Bicycle Built for Two Thousand, online workers choral effort

Bicycle Built for Two Thousand

With “Bicycle Built for Two Thousand” Aaron Koblin confirms himself as specialist of crowdsourcing based artworks. As Jeff Howe wrote, “crowdsourcing” is “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (Wired, June 2006). In this case Koblin and Daniel Massey crowdsourced the song “Daisy Bell” using Mechanical Turk, the web service offered by Amazon B2B. The song was split into 12 audio and 6 keyboard tracks. Each turker was played a single syllable or note from the synth version and asked to replicate it ignoring what they were going to contribute toward. Online workers from 71 countries were each paid 6 cents to record their voice. The resulting audio samples were merged together and are now playable through the site. This particular song wasn’t chosen by chance. In 1962, Arthur C. Clarke was touring Bell Labs when he heard the demonstration of “Daisy Bell” (commonly known as “Bicycle Built for Two”), performed by a computer. Clarke and Kubrick then had HAL sing it while Dave powered him down in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is the third Mechanical Turk art project that Aaron Koblin has created after The Sheep Market and Ten Thousand Cents. Within his research Koblin takes social and infrastructural data and uses it to examine cultural trends and emergent patterns. As Tech Lead of Google’s Creative Lab, he said: “I’m extremely interested to see where all this data collection goes. I’m wondering if we all wind up polluting our spaces so much that it becomes insignificant, or if we are able to continue growing our storage and search organization in order to keep everything relevant.” (Creativity, Feb 2009). “Bicycle Built for Two Thousand”is an interesting illustration of collaboration and aggregation, as well as choral effort of “artificial artificial intelligence” where online workers perform tasks computers still can’t.

Valentina Culatti