Conversation and Computation

NYU ITP Spring 2015
Class website

Course Description

Technology is becoming a part of every conversation we have. What influence does it have, and how might it be further leveraged to create new possibilities? This class explores various ways conversation may be analyzed, generated, and affected by computation. Specifically, we will study methods of linguistic analysis (LIWC, LSM, sentiment analysis) and body language analysis (face tracking, expression detection, Kinect). We will experiment with conversation automation (markov chains, chatbots, email scripting, social media APIs), and building software apps (Google Hangout apps, browser extensions, Skype API, Twilio API, webRTC) and physical devices (Arduino, RPi) for augmenting and affecting conversation. Finally, we will look at more public interventions, involving performance and text displays.

The class will be based around three month-long projects, complemented by readings and shorter research exercises. This will be further contextualized by conversation analysis ideas from sociology and psychology, performance studies, other artists working with these themes.

Main Topics

Linguistic analysis
Scripting, automation, and bots
Physical augmentation
Physical analysis
Physical alternatives
Performing conversation
Public conversation

Selected Readings

Sara Hendren, All Technology Is Assistive
Ryan Budish, What My Hearing Aid Taught Me About The Future Of Wearables, The Atlantic
Bucher, Taina, 2014, About a bot: Hoax, fake, performance art, M/C Journal, vol 17, no. 3
Leonard Richardson, Bots Should Punch Up
Jacob Gaboury, Rhizome, A Queer History of Computing
Golan Levin, Computer Vision for Artists and Programmers
Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications. Richard Szeliski. September 3, 2010 draft c 2010 Springer.
Chloë Bass, Hyperallergic, How Writing Is Like Performance, November 2013
Erving Goffman, Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1967.

Student Work

Chang Liu, Oryan Inbar, Ava Huang, Social Clinic

Chang Liu, Oryan Inbar, Scent of Conversation

Manxue Wang, David Cihelna, Craig Pickard, Karthik Pantajali, this.mirror


Sam Lavigne, CSPAN-5

Melissa Kang, Soni Hahn, Spit Shield

Ross Goodwin,