Individual Work

Tower is a work by Simon Biggs, in collaboration with Mark Shovman, presented in 2011 in the context of the “Poetry Beyond Text” project. Tower is an interactive virtual reality environment used as an interface for automatic text generation articulated with speech recognition. This work reflects on the materiality of language through the experimentation of digital interfaces, pointing to the intricate relationship between writing and reading in the context of automatically generated literature. Through visualization, speech recognition and predictive text algorithms, Tower explores the interrelations between the words spoken by the reader and the associations that emerge from them, based on the combined text of Homer's Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses. While highlighting the multimedial nature of electronic literature, this work reflects on the recursive interrelation between reading and writing, the problematics of perspective and discourse, or the ways in which language is distributed through a hybrid textual system.

The allegoric image of the Tower of Babel invokes the incompletion and the heterogeneous nature of discourse and meaning, both situated in a field of many concurrent and alternate voices. In this piece, the reader is not only a producer of utterances that become lost in time: the text generator listens to each reader and, as it incorporates the new words spoken by all users, it learns, thus augmenting its database. Hence, the readers' words become the machines' words and both become the text. The reader becomes a co-writer. The intermingling of these two positions is mirrored by the intermingling of the utterances composing the red and white spirals, highlighting the recursive inter-relation between actual and alternate speeches, between self and otherness, between human and machine.