Co-writing of the scenario for Repeat After Me! a project by Studio Moniker commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) Berlin.
Synthetic voice software is currently one of the fastest advancing branches of big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft. The computer-controlled voice sounds ever more human and lifelike, it can even mimick imperfections of speech like “eh” or “hmm.”
Human voices not only produce language though, but the human itself. They are emotional, unique, transmitting subconscious personal information. The synthetic voice bots are, by contrast, voices without a human self. How does it feel to communicate with them; to feed them with one’s own human voice?
Repeat After Me is installed in one of the former telephone booths in the HKW Congress Hall and invites visitors to talk with a bot: Can you outsmart the algorithm? What is human about a voice? Where are the limitations of personal expression? What power is there in joint speech?
After picking up the telephone, participants are asked to repeat words, sentences and sounds. These sounds are mixed with sound recordings of previous visitors and played back as a sound piece inside the booth. Also a twitterbot tweets short audio clips from the piece every now and then.
In 2018 Google open-sourced the Quickdraw data set, “the world’s largest doodling data set”. It consists of 345 categories and over 15 million drawings. For obvious reasons the data set was missing some explicit categories that many people enjoy drawing. The moral guidelines big tech companies are imposing on the global digital community and the widespread acceptance of this reality, was the onset for my friends at Moniker to publish an appendix to the Google Quickdraw data set.
Do Not Draw a Penis functions as an agent to collect inappropriate doodles from people who are not willing to stay within the behavioral guidelines set by social network providers.
10K of doodles have been collected and formatted the same way as Google’s dataset. They can be downloaded here.
The website for which I wrote the interface texts in collaboration with Roel Wouters continues to collect doodles.
Do Not Draw a Penis is available at HKW in one of the telephone booths – and at → donotdrawapenis.com
Concept and Production Moniker
Development Tjerk Woudsma, Thomas Boland, Jae Perris
Voice Luna Maurer
Texts Kathrin Hero, Moniker
Commisioners Mozilla Foundation, HKW
→ Doodling a penis is a light-hearted symbol for a rebellious act (The Verge)
→ A game about automated censorship (Medium)
→ It’s a bit like art school with just flowers on the wall (Its Nice That)