Voice Banking

by | Local (↓) | Identity (↑) | 1 comment | 2 questions

Stephen Hawking- renowned theoretical physicist, author of 'A brief History of Time', Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) user.

Without a degenerative, or other speech-affecting condition, the voice is something we take for granted. Something we 'have', rather than something we buy and sell. We rely on being able to identify a family member on the phone by their voice. It is an immensely personal identity feature.

Yet, for those afflicted by conditions like Motor Neuron Disease or cerebral palsy, the voice becomes a valuable commodity. Just as one can donate hair, blood or bone marrow, one too can donate their voice. Those whom are aware they are likely to loose their voice can 'bank' this identity in advance. Through a clever crafting and knitting together of between 600 andn 3,500 sentences or phrases, the most unusual commodity can be created- an individualised voice which is downloaded onto an AAC system- an electronic communication device.

Where and how is it used?

For those affected by dysarthia, or any other issue which leads to significant difficulties in communicating.

What did you or someone else pay for it?

Anything between £80 and £1,200 once voice is downloaded onto device

Why do you want to add it to the museum?

Because medical advances captivate me, and the generosity of donors amazes me.
Because we regularly think about the wonder of blood donation or transplantation, but rarely of the life-improving aspects of more unusual kinds of donation. And because of the opportunities it offers for an invaluable source of being- identity and what makes you, you.

How was it made?

Is made in a factory

Is farmed

Is mass-produced

Is produced by local cottage industry

Is made to particular specifications

Is craft / hand-made

Is foraged

Is found

Is colonised

Is a service

Materials & Making

Who made or produced your commodity?

A donor/individuals vocal cords, voice banking/recording software, scientist, researcher, language therapist

Who was paid to make it?

Not answered yet

What skills does it take to make it?

Technology, knowledge

Where was it made?

Not answered yet

What does it cost to make it?

Not answered yet

What is it made from?

Buying & Owning

Who decides how much it costs?

Software manufacturers, scientists

Who or what assesses its quality?

Not answered yet

Where is it sold?

Not answered yet

Who or what sells it?

Not answered yet

How did this thing arrive from where it was made to where you got it?

Not answered yet

Where is it used?


Where is it kept?

Within software device

How and by whom is it cared for?

User, technician, scientist

How long will it last?

As long as it remains compatible with software and technology

Where will it go when it's finished with?

Not answered yet

What is it worth?


How do you and others value this commodity?

See the values contributed by visitors and those of the donor. And add your own values to this commodity.

Total times valued3
Positive (↑)Identity
Negative (↓)Local
Overall Positive272
Overall Negative-39
Controversy47.5 (0 = most controversial)

What do these numbers mean?

This data that we have collected over time in our database means nothing without interpretation. A relational database, which we are using here, is technology that enables designers of websites and software to compare, contrast, interrogate and infer relations within data. The act of designing a database is not objective but driven by the agency of its creators and owners.

Within the MoCC Collection data is used to help think through the relations between values, commodities and data. Can we describe our values using sliders and numbers? How do we infer meaning such as controversy from data?

Below is a brief explanation of the some calculations and how these help make decisions about what is shown on the site.

  • Controversy Score:
    (Total Positive Values) + (Total Negative Values)

    The closer the value is to zero the more controversial it is in relation to other commodities. Used to infer that values associated with one commodity divide opinion more than another.

  • Average Value Score (used in the sliders):
    (Total Positive for Value + Total Negative for Value) ÷ Total Times Valued

    Used to infer a collective value associated with a commodity.

How do you value this commodity?

To add your own values click VALUE THIS COMMODITY and move the sliders left and right to add your own values - then click SUBMIT
show donor's original values
- 0
29 +
- 0
27 +
- 0
25 +
- 0
19 +
- 0
18 +
- 0
18 +
- 0
18 +
- 0
14 +
- 0
13 +
- 0
13 +
- 0
13 +
- 0
13 +
- 2
10 +
- 4
10 +
- 0
5 +
- 0
5 +
- 0
7 +
- 0
4 +
- 0
3 +
- 0
0 +
- 5
6 +
- 6
2 +
- 3
0 +
- 7
0 +
- 7
0 +
- 5
0 +

Questions and answers

Help to reveal unknown quantities, properties and uses of this commodity by answering this MoCC curator's questions.

Question: What's involved in voice bank donation?


Mateiral Culture Musuem Work

Hi! Amazing Question! I’ve found out loads of new exciting information as a result of this question so thank you!

I’d never actually heard of The Human Voicebank before reading your question so thought it might be useful to begin with a little overview!

So what’s The Human Voicebank?

- Over ten million people live with voicelessness. Much like Stephen Hawking, they rely on text-to-speech devices to express themselves. Yet, young or old, male or female, shy or outgoing – they all speak with similar voices.

Stephen Hawking actually made a joke about needing a new voice after using the same voice for thirty years as part of this years Comic Relief sketches! (watch it here if you want to see Rebel Wilson, Gordan Ramsey and Simon Cowell audition to be Stephen Hawking’s new voice click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXOlfwlVag).

Not to mention the hundreds of millions of us who use generic sounding virtual assistants (ALEXA I’M LOOKING AT YOU!)
And even though Android suggest that I send Alexa to voice school (https://www.androidcentral.com/how-improve-alexas-voice-recognition) the people at VocalID and The Human Voicebank simply don’t think this is good enough! (and frankly I agree!)

So what are The Human Voicebank doing about it?

- Until now, the creation of synthetic voices began with auditioning a voice actor. They recorded speech in a professional studio for days or weeks. After this, an army of engineers and linguists spent three to four months labouring over the recordings to synthesize a voice.

- This issue with these process is that not only are digital voices expensive to create, but they also tend to be rather generic. (generic they may be but I’m sure we all secretly consider Siri a friend read this article if you want to find out more about the voice actor Susan Bennett who provided the voice for Siri! Bennet has also worked for companies like AT&T, Delta, Coca Cola and McDonalds, and describes the sassy Siri voice as simply her getting bored at the end of these sessions! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/voice-siri_n_4043134.html

- However, The Voiceband aims for any voice can be heard! By crowdsourcing the collection of voices, anyone can record from the comfort of their own home. Over 14, 000 speakers from over 110 countries have contributed over 6 million sentences to The Human Voicebank’s growing spoken repository.

Some of the services the company offer include: voice personalisation services for individuals with speech impairment who are able to record three seconds of sound, as well as voice preservation services for individuals who are seeking to preserve their voice and able to record several hours of speech (think parents working over-seas and wanting to read bedtime stories to their children, terminally ill loved ones, or even Allan Sugar preserving ‘you’re fired!’)

If you’re interested in signing up follow this link https://www.vocalid.co/voicebank.

Or if you want to think about alternative ways to record/save/donate your voice how about checking out Build-a-bear’s personalised Build-A-Sound message option. For only £5 you can record a personalised message for every occasion – I’ve heard of people using their baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy for this sort of thing but I’m sure you could think up loads of weird and wacky things to record! http://www.buildabear.co.uk/shop/store/BUILDASOUND%20WEB/productId=prod80915?CallingPage=Shop%2FSearchResults.aspx

This question also got my brain whirling over loads more voice-related commodity questions….

Why’re some voices considered more valuable than others?
This link sends you to an article explaining how Mariah Carey insured her voice for $35 million!

If you don’t like the way you sound, why would you want a personalised voice?

What does the enquiry ‘I don’t just want my voice, I want it to be deeper and more distinct’ from the FAQ section of The Voicebank’s webpage say about the society we live in? And what does their option of a ‘Voice Lift’ to make you sound younger say?

What about if your ability to pay for a voice is limited?
Crowdfunding voices, what a bizarre idea….

Hope this helps a bit!

Your friendly Commodity Consultant Lizzie!

by LizzieH on August 26th at 1:54pm

Question: How do we value 'invaluable' commodities?


Ah one of society’s ultimate dilemmas!

Putting an economic value on, for example, our natural environmental, or art work, is difficult, both from an ethical and from a technical perspective and is therefore often regarded as ‘priceless’. 
However, some people believe that regarded some things as ‘priceless’ just isn’t good enough in the current society that we live in. Take ‘nature’ for example…

in our globalized economic system, the value of nature’s multitude of critical services is subsequently translated as “0”. This is true for services such as crop pollination, water purification, climate regulation and carbon sequestration, and the list goes on.
Many people know in the back of their minds that as we continue to overuse our forest ecosystems, deplete soils, and overuse our water resources, at some stage the “rubber will hit the road”. 
In other words, there will be real economic and financial impacts. For the private sector then, the race is on to identify how changes in our natural environment can positively or negatively affect the costs and revenues of a business.
We are entering an era where water scarcity, deforestation, soil degradation and biodiversity loss will increasingly incur real costs or affect revenues by companies caught unaware. Take the Malaysian palm oil producer ‘IOI Corporation’, whose shares has been on a roller coaster. 
On 1 April 2016, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspended the corporation due to failure to prevent its subsidiaries from illegal deforestation in Indonesia. As a result, 27 major corporate buyers - including Cargill - suspended and terminated relations with IOI and its share price fell 17%. Then on 5 August 2016, shares rallied 5% on the news that the RSPO will lift its suspension effective 8 August 2016. Moody’s - a credit rating agency - however maintains a “negative credit outlook” on its debt. (See research conducted by Chain Reaction).
So, if you understand as a business that environmental destruction is real and relevant for your operations, what tools are out there for the private and financial sector to understand the extent to which your company can be affected by natural capital risks?
A good starting point is the Natural Capital Coalition, which has just released a Protocol that guides companies through nine steps to identify, measure and value their impacts and dependencies on the natural environment. It has also issued two sector guides for food & beverages and for the apparel sectors. Specific sector guides for more sectors will follow.
If your company is specifically or exclusively interested in understanding the financial impacts related to natural capital, then the Natural Capital Declaration (NCD) is developing a range of tools that directly integrates natural capital in credit risk analysis of loans and bonds, as well as in market valuations of companies listed on stock exchanges. 
The basic premise of any of these tools is that they look in principle at costs and revenues, and how to embed these in standard financial metrics such as EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization). 
A water risk tool target (equities) developed and released in 2015 by Bloomberg and the NCD enables financial professionals to gauge the extent to which water scarcity affects earnings and potentially the share price of mining stocks using a standard discounted cash flow model (DCF). It found for example in the case Antofagasta, a copper mining company, that the difference between free cash flow in a business-as-usual scenario in 2021 and when taking water risks into account, is about 40% or US$ 2.5 billion. This is large enough to affect equity value and the projected share price. 
The NCD has also co-developed a water risk tool focused on corporate bonds. It found that water stress could have a significant impact on credit ratios. In the case of South African utility, Eskom, the model predicts that its debt/EBITDA ratio, (which is an important yardstick for the value and riskiness of corporate bonds), will almost triple if the full cost of its water use is internalized. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natural-capital-coalition-/valuing-the-invaluable_b_12327920.html
Yet, could we not expand our concept of value as more than economic value to include for example ‘spiritual-value’ using concepts like Marx’s use and exchange values and Baudrillard’s sign-value? If this idea sparks your interest check this paper out on the value of souvenirs - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517714002143
But wait, if we go back to the start of this discussion with priceless commodities such as art or nature – if we accept these need to be assigned some sort of value – what are our thoughts about self worth ? is self worth our most invaluable commodity? Is self worth a priceless possession that so many of us underestimate or devalue?? Is it perhaps the only thing that is invaluable as it is the only thing that can be unconditional? What do you think? https://roianne.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/an-invaluable-commodity/

What a wicked problem…whose got some solutions?!


by LizzieH on August 27th at 7:18pm


Do you have questions about how this commodity is valued? Or want to talk about your own values in relation to it? Share your comments.

do you ever wonder what your voice would sound like if you were the other sex?

by LizzieH on August 26th at 5:11pm

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