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Audio Visual Display Speak Bloggers' Minds

April 25, 2005

“Buzz,” a new high-tech audio visual installation based on blogs and developed by Northwestern University’s Program in Network Arts, will be on display starting today (April 22) through May 1 at the Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, as a part of the 8th Annual Chicago Improv Festival.

The Program in Network Arts is an initiative of the department of computer science of Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Its aim is to enable the creation of a set of software agents that use the machine and the network as a medium for artistic and cultural communication rather than a simple computational device. Buzz succeeds The Imagination Environment, an installation exhibited at Second City at Chicago’s Piper’s Alley.

Buzz exposes and explores the collective buzz generated by blogs. Using the most popular searches of the moment (displayed on a central screen), it finds the blogs that are reflections of the questions of our time. It embodies the blogger with virtual actors, displayed on surrounding displays, that externalize these soliloquies by reading them aloud.

Buzz was created by Kristian J. Hammond, professor of computer science at Northwestern, and Sara Owsley and David A. Shamma, graduate students of Northwestern’s Intelligent Information Laboratory. They created a system that not only mines the Web for information but also for point of view.

“The Internet is a living, breathing reflection of who we are, what we think and how we feel. Blogs are the latest embodiment of this cultural reflection,” said Hammond, director of the Intelligent Information Laboratory. “The existence of millions of blogs on the Web is more than the mere presence of millions of online journals -- they generate a collective buzz around world events.”

The installation creates and directs its own performance. “Using the most popular current topics on the Web, Buzz’s actors reveal what people are saying about each subject. Using technology that we’ve developed, they detect the blogger’s emotional state and use that to drive their performance,” said Owsley.

“We are excited about having Buzz at the Chicago Improv Festival because, like improvisers, it goes beyond the events of the day, to a point of view,” said Jonathan Pitts, co-founder and executive producer of the Chicago Improv Festival.

Topics: University News