Feedback Machine (2011)

The Feedback Machine is a Java applet that issues commands. Press down your spacebar while you respond; you will be recorded.

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Q: How do I use the application? What should I expect?

… it is quite possible for a person to talk to a machine, a machine to a person, and a machine to a machine (Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 76)

A: To begin with, the console will prompt you to enter your name. Press and hold down the space bar, and say your name aloud. When you release, a new question will appear. Press the spacebar again while you answer this question, and so on.

At first, you can expect silence as you respond to the prompts. Assuming your computer is configured to take audio input from a microphone by default, however (the case for most laptop computers), you will hear snippets of your own answers come back to you. At first, the snippets will be short and completely unintelligible. As the program continues, however, the audio clips will become longer, and will intermingle with machine noises (printers, scanners, modems, sewing machines).

The questions will tend more toward arithmetic, then binary addition. Near the end of the questioning, the audio will transition into chaos—voice clips overlaying voice clips, machine sound making it impossible to tell one from the other. The sound of your own voice relaying endless, echoing digits will dominate. Because the program was playing both machine and human noises as you recorded your answers, the feedback from those recordings will build up and create noise.

When you reach the end of the program, the human sounds will peter out and be replaced by sporadic machine noises, and brief phrases will write themselves across the console as the program completes. Each experience will be different, because almost every step forward is dependent on one or many calls to a random function deterring the order and content of the questions, the vocal audio chosen, and the machine snippets played.

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