Zoom Reads You

Zoom Reads You (2020)
Interactive Web-based Multimedia Art
Supported by Nordic Summer University
Online Exhibition

What do our gestures, including our micro / macro facial expressions, nervous ticks, grimaces and glances say about us? What is the story we are telling intentionally or unintentionally when we are on video chat and how does this perpetual storytelling effect our understanding of ourselves and our world? What can we gain from a critical awareness of these questions in conversation with philosophical, aesthetic and sociological concerns?

Zoom Reads You is an interactive web-based creative writing experiment, recorded and performed by invited guests and an artificial intelligence. For a week-long online exhibition, visitors at Nordic Summer University were invited to have their web presence interpreted by a GPT-2 and computer vision-enabled creative writing program over a live stream. The project used FaceAPI.js to detect 7 different expressions: neutral, happy, sad, anger, disgust, fear, surprise to trigger related sound samples. These sound samples were based on works of literature written in the second person (“you”) as well as variations of these constructed by a GPT-2 fine-tuned model.

In light of COVID-19, “Zoom fatigue” has been recognized as a global phenomenon and the inadequacies of bandwidth-dependent correspondences to create intimacy or authentically compensate for IRL human interactions are apparent. At the same time, few efforts have been made towards exploring alternative platforms, such as responsive or generative technologies that might lend themselves to new modes of conversation. It is not a surprise that there has been a re-emergence in considerations of philosophical concepts like mind-body duality in conversation with transhumanist conceptions of the embedded technological future. From here, not only do familiar questions of monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare start to emerge but more specifically when (if ever) will the hybrid monkey-typewriter arrive and at what point do monkey and typewriter cease to be (individually) either monkey or typewriter? Zoom Reads You investigates some of these questions of authorship, autonomy, and individual vs. corporate identity while also touching on related issues of surveillance, self-surveillance, big data, and privacy.