I ran into this error message when trying to run Wav2Lip last week:

screenshot of Connection Failed messageI did file an appeal, asking what was suspected of being abusive, without expecting a response. Under their usage limitations they list deepfakes.

screenshot of which activities are restricted in ColabAnything I’ve made is too transparently faked to be considered deep, but some may argue otherwise. I wonder if it was Bob that busted me. Can’t trust those painter types. It got blocked in some countries due to copyright, so that’s why I’m suspicious. It’s better to work with public domain material anyway though.

I managed to do this with Frank and Vinny. So it should be possible with Grant and Hepburn. I’d have to down load the video, cut the parts before and after the phone conversation, and then separate the two sides to make training videos. After putting words in their mouths I’d have to piece it back together as a conversation. Seems tedious, but possible.

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Life imitating AI imitating Art

A few weeks ago we watched the Black Mirror episode, “Be Right Back“, in which a widow has an AI chatbot of her deceased husband. Yesterday I heard that performance artist Laurie Anderson actually has one of these. I guess he wasn’t kidding when he wrote “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”

The idea of characters react to propaganda was a bit of an afterthought last week, but it seems to have worked out well. Some people are using it to find connections, which can be useful as we start to come up with longer narratives and group projects.

We had some nice propaganda too. I especially liked this poster, for several reasons. The letterpress character of the typeface gives it an antique, handmade feel which contrasts to the circuitry in the image. The subtle texturing also gives it an aged feel. But the empty spot inside the image is my favorite part, as it suggests something about the soullessness of the corporate world, or the emptiness of AI. And it plays off of ideas from another post by borrowing one of Dr. Oblivion’s quotes. Of this one, it was said, “This creepy poster will haunt my nightmares forever now,” which may be the nicest comment I’ve seen.

One thing that surprises me is that no one has brought up the environmental costs associated with AI. It seems like a natural for propaganda, and it connects to the broader climate movement. But if that’s not where people want to go, so be it.


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NAGging feeling

Today’s Daily Create asked us to play with the Net.Art Generator. Maybe I should have read the home page, but instead I clicked the Create button as soon as I found it. Moments earlier I had been thinking about AI-generated images and art and Van Gogh’s Starry Night, so that’s what I put in. The output was somewhat interesting to me, reminiscent of Jasper Johns and some of my own adventures in rectangularity. But not good enough. So I tried Starry Knight, just to see what might happen. The text stencilled on the image also reminds me of Johns, but I was able to find the source. To take it one step beyond, and in keeping with the AI theme, I tried Starry Knightrider. I couldn’t decide which to use, so why not all of them?
Now I’m wondering what I might be able to do with KITT and HAL-9000. Apparently MadamBlackWolf thought of this already.

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Bot you see is bot you get

When we were kids playing hockey in the driveway, we used to blast this song out of the window and chop our sticks on the pavement in time with the beat. Of course, we were too young back then to truly appreciate such deep and meaningful lyrics. So it’s great that we have sites like SongTell around to give us AI-powered insightful analysis. I just discovered this thing this morning when looking for info on a different song. The thought that something “could symbolize unfulfilled desires or unmet expectations” really resonates here. Is my sarcasm showing?

I asked Dr. Oblivion if the lyrical analysis wasn’t exceptionally lame.

His reaction makes me suspicious. I wonder if I’m the only one.

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A frank warning

I wondered about the ethics of working with Bob, so I looked up a list of public domain movies and saw that Suddenly, the old Frank Sinatra assassination classic, was on the list. I downloaded it and skimmed through looking for Sinatra monologues, or anyone’s for that matter. There were a few clips that might be useable, with a little editing. I picked one, then needed something for him to say. I asked Dr. Oblivion how he might warn people about the conglomerate Aggressive Technologies and downloaded his response. I ran it through the Converter App to get a text file, with I fed to ElevenLabs after giving them a sample of Frank’s voice. I ran into some hiccups with the lip syncing script this time. It got hung up on the MP3 upload section and failed 2 or 3 times because something couldn’t connect, but I kept trying and eventually it worked. Then when the video was done, I discovered that the audio was longer than the video, which made the video loop back to the beginning and ruined the effect. I went back to the MP3 file and used Audacity to close up the many pauses. I like the walking towards the camera and talking effect and think it would work well with the right lines, so this works as a proof-of-concept. The key is to have less than 25 seconds of audio so it doesn’t loop. Unless you want it to.

I find it interesting that what he says sounds like something Dr. Oblivion would say, but it doesn’t have the same effect in Frank’s voice.

If anyone wants to puppeteer Frank, you can download the frank.mp4 and use it instead of the train.mp4 with the Wav2lip script.

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I’m kinda glad he doesn’t look at the camera.

I was glad to see someone successfully took on the Talk to the Bot assignment. A few others tried but couldn’t get it to work. As I watched the voice-over with avatar part of the video, I wondered what would happen if you tried to lip-sync a still image. At the tail end of a previous exercise, I noticed that the program animated the Aggressive Technologies logo, so I thought it might work. I uploaded a Van Gogh self portrait to iMovie and stretched it out to 10.6 seconds and shared the file as an MP4. That gave me part of the puzzle. I went to ChatGPT and input “if you could see what I hear” and copied out its response, then pasted that in ElevenLabs to generate a voice. I don’t know what Van Gogh sounded like, so I used a different painter. I took that MP3 and used the Wav2Lip script to combine it with the image. It worked, but it’s a little weird with moving lips on a still image.

I recalled that there was an online tool that would animate still photos in weirdly creepy ways, so I gave that a try. Sometimes it refuses to animate things that aren’t photos, but it worked this time. I downloaded their video and ran it through the lip-syncer. I can’t say that it’s less weird, but at least he blinks. That’s a little more human, right?

I’m kinda glad he doesn’t look at the camera. Based on this experimentation, I may need to revisit my Right Said Freddy Kreuger Mercury video.

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Week Seven: “Ask not what AI can do for you…”

scene from the movie They Live highlighting subliminal messages

Propaganda. N. From the Latin propagare, meaning “to go viral.” A communication intended to influence or persuade, to further an agenda, usually through an emotional appeal rather than a rational one.

Propaganda style image of JFK with the quote "Ask not what AI can do for us,ask what we can do with AI."What is your character’s position on AI? Aggressive Technologies? How does it impact them and the people and things they care about? Would they promote or protest?

There are many aspects we could think about. Consider employment, environment, advancement, economy, ethics, surveillance, personal data, personal image rights, voice rights, control and ownership of data and information, copyright, how to protect people from abuses, how to respect people’s freedoms and intellectual curiosity and creativity, consolidation of power … what else could you add? We’ve looked at movies and manifestos that touch on some of these ideas. Now is the time to take a stand.

We will use this week to create propaganda. The term is generally used in a negative sense, but emotional or persuasive communications for positive ends can also be considered propaganda. This means, as usual, that you have a lot of leeway in what you create. It could be propaganda that your character supports and shares, or it could be propaganda that your character encounters in their daily life. It should relate either to artificial intelligence or Aggressive Technologies.

  1. Design some propaganda. This could be a poster, postcard, bumper sticker, web meme, or something else. Be sure to use design elements like  imagery, type, color, shape, etc. to convey an emotional appeal

Keep Calm and Carry On image

Examples: Keep Calm and Carry On

Examples: Rosie the Riveter

Do not feel limited by these examples. They’re just the first two things I grabbed from Wikipedia. Put your design in a blog post with the usual write-up, but also tell the story of how it connects with your character. Tag the post propagandadesign.

  1. Create a Public Service Announcement: This could be audio or video, but either way should both voice and background sounds. The announcement should spread a message about AI or Aggressive Technologies, or both.


Again, do not feel limited by these examples. They’re just the first things I found in the Internet Archive.

Good ways to find background music that you can use without running into copyright issues are to use CC Search or to google open source music.  Embed your PSA in a blog post with the usual write-up, but also tell the story of how it connects with your character. Tag the post PSA.

Maybe they express what your character feels. Maybe they show what your character encounters

  1. Complete 3 Daily Creates: You must complete at least three daily creates this week. Make sure you also blog your TDCs.
  2. Commenting: In addition to the usual commenting, do a blog post about how your character would react to a few of the designs and PSAs that the rest of the class produces. Make sure your post links to the source posts so people get pingbacks. Tag this post reaction.
  3. Weekly Summary: You all know what this is.
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A word on uploading videos

It looks like a few people have uploaded videos to their Wrodpress media libraries. It is probably better to upload to Youtube or Vimeo instead, and embed videos in your posts from there.

screenshot of cPanel dashboard showing usage statistics
If you go into cPanel and look at your usage statistics, you can see how much drive space you have used up and how much is left. Videos take up A LOT of space. The last 3 minute video I made was about half a gigabyte. By uploading it to Youtube, that half a gigabyte sits on google’s servers, and the only thing taking up space on my site is the URL to the video, which is only slightly larger than zero. People may have concerns about having their videos in a public space like Youtube. You can mark videos as “Unlisted” during the upload process, which means they will not show up in a search or be visible to anyone who might find your channel. They would only be findable through the URL, or on your blog. You can also delete them or make them private later.

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AI and Crazy Horse: Everybody Knows …

detail from Picasso's Guernica showing a horse under a lightbulbThis week in ds106 we revisited our goals for the course. Everybody feels they are on track, and a few people added some revisions. I expected more changes and redirection due to the somewhat chaotic nature of how we do things here. Perhaps it is a testament to the flexibility of the course and the creativity of the class that everyone can find ways to achieve what they want.

I gave people a brief feedback email this week, and one common comment was to review How To Write Up Assignments Like a Blogging Champ, because the narrative in our blogging is more important than the media we create. It was serendipitous to find David O. White’s post How ‘Art School’ teaching avoids a losing battle with technology this morning, because he expresses the same point:

1. The emphasis is on assessing the creative journey, or the narrative of the work, not the output or the ‘product’ of the work.
2. There is no such thing as a good picture of a horse.

It’s not about passing a test or meeting a standard. It’s about experimenting and learning and articulating our efforts and growth.

White conveniently also addresses the issue of generative AI. “It’s genuinely difficult to get Gen AI to produce the crazy looking cartoon because it simply doesn’t have enough to go on.” Is it “crazy looking” or creative? With the possible exception of Dr. Oblivion, AI seems to tend towards the average rather than the novel or creative. But it is a thing we can work with creatively. One of the things we’re doing here is playing with it and, by blogging, thinking through what it means to use it creatively and how we may do it.

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“Ah, the poetic wonders of destruction and turmoil”

Botmaster Michael Branson Smith mentioned the AI Rap Battle Generator the other week, and after playing with the Wav2Lip script a bit, I had the thought, “What if Dr. Oblivion battled Bob Ross?” And thus we have the rap battle no one wanted to hear:

I had previously done some ElevenLabs experiments with Bob Ross and Max Headroom, and managed to lip sync some clips, so I had an inkling of how this might come together. I went to the Rap Battle Generator and had it produce the words. Getting the doctor to recite them was challenging though. The first time, I asked nicely and he complied, but I only gave him two verses because I was concerned he might choke on too much text. Then I gave him the third verse and he declined. I ended up trying 7 or 8 times. One time I asked him to read rather than recite, and he gave me a critique.

At one point he gave me a creative reinterpretation of the third verse, so I ended up using that. But most times he declined, politely or otherwise. It seemed like the more I asked, the more terse he was. Here’s a polite rejection:

For the Bob parts, I put the text into ElevenLabs, so that was easy. I wrote the Max Headroom intro and the in-between bits. I wanted to get him to say “The Bob!” and drag out the “o” so my text input was the, Baaaaaaaaaaaab! It didn’t come out quite how I wanted, but it had the freakish Headroom effect, so I ran with it. I put all the sound clips through the Wav2Lip script with appropriate video, and had the pieces I needed.

Then I had to find a backing beat. I googled open source beats and found several sites offering royalty-free tracks, but “royalty-free” doesn’t actually translate to “free.” The Free Music Archive worked though, so I grabbed a couple tracks and went with Coalescence. (need to remember to add that credit to the video).

Screenshot of iMovie window showing arrangement of video and sound clipsTo put it all together, I brought the sound and video clips into iMovie. I split the video parts up and arranged them in proper order. I decided to keep some of Dr. Oblivion’s unasked-for commentary at the beginning and end. I put the backing track underneath and lined it up so the beats kick in right around the point the doctor starts his rhymes. I thought I would have to fool around trying to get the voices to line up with the beats, but it seemed to work out more-or-less okay. One more track for the Dr. Oblivion’s Greatest Hits compilation!

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