The Crowd as a Computer

By sizemore Last edited 224 months ago
The Crowd as a Computer

Friday sees the launch of Algomantra 2005 - a 3-day collective experiment into urban research, social gaming and visual arts that Londonist will be taking part in. The Algomantra festival is the brainchild of Bombay based writer Rohit Gupta and while most of the action will unfold in India this weekend, the event will also be taking place in the US, Finland and here in the UK.

Algomantra is an open source festival that revolves around three events over three days while the participants are under a 58 hour vow of silence. That's the tough part for us - we'll be wandering around like Holly Hunter in The Piano giving post-it notes to bemused barmen with the hastily scribbled words "Newcastle Brown please"...

Friday sees the Organic Poetry segment of the weekend. The press release for the Bombay set action reads:

The festival will begin by transforming the wall of a popular Bombay night spot into a large collective experimental artwork. Every participant and audience member will have the chance to contribute words to a two-dimensional organic poem, growing like a virus

We wish we were that organised in London. In an unlikely series of events we'll be gagged and trying to create art while in the company of vampires. It's going to be a long weekend...

Saturday is Algoyatra:

The participants will then be given a computer program with basic instructions on how to move through an area in the city. As this programme mechanically guides the participants in random patters, the familiar areas of the city will become uncanny and surprising. At certain specific locations, sets of actions will be provided. Through this new subjective maps will be drawn, illuminating the streets of Bombay in unfamiliar ways. The data from this experiment will be used for an interactive art installation about the city that will also be available online

Depending which parts of London we get thrown into by the computer will determine whether we survive to go through to the next part. We are so getting beaten up.

Sunday is Algokreeda:

On the last and final day, and perhaps in the most challenging of all the games, participants will engage in an experiment to test the formation and spread of rumor. In a city like Bombay, this experiment will take on interesting dimensions as there is always a tension between rumor and truth. This game will take place on a large area on which a grid is going to be drawn. Participants will be given fragments of a message as they move on the grid according to pre-generated patterns. As the rumor spreads by participants meeting randomly on the grid, a complete message will gradually evolve. This message, once decoded by the participants, signals the end of a round. The data gathered here will be available for future researchers and media houses in order to test how information spreads in a crowd

If there's one thing that Londonist is good at then it's spreading rumours...

More details can be found here while updates over the weekend should appear here.


If all this sounds a bit mad then remember that Rohit is the guy who created The Great Mahakali Write-A-Thalon in which participants attempt to write a novel in a single weekend. If Londonist survives Algomantra intact then we'll once again be giving the novel writing a go. We have a personal best of 15,000 words to beat and will be posting details of that madness closer to the time. That's the weekend where we end up looking like Harvey Keitel's character from The Piano instead...

Last Updated 27 April 2005