hugill and Amelides in Emmerson and Landy 2016, 355). I want to try and make sure I am clear how someone can communicate with the work, either in a passive or active capacity.

Another consideration is how I create a sense of continuity? Boulez’s concept of musical space as “variable spaces, spaces of mobile definition” (Boulez 1971, 84) is a great basis to feed the imagination when planning an open form work. The opportunity to create musical spaces from pre-composed sound units and other elements such as text or visuals, within a space where the composer takes the “responsibility for composing out the various possibilities within the idea” (Campbell 2013, 18), provides a perfect drawstring to bring together both content and form.

Electronic Literature

If you are asking “what is Electronic Literature?”, then check out a lecture given by Leonardo Flores. It provides a great definition for Electronic Literature as a language centered art which engages the expressive potential of electronic and digital media.

Flores breaks down the history of Electronic Literature into three generations:

1st Generation: The term Classic was drawn from N. Katharine Hayles in “Electronic Literature What is it”. (Hayles 2007). Classic Electronic Literature works utilise the pre-web, text heavy, link driven hyper texts, which use print paradigms circulating on disks. Another useful definition is: “digital born, a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer.” (Hayles 2008, 3)

2nd Generation: from 1995 onwards there is a Contemporary Electronic Literature, utilising the multimodal platforms of the web and flash. New interfaces, innovative works with custom interfaces and forms. People producing this now are in the thousands. Writers and artists are collaborating using many programmes, and artists are using coding. Distribution possibilities include the web, classes, conferences, and academia. Christopher Funkhouser in Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archeology of Forms 1959-1995  shows Electronic Literature is not just text, it is also multimodal (Funkhauser, 2007), including animation and sound.

3rd Generation (circa 2005 onwards):  witnesses the use of established platforms with massive user-bases. This includes the emergence of social media networks and also methods such the memes which millions of people share. Artists, programmers, designers, digital producers, basically anyone using Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook, now have the materials to take a picture, put text on it and share it..

Electronic Literature is the artistic engagement of language.

Anna Parnell

Returning to the work of Anna Parnell, I have previously published a post that highlights Anna as an activist and a public speaker. I really admire that she used the medium of the newpaper to call for all members of the Ladies Land League to meet. She advertises in The Nation that a protest will take place on 1st Jan 1882. The fact that all the branches (around 500) met, simultaneously is a testimony to how incredible this woman is. Using the media to contact people is something we take for granted today, with the climate, NAMA and Trump all being targets for protesters.

My plan is to use the text of Tale of A Great Sham (Parnell, 1986) as the inspiration to create short snippets, to create an interactive game-score, a twitter account, a blog, and a podcast. I will utilise the digital medium to produce a sonic/e-lit art work.


One of the first quotes to appear from Parnell’s text Tale of A Great Sham is “I should be very glad to have extract from my book in any paper.” (Parnell 1986, 184). I then organised 13 other phrases that stood out.

13 Phrases

1: “In January 1881 the Land League decided to create a female branch.” (Parnell 1986, 88)
2: “What was the Land League for?  And what were we all supposed to be doing?” (Parnell 1986, 92)
3: “My nearest approach to the perception of the truth lay in an uncomfortable feeling that the Land League did not seem to be making adequate preparations for a successful resistance to rent.” (Parnell 1986, 89)
4: “They had wanted us for a buffer between them and the country – a perpetual petticoat screen behind which they could shelter, not from the government, but from the people.”
5: “As time went on the hostility manifested towards the Ladies Land League by the authors of their being. They soon acquired a much stronger ground for their annoyance in the discovery that we were taking the Land League seriously.” (Parnell 1986, 90)
6: “The Land Leaguers worked just as hard for a sham as anybody could have done for a reality”
7: “We found that there did exist places in Ireland where the tenants were capable of real resistance.” (Parnell 1986, 92)
8: “By keeping the principle in view which must guide the government in deciding where they will allow their laws to count, and where they will entirely ignore them, one is largely helped to understand just when, where, and how, money may be profitably spent on legal proceedings or not.” (Parnell 1986, 162)
9: “Pledging a body which was to be defunct, to certain performances after its demise, is what many people would call ‘very Irish’.”
10: “The amount of force wasted in automatic squirming in Ireland was enough to free the country three times over.”
11: “Thirteen women were imprisoned, please send support.”
12:  “In answer to the arrest of 13 members of the Ladies Land League, Anna Parnell organised a meeting of all the branches on 1st January 1882 at 1:30pm. They all met, simultaneously.”
13: “The piece of resistance was a black silk skirt.” (Parnell 1986, 86)


My plan to start the presentation of the electronic text was to use Twitter, to publish the phrases, graphics and sounds as a machine stream of consciousness. I looked for Tweet Bots and methods to schedule posts.

Cheap Bots Done Quick uses Tracery to help us artists create random text generation. Tracery grammar uses a series of rules defined by the JSON (a JavaScript object notation) language to tell the computer how to put text together piece by piece. We have to thank Kate Compton for this because Cheap Bots Done Quick really helps smooth the process. I was able to start a small tweet bot experiment, using the 13 phrases quoted above, over on Twitter. My Twitter learning curve also included practices as basic as creating the name of the twitter account. I thought this process would be straight forward, but I learned an important lesson … that the machine would conflate my brackets in TaleOfAGreatSham(e)Text to a shorter version. My Twitter handle is now @TaleOfAGreatSh1 and I know not to choose a long title for the next project!

QR Codes

I also used Microsoft Excel to create QR codes from the 13 phrases. This was a process of designing coloured versions and simply exporting graphics. There are many possibilities for the use of QR codes, they can include links to websites, be used to send SMS messages, or to send emails, add events to calendars, to use geo-location. I am inspired by their capabilities to be used for communication. Currently, this work investigates the use of QR Codes to display plain text on a mobile phone.


I asked for some help from some wonderful women. Thanks to Martina Murray, Niamh Browne, Maura McHugh, Pauline Ashwood, Ashling Cahill, Jane Walsh and Lelia Doolan for taking the time to record the phrases. I spent some time chopping up the audio file and processing them in the Digital Audio Workstation, Reaper. Each edited file is then exported as individual regions. I further process these files in MetaSynth, where I also created various image/audio pieces from the words: “Resistance”, “Black Silk”, “13 Women”, “1881” “Female Branch”, and “Simultaneously”. They are banners, informed by the power of protest. I include the audio file for “1881” below.


The audio-images are then imported into the game development environment of Unity. Working in a game engine is an exciting prospect for a composer. We are presented with the opportunity to work with our audio files in 3d, in 2d and in animated motion. There is an interesting time-line feature which enables the programming of actions, sounds and visuals and the ability to export a working app as a HTML file, so that the ‘game-score’ can be played in a browser.

Digital Mediums

The work-in-progress is currently available as an electronic text online via Twitter, on SoundCloud, and with a commentary via WordPress. I will also start a podcast to discuss the pre-compositions of the next part of the work and share more of Tale 0f a Great Sham(e)Text in the near future.

Title Screen for Tale of a Great Shame(e)Text


Boulez, Pierre. Boulez on Music Today.  London: Faber and Faber, 1971.

Campbell, Edward. Music After Deleuze. London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Emmerson, Simon and Landy, Leigh. Eds. Expanding the Horizon of Electroacoustic Music Analysis. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Flores, Leonardo. How To Tell The Generations Apart. [online] Available at: http://leonardoflores.net/blog/lecture-third-generation-electronic-literature/ [Accessed on: 1st August 2019]

Funkhauser, Christopher. Prehistoric Digital PoetryAn Archaeology of Forms, 1959–1995. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007.

Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: What is it? [online] Available at: https://eliterature.org/pad/elp.html [Accessed on: 1st August 2019]

Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Indiana:University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

Parnell, Anna. Tale of a Great Sham. Arlen House, 1986.


The best part of independence is the Independence of mind. — Anna Parnell


Tale Of A Great Sham(e)Text would be nothing without the women who have generously given their time to record phrases from the book.

Thanks to: Pauline Ashwood, Niamh Browne, Ashling Cahill, Lelia Doolan, Dr. Eilblís Farrell, Lucy Keaveney, Dr. Karlin Lillington, Mary McDonald, Maura McHugh, Martina Murray, Dara O’Hare and Jane Walsh.

I really appreciate your help and your voices.