captcha this: the disruptive power of technology on traditional language systems 
hoffmitz milken center for typography, 2021

educational program
installation (wip)

what forces are shaping language? how is online culture affecting language? is it a good thing? how is communication influenced by these changes? what are the subconscious patterns behind the language we produce everyday? what do online interactions reveal about our society? what are the interactions and dynamics that are created and happen in this locus/language? what is the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning playing? what are the visual implications of these changes? what are the ethical implications?

these are the questions that were guiding my research when I began looking into the realationship between language and technology. the initial part of the research looked at memes, emoji, gifs, hashtags, @replies, acronyms, threads, etc—all part of the explosion of informal writing found online that is unedited, unfiltered, and efficient. this led to studying the relationship between humans and machine. i was interested in the inherent systemic biases that algorithms retain, and the ethical implications of emergent technologies that frame new ways in which language is transmitted.

based on this research and in collaboration with gloria kondrup, maggie hendrie, roy tatum, brad bartlett, kristine bowne, and robbie nock, we designed an educational program that will inlcude a lecture series presented at art center’s creative tech week, an interactive installation at the hmct storefront gallery, a trans-disciplinary studio taught at art center college of design, and an exhibition scheduled for 2023.

visit the program’s official website
watch lecture series videos

the identity for captcha this was designed to include several digital vernacular references that represent the topics addressed by the project.

the pun behind the title refers to the relationship between humans and machines, and the effects of this interplay on language. the term “captcha” (a contrived acronym for “completely automated public turing test to tell computers and humans apart”) refers to websites designed to block spam robots by determining whether a user is human. captcha this is a play on this, as well as the phrase “caption this,” a call often used by social media users, inviting others to interpret and describe a posted image.

captcha this is typeset in “leet speak,” a modified spelling system where internet users substitute letters for similar analphabetic characters. leet speakis one example of how informal, online communication creates linguistic patterns and trends. the flipping emoticons following the title are another reference to the creative use of keyboards. the emoticons add emotion to the title—each slightly altering its tone—in the same way that the tone of a text message is altered when it is followed by specific punctuation characters or other symbols.

punctuation characters also form the various patterns in the gridded background. these prevent optical character recognition (ocr) software from deciphering the text, referencing how machines perceive language and the role of artificial intelligence in the future of communication. the grid symbolizes language as an open-source project, a living thing, ever-shifting and evolving.

thumbs up to the thugs is a video piece that was inspired by a vice article about google translate delivering absurd translations when fed nonsensical input. it is an example of what happens when machine learning attempts to make sense out of nonsense. i experimented with translating random syllables from different languages to english. the video is a screen recording from google translate that documented what happened when i typed “agagaga...” repeatedly, translating from somali to english.

visit the channel dedicated to collecting reading material, notes, and examples of projects that address similar topics.