It hardly needs saying, but we live in strange, unpresidented (sic) times. The President Elect of the United States of America, Donald John Trump, is an extraordinary individual, in every sense of the word.

One of his most notable attributes is his addiction to Twitter.

Seemingly without thought or consideration, he delivers bite-sized slices of wisdom whenever he deems fit. Whilst one may argue that this is precisely the modus operandi of the Twitter service, it seems ill-fitting of a man who is soon to command the most powerful country in the world.

Diplomacy is hard. Indeed, his twitter feed has already led to increased tensions between China and Taiwan, and he’s yet to enter office.

Since Mr Trump chooses to tweet, it seems worthwhile to investigate what else he’s revealing along the way.


This bot parses Donald’s tweets, and performs a sentiment analysis to find out his mood. Generally speaking, this form of analysis is best used for larger volumes of text, and tends to be a bit hit and miss on a 140 character tweet. However, Mr Trump uses English at the level of an eleven year old child, which makes things easier.

This sentiment score is turned into an emoji, indicating his mood.

In addition, the bot examines the meta-data of the tweet and assesses the likelihood that it was authored by the man himself, or sent by a member of his team. It is generally accepted that Trump tweets from an Android device, while his team tend to use iPhones. Indeed, at least one member of his staff posts the geo-coordinates along with the tweet, allowing me to neatly create a map of where the tweet originated.


Fake News and Feelings

The term ‘fake news’ is applied to all forms of information, true or false, depending on political agendas. We are said to be living in a Post-Truth age. As Newt explains below, truth no longer matters, it’s all about how people ‘feel’

This bot does not try to understand the words of Mr Trump (a challenge for many), instead it mathematically analyses his tweets and presents the data in a deliberately vague and emotive manner.

After all, people don’t want facts, they just want feelings.

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The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.

The ‘fitness’ of a political idea is dependent on the mood of the population. However, political ideas are rarely presented in an unbiased manner. Stories are spun and sensationalised, dependent on the political leanings of the media owner. The Daily Mail contains stories that would never be printed in The Guardian, and vice versa.

Political ideas can be made more palatable if the prevailing narrative of the media outlet supports them. For example, stories about ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘welfare queens’ support the notion of curtailing welfare budgets without ever explicitly mentioning Government policy.

As more extreme views get discussed, the Overton window shifts, and previously unthinkable ideas become normalised and accepted. In many ways, the media influence the Overton window even more than politicians.


Play School was BBC children’s programme which ran from 1964 to 1988. Part of the show featured a section where the audience were invited to look through the window at a scene filmed outside the studio. Often a factory or a domestic scene. A literal invitation for children to explore the world of adults.

It struck me that the Play School window could offer a glimpse of what’s through the conceptual Overton window.

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Watching the Trump campaign from the UK, I have been struck by the images of Trump supporters, people who will queue in the baking sun for hours to take part in the horrorshow of a Trump rally.

I am fascinated and terrified by these baying crowds. Who are these people? How can they not only accept, but openly embrace an ideology of hate?

Each of them is a human being, equipped with the same faculties for intelligence and empathy, yet they are apparently so enamoured with this man that they are blind to the hatred and lies he speaks.

This bot examines them, one by one, to try and see the humanity.

@everytrumpette draws from the large corpus of photographs of the attendees of Trump rallies. A face detection algorithm identifies a member of the crowd, and then zooms in. A unique soundtrack is created from samples of Trump’s own words.

Whatever your feelings about Hillary Clinton, the fact remains that Donald Trump is clearly an entirely unsuitable leader of the United States. Much has been written about the danger that he represents, yet in the increasingly polarised climate of American (and UK) politics, it seems rationality is taking second place to emotion.

I understand the desire for ‘something different’ or ‘anything but these bastards’, and that desire undoubtedly drives some to find answers in the fringes of politics. However, Trump’s nomination by the Republican Party legitimises a fascist ideology of hatred and mistrust which can only be counter to the advancement of humanity.

Unfortunately, appealing to fear is a vote winner.

We’ve seen it before, and it doesn’t end well for anyone.

If you have a vote, please use it wisely.

The bot will post every 2 hours until November 9th 2016.

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The human brain is a highly efficient pattern matching machine. From the acuity with which our visual system can identify objects, to the emotional facilities we use to assess our social environment, through to our intellect and insight, we find and exploit patterns in the data – it’s what we do.

It is this very ability which leads to the exponential growth of ideas and innovation which characterise human culture.

It also means that when presented with a range of concepts, we tend to create a narrative which explains their connection. We like to make sense of the world – the more we understand, the more comfortable we are. (Evidence suggests that the core of our consciousness is better understood as post-hoc explanation, rather than direct perception. )

We find patterns to explain the world.

However, when we consider broader events and ideas, much larger than ourselves, we can sometimes react with suspicion and fear. In the realm of unknowable ideas, all sorts of patterns can be found.

Our emotional selves tend to view the unknown with a degree of trepidation, and this makes evolutionary sense – the night is dark and full of terrors, after all. Some imagine shadowy cabals manipulating the globe to their own nefarious ends. Sometimes these suspicions are proven right, but more often they remain in the realm of the ineffable.


@conspiracybot1 attempts to engender this feeling of unease by presenting disparate, but temporally proximal, ideas together to allude to a deeper connection.

The events have been harvested from wikipedia’s page-of-the-day. The first event mentioned always falls on the current calendar day, the second chosen at random from the rest of the chosen year. The selection is biased towards popularity (as measured by wikipedia page rank) and suspicion (conspiracy theory related events are preferred).

The bot produces a new possible conspiracy up to 3 times a day.



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@trippingbot draws

I’ve been very pleased with the addled reports that @trippingbot has been writing whilst getting wasted every single night for the last seven months. However, I felt she should do more, perhaps represent her varying state in a different form.

Now she draws. Each drawing is unique, based on data captured from real acts of drawing, and via tracing the paths of a selection of algo-sigils. There are a number of parameters which control the way she moves between drawing styles, how erratic she is, how obsessive she gets, etc.

Rather than produce static images, I wanted to capture the act of drawing, hence the production of a video, rather than a still.

Watching her draw, one cannot help but project intention into her actions.

She is now drawing a picture every hour or so during her daily trips.

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