The Listening Post

Yesterday I took the team on a little road trip as a well-deserved thank you for all the hard work.

(If you are a

media planner

and looking for a

job in new media

in either the UK or US then you should come check out the

iCrossing site

for more information).

We went to the

Science Museum in London

to go and witness The Listening Post exhibition.

"Devised by sound artist Ben Rubin and statistician and artist Mark Hansen, this electronic, audio-visual installation, purchased with the aid of The Art Fund, takes fragments of live text from thousands of internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and other public forums, displaying the words across a suspended lattice of small screens while simultaneously reading – or singing – them out using a voice synthesizer. The result is a kind of symphony of online chatter."

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. When we first arrived it was a dark and quiet room and I thought it was switched off. But motion detectors noted our presence and 1 small screen in the bottom corner of the room lit up and started to share fragments of someone's online conversation.

A computerised voice began to read some of this text out and you have an odd voyeuristic feeling, as though you are watching something you shouldn't have access to.

Another screen flickered to life, and another, until there was a mass of discussion flowing before your eyes. You could quite easily go mad watching this, and I didn't want to leave - that feeling of maybe missing something interesting that would happen just after you are gone!

At one point the system latched onto the phrase 'i like...' and captured fragments of text that included it. An amazing array, anything from 'i like you' to 'i like the theory but the delivery would be difficult to manage'.

It's a great way to get a sense for both the quantity of online discussion and chatter, but also how utterly boring and useless most of it is! Highly recommended.


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