Over the past week I’ve been working on turning weblogs into an art installation. I really wanted to visualize in some way the current activity within the weblog world. Riding an early title from blogdex (“wired vox populi“), I thought it would be interesting to see what the voice of the people actually sounded like. To accomplish this feat, I enlisted some simple off-the-shelf linux tools. The result is Radio Vox populi.
The system takes the update monitor from blo.gs and crawls them using a simple perl robot (LWP::Parallel); in the event that RSS feeds are provided to blo.gs, these are crawled immediately, and for others RSS autodiscovery is used to find RSS feeds. The first post from each RSS feed is then saved.
The text of these posts is cleaned up (and abbreviated in the case that it’s exceptionally long), and run through the Festival Speech Synthesis System using a number of different voices. These corresponding voice-posts are sent out to the sound card in the order that they were received, punctuated by a few different radio-tuning noises (thanks to Andy). The output of this sound is streamed to the web in real time using the Icecast streaming media server.
For the installation I wanted to give the sound an old-radio warmth so I bought an antiqueish Irish tube radio (circa 1960) for a striking price of â‚¬30:
The installation currently uses an 1/8″ to 1960’s radio adapter that I threw together (it has a phono-in in the shape of european power plugs) but I hope to build a low-power AM transmitter soon so that it has that the signal fits the era of the radio.
Right now the piece is installed at the Media Lab Europe, but I’ll be bringing it back to the Media Lab sometime next week. Of course it’ll also be available on the web 24 hours a day.