Reality, imitation and reasoning with generated artefacts

A short post this time but I have been reminded me of something. A few months ago, news came through of the recreation of John F Kennedy’s lost speech (BBC news link) using voice synthesis. Small sections of voice with different pronunciations are algorithmically stitched together to present the whole voice as if it was real.

That was my original concern. The recreation of the voice, useful for representing the possible, needs a for of critical thinking. The digital has created an imitated object but, potentially, hidden its artifice.

I was reminded of this in a recent TechCrunch article about the use of Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN), This tech (scarily) lets video change reality. I see the use in films and updating an image but it has other uses, such as deepfakes. Though the posting of deepfakes is banned on some sites. As the Forbes link argues, some of this is through curiosity rather than malice but that doesn’t preclude malicious intent. Moving from pornography and the recreation, could a digital Hitler Diaries come about and how might it be discovered?

The questions at the back of my mind is how this technique can be thought about from the cultural or Humanities perspective. How does one begin to critically think about these things or discover them? Does this mean that Machine Learning might need to be added to a critical toolkit? What does it even mean to think about these to find them?


Science or digital culture?

I have been following a conversation on Twitter following a New York Times opinion piece about humanism: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/opinion/oh-the-humanities.html I agree with Douthat that anti-scientific sentiment in the humanities has more in common than it wants to admit with Christian humanism (and w Leavis, for that matter). I just don’t think that’s the path forward. I […]


A soupcon more social reading…

A short while ago, I noticed a way of reading using Twitter that I had not seen previously. It is something that I would like to investigate a little further but have parked it for now whilst I write a paper or two. I was skimming Twitter looking at something else, I saw this link […]


Social Reading

There is an interesting Twitter thread about the upcoming Trump / Putin summit in Helsinki. Leah McElrath has picked up one of Trump’s tweets and is using what appears to be a hybrid methodology to read it. I am still deciphering it in my head and unpicking the various parts but some of this is […]


Data as Narrative in Museum objects

I went to the Narrative as Data < > Data as Narrative workshop at Sussex Humanities Laboratory run by Alex Butterworth. Not having attended a hack for a while I wasn’t sure what to expect. After some time, I got involved with a hack on some museum data ina group that included Lisa Gee and […]


Pre-prints, conference papers and culture

Having come back to Humanities (but a new person in digital) from a Computer Science background where there is a culture of the pre-prints though Arxiv. I have also come across a social science version of this but so far have not come across a digital humanities version. I do wonder then if this is […]


Pandas, historical dates and formatting error

Programming with dates and times are always fun. I had hoped that after some time working with them at JISCmail on a central service that I could be forgiven their gory details. Sadly some work with pandas bit me again in this area… I have been updating my Digital Humanities Summer School talk on Reproducibility […]


Thoughts on May’s border models

I’ve been thinking a little about Theresa May’s latest clarification of what her Government wants from Brexit and borders. I come at this merely as curious about some of the underlying models. A line in Dan Roberts’ analysis sums up part of what is bothering me: May’s convoluted proposals for avoiding a customs union would […]


Welcoming the Videocracy

I’m currently reading Videocracy (Allocca, 2018). As the Head of Culture and Trends, there is a clear bias but the breathlessness of the writing is intriguing. Has YouTube style become writing style? Allocca highlights some interesting videos and extrapolates these into trends and themes. Some are long lasting such as the power and use of […]


High Frequency Trading Fans

Ticketmaster, a large purveyor of tickets, appear to be attempting to suggest how a genuine fan might be constructed: Tickets: is this the system to finally beat the touts? Having taken the email address, they want other details to check if a purchaser is a Verified Fan via social media. I do wonder how long […]