Dear NostalgiaBot, who are you, where did you come from, and where are you leading us? Centered around the three questions, this computational audiovisual artwork investigates the relationship between nostalgic contemplation and human connection, through a multi-sensory interactive experience with a robot storyteller NostalgiaBot.
We may wonder what the world will be like after the pandemic. Our vision of an ideal future is often associated with technological breakthroughs that resolve most pressing challenges in the world, as the world is often assumed to be progressive. What if our collective history tinted with our personal memories is like a lake of muddy water mingled with a few diamonds? Instead of inventing a solution to the future, can we plunge into the water for these diamonds that may hold the key to a bright future?
NostalgiaBot shares its personal journey with us through auditory memories. To produce and share memories with us, it algorithmically picks, fuses, and mixes different everyday sounds stored in its “hippocampus”, ranging from rainforest thunderstorm to Chinese dragon dance. Tens of thousands of raw audio clips stored in its “hippocampus” were either uploaded directly by the viewers or crowdsourced from the Internet to echo the viewers’ social-emotional responses to its memories. Metaphorically, its memories come from other strangers who gently nourished its “soul” before. They grow if more are willing to share, or decay if without reciprocity.
NostalgiaBot creates an immersive audiovisual space for our spiritual contemplation on what makes us nostalgic, what memories we cherish the most, and more importantly, how nostalgia can be re-imagined as a homeward journey toward a flourishing future world. As the medium for facilitating our introspective and retrospective contemplation, the robot storyteller NostalgiaBot embodies the community we live in together and bridges individual’s interior landscape and our collective identity together through its narrative voice, visual expressions and algorithmically produced auditory memories.