Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Commentary

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Commentary

My project is an interactive digital adaptation of Philip. K. Dick’s 1968 novel about a ‘Blade Runner’ who hunts down rogue androids on the apocalyptic remains of planet Earth. As with many Sci-Fi novels, Electric Sheep conjures up visions of future possibilities and applies them to social situations. One such idea is the Voight-Kampf test, one of several tests from the book that is used to determine whether someone is a human, or an android. The test is a series of controversial and often personal questions that are designed to provoke an emphatic response, something an android should not be capable of. Using reaction time, body language and eye movement as telling factors, the answers are then assessed by the Blade Runner who makes the decision on whether they are a ‘replicant’. My project was to make this test available to everyone, by filming myself asking a random series of these questions and embedding them into a hypertext game where participants could answer each one in a text box. The answers are then collected and assessed by the Blade Runner before the participant is given a response. The answers to each question were then published on the internet to allow people to see the wide variety of answers for each question.

Two digital Voight-Kampff tests already exist on the internet, and although one does manage to capture the tone of the book, neither do the test any justice as they are both very limited. By restricting the user to multiple choice answers, the most interesting aspect of the test is completely lost: Individuality. I felt it imperative to let the user answer with whatever they wanted, even if this meant some answers may be off topic (these responses may not be published).

In order to make the experience as immersive as possible, I thought asking each question through video, and creating a mock computer panel inspired by the film sets from Blade Runner (Ridley Scott’s film adaption of the novel), would be enough represent the dark, brooding tone of the novel.

I took as many of the actual questions that are used in both the book and the film as I thought were relevant, but in order to make this adaptation effective, I needed to create many of the questions myself. I felt that by targeting aspects of our daily lives, the test would have much greater effect, and may actual generate some emotional responses as the test intends. For example I imagined how various social media tools could be used to generate emotional reactions, as well as drawing from recent events from around the world that people may feel passionate about. Other, more generalised questions that targeted things like family were also included.

I felt that, because the test is specifically designed as a sort of provocation, it was best to include a warning before the test is undertaken. For those that are still interested in taking the test, another prompt is given asking them to answer as honestly as possible.

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