A collection of works from students in the Interactive Cinema class during the Fall of 2017.
Sally or the Bubble Burst is one of Toni Dove’s interactive works. Vivian, Matthew and I had played it several times in order to get more understanding of this work. There are four parts in Sally or the Bubble Burst, Dialogue with Sally, Conversation among Furniture, Sally’s Dance and Sally’s Sing. We can use cursor and sound recognition to interact with the character Sally and other objects in the video.
When we first talked to Sally, we followed her direction and just responded with “yes” or “no” questions, we seem to have a good conversation among daily greeting, the story about her and how the society looked at Sally’s time. The story Sally presented to us seems to fit the Database Cinema’s definition. According to Marsha Kinder, although a database narrative may have no clear-cut beginning or end. no classical structure or even a coherent chain of causality, it still presents a narrative field with story elements arousing a user’s curiosity and desire. We were excited that we could interact with a popular dancer who came from the 1930s and knowing how the society was at that time only through the conversation, especially from what Sally told to us.
What also attracts my attention was Sally’s facial expression. It was great that you can see her happiness, confidence, and impatience through her facial expression. The most impressive one was Sally twisting her tongue with sexy eyes communication. It made me feel that she wanted the audience to treat her as a real human, not the humanoid. Or I can say, she wanted to eliminate the gap between viewer and herself. I considered this as a great interactivity element in the video. However, when I discussed with Matthew, we found that Sally’s flirting behavior is a little bit weird to be considered as an “normal human”. This was because we began to think, what would you do when you first meet someone? You would be cautious and your behavior should be polite. Not just like Sally, building herself into a charming sexy character. This raised my skepticism of the setting on a humanoid in interactive devices. What’s the purpose of making a humanoid? Giving viewer the sense of realness or keeping viewer knowing that they are still talking with a humanoid, not a real human.
Apart from the weird facial expression, we found that she could not deal with complex sentences, and sometimes she could not even understand what we are talking about when we tried to give different responses to her question. Sally’s response is predestined. For example, when we responded to her “How are you” question with “we are not good”, she unexpectedly responded by “What makes you feel good?”. It was the same response when we said “good”. The operation was always distracted by her mechanical voice and no diversity response.
When we manipulated “Sally Sings”, we could use a keyboard to make the sound. The sound was different each time when you clicked the same key. However, her jarring broken sound and mechanical physical motions seemed intolerable to me. The voice and her mouth were asynchronous. I felt like she is really a robot when we choose to make her sing a complete song. The song seems to be built word by word, which also made me feel that the computer was broken. Although Toni Dove herself explained that she intended to make Sally’s voice mechanical because it helps the viewer to distinguish the robot and real performer.
In the Conversation among Furniture part, we could see the mouth on chair, bubble, television. These objects can talk when we clicked the cursor. This part is the least interactive part from my point of view. A viewer just clicks the cursor and then sit in front of the computer to hear the conversation between the objects. I think audience do not immerse in the interactivity in the work.
Sally dancing with the bubble should be considered as the most interactive part in this video. I found that when I put the cursor close to her, she turned around fluently. When I put the cursor far from her, she danced in a very slow speed. In addition, when you put the cursor on the top of the screen, you could see a close shot of Sally. When you put the cursor at the bottom of the screen, you could see the entire stage and the whole body of her. We could also use our voice to control her movement. It seemed that I was controlling her life! I think the interactive setting is made to eradicate hierarchies between artist and viewer. (Gregory Zinman). Viewer no longer just stay and watches the performance in front of the screen, they create the performance they want to see by manipulating the character through interactive devices.
What also interested me by experiencing Sally or the Bubble Burst was that I found, female is always the main character in Toni Dove’s work. Such as Spectropia, Artificial Changelings, and Archeology of a Mother Tongue. In addition, Siri, Android also use a female voice. And in some science fiction films, the artificial intelligence (AI) also uses a female voice. For example, in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Voice Print Identification system uses in the spaceship is also a female. Even navigation system’s default setting in China also uses a female voice.
“One reason for the glut of female AI and androids may be that these machines tend to perform jobs that have traditionally been associated with women. For example, many robots are designed to function as maids, personal assistants or museum guides”, MacDorman, a computer scientist and expert in human-computer interaction at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis said to the Live Science (Tanya Lewis, Live Science). He and his colleagues also did a study to test the preference of voice. Woman implicitly prefer female voice while men reported preferring a female voice with no implicit preference.
Inserting female characteristics to AI may seem innocuous, but it may have some implications, for example, raises the problem of gender stereotypes: As I have mentioned above, one popular navigation system in China is famous for its “navigation voice”. The voice is presented by a Chinese actress, Lin Chi-Ling, who is charming and beautiful. Male always praise her as a “goddess”. Does designer intend to use the female voice to satisfy their sexual desire? Do People consider female voice more gentle and easier to tolerate rather than a male voice? All these problems need to be taken into consideration as a gender stereotypes implication.
What’s more, as what I mentioned in the presentation, Toni Dove’s works sometimes implicate ghostly characters. The light shines down from almost directly above Sally’s face, the light on Sally’s body makes her looks like carrying the light from the heaven! And also, in the furniture’s conversation part, Toni dove put the mouth on the objects, She made the furniture begin to talk. It makes us feel that the objects have a soul and we are watching a science fiction films when we look at them.
When I edited our video and watched our clips at home, I found that it was not easy for the viewer to navigate it in the first time. And only when you play it more than once, you could find the hidden story inside the work. For example, I found that there is a conversation between the furniture only after I kept clicking the same button in my second navigation of this video. In a word, Sally or the Bubble Burst is an innovative interactive cinema with some glitches, from my point of view.
Kinder, Marsha, “Designing a Database Cinema,” in |. Shaw & P. Weibels (eds.) Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary After Film (pp. 346-353) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003 , pp. 348-49.
Zinman, G. (2013). NAM JUNE PAIKS TV CROWN AND INTERVENTIONIST, PARTICIPATORY MEDIA ART. Millennium Film Journal, (58), 88-93.
Tanya Lewis. “Rise of the Fembots: Why Artificial Intelligence Is Often Female”. Live Science, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/49882-why-robots-female.html
Toni Dove: Sally or the Bubble BurstDVD-ROM, 2003, Bustlelamp Productions
Toni’s Dove’s Bubble Burst and Sally
By Matthew Alan Lester
Toni Dove is a fascinating artist that investigates the boundaries of what it means to be human or machine and whether there is a real line between the two states of being. While considering our existence as possible machines, she, additionally, contemplates definitions of the body, both inside and outside of the physical, finding experiences of telepresence through technologically determined interface systems that utilize action and response frameworks. Toni Dove argues strongly with her body of work that our edges are, in fact, blurry, not distinct and that more overlap between states of being exists than we normally accept. In her pieces Bubble Burst and Sally, we have the opportunity to consider some of the questions that her body of work seeks to posit, like “our mutating constructions of identity and the limitations of being human” (Dove, pg. 208). “Where does consciousness begin […] Is not everything interwoven with everything?” These are complicated questions that are woven into interactive interfaces that exist amidst the paranormal and supernatural genres where stories involving psychics, witchcraft, second sight, possession and time travel use virtual spaces and digital special effects.
Shot of Furniture Talk
Existing in the digital, Sally, a human face looks back at me, but she is deconstructed and crafted into the form of an automaton interaction. This disassembled face and voice calls itself Sally and I mark her as non-human, yet I wonder why I already think of Sally as her? After all, if I have assigned Sally with a gender, what does that say about my interaction with Sally? Sally does not exist, not truly, but the experience of interacting with Sally does exist and because of this, Sally takes on life, at least from my perspective as I view her and interact with her. Sally becomes an entity from which I expect a response, though I do not always get the response I desire. I interact with Sally, but it is an interaction that lacks total control and thus is limited, or seems so. The experience I have of speaking with Sally falls apart quickly, my voice or the words I choose do not convey what Sally expects to hear, just as a human interaction might dissipate, both speakers becoming bored with each other, for the interaction, unless developed into some new experience becomes a series of the same hellos, goodbyes and how is the weather today? Like so many in our fast-paced society of today, Sally lacks the ability to form cohesive conversation, she speaks in a truncated pidgeon tweet and expects a similar response.
At first glance, Sally appears to be a lovely person with whom a pleasant conversation might be possible, but as I so speak to her, the manifested illusion falls apart and even the most imaginative of minds might experience difficulty attributing human-like interaction to the automaton Sally. Yet, despite Sally’s shortcomings, as the conversation unfolds, my own suspension of disbelief increases and I allow myself to become convinced of the ghost within Sally, convinced that perhaps, there is a spirit within the machine before me and her name is Sally. She is a fractured being that also happens to be interactive and by being interactive she evokes from within the excitement that comes from communicating with the non-bodied ethereal. The collage of faces that form an interaction with Sally seems to jerk by intention reminding us that she is an automaton yet asking us to believe in her existence, an example of the utilization of databases in creating a cinematic experience (Kinder). Interaction with Sally is bound to encourage thoughts about our own treatment of non-physical entities, by design, made to serve at our pleasure on command. Sally is a puppet and the viewer is a puppetmaster, to some extent, yet Sally’s own shortcomings bring into question who is the puppet and who is puppetmaster, and the one who believes they are in control works toward fitting within Sally’s space of response.
Dove, Toni. “Swimming in Time: Performing Programmes, Mutable Movies–Notes on a Process in Progress.” Performance and Place. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2006. 60-74.
Kinder, Marsha. “Designing a Database Cinema.” Future cinema: The cinematic imaginary after film (2003): 346-353.