Ashley

During summer 2009, I enjoyed an EdLab Digital Art Residency at Teachers College. EdLab is way up on the top floor of the school's library, and is a very big room with a lot of tables covered with electronic gadgets. It was great to be able to spend a couple months with the people there.

I worked on a project called Ashley, a talking computer (maybe related to the long ago digital poet project) that speaks knowledge from the library. The computer reads in the least popular popular searches from the online card catalog, and has a roughly OCRed fluency with some library books I found of interest. A chorus of computerized voices read this all out, speaking in a staggered overlapping rhythm. Colored rectangles and lines (looking a bit like the cover of a '70s educational text or old-fashioned digital bouncing balls) slide about the screen.

There's a fancy custom controller which consists of two buttons and a lever. This lets viewers/users choose what Ashley will say and how it'll say it.

Here is a video of it running:

The project is named after the composer Robert Ashley, whose operas and recordings of overlapping voices are just beautiful and amazing.

Some sound from Ashley was in Seth Kelly's great Audio Show at Friedrich Petzel Gallery.

Triple Canopy put up a podcast of Ashley speaking, as well as an excerpt from Seth Kelly's audio show, which also includes Ashley at work.

Gottesman Libraries installed a version of the project in autumn 2009.

There's some raw documentation up at a Teachers College site.