Algorithmic Ventriloquism: The Contested State of Voice in AI Speech Generators

Ido Ramati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores the vocal human–machine relations embedded in text-to-speech (TTS) generators. Retracing the human sources behind the synthetic speech and tracking the remediation of the voice by the machine-learning algorithm, it argues that artificial intelligence (AI) speaking agents such as Siri and Alexa, as well as other TTS acts such as TikTok’s, are performing algorithmic ventriloquism. Speaking mechanically with the voices of professional voiceover artists, AI speech technologies algorithmically manipulate these voices, thus generating personas that hold an interconnected chain of tensions between the embodied and the virtual, the particular and the general, the human and the non-human, as well as between speech and writing. Algorithmic ventriloquism serves as an analytical framework to tie the techno-vocalic operation of the TTS system with its cultural, economic, philosophical, and sociolinguistic predicaments. The last section discusses the implications of algorithmic ventriloquism beyond the realm of the voice.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalSocial Media and Society
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Keywords

  • TikTok
  • human–machine relation
  • media ventriloquism
  • speech generators
  • text-to-speech

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