VLTK is an ongoing research project initiated by Cristina Cochior, Julie Boschat-Thorez and Manetta Berends that aims to connect the vernacular to “language processing”, a practice that refers to any kind of computational treatment of language. By combining these two, it explores what forms of “vernacular language processing” there could be.
The specific focus of VLTK on language intentionally blurs the boundaries between tool (code as language) and material (language as code). Language processing tools are often made as instruments that can be used for any kind of textual material, making them effective tools for certain tasks, but bombastic, rough, and imprecise on other occasions as they process text without engaging with its content or context. This tension between tool and material creates a generative space to formulate questions: How does language change when it undergoes computational processes if we don’t rely on the dualisms? How can language processing tools operate with a sensibility for all sorts of different complexities, specificities, and weights of language? How can we develop ways of close reading through and with code? Whose language is being processed by code? And who is affected by the logics of these systems? Can we think of computational operations as transmutational processes if we understand the transformations of language from one thing to another as a form of computational alchemy?