I like to watch / CopVision

Automated surveillance of surveillance of surveillance.

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.

CopVision, 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.

Through 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.