The Listening Post exhibition at the Whitney this winter is presented to the visitor as a visual
and sonic response to the magnitude and immediacy of virtual communication. The multimedia
installation, assembled by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, is composed of a suspended grid of more
than two hundred small electronic screens. Fragments of texts are gathered in real time from
thousands of unrestricted Internet chat rooms, newsgroups, bulletin boards and other public
forums. Statistical analysis then organizes their messages into topic clusters based on content.
Since the work displays the texts according to the frequency of randomly selected words, topics
change daily and even hourly. A coordinated audio component alternates between musical passages
and sections vocalizing the text.
The screens capture the contributions of tens of thousands of people, and the content is varied
and ever-changing. Fragments of text are displayed simultaneously in order to convey the scale
of the system being observed. The dynamic nature of the forums is reflected in the patterns that
emerge and mirror the rhythms of individual communication. Vocalizations may occur simultaneously
, and the pitches and tones are designed to respond to the changes and patterns in the content of