Pip Thornton

NEWSPEAK (2019)

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NEWSPEAK (2019) Projection, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland, 2nd – 26th August 2019

Newspeak (2019) visualises the words of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as if they were commodities on a stock exchange. Using live data scraped from Google Ads, the text of the book scrolls across the screen as ticker-tape. The fluctuating prices of the words are determined by what they are worth to Google in the context of an advert. The project is a political critique of the power held by technology companies as mediators of information in an age of linguistic capitalism. Evoking Orwell’s vision of Newspeak as a language that “could only be used for one purpose”, the project suggests that in a digital age, Google has become the surveillant reader of every word we put through the search engine. Language is now controlled and restricted by economic incentives, with similarly dystopian political consequences. 

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four copyright © the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell, by permission of A M Heath & Co Ltd.

Pip Thornton

Dr. Pip Thornton is an artist and researcher, and a Chancellor’s Fellow in GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, where she researches the politics of existence in digital spaces. Her doctoral thesis, Language in the Age of Algorithmic Reproduction: A Critique of Linguistic Capitalism, included theoretical, political and artistic critiques of Google’s search and advertising platforms. She has presented in a variety of venues including the Science Museum, the Alan Turing Institute and transmediale. Her work has featured in WIRED UK and New Scientist, and a collection from her {poem}.py intervention has been displayed at Open Data Institute in London. 

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www.pipthornton.com

Twitter: @Pip__T