20 July, 2012
Landlord Radio is an algorithmically generated internet radio station. The station is primarily voiced by The Landlord, the host of a virtual bar in the TinyWeb, and plays a continuous stream of computer generated BotStep music interspersed with regular spoken word programming.
Listen to Landlord Radio
All the content is generated by code, from the banter of the DJ to the content of the programming, voiced by various distinct speech synthesis characters.
The music is also algorithmically generated by software created by Thor Magnusson
Landlord Radio has a series of regularly scheduled programmes, each generated on-the-fly just before broadcast. Currently the schedule looks like this:
- News – on the hour and half hour
- Traffic – 03 and 33 minutes past the hour
- AlgoChat – 05 and 35 minutes past the hour
- Adverts – 15 and 45 minutes past the hour
- Horoscope – 20 and 50 minutes past the hour
The tone is light-hearted* and fast paced. [* may contain synthesised swearing]
The notion of auto-generated text has long been an interest of mine, from the simple twitter robots (the__truth, the_w0rd_0f_g0d) through the autogenerated music reviews of CutUp magazine and the ongoing installation work as part of The Fortunecats. I am interested in the way a the human mind tries to construct meaning from cutup texts and often the imperfections (and the associated cognitive dissonance) is an exciting part of the aesthetic.
However, this project goes beyond simple content generation. A significant proportion of the words spoken by the landlord are prompted by actions inside various Skype conversations and interactions on Twitter. This is not simply a direct broadcast of typed text, the human prompts are mediated by a series of generative software modifiers. There is no way to directly dictate what the Landlord says, every utterance is uniquely generated. I find this idea fascinating: here we have an entity (The Landlord) who exists semi-autonomously, producing his own words alongside text ‘prompted’ by genuine human action.
The Landlord is a cyborg.
The internet is increasingly populated by entities trying to pass themselves off as human, to gain our trust (usually as a route to our bank accounts). Currently, they aren’t very sophisticated, however there is some interesting work being done in the area of autonomous web agents which display human-like qualities of intention and emotion.
Indeed, a recent patent filing from Apple suggests that generative ghosts of ourselves will increasingly form part of our online experience.
The Landlord evolved in the Phactory Bar, where regulars collaboratively build on his codebase ( primarily by the talented Henry Cooke ). This chatbot (The Landlord) provides generative text responses to certain keywords in a Skype chat session.
[19/07/2012 18:16:04 19 July 2012] shardcore: !drink
[19/07/2012 18:16:28 19 July 2012] The Landlord begrudgingly serves shardcore a quart of Tonto.
[19/07/2012 18:18:10 19 July 2012] shardcore: !ponder
[19/07/2012 18:18:11 19 July 2012] The Landlord peers at shardcore, picks at his nose and says ‘Keep watch for the appearing mushroom.’
There are currently 37 keywords supported, and the interjections of the The Landlord provide a humorous side-channel to an ongoing conversation.
Landlord Radio emerged from the desire to physically instantiate the landlord as a ‘real’ speaking entity who could join us for our forthcoming presentation at Campus Party in Berlin next month.
The words of The Landlord are sent from a Skype client to the shardcore servers, rendered via a speech synthesiser, and broadcast back to the internet as an Icecast stream.
Algo Chat This is a more sophisticated show, where the Landlord is controlled by a custom Eliza AI system, which interrogates a piece of text (e.g. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzsche or The Lyrics of Mark E Smith). The conversations are randomly generated, but have a degree of internal consistency, due to the use of Eliza.
Traffic A brief (and often profane) traffic report.
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