Otso Huopaniemi is the first to receive a doctorate from the Degree Programme in Dramaturgy at Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy.

Google Translate as co-author - What is the relationship between technology and writing?

Otso Huopaniemi’s recent doctoral thesis Algorithmic Adaptations / Algoritmiset adaptaatiot offers a novel perspective to the relationship between writing and technology.

Is technology a good master or a servant? Can a translating application – with a somewhat unpredictable quality of work – generate interesting art? In his thesis, Master of Arts (Theatre and Drama) Otso Huopaniemi examines the affordances and limitations of technology in the context of writing and reading.

Huopaniemi has developed two writing methods, live writing and writing through self-translation, which combine computer-generated text and text produced by humans. The method of live writing is applied in practice in Huopaniemi’s group performances that utilise both speech-recognition software and computer translation. The premise of a performance is a play written in Finnish by Huopaniemi, which is then translated into English, and vice versa. Google Translate is probably the most well-known translation application and notorious for its shortcomings. The resulting, computer-generated “clumsy” translations act as impulses for performers to improvise and thus create dramatised scenes. In this “lost in translation” situation for the digital age, meanings from the original text are bound to be written off. At the same time, new meanings emerge.

– The performance operates in an unknown territory where the original meaning of the text bears no significance. In things that are lost, performers find fruitful ground for improvisation, Huopaniemi suggests.

Whereas live writing rests on a collaborative process involving many artists, Huopaniemi’s second method uses machine translation as a significant tool for solo writing.

– When you write in collaboration with digital tools – and let go of some of your authorship as a result – a new mental space emerges where new meanings and ideas can manifest.

When discussing the opportunities of new technologies in the arts, Huopaniemi is optimistic.

– When used with consideration, digital technologies can act in service of different writing and thinking processes, thus opening new space for focused and creative thinking, a kind of new mental and physical stage.

What kind of stage, exactly, remains to be seen until the public examination of Otso Huopaniemi’s doctoral dissertation on 6 April, where he will also demonstrate his live writing method.

Otso Huopaniemi is a dramaturge, playwright and performance artist. He is the first to receive a doctorate from the Degree Programme in Dramaturgy at Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy. Huopaniemi teaches dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy and has also taught workshops abroad. In addition to studies at the Theatre Academy, Huopaniemi has studied on a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia University in New York. Huopaniemi lives in Berlin with his family.

MA Otso Huopaniemi’s doctoral research Algorithmic Adaptations – Algoritmiset adaptaatiot will be presented for public examination on Friday, 6 April  2018 at 12 o’clock at Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy (Auditorium 1, Haapaniemenkatu 6, Helsinki, Finland). The examination is in Finnish and English.

Opponents: D.A. (Art and Design) Mika Elo and Ph.D. Riku Roihankorpi. The custos/monitor of the examination is Professor in Artistic Research Pilvi Porkola.

The doctoral research is available online at: actascenica.teak.fi/huopaniemi-otso. The webpage will be opened 10 days prior to the public examination. 

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Otso Huopaniemi
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