Erik Blankinship
information: organized
MIT Media Laboratory, USA
Alma Media, Finland

People refer to television and movies in the flow of their everyday conversations, citing dialog as part of their talk. Television and movies are part of popular culture; they help to make shared references between people. We aim to take this behavior to the next level. We want people to have access to the source materials they are quoting and to use these snippets to enhance online communication.

Our prototype system, talkTV, allows for this to happen. Simply explained, talkTV allows viewers to search through digitized broadcasts for quotes and to extract them. Type in “how are you” and talkTV retrieves all of the scenes from a video library where the phrase is spoken: maybe one clip from “Friends”, another from “EastEnders”, another from “Absolutely Fabulous”. They system searches the Closed Captioned subtitles embedded in many broadcasts. The Closed Captions’ primary purpose is to provide the dialog of the program onscreen for deaf viewers so they can ‘read’ television. We use the Closed Captions as a script that can be searched for quotes.

Excerpt above from Who's Line Is It Anyway? published in proceedings of Computing & Fun 4.

A small instruction guide, with snapshots, is available..

talkTV for Windows 95/98/2000/ME and Mac OS 10.1 will soon be available on this site.

talkTV was developed over two weeks of the summer of 2001 at Alma Media by Erik Blankinship, a graduate student at the MIT Media Laboratory. The goal of the brief visit to Alma Media, hosted by Dr. Marko Turpeinen, was to develop a toy which would let television viewers make fun of television programs. Recognizing that people quote television programs frequently, the initial goal of the project was to make it easier to quote sources directly. Another motivation for the project was to create a tool that would empower fan fiction authors and fan video makers. To inform this effort, I looked to the research of Dr. Henry Jenkins, author of Textual Poachers. The fan video makers he documented made lots of music videos, but very few of them drew heavily on dialog. My hope is that talkTV might enable new types of fan films and entice fans of other genres to make fan films.

As a high school student I made a short film titled Channels which, in hindsight, influenced the development of talkTV. Channels was a ten minute video which chronicled a modern woman's life from birth to death with excerpts from different television programs. As the television channels in the video changed, different television characters completed each others sentences. I staged and videotaped all of the different television excerpts myself as I was worried about copyright violations. The principal of my High School played Judge Wopner, kids at the pre-school were in the Mister Rogers snippet, my mom's voice bought jewelry on the Home Shopping Network. The film didn't do too well at the county film festival, but was lauded for being creative.

Looking further back, talkTV was influenced by a comic titled MAD's Cable TV Roulette in an issue of MAD Magazine I picked up in sixth grade. Evidently it had a strong influence on me! I include it here without permission.