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Human-scale Natural Language Processing

Allison Parrish, Ilona Brand, Yadira Sánchez
Section 1: June 13, 2024 to July 18, 2024
Section 2: June 15, 2024 to July 20, 2024

(5 classes)
Section 1: Thursdays, 7–10pm ET Section 2: Saturdays, 1–4pm ET
Online (Zoom)
$750 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on April 15, 2024

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Human-scale Natural Language Processing, re-establishes computation as a tool in the radical writer’s toolbox. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a subfield of AI that drives pervasive technologies like spell check, search, bots and content moderation. This multi-billion dollar, energy-intensive industry increasingly dictates the shape of everyday language while perpetuating harmful biases. We will practice "human-scale" natural language processing by forgoing pre-existing datasets and models in favor of communally-written texts. This includes exercises in which participants invent new textual categories and hand-tag each other's writing. Participants will learn the basics of text processing, analysis and generation in Python, including parsing, regular expressions, Markov chains and vector similarity.  Many exercises will be performed using analog media as well (for example, cut-ups, free-writes, etc.). In addition, we will prioritize technical approaches that function well on low-end hardware rather than carbon-intensive computation. The goal of the class is for participants to learn more about themselves and their classmates through these communal acts of computational reading and re-writing.


Human-scale Natural Language Processing is one of two classes that SFPC is fundraising for in our Community Fundraiser. SFPC has not raised enough money to offer this class tuition free as of January 9, 2024. We will continue to accept donations towards the scholarship fund for this class. Donate to help us offer this class for free.


No classes during the Fourth of July holiday weekend on Thursday, July 4 and Saturday, July 6.

Course of Study

  • Week 1: Text as material
  • Week 2: Foundations of computational composition in Python
  • Week 3: Extremely small language models
  • Week 4: Minimum viable representations of syntax
  • Week 5: Semantics + showcase prep


Technical Experience
  • This class is a beginning level programming course. No previous programming experience is required, though there will be opportunities for deeper exploration of class concepts available to more experienced programmers.
Time & Workload
  • 1 hour spent on reading a maximum of 20 pages of every week
  • 2 hours spent working on coding tutorials and assignments outside of class
  • Computer or laptop with a strong Wi-Fi connection
Learning Outcomes

By the end of this class, participants will:

  • Achieve beginning to intermediate proficiency in technical tools relevant to language and computation, including the Python programming language
  • Become familiar with conventions surrounding the structure of natural language processing data sets, and learn how to collect and create small-scale corpora for creative use
  • Become conversant in current discourses surrounding the ethics, philosophy and politics of data collection, data labeling, and how language is represented computationally
  • Understand the application of computational processes in poetic practice

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if you:

  • Are interested in anti-commercial approaches and applications of natural language processing
  • Are interested in eco-conscious applications of computational processes
  • Want to develop do-it-yourself (DIY) datasets and corpora
  • Have a writing practice
  • Want to develop a writing practice
  • Are experiencing writer's block
  • Want to practice collective writing
  • Have a little bit of experience with Python and Jupyter Notebook — or are just curious about programming
  • Are interested in the underpinnings of generative AI (and alternatives to generative AI in the realm of creative writing)

This class may NOT be for you if you:

  • Are looking for a coding bootcamp

Meet the Teachers


Allison Parrish

Allison Parrish is a computer programmer, poet, and game designer whose teaching and practice address the unusual phenomena that blossom when language and computers meet. She is an Assistant Arts Professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Allison was named "Best Maker of Poetry Bots" by the Village Voice in 2016, and her zine of computer-generated poems called "Compasses" received an honorary mention in the 2021 Prix Ars Electronica. Allison is the co-creator of the board game Rewordable (Clarkson Potter, 2017) and author of several books, including @Everyword: The Book (Instar, 2015) and Articulations (Counterpath, 2018). Her poetry has recently appeared in BOMB Magazine and Strange Horizons. Allison is originally from West Bountiful, Utah and currently lives in Brooklyn.

she/her · website · twitter · instagram


Ilona Brand

Ilona is an artist, extrovert, teacher and technologist who sees their work as love notes to themself, the world, and others. They work across mediums using music, poetry, code, drawing, and their jewish practice as tools of expression both publicly and privately. These days they are particularly interested in trans narratives of liberation, judaism as a site of ritual, visibility on and offline, and how we present ourselves and our work to the world.

he/they · instagram


Yadira Sánchez

Yadira is an artist and technologist cultivating tech ecologies. They are using software, hardware and data to bring together ecological thinking and tech making as a way to co-create and deepen connections with ecosystems. Parting from her rural ubpringing, Yadira is invested in, inspired and informed by the traditional ecological knowledge of her rural community, where she will continue to co-create communitarian tech with.Yadira has been invited to present her work at the Cambridge Centre for Data Driven Discovery and the Ida B Wells Just Data Lab at Princeton University.

she/elles · website · twitter · instagram


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

What is an unconventional type of data that you’re interested in collecting? Why?

Applications open until Applications closed on April 15, 2024.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on . Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 5 classes, it costs $750 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.