PYTHIA appears as an old-fashioned touch tone telephone. Instead of hearing a dial tone when the receiver is picked up, participants are immediately greeted with a voice menu system. The phone is a direct line to some artificial intelligence consulting services. Through navigating the menu system, and being placed on hold numerous times, the nature of the machine and the user are revealed. Bits and pieces of each person’s conversation with PYTHIA are recorded and incorporated into the next user’s experience. The system questions contemporary interpersonal communication and support services.
The menus guide people through a series of audio experiences. Initially, these experiences will mimic that of navigating seemingly endless voice menus and being put on hold, as is familiar when calling any tech support line or modern business. The interaction will begin with a familiar prompt, „Thank you for calling the Pythia Consulting. Your call is important to us. This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes. Für Deutsche presse eins, for English press 2. Please hold while we connect your call.” Users can then select one of four paths to take through the artwork. They can play a storytelling game, consult a digital oracle, discuss their problems with a robotic psychologist, or fall in love with a machine. In more detail:
- The Game
In this game participants will listen to a snippet of a story, and then be asked to add a few sentences to it. Their input is recorded and added to the narrative that has been developed by all previous participants. After contributing to the narrative, participants will have the option to listen to the full story.
- To Love
In this option the participant will be asked a series of questions designed to build an emotional connection between two people. These include questions like, „When did you last sing to yourself?” and „What is your most treasured memory?” To generate a simulated dialog the initial user will also hear responses to the questions generated by the computer and past participants.
- The Oracle
Based on the participant’s responses to a series of multiple-choice questions ‚The Oracle‘ will deliver a horoscope.
- The Doctor
In this option participants will be asked a series of generic Rogerian psychologist questions like, „What’s bothering you today? How did that make you feel? Tell me more.”
This piece subtly examines the activities our minds go through while waiting. At the same time, it takes a routine mundane experience and transforms it into a provocative exercise in self-reflection.