ACTV: Breaking News!
ACTV is a Live-TV News-Injection system, broadcasting a live television news program with custom live generated RSS news feed overlays from the internet. The current version is presented in german, czech and english language, but the software itself is language independent. The RSS feeds are generated from real online news sources, but slightly randomized. Thus the word “Breaking News” gets a whole new connotation. Especially together with the live TV footage and overall changing contents, new meaning is created constantly within the viewer.
The background of ACTV is a real live TV news station, just a customized station logo, date/time and a transparent scrolling marquee text has been added as a transparent overlay. The scrolling text reads the latest world news in a special way: RSS newsfeeds pulled from the internet are being processed by a Markov Chain Text Generator, which analyzes the original source text, based on a statistical distribution of words and then puts together new sentences based on these results. In the end, you get new sentences, most of them more or less grammatically correct, but also with more or less meaning. But as the sense of those sentences is usually generated within us – whenever we read a text, we want to give it meaning – some of the results are really funny and provide deep insight.
ACTV Breaking News will generate endless news throughout its presentation. It creates a continuous event forming bonds with the images seen, sometimes extending, sometimes changing the visual footage of the TV program. The name “Breaking News” relates to the latest news available while pointing to the fact that “breaking” can also mean “broken” news – and in a way, the injected news are broken.
And there’s the relation between image and text – do we read those marquee texts? Do we connect them with the images? There’s always the notion of an urgency that cannot be escaped easily – scrolling texts demand attention, their movement must be noticed (noticing movement has been proven to be quite important, that’s why evolution demands us to notice moving things). But at the same time, moving texts provide a distraction from the images and videos we see, adding a different layer of reality. They are presented in a different timing: Texts are literally faster than images, they provide the very latest information that has been processed much faster than any image would find its way through nevertheless very fast satellite transmissions. The text-feed is moving without pause, it’s quick and sometimes even too quick to be followed. It requires a noticeable amount of attention to be read and understood properly, getting more and more complicated the longer the sentences are. How to follow a sentence whose beginning is off-screen for a while and thus out of reach? And still, sometimes it’s disappointing, because even if a scrolling text seems to be the latest information, it’s only a replay of the informations broadcasted just a couple of minutes ago.
The work also raises questions regarding the constant exposure to mass media and world news. The permanent news coverage in printed and online media as well as TV screens in public places like airports, hotels, cafés and bars is changing our view of the world, constantly reconstructing our reality. It is frightening and dulling, alarming and numbing, addictive and sedating. There are mostly negative news and they change not only our private view of the world, but also affect global markets, stock values and political elections.
The software is programmed with Quartz Composer and uses some of my previously created Obj-C Plugins for this OpenGL visual programming environment from Apple. It is a transparent overlay that is projected over the live TV image. I also created a customized Objective-C application, so that the presentation in the gallery space is easer to set up.
The RSS-Sources can be selected freely and the whole program is language independent. The ACMarkov generator is deconstructing the real text and creating random sentences with a nearly intact grammatical syntax but with scrambled content. The news feeds may spoken by a synthesized computer voice. There are high quality computer voices available for many languages.