Ostrich Effects


Session Title:

  • Generation and Human Factors

Presentation Title:

  • Ostrich Effects



  • (Short paper)

    Keywords: Call-centre, automation, IVR, recursive, war games, glitch, ostrich, cold war.

    The scenarios of computer science suggest the potential for an ‘Ostrich Algorithm’: a strategy of wilfully ignoring potential problems on the basis that the likelihood of their occurrence would be so rare as to negate planning for them. The paper focuses on the art installation, The Ostrich Effect by David Cotterrell. The work is a generative installation that explores the recursive loops that might occur in hypothetical scenarios. Built using commercial automated call centre servers programed to dial and trigger each other, The Ostrich Effect is a generative installation that establishes a computer-based conversation, which will never be resolved. The call centres continuously negotiate with each other to sell their products, handle complaints, solicit customer feedback and broadcast government warnings. With systems attempting to recognise each other’s responses, a perpetual loop of questions, diversions and holding patterns ensures that calls will neither achieve their assigned tasks nor fully accept the futility of their method. This paper considers the role of error in heightening awareness of familiar systems, explores the idea of the Ostrich Effect within a contemporary political and technological context and seeks to contextualise Cotterrell’s artwork within popular film and science fiction references.

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