About Completely Automated
Completely Automated is part scholarly paper and part semi-fictional exploration of how our written histories are forged through the interplay between human and machine editing. To elucidate the editing process, this project examines online archiving initiatives such as the reCAPTCHA project. The reCAPTCHA project harvests answers from reCAPTCHAs to preserve and archive old manuscripts via a recursive authoring between users and automated processes. Essentially, even a slight deviation from the original may escape the loop’s filters and be preserved digitally as a final authoritative text: our cultural heritage. Meanwhile, the original print is less conveniently accessible than the digital version and begins to lose authority within its physical library archive. Completely Automated contextualizes the role of the reCAPTCHA as guard field which grants a human user access to online content, while rejecting computer programs that attempt to gain access by simulating human responses. We are able to pass a reCAPTCHA test because it privileges types of language recognition that humans can complete better than machines—thus suggesting that these processes help define us as human and are what, currently, best distinguish human cognition from that of a machine’s.
When screened in May of 2010, this short film was put in context by two readings from the document’s evolution (chronicled in the slide-show below). The author’s original print document preceded the video. At the video’s conclusion, the results of users’ imprints on the document–after it was digitized by Optical Character Recognition–were uploaded to an online archiving site and publicly read. The following slide-show shows the first page at different stages of the project. Download the PDF for full documentation of the document’s evolution. Ambient backtracks are “Sailor” and “Window” by The Album Leaf.