Everyday Voices and Voids: Reclaiming and Transcoding our Data as Performance

Responding to current concerns about the ubiquity of voice assistants, we will focus on building a series of performative artifacts that incorporate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and examine automation through the prism of “ghost work” that constantly support these systems. This invisible ubiquity of voice assistants—the Alexas and Siris of the world—has fundamentally changed how humans develop care for non-human machines. By allowing artificial intelligence agents to listen to our most private conversations in our most intimate spaces, we become receptive to receiving this mediated care, while forgetting or ignoring how much these automated interactions have been pre-scripted. This new found care reveals a world of human labor (e.g. mechanical turk), and of indefinitely stored personal data in physical locations that require a vast amount of resources to be maintained. While these interactions cultivate a sense of familiarization with the non-human, they also corroborate the impact of Late capitalism and the Anthropocene. Within these contradictions we see an opportunity to reclaim, examine, and ultimately transcode this data through an interdisciplinary performance project, with the aim to explore these new senses and meanings of care. We will develop embodied experiments using a combination of design, data-driven art, cyber crafts, found-object and traditional percussion instruments, spoken word, and movement, to defamiliarize encounters with voice assistants.

Audrey Desjardins is a design researcher and an Assistant Professor in Interaction Design at the University of Washington. She has spent the last several years using design as an approach to examine and critique current visions of IoT technologies which are too often grounded in homogeneous and detached views of the home. Her current projects touch on ways to inquire and reclaim IoT data through crafting and materializing ways of living with that data.

Afroditi Psarra is a multidisciplinary artist and an Assistant Professor of Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at the University of Washington. Her artistic interest focuses on the use of the body as an interface of control, and the revitalization of tradition as a methodology of hacking existing norms about technical objects. She uses cyber crafts and other gendered practices as speculative strings, and open-source technologies as educational models of diffusing knowledge.

Percussionist Bonnie Whiting’s work is grounded in historical experimental music for percussion and new commissioned pieces for speaking percussionist. Her projects probe the intersection of music and language, exploring how percussion instruments can imitate and stand in for the human voice and function as an extension of the body. She is Chair of Percussion Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Washington.