Artist-Created Lamps Are Listening To Your Conversations And Tweeting Them

Artist-Created Lamps Are Listening To Your Conversations And Tweeting Them

Have you recently been revealing your deepest, darkest secrets while sitting suspiciously close to an otherwise normal-looking lamp? If so, those secrets are probably on Twitter. Wired reports that two Brooklyn artists have installed Wi-Fi enabled microphones into lamps all over New York City, which send audio to Mechanical Turks who Tweet what they hear.

Brooklyn artists Brian House and Kyle McDonald (whom you may recall from the 2011 project in which he installed programs on Apple Store computers that snapped photos of customers’ faces and uploaded them to a server, causing the Secret Service to confiscate two computers from his apartment) created Conversnitch as a way to “raise questions about the nature of public and private spaces in an era when anything can be broadcast by ubiquitous, Internet-connected listening devices.” To do so, they’ve built eavesdropping lightbulbs out of miniature computers, microphones, LEDs and flower pots and screwed them into existing lamps around the city. Snippets of the audio they pick up are then uploaded to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform using the nearest Wi-Fi, where Internet users are paid small amounts of money to transcribe and Tweet them from @Conversnitch.

So where are these nosy little lamps? According to the video below, McDonald and House have placed them in Washington Square Park, a library, a bedroom and a McDonald’s—let us know if you can identify any other specifics using the context clues in the video:

A quick look at @Conversnitch’s Tweets (which go all the way back to last September, although there it doesn’t appear to have been in use from October 8 to April 5) reveals something not-so-shocking about humanity, which is that we’re an awfully negative bunch. The vast majority of the snippets sound like they should be paired with a dramatic sigh or a badger-faced expression of judgment.

A few examples:

And the whiniest, most complain-y of all? This guy, blaming his “interrupted broadcast” on “this whole Twitter fad”:

But hey, we’ll attribute it to the fact that these quotes were taken from people currently inside of a McDonald’s or Washington Square Park during rush hour.

Follow Rebecca Jennings on Twitter @rebexxxxa

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