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Machine Listening

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Machine Listening

Our devices are listening to us. Previous generations of audio-technology transmitted, recorded or manipulated sound. Today our digital voice assistants, smart speakers and a growing range of related technologies are increasingly able to analyse and respond to it as well. Scientists and engineers increasingly refer to this as “machine listening”, though the first widespread use of the term was in computer music.


Machine listening is much more than just a new scientific discipline or vein of technical innovation however. It is also an emergent field of knowledge-power, of data extraction and colonialism, of capital accumulation, automation and control. It demands critical and artistic attention.


At Unsound 2020: Intermission, we are joining forces with Liquid Architecture, an Australian organisation for the sonic arts, to launch MACHINE LISTENING, a new collaborative project engaging artists, musicians, writers, activists and educators. 


Across three days at the start of October, we will investigate the implications of the coming world of listening machines in both its dystopian and utopian dimensions. Comprising conversations, performance, provocations and writing from contributors around the world, the online gatherings are divided into three sections, open to all:


2nd October - Register here: Against The Coming World of Listening Machines

3rd October - Register here: Lessons In How (Not) To Be Heard 

4th October - Register here: Listening With The Pandemic


These sessions will be accompanied by launching an open curriculum comprising interviews, audio, video, and essays corresponding to the themes and sessions above.


To quote Liquid Architecture: “Amidst oppressive and extractive forms of state and corporate listening, practices of collaborative study, experimentation and resistance will, we hope, enable us to develop strategies for recalibrating our relationships to machine listening, whether that be through technological interventions, alternative infrastructures, new behaviors, or political demands. With so many cultural producers - whose work and research is crucial for this kind of project - thrown into deeper precarity and an uncertain future by the unfolding pandemic, we also hope that this project will operate as a quasi-institution: a site of collective learning about and mobilisation against the coming world of listening machines.”


CONTRIBUTORS include Angie Abdilla (Old Ways New), Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Alex Ahmed (Project Spectra), Mark Andrejevic, Andrew Brooks, DeForrest Brown Jr. (Speaker Music), Kate Crawford (AI Now), André Dao, Debris Facility, Mat Dryhurst (Interdependence), Jenny Kennedy, Vladan Joler, Karolina Iwańska (Panoptykon Foundation), Jules LaPlace, Halcyon Lawrence, Jùnchéng Billy Lì, Stefan Maier, Shannon Mattern, Lauren McCarthy, Yeshimabeit Milner (Data for Black Lives), Jazz Money, Thao Phan, Kathy Reid (Mozilla), Joel Spring, Tom Smith, Yolande Stengers, Hito Steyerl, Jennifer Walshe.