This project has been a long exploration, with several different iterations.
The original idea >> a ritual-space / magic circle where a router is constantly logging all data passing through it, which then becomes the learning/training data for a chat bot, which would become a collective conscience of sorts. This wasn't the most feasible, as collecting the data required setting up a man-in-the-middle attack, having people configure their computers, and the possibility of logging passwords etc.
I then toyed with the idea of the router as a medium – the router is already a middle-man of sorts between you and the information out there. I thought it would be interesting to use the text on a visited webpage as a corpus for a horoscope/fortune, or some kind of generated poetry – and an excuse to try out some text-generation tools and techniques. I thought it would be interesting to maintain the links on the page, allowing someone to continue exploring, or getting a further/deeper 'reading'. I figured it was important to leave google accessible, as theres probably only a small handful of webpages people know the URL to without googling.
I started exploring text manipulation, first with rhymes and parts of speech, then with markov chains, and then word-vectors. [ Perhaps I should have persisted and tried with tracery.. ? ]
couplets, parts of speech
markov chain rhyming couplets
word vectors, tainted with the word 'pregnant'
Trying these techniques out with random web pages did not prove to be very exciting though...
While doing this, I decided to obscure the google search results, to create a feeling of mystery / ambiguity about what was to follow
I liked this part – an element of surprise with the 'gatekeepers' of the internet... and google as a core element , given already established analogy of google as a fortune teller, predicting what you want based on all the data they track
I then tried creating a multi-person ritual experience, where I would ask participants questions, and they would 'tell' google the answers – the results they got back would be 3 randomly selected results of all participants searches...
This seemed potentially interesting, but felt more like an ice-breaker with unnecessary use of technology. Also telling google things often lead to results with the exact phrase in them, which made the answers very obvious...
I did like the idea of collecting all results and mixing them up – this felt in tune with the original idea.
Two other versions I played around with:
- a ritual with the obscured google results, mixing up over time, across multiple devices — but instead of prompts, this would happen with regular searches, forcing one to slow down, not having all the answers accessible immediately, and creating some kind of ritual space where our search results are shared
- a computer set up at a station as a fortune teller, where one can go ask google questions, and the results would be a random collection of every prior search