Much of my work deals with the machinery of algorithms and their place as in the greater systems of human culture.

@hipsterbait1 is a bot that lives on twitter and tumblr, it creates ‘hipster bait’ in the form of post-post-ironic t-shirts, mashing up existing cultural referents into new combinations. It was inspired by a conversation with Rob Manuel, who suggested creating this known (hitherto humanly generated) meme in an algorithmic manner.

It set me thinking, I wondered if it would also be possible to create not only a representation of the t-shirt, but also the actual physical objects themselves.

The premise is a simple one. Take an image and place it with a recognisably wrong label. Offer the resulting t-shirt for sale.


The pleasure in these cognitively dissonant juxtapositions comes from our recognition that they come from the same class of things, but the referent is wrong. One of the most popular examples emerged immediately after the death of Lou Reed, featuring an image of Iggy Pop. It’s delightful because it allows us a moment of smugness as we recognise the ‘mistake’ being made. We wear this pun on a t-shirt as a form of social signaling – ‘Look at this joke I’ve recognised, do you recognise it as well?’ – it allows us to show a particular aspect of our taste to strangers, displaying an glimpse of our inner mental life to the world at large. For this to work, the juxtaposition has to be from the same domain; Lou Reed/Iggy Pop works, but Lou Reed/Katy Perry would not.

1398788781_43508_shirt 1398782865_78026_shirt

If we look closely, there are two distinct outputs to the system – the actual t-shirts (which remain in potentia until someone actually clicks ‘buy’), and the ‘shareable image’ which can be used as a signal of taste inside social networks. You don’t need to actually own the t-shirt to share the joke. The image fulfills much the same function in the ‘online’ world as the actual t-shirt does in the ‘offline’ world.

The entire process is automated – I have no control over the juxtapositions it makes, beyond defining the classes in which it is allowed to play. Whether the combinations are pleasing or not is entirely in the mind of the viewer.

You can follow @hipsterbait1 on twitter and tumblr.

Clicking on the image in tumblr will allow you to actually buy a physical t-shirt. If you should buy one, please send me a picture of you wearing it – you could be the first person to wear an algorithmically generated pun.

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Oh, her beautiful back (2014)

A painting of Chris T-T. I took the photographs whilst he was performing live. The title is a reference to the lyric he was singing at the moment I captured this image. (about 3:30 in the video below)

You should buy his latest album, The Bear, featuring this song. It’s good.


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As we proceed through life, we build up our own reality tunnel of knowledge, opinions and expectations.

Every now and then we are faced with a state of affairs to which we are unable to respond.

We stop and ask ‘why?’

As children we ask profound, innocent questions, such as ‘why is the sky blue?‘ or ‘where do baby tetse flies come from?

As adults these questions often become more mundane, and we look to popular culture for answers.

Culture, in its broadest sense, is the sum of our ideas and knowledge as a species. Twitter is a minute subsection of culture.


A mundane question I sometimes find myself asking is ‘what the hell is that, and why is it trending on twitter?’

This twitterbot attempts to answer that question. It asks why an entity is trending, then supplies an explanation harvested from the cruft of twitter itself.

The bot is not aiming to provide a ‘real’ explanation, there are plenty of other places for that. This is simply an experiment in dropping a line into the churning culture of social media and hoping to hook an answer, any answer. Often the results seem as valid (if not more so) than the prevailing cultural reality tunnel would have us believe. These juxtapositions (and our response to them) provide new ideas, new explanations, and new ‘truths’ for us to hang on to.

You can follow @cosbot1 here

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PyData 2014- “You give me data, I give you art”

Here’s my talk from PyData earlier this year – “You give me data, I give you art”

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