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Installation, 2016

Computational Design of an autonomous yet interactive chat between Martin Luther and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

exhibition visitors in front of the installation

Scherflein is an associative and humorous conversation between the two, based on their huge contributions to The German Dictionary. Through Natural Language Processing their words are being transferred into the present in form of a textual chat. Visitors interrupt by sending text messages with their mobile phones asking questions, Luther will answer.
The name derives from the german saying »Sein Scherflein beitragen« originating from Luther, translating to »contributing their bit«.

The installation was part of a special exhibition »Aufs Maul geschaut« at the Grimmwelt Kassel during the Luther decade, a preparation for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Grimms were the first to document German language in 1838 in The German Dictionary. It gathers quotes by historic authors and was finished long after the Brothers Grimm’s deaths by a succession of later scholars and institutions.

Technical Insights

The application is based on Node.js with a MySQL database containing an excerpt of the textual contributions to the dictionary.
The system searches for entries with highest relevance. Lemmatization is being used to match different forms with the same word stem. To match the visitors contemporary language with the original quotes, as well as making the historic language more recognizable, it was also necessary to use normalization of the original words. To accomplish this, the system makes heavy use of CAB a service by Deutsches Textarchiv.
Mobile text messaging service was implemented using SMSSync.


#Natural Language Processing, #JavaScript, #Node.js, #SMS, #MySQL, #Socket.IO, #HTML, #CSS, #jQuery


Concept: TheGreenEyl
Curation: Friedrich W. Block

Cover photo:
Studio TheGreenEyl, Sein Scherflein beitragen, 2016.
Installation view, GRIMMWELT Kassel.