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Listening Post

This was so mesmerizing, I could have stayed here all day, ignored Escher, and sat on the couch just listening to the ticks, clacks, and the computer voice wash over me.


“What would 100,000 people chatting on the Internet sound and look like?” In the year 2000, this was the deceptively simple question that motivated sound artist Ben Rubin and statistician Mark Hansen to collaborate on what you are currently hearing and seeing.


Listening Post analyzes all the text—typed just moments ago—by tens of thousands of people in Internet chat rooms around the world. It presents them as six different “movements,” combining musical tones, sound effects, synthesized voice, and scrolling text. For example, in the first movement, Listening Post monitors and displays a randomly typed text beginning with “I am.” It then searches the Internet for related phrases, creating a simultaneously funny, sad, nonsensical, pathetic, yearning, quotidian, and ultimately mesmerizing tonal poem of identity in the Internet age.


For centuries, the soaring buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and luminous stained glass of cathedrals, along with hymns and chants, have transmitted that which is beyond expression. Using algorithms, software, and data mining, Listening Post generates a similar experience around what sometimes seems beyond comprehension. Hansen and Rubin’s art facilitates a human-level connection to the immeasurable scale, vast content, and nano-immediacy of our communications universe.


For more info, go here.


Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin.

Supporting hardware and software, 146 x 233 x 31 inches.


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Taken on March 17, 2007