Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Forensic Phonetics

The sort of dystopic vocal vivisection that governments will and do (see Lawrence Abu-Hamdan's work) use more and more in the digitalising/signifier forcing practices of our sci(-let's-quantify-the-hell-out-of -everything)ence smothered world.

Yeah, I know it's radio 4 but give it a listen - there is a tragically funny bit where a forensic phonetician tells of how different people may pronounce their vowels or consonants differently depending on intoxication level - for a Phonetician (whose whole science works from the division of vowels and consonants) this is astounding. It is like an arctic exploring declaring that the north pole is either "over there near the liquid or frozen water" - or programmer concluding that the base material of his work is either zeros or ones. As dodgy science and + or journalism goes this programme is a peach - but some nice snippets.

There is a wonderful scene in Aliens Resurrection where the captain cannot get into the door of his office. The doors on the ship are opened by a breath recognition mechanism. The captain gets quite (literally) exasperated as he as to breath 3 or 4 times into this stoic device that cannot recognise his breath as that of the captain. It reminded me of my reliably unreliable goldsmiths card (that uses technology from the 1950's!). I cannot wait to be in the future and not be able to access my bank account because my voice is gruff from a cold or a night out.  The kafkian-labyrinthine trauma of negotiating various swipe card absurdities in contemporary life is just training for the time when all our possessions (money/transport/property etc) are randomly rendered inaccessible due to the recognition software not being able to locate our DNA/Phonetic 'signature' (sup - Jacques).

Radio 4, Frontiers: Forensic Phonetics

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