25 January 2018

Newspeak Bot for Wolverhampton Literature Festival

We've been speaking to Seb Groes (now Professor of English Literature, University of Wolverhampton) about chatbot related projects for a while now, and just before Christmas we hit on a great idea for a bot to support the Wolverhampton Literature Festival which runs 26-28 Jan 2018 in Wolverhampton.

With the unveiling of a new statue to him at the BBC at the end of 2017, George Orwell seemed to be everywhere on the media. And with the rise of Trump and fake-news what better time to revisit Newspeak!

The Newspeak Bot turns Twitter feeds, such as those by Donald Trump, BBC News and Number 10 Downing Street, into Newspeak, the language of control Orwell invented for the totalitarian state in his dystopian classic. We currently have a library of 596 words and phrases that are being translated into Newspeak, either using words from 1984 (eg Minitrue), or using the guidance in the Appendix to 1984 to create our own (e.g. UnEurope for Brexit).

Here are some of our favourite retweets so far:

Professor Sebastian Groes said: “Many feel we are currently living in a dystopia not far removed from Nineteen Eighty-Four. We seem to be ruled by megalomaniac world leaders of superstates at perpetual war with one another, who are producing communications radically divorced from reality. Like Big brother, some of these leaders enjoy a cult of personality; they seek, in Orwell’s words, "power entirely for its own sake. [They are] not interested in the good of others." Or we seem governed by elitist political parties whose privileged rule feels tyrannical because other voices are excluded. Just as in Orwell’s nightmare, memory is weakened by information overload and other strategies of distraction; technology thrashes coherent thought; personal and sexual relationships are randomly assembled by computers; we are merely chunks of information collected in databases.” 

You can read the full Festival press release for the project at http://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/newsspeak/4594185019

Seb and I are discussing the project at an event on the Festival on Friday afternoon - see above link for details.