Machine Listening

curriculum⁄Machine Listening

Machine Listening, a curriculum

Our devices are listening to us. Previous generations of audio-technology transmitted, recorded or manipulated sound. Today our digital voice assistants, smart speakers and a growing range of related technologies are increasingly able to analyse and respond to it as well. Scientists and engineers increasingly refer to this as “machine listening”, though the first widespread use of the term was in computer music. Machine listening is much more than just a new scientific discipline or vein of technical innovation however. It is also an emergent field of knowledge-power, of data extraction and colonialism, of capital accumulation, automation and control. It demands critical and artistic attention.

MACHINE LISTENING is a new investigation and experiment in collective learning, instigated by artist www⁄Sean Dockray, legal scholar www⁄James Parker, and curator www⁄Joel Stern for www⁄Liquid Architecture and launched at www⁄Unsound 2020: Intermission. It comes out of our previous work on www⁄Eavesdropping.


www⁄Tomomi Adachi , www⁄Angie Abdilla (Old Ways, New) , www⁄Lawrence Abu Hamdan , www⁄Alex Ahmed (Project Spectra) , www⁄Mark Andrejevic , www⁄Alessandro Bosetti , www⁄Andrew Brooks , www⁄DeForrest Brown Jr. (Speaker Music) , www⁄Bridget Chappell , www⁄Lee Weng Choy , www⁄Kate Crawford (AI Now) , www⁄André Dao , www⁄Debris Facility , www⁄Mat Dryhurst (Interdependence) , www⁄Jessica Feldman , www⁄Lee Gamble (UK) , www⁄Jasmine Guffond , www⁄Bani Haykal , www⁄Roslyn Helper , www⁄Jenny Kennedy , www⁄Vladan Joler , www⁄Karolina Iwańska (Panoptykon Foundation) , www⁄Jules LaPlace , www⁄Halcyon Lawrence , www⁄Jon Leidecker (Wobbly) , www⁄Jùnchéng Billy Lì , www⁄Lauren Lee McCarthy , www⁄Luca Lum , www⁄Stefan Maier , www⁄Shannon Mattern , www⁄Mattin , Michael McLelland , www⁄Yeshimabeit Milner (Data for Black Lives) , www⁄Jazz Money , www⁄Robert Ochshorn , www⁄Thao Phan , www⁄Martina Raponi , www⁄Kathy Reid (Mozilla) , www⁄Mehak Sawney , www⁄Snack Syndicate , www⁄Joel Spring , www⁄Tom Smith , www⁄Yolande Strengers , www⁄Hito Steyerl , www⁄Sue Tompkins , www⁄Jennifer Walshe .

Why a curriculum?

MACHINE LISTENING, A CURRICULUM is an evolving resource, comprising existing and newly commissioned writing, interviews, music and artworks. As the project grows, the curriculum will too.

Amidst oppressive and extractive forms of state and corporate listening, practices of collaborative study, experimentation and resistance will, we hope, enable us to develop strategies for recalibrating our relationships to machine listening, whether through technological interventions, alternative infrastructures, new behaviors, or political demands. With so many cultural producers – whose work and research is crucial for this kind of project – thrown into deeper precarity and an uncertain future by the unfolding pandemic, we also hope that this curriculum will operate as a quasi-institution: a site of collective learning about and mobilisation against the coming world of listening machines.

A curriculum is also a technology, a tool for supporting and activating learning. And this one is open source. It has been built on a platform developed by www⁄Pirate Care for their own experiments in open pedagogy. We encourage everyone to freely use it to learn and organise processes of learning and to freely adapt, rewrite and expand it to reflect their own experience and serve their own pedagogies. As the curriculum unfolds, these resources will expand: www⁄event documentation , www⁄interviews , and www⁄library .


Research and writing assistance from www⁄Zoë De Luca

Images designed by www⁄Debris Facility


Machine Listening (02-04. Octorber 2020, Liquid Architecture x Unsound)

Across three days at the start of October 2020, we came together to investigate the implications of the coming world of listening machines in both its dystopian and utopian dimensions. Comprising a montage of presentations, performance, sound, video, music and experiments in listening featuring contributors from around the world, the online gatherings were divided into three sections, open to all:

  1. topic⁄(Against) the coming world of listening machines

  2. topic⁄Lessons in how (not) to be heard www⁄(documentation)

  3. topic⁄Listening with the pandemic www⁄(documentation)

Improvisation and Control (13. March 2021, Liquid Architecture x NTU CCA Singapore)

As part of Free Jazz III, www⁄Improvisation and Control explores machine listening’s history in computer music, and the evolving dynamics between improvisation and control.

  1. topic⁄Improvisation and Control www⁄(documentation)

Unnatural Language Processing (17. October 2021, Liquid Architecture x Unsound)

Machine Listening returned to Unsound in 2021 with Unnatural Language Processing, exploring the history, politics and artistic potential of automatic speech recognition. The session also launched an ‘instrument’, built in collaboration with www⁄Reduct . www⁄Instruments are for playing. . Works best with Firefox.

  1. topic⁄Unnatural Language Processing www⁄(documentation)


Machine Listening is presented by Liquid Architecture, and developed in partnership with Melbourne Law School, ANU School of Art & Design, Unsound, and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.

Liquid Architecture thank our supporters Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne. The project has also received funding from the Australia Research Council.

This project takes place online, and across multiple unceded Indigenous Lands. Liquid Architecture acknowledges the people of the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the lands on which we work. We pay our respects to Indigenous Elders, past, present and emerging.