Poetry for a surveillance society

Joseph McAllister combines technologies with media to produce unique art

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a …webcam? Joseph McAllister describes himself as “a computational artist and privacy advocate”. He combines technologies like machine learning and programming with media including sculpture and interactive theatre to produce unique art for the increasingly technocratic age we live in.

His latest work is Webcam Poetry, which uses a machine learning method known as “dense captioning”, a method that detects objects in video footage and produces descriptions in natural language. Combined with his own programming (he calls it his poetry engine), it takes live streaming webcam footage and “writes” poems based on what it sees.

Sometimes the results are surprisingly similar to modern poetry: “A street light. Related is related, normally where efficient, sodium rarely, people.” McAllister’s website streams these live performances on selected dates.