Speaker Details

Dan Williams

Creative Technologist

talk date / time

October 11th / 17:00

This one weird trick

In the 1980s geophysicist Andy Hildebrand was working for Exxon analysing seismic survey data. Hildebrand created digital signal processing software that took recordings of waves travelling through the ground from dynamite explosions and processed them to find hidden pockets of oil.

In 2013 the same algorithm has a new name, Auto-Tune, and a very different purpose. You can hear its output on the radio, on YouTube and on X-Factor. No longer a tool for geophysicists but for pop stars. Auto-Tune uses the same process that identified underground rock layers to make vocals sound pitch perfect. To an algorithm there is no difference between Kanye’s voice and an oil deposit.

Auto-Tune isn’t the only technology shaping our lives in unexpected ways. In this talk we’ll look at our software mediated world, it's consequences and our role in it as creators.


Dan W is a software developer interested in how software shapes our culture. He makes things to playfully explore technology, such as determining the happiness of British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg using emotion recognition algorithms (19% happy) or running treasure hunts across Amazon's network of delivery lockers in London.

Previously he has collaborated with artists and academics as a creative technologist at Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio, creating projects such as musical instruments powered by solar wind or stories told trough smell.

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