Thousand Questions

This artwork is commissioned by Microwave International New Media Arts Festival 2012

More photos here

Title: If I wrote you a love letter would you write back? (and thousands of other questions) / 一封不回的情書? 千言萬語無人回?

Year of production: 2012 (ver 1), 2016 (ver 2)

Medium: Installation

:: Description ::

In collaboration with Helen Pritchard

In this work the network asks “If I wrote you a love letter would you write back?” Like the love letters which appeared mysteriously on the noticeboards of Manchester University’s Computer Department in the 1950s, thousands of texts circulate as computational processes perform the questions (perhaps as an expanded Turing test) on its listeners. These questions are extracted in real-time from Twitter with the keyword search of the ‘?’ symbol to create a spatio-temporal experience. The computerized voice the audience hears is a collective one, an entanglement of humans and non-humans, that circulates across networks.

The visual-audio installation piece If I wrote you a love letter would you write back? uses procedural translation to collect discourse from Twitter and translate it into spoken words as well as unreadable characters. Tweets are queried from the live web based on the presence of the “?” character, which renders the search an at-times poignant record of questions that might otherwise go unheard and unanswered on Twitter’s broadcast network. The poetics of the piece thus combine human-generated language and computer-generated characters and words, rendering the human inhuman through the process of text and audio translation while removing the questions from their original context and conversations. As an installation, the piece engulfs the viewers in an endless set of unanswered queries.

作品藉一網絡問題:「一封不回的情書?千言萬語無人回?」出發,大灑創意, 利用編碼程式把網絡空間上成千上萬的問題帶到展覽空間。這些文本均從社交網站Twitter 即時收集, 摘取,並同時轉換為語音編碼。聆聽是解碼形式之一, 作品中機器衍生裝置會不斷編輯、編製和解讀文本。當網上文本被轉換為語音,作品會變成怎樣? 當觀眾聆聽由電腦演繹出我們熟悉的tweet時,觀眾的感受又如何? 觀眾所聽到的聲音集合人聲、非人聲及經電腦混合處理於一身。語音串流片刻地整合混雜的網上文本,形成框架,「人聲」及「非人聲」之整合背後蘊含箇中的「咨詢」邏輯。 觀眾能決定作品中「問題」的次序,當觀眾拿起耳筒機之時,新的文字次序便會產生。觀眾的行為亦同時把文本既有的空間特性,即時性與存檔文本、線性及隨機次序模糊化。 正如在一九五零年代在英國曼徹斯特大學電腦學系的佈告版上神秘出現的情書, 此作品的問題由機械裝置演繹,會跟觀眾一起不斷演變衍生,這或許是 Turing Test 的廷伸。

:: Video documentation ::

:: Recorded sound clips ::

Tweets on 29 Oct 2012:

:: How it works ::

The software harvests Twitter data using web API in real time, searching for a specific keyword: a question mark. The program deconstructs the questions and displays each character on a screen. A computerized voice speaks the unanswered query. Code and network manipulate, reconfigure, load, encode and decode questions. The program performs in an endless loop.
older version: The installation is composed of wireless headsets that speak tweets from Twitter. The tweets are extracted using open API and searching for a specific keyword. One headset speaks live tweets extracted on-the-fly via Bluetooth connection. The others speak archived tweets from the database. Code and network manipulate, reconfigure, load, encode and decode questions.
本作品由無線耳筒播放社交網站 Twitter’s tweet。 電腦利用應用程式介面(API),在Twitter中尋找關鍵字,然後收集及摘取文本。裝置中其中一部無線耳筒機會通過藍牙即時連接雲端上的tweet,而其它無線耳筒機將播放數據庫中的tweet。電腦編碼設計與網絡空間互動把"問題"操控、重新編排、加載、 編輯和解碼。

More about the research & testing:

:: Review/ Press/ PR ::

:: Exhibition/Presentation Record(s) ::

  • Jun, 2016 (ver 2.0), International Live Interfaces Conference @ Sussex, UK
  • Feb, 2016 (ver 1.0), Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 3
  • Mar, 2015 (ver 1.0), Artistic Research, Kunsthal Aarhus @ Denmark
  • Apr, 2013 (ver 1.0), Digital Futures, Victoria and Albert Museum @ London, UK
  • Nov, 2012 (ver 1.0), Microwave International New Media Arts Festival @Hong Kong

:: Technical & Production ::

  • Software: Mac OS X 10.7+ (with Internet), Processing 1.5.1-2.x-3.x
  • Hardware (flexible arrangement): A screen + headphone
    • Ver 1.0 – bluetooth + microSD enable headphone, USB dongle, speaker
  • Requirement: Stable Internet connection

:: Acknowledgement ::

Microwave Festival; British Council Hong Kong; Polly Poon; Gillian Wylde; HighWire Doctoral Training Centre at Lancaster University; School of Arts and New Media, University of Hull;