Searle’s Room

This project is a response to John Searle’s Chinese Room. It explores child-writing and child-speech as proto-languages, unintelligible in any conventional linguistic sense but rife with poetic possibilities and communicative in other registers, on the level of shared-developmental experience. The system is composed of a number of static materials and two active agents: a child speech synthesis system, and a mechatronic child drawing apparatus. The system operates in cycles: synthesizing child speech, which is then interpreted and transcribed by speech recognition system, in turn launching the drawing machine into a round of additions to a cumulative drawing on the wall. As the cycle repeats, periodic bursts of child speech are followed by the sounds of stepper motors and pen-and-ink inscription.

Children’s voices were sourced from an online speech research database, and videos of children babbling and learning speaking their color words. Child drawings were gathered from a range of sources demonstrating different levels of representational and typographic development. My eye and hand were the means of data entry for the children’s drawings: I traced them into the system using the recording apparatus at left. This produced position-time series of pen motions which were broken apart and re-synthesized as the source data for the system’s machine drawings.

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Synthesized from child babble and color words utterances, extracted from home video.

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