In Ovid’s Metamorphoses there is a description of a point from which all can be seen and heard and where a tower of sounding bronze hums and echoes, repeating gossip and circulating stories from every part of the world. This is the House of Rumour, a global hub of information, a network of reference and hearsay where fact and fiction meet and conspiracies are generated. A classical myth that has become a reality -the image of the House of Rumour is prescient and familiar as a 2,000-year-old description of the internet.
It is also an allegory for a counter-intelligence system. It was from the House of Rumour that the Trojans learnt that the Greek fleet was on its way and in a struggle that was decided by a bold stratagem of psychological deception it is clear that disinformation and black propaganda are as old as warfare itself.
And it is an abiding metaphor for uncertainty in culture. In his poetic history Ovid plays with the variable nature of truth but what makes his House of Rumour seem so modern is that it presents all information as a discourse between imagination and reality and marks out a tradition of a virtual world of collective narratives. We share files, we share stories, and twitter feeds become ‘whisperings of doubtful origin’. In a dimension of coded space this network has always existed. It anticipated us.
Welcome to the House of Rumour.