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MIP: Designing an App

One of the things that has come up when discussing sound walks and headphones  with a few friends and colleagues is the additional sounds people claim that they are able to pick up on when they listen to the sounds of the city via a microphone and headphones as opposed to without such technology. I thought this was quite interesting, given my interest in the brain and its processing of stimuli. It reminded me of some reading I’d done on ‘the cocktail party’ effect, ie, the brain’s ability to interpret various audio signals, filtering out those that might be deemed extraneous to the situation. This can be observed in people’s ability to focus on one conversation over a many in a crowded noisy room, hence its name. Somehow, the sense of disassociation that accompanies listening to the world via a microphone and headphones seems to negate this particular ability.

When looking at urban and suburban audio, the effect is similar. Without this cognitive ability, the urban soundscape would likely be unbearable due to the chaotic noise. In  A New Sense of City Through Hearing and Sound,  Eva Kekou and Matteo Marangoni discuss the chaos of urban sound.

There is a paradox between the fact that cities are highly structured spaces in which almost everything one senses has been processed through a human brain to be orderly, and the fact that interactions therein are far too complex to be controlled.

I wanted to design a technology that somehow worked as an artificial, controllable form of this inherent audio filtering ability. Using the mobile application template, I thought about designing a way of running the phone microphone input via a number of variable audio filters. The audio would then be fed out of the phones 3.5mm audio output to headphones. This technology would not be particularly difficult to design and implement, given Pure Data’s compatability with a number of mobile devices.

This has a couple of applications: firstly, as a more socially beneficial way, this technology could be adapted for use in dealing with various audio/noise issues. In another discussion with a colleague who had suffered a stroke, I was told that since then he finds it incredibly difficult to focus on sound: often conversation can be difficult when there are several sources of sound in the area, as he finds it impossible to concentrate. I thought this application could be quite helpful, enabling him to potentially filter out those undesired noises. The second use, a little more creative, is as a filter for use in an instrument, a sort of ambient subtractive synthesiser. I feel that this could make for an interesting piece of technology that could be used as a way of providing a fresh perspective of the city soundscape.

MIP: Work By Another Artist

I was really interested in the Kittler reading, particularly the section referring to transport networks and infrastructure as systems for the flow of information. Given Newcastle’s metropolitan design and busy traffic, the city can almost be seem as being at the centre of a massive communication network, This can be seen in the extreme business of the Tyne Bridge during the rush hour commute. At times it has taken me nearly an hour to get across that bridge in a car.

I wanted to bring the work of Jodi Rose and her Singing Bridges to the class. The project outline introduces the concept:

“‘Singing bridges’ is a sonic sculpture, playing the cables of stay-cabled and suspension bridges as musical instruments. To create this work I will amplify and record the sound of bridge cables around the world. Listening in to the secret voice of bridges as the inaudible vibrations in the cables are translated into sound.'”

I thought this idea was really interesting, as it was a new way of using the noise of some of the most architecturally impressive structures humanity has ever designed. Bridges serve as the linking points in Kittler’s urban information network, the connectors in the circuit. A byproduct of this is the extreme levels of noise. This applies to bridges, as well as many other points within the transport network. I have had the fortune in my time in Newcastle to live in the ground floor flat, next to a Number 1 route bus stop, and some of the noises when the bus is idling at the stop are incredible. The walls of the flat filter out much of the higher end engine ‘chug’, however, there is a powerful, strangely warm rumble that can be heard and felt to some degree in the walls.

I thought Jodi Rose’s project was really interesting as it is a form of reinterpretation of that noise byproduct of metropolitan living. I also thought the idea could be used in Newcastle, given the city’s 2007 award as the country’s noisiest city.

Final Project Update

Still beavering away at my final project. Here is an A3 Research poster prepared for last weeks’ project session, but expect some better stuff soon. Cultural probes have started to come back, I’ve started to analyse those so will post my findings soon.

DOING: Processing

CONCEPT

“Abertrack” is a Processing program and visualisation which tracks and plots the voy- ages of an international oil tanker called MV Aberdeen. Ship location data is provided by a service called “Ship AIS” which provides regular updates, including the latitude and longitude of the vessel. As my partner works at sea, I regularly check Ship AIS but often find the information confusing. There is an option to view the vessel position on a map, but it only shows the previous 6 hours of movement.

I wanted to create a nicer, more aesthetically pleasing visualisation of the MV Aberdeen’s movements over a longer period of time.

IMPLEMENTATION

When I embarked upon this project, I wanted to pull the vessel’s location data from the Ship AIS system via XML feed, however this proved to be an insurmountable feat. Most sources did not have an XML feed that Processing could read, and the only one I could find required a fee of several hundred pounds to access. However, I expect with enough time – and perhaps some outside advice – I could eventually overcome this problem by reading the val- ues straight from the PHP cell on the website.

After several weeks of battling with the above, I opted to manually store the data in a text file. I then called this into Processing as an array, with each line (latitude, longitude) being parsed as a string. This was an easy workaround and allowed me to achieve what I had set out to. For each string, I drew an eclipse to mark the co-ordinates of the ship at that time. Once I had my co- ordinates plotting correctly, I joined them with a line.

The biggest challenge I faced in this project was plotting the GPS co-ordinates onto a 2D map. It took a lot of research into mercartor maps, a distressing amount of maths and rather a lot of trial and error to finally come up with a solution which enabled me to plot GPS co-ordinates directly onto my map.

SCOPE & POTENTIAL

There is potential for this concept to be scaled up to create larger and more engaging visu- alisations. This example shows a mock-up of three different vessels in three different seas, in different colours.

There is also potential to make the map interactive, for example allowing the user to zoom in on specific areas or choose which ships they view. A live feed would be nice.

MYTHS

As inevitably predicted, I’ve gone for a very loose connection to the theme of “myths”!

When hearing people talk about myths, it is often sea-related things which spring to mind, eg. mermaids, the Loch Ness Monster, the Greek God Posiedon, etc. One of the most famous myths is based around the Chinese Ocean God T’ien Hou – a mythological being who guarded sailors and kept them safe. She would watch over sailors and ensure they were always safe on their voyages. Arguably, tracking vessels ensures their utmost safety and security – so my project relates to the theme in this way.

You can view the A3 poster I made to accompany the project by clicking here.

art-phone video mock-up (1st attempt)

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/22706053[/vimeo]

whilst filming for this short interaction example, various problems cropped up. notably…

  • need a suitable stand for telephone.
  • light beam not visible on camera.
  • existing artwork lighting to dark for filming.
  • more information can be communicated in film.
  • pretty boring and simplistic in general

…2nd filming session will attempt to address these problems.

the dark arts

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a swift cycle around town, looking for potential spots to locate “art-phones”

art-phone prototype

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AIM – TO MANUFACTURE A PHONE THAT WIRELESSLY TURNS ON A MAINS POWERED FLOODLIGHT>

started by trying to connect two arduinos via bluetooth… using sena shields, failed due to the lack of a ‘jig board’ or ‘dev board’ or ‘the required knowledge’.

xbee is maybe a better option… but for the purposes of the prototype and within the time constraints… wireless another time.

so moving on to… MANUFACTURE A PHONE THAT TURNS ON A MAINS POWERED FLOODLIGHT>

the above photos show the progression in realising this aim.

  • hacking a phone.
  • using its push button to control a LED.
  • trying to use a transistor as a switch to power a DC motor.
  • using a relay as the switch instead.
  • creating a working circuit at low power (12v)
  • swapping the motor for an LED floodlight.
  • plugging the circuit into the mains.
  • being scared of turning on the power.
  • turning on the power.
  • SUCCESS!

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/22705978[/vimeo]

MIP – public artworks map

I have begun to create a map showing the locations of public artworks within the city centre. This will hopefully help me decide on locations of proposed spotlight and trigger sites. (It may also be a useful online resource in its own right)

Newcastle Public Art Map

MIP – MapPhone development & brainstorm

Above is an image i created for the initial presentation for the media in public module… the idea was a simple one… creating a “batphone” style system that would increase awareness of artworks in the city centre and aid navigation to said artworks. The basic premise is that members of the public would encounter some trigger mechanism at a given point in the city, for instance a phone on a stand or a big red button… when the phone is picked up or button pressed a bright spotlight would illuminate next to an artwork in the city. Ideally this would be visible form the trigger point and from a large surrounding area, thus drawing peoples attention to the lit up part of the city. As i have said this is a simple idea, but I like it, and from my preliminary questioning of some night-time users of the city, it seems the system would be a welcome feature in the city.

I would now like to list areas of development within the project for my own benefit and for feedback and suggestions from blog readers (your thoughts are greatly appreciated!)

Important features of this system.

  • Areas of engagement for artworks are multiplied and spread over the city.
  • Allows the public to be connected to artworks.
  • Acts as a navigational device.

Trigger Issues.

  • Location (busy? quiet? visual line of sight? relationship with illuminated artwork? …what is important?)
  • Information at trigger  – audio information through phone “by picking up this phone you have illuminated [artwork] and increased its visibility” or “Thankyou for your interest in [artwork]” “This phone has been picked up [number] times.” etc.written information by phone (instructions? directions? purpose?.
  • Object – i like the phone… familiar to people, existing affordances, red phone (playful)

Switch.

  • Wireless. (arduino to arduino communication – Bluetooth/Xbee/Wifi (Bluetooth solution seems simplest and most effective and cheapest WIN)
  • Distance – technical limitations and line of sight limitations, directly affects trigger location (blessing in disguise?)

Spotlight

  • Cost of powerful light? (£10,000 budget do-able surely…?)
  • Alternatives – lasers (research needed) – LED beacons?
  • Spotlight most aesthetically pleasing – sketch picture but too much but flood lights could be effective.

Aims for the immediate future (before the presentation)

  • Make a working example of batphone system (phone/switch/bluetooth/light on…. sounds almost too easy!)
  • Technical sketch diagram of example and scaled up project.
  • Identify locations of artworks and triggers and plot on map with photos (night).
  • User test of trigger.
  • (that sounds like enough fro the time being.)

 

 

 

 

 

Media in public Assign 7

Reading

The first article focus on an interesting question “what are we producing”, different needs, and how to deal with the differentiation between the process of production and usage of material. The second one is a representative idea of “little change save the world”, just change the google’s background to black would save lots of power, amazing! The third article related to the topic “materialism” and let me come up with some interesting examples too, but still need some time to get familiar with this part.

And as a quick development of the streetlight (unnoticed thing) if I get some solar devices and needn’t worry about the power, I come up with to install some pray wheel on the body of streetlight (to make the streetlight’s body part don’t totally disappear because the bulb draws too much attention).

The pray wheel on the streetlight needn’t use hand to make it move, but it could detect you and start to run automatically. When it is shinning in the sunshine, how beautiful they would be? Especially there lots of streetlights.