Epic Sock Puppet Theater

Interactive Installation

2023 - ongoing

Epic Sock Puppet Theater is an interactive installation featuring animatronic sock puppets that perform social media posts from “sock puppet” accounts known to have engaged in disinformation campaigns. “Sock puppets” are imposter social media accounts created to infiltrate groups, surveil and provoke people, and spread disinformation. The disinformation performed by our animatronics comes from datasets released by researchers, government agencies, and journalists. The goal of these campaigns has been to polarize and divide the public on various topics. To allow viewers to maintain critical distance, the project draws from Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theater, which emphasizes audience participation and distancing techniques for the presentation of politically charged content.

Epic Sock Puppet Theater is based on research that has found that the revelation of a sock puppet has helped targeted members of the public identify other sock puppets and that controlled exposure to sock puppets can serve as a form of ‘inoculation’ against future disinformation. As participants scroll through a dataset of social media posts made by fake accounts that are performed by puppets, they become familiar with, and more resistant to, disinformation tactics.

Epic Sock Puppet Theater has received funding from the European Union’s framework Horizon 2020 for research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 951962. The project is a collaboration with Derek Curry.