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This C-SPAN Bot Proves Politicians Say the Same Things

Sam Lavigne's C-SPAN 5 makes automated supercuts that pick out pundits' most-used words.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Mar 23 2015, 1:50pm

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INVESTIGATION and SERVICE and TIME from CSPAN Five on Vimeo.

"SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE, INVESTIGATION, SERVICE, TIME, INVESTIGATION..." 

Sometimes the use of strong, simple language becomes so favored a tool in politicians' repertoires that it seems like buzz-worthy keywords are the only ones coming out of their mouths. As C-SPAN 5, the automated C-SPAN re-editing program by Stupid Hackathon founder Sam Lavigne (see This Invention Lets Your Pizza Tweet Every Time You Take a Bite) proves, they are the only words coming out of politicians' mouths. 

Programmed in Python using audiogrep and moviepy, C-SPAN 5 takes hour-long blocks of C-SPAN programming, transcribes the audio, and creates a new, 1-2 minute supercut of its actors', anchors', analysts', and experts' most-used words. Via automation, these results are then published online and announced on the @CSPANFive Twitter. The program is only nine days old but has already racked up a cache of 23 different videos. 

Iran Nuclear Negotiations-393038_1.mp4.edited.mp4.1426915063.mp4 from CSPAN Five on Vimeo.

"Generally speaking, I'm interested in exploring techniques for shrinking down large inventories, lists, and bodies of texts," Lavigne tells The Creators Project. "Reductions, especially programmatic ones, allow us to make unexpected discoveries and can potentially reveal hidden truths about corpora." In this case, the truth is not-so-hidden: it's almost as if C-SPAN's figures are performing acting exercises wherein the directive is to repeat the same word differently every time. "I think this is particularly worthwhile when dealing with governmental corpora, which are frequently illegible due to how massive they can be," Lavigne continues. "Releasing information, even in the name of transparency, can itself be an obfuscating strategy. So, programmatic reduction is a kind of counter-strategy."

Watch more footage of politicians repeating themselves on Vimeo, and stay tuned to @CSPANFive for an update every time a new video is published. 

Click here for more from Sam Lavigne. 

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C-SPAN 5