Eavesdropping is a networked audio system designed for guerilla performance to raise awareness of our ambient communication in public spaces. This project highlights the intentionality and exhibitionism of bringing our private actions into the public sphere. We go to cafés not to be alone but to be surrounded by other people. Individuals and groups in these environments work or converse and simultaneously engage in a surveillance of their fellow patrons. When we hear an interesting conversation, we strain to hear the rest of the story. On the other hand we speak in voices loud enough to carry, we laugh with a volume that is intended to spread, we cough, we sneeze, we stir porcelain mugs with metal spoons and set our cups loudly into their saucers. We are performing as a musical ensemble as we take in the sound around us and spill our own audio presence into the space.
Eavesdropping is intended for performance wherever several computers are gathered, such as internet cafés. Anyone can initiate a performance on the website and inform folks at their location to join. This project debuts a multi-user, audio selection engine used in this context to create a networked art composition. The system is designed to collect characteristics of a networked group of people and provide auditory feedback regarding the state of the group and individuals in the group. Participants hear a combination of the audio being played from their own computer and from all others' computers in the room. Compositions are designed to capitalize on personal association with the sounds emanating from one's own computer.
Audio files are uploaded to the server by a composer and encoded with meta-data indicating a relationship to specific characteristics such as mood, tempo, etc. The composer then defines a narrative from the characteristics which will shape the selection of samples to be played. As users join the system, the server builds a matrix between the composition defined by the composer and the characteristics of all current users to select which file is sent to each player. The decision engine is built as a plug-in called a 'Conductor.' Each Conductor has its own algorithm for analyzing the information and selecting samples. Every performance varies based on the decisions made and the nature of the players in the system.
A functional prototype has been developed and shown as an installation in an exhibition in Vancouver, BC, Canada. A commission for this project would support developing the system into a completed interactive web art piece. This involves three primary paths: research into modes of interaction between individual users, groups and the musical composition, in order to create new conductor modules which fully exploit the connectivity and communication at the nexus of these entities; invitation of notable guest composers to creatively explore the medium and to provide additional content to web listeners; and further development of the architecture onto a more robust platform which could scale to support increasing traffic as a result of an international exhibition.Prototype URL: www.oddible.com/eavesdropping
Jack Stockholm's Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
Project Budget & Proposed Timeline