The Guys Behind @horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book Explain What’s Going On
VICE: Did you fuck up at all during your marathon phone-answering session?
Jacob Bakkila: It’s almost impossible. We wanted this to be as much of a conceptual performance as possible with very little intonation when we read it. And we tried to keep that consistent.
You weren’t reading tweets from your Horse_ebooks account, though.
Jacob: This was almost identical. It was from the corpus—low-quality information products—that I tweeted when I performed the Horse_ebooks online installation. But this was all new. We had our engineer dump 400,000 items of spam, and I only used content that was garbled almost to the point of incoherence.
What was your day like as Horse_ebooks?
Jacob: When I was performing online, that was never automated. If I was tweeting at 3AM, that was because I was up at 3AM. I set my alarm so I would wake up roughly every two and a half hours to tweet. It was very difficult. In terms of hours a day, it becomes incalculable. It becomes woven into your everyday life. You’re constantly thinking about it. You have to run into a place so you can get to a computer or cellphone coverage. You have to leave the club. If you’re caught underground in the subway you start to panic. Like, gotta keep performing as a robot.
So you didn’t have a tweeting schedule? Everything was just based on when you had time to duck away?
Jacob: What’s interesting is that spambots on Twitter don’t want to appear automated. To be more convincing, they want to appear like humans. So it’s machines impersonating human biorhythmic schedules. What I did was impersonate a machine’s impersonation of a human. It would’ve been easier to do it every hour on the hour. But it had to be in a simulation of what a machine imagines our schedules are.