TwitTest Schools Project


Twit-test is a playful project for children and adults about intelligence based on the use of the social network application Twitter and making reference to the ‘Turing Test’ for artificial intelligence.  It takes this connection as a starting point for a project in the context of school education and the cultures of young people – testing how intelligence is perceived, transmitted and institutionalised in such contexts.

The Turing Test: In the “standard interpretation” of Turing’s imitation game, one player C, the interrogator, is tasked with trying to determine which other player – A or B – is a computer and which is a human. The interrogator is limited to using the responses to written questions in order to make their judgment. Twitter is an ideal channel for carrying out exactly this kind of test – some tweeters may not be who they claim to be: for instance a supposed pupil might really be a teacher; a supposed celebrity might really be an artificial intelligence software bot.

Twit-test project

As young people become familiar with posting status updates as a mode of communication, would it be interesting to use it to inform a revised Turing Test that mixed bots, up with kids, with adults and teachers, to provide an exploration of the levels of knowledge that are imparted in this way?

Would anybody be able to sort out who was human based upon the absurdity of much communication? How would the power relations involved be understood when no one could be sure of the authority or authenticity of communication? How would you know whether the information was genuine or intelligent, whether your teacher was a machine?

Schools Activity

Working as individuals and as class groups, using smartphones and desktop web browsers, school pupils and their teachers will take part in a real-world experiment in 2012 where they have to work out which tweets in a twitter stream are for real and which are fake – and they also have to work out how to fake it, themselves! Classes can win prizes both for good fake-spotting, or for good fakery; teachers at five schools are already actively engaged in helping scope the activity, and we envisage between ten and twenty schools from the Lothians and further afield taking part in March 2012. The activity contributes to curriculum objectives via ethical discussion, lessons about internet safety, and computer programming (specifically, artificial intelligence and digital media). Materials can then be reused in subsequent years.

Supported by an Innovation Initiative Grant from
The University of Edinburgh Development Trust