Artist Talk: What are words worth in a digital age? Critiquing Linguistic capitalism with Pip Thornton

Push The Boat Out: International Poetry Festival

Summerhall - Anatomy Lecture Theatre

Spoken Word

Newspeak (2019) visualises the words of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as if they were commodities on a stock exchange. Using live data scraped from Google Ads, the text of the book scrolls across the screen as ticker-tape. The fluctuating prices of the words are determined by what they are worth to Google in the context of an advert. The project critiques the power held by tech giants as mediators of information in an age of linguistic capitalism. Evoking Orwell’s vision of Newspeak as a language that 'could only be used for one purpose', the project suggests that in a digital age, language is controlled and restricted by economic incentives, with similarly dystopian political consequences. Newspeak (2019) was shortlisted for the 2020 Lumen Prize for Art and Technology in the AI category and was awarded an honourable mention in the Surveillance Studies Network Biennial Art Competition (2020). In this bespoke iteration of Newspeak for Push the Boat Out, Pip calculates the value of the work presented by our participating festival poets, asking What are words worth in a digital age? Join us as the artist discusses her practice and the interrogation - and co-opting - of language in turbulent times.

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