I like to watch / CopVision
is a program that watches television. Specifically, it watches COPS
on Fox. It is not a video, it is a software process that tries to
make sense of a live video feed. COPS is all it has ever known,
and it probably thinks it is COPS. It has started to watch television
as the show.
CopVision learns its language from closed
captioning subtitles transmitted in the television signal. Everything
that is said on COPS is tucked away in its memory to help it understand
what it's seeing. It analyzes every frame, searching the field for
outlines that remind it of something it has seen before. When it
recognizes a contour it tags it with a guess as to what might be
going on, gathered from its experience of words and pictures that
go together. It sometimes tries to put words in the mouths of the
characters. CopVision is funny when commercials come on
because it doesn't know that it isn't COPS, and it keeps watching
the same way.
like COPS, has no irony. It does its level best in every circumstance
to do its duty. That its understanding of the world of COPS falls
short can be taken as a comment either on what is missing from the
show or what is lost in the process of extraction of meaning. It's
both of course, but they compound in unpredictable ways.
projects like I Like to Watch / CopVision, it has become
possible to imagine a day when automated media consumption can
finally keep pace with digital production. Our machines may spare
us the work of watching.