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Photos: Eavesdropping on the net

Web whispers come alive
By Nick Heath, Contributor on
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Web whispers come alive

Eavesdropping on the whispers of the web has been made a whole lot easier thanks to a groundbreaking piece of electronic art.

The Listening Post at the Science Museum in London captures snapshots of fractured conversation from thousands of public chatrooms and bulletin boards.

As seen here, glowing green excerpts dance across a curved bank of 231 screens and are randomly read by computer-synthesised voices.

Picture credit: Nick Heath

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2 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

Text surges flicker and disappear across the screen - as seen here - with the synthesised speech building from a lone "voice" to a cacophony of competing avatars.

The exhibition is a collaboration by sound artist Ben Rubin and statistician and artist Mark Hansen, who began with the question: 'What would 100,000 people chatting online sound like?'

Picture credit: Nick Heath

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Listening Post debuted in late 2002 in New York, and has since proved a success with critics and audiences following a series of exhibitions across the USA and in Europe.

The breadth of sources mean the uncensored entries range from explorations of medical ethics...

Picture credit: Nick Heath

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…to slightly less challenging queries, such as the pick-up line seen here.

Picture credit: Nick Heath

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5 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

The displays even cut down excerpts to individual words, as pictured here. Hannah Redler, head of arts projects at the Science Museum, said in a statement: "It is an awe-inspiring 'portrait of chat' that reveals people's most personal thoughts and most universal concerns."

Picture credit: Nick Heath

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