Dear Voyeur, meet Flâneur…Sincerely, Social Media sonifies the meta-data from the twitter accounts of well-known public entities: Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, YouTube, CNN, the BBC. By translating twitter meta-data into sound in real time, the work questions what it means, via the logic of data extraction, to be reduced to streams of data. By abstracting human bodies into data flows, online surveillance networks create profiles of the subjects of such surveillance - our data doubles. Considering the extent to which we watch each other via social media, personal identity becomes a commodity and our humanness itself is increasingly defined by our data-selves. Within a culture of permanent online connectivity, who are we to these ubiquitous algorithms?
What does it mean to have our daily footsteps counted in the urban terrain of a ‘smart city’? The City of Melbourne’s 24-hour pedestrian counting system measures the daily activity of pedestrians. Updated hourly, the data captured by thirty-five of the forty sensors installed around Melbourne’s CBD was sonified in real time. The sonic unfolding of pedestrians’ movements was transmitted through the Signal Sound system at Les Erdi Plaza, enabling a listening mode of examination, to the everyday rhythm of commuters.
The Channel Arts Centre, Melbourne, 2015 Listening Walk, Kühlhaus, Berlin, 2015
Anywhere, All the Time, A Permanent Soundtrack to Your Life - Walking Down the Main Street of Reykjavík, Iceland
An application for android devices that sonifies WI-FI and GPS networks, providing a sonic presence to phenomena that usually lies beyond human perception. Intersecting with the social, technological and political convergences within contemporary, mobile society – one walks through the city intercepting these wireless global infrastructures, the sonification of which, creates a compositional mapping within our everyday environments.
The first half of the title, Anywhere, all the time, was lifted from the Treasure Map document, leaked from the Edward Snowden archive in 2013. It outlines the NSA's mission to build a near real-time interactive map of the global internet that will ”Map the entire internet – Any device, anywhere, all the time” via the installation of traceroute generators in “unwitting” data centres around the globe. The second half of the title, a permanent soundtrack to your life – is a reference to the musical form, the ever-present nature of wireless networks and the time concept of duration.
Portable smart devices, by the very characteristics that determine their success, also make them particularly suitable as surveillance devices. Wi-Fi technology, cell phone towers and locative media provide specific geo-reference to material territories so that it becomes possible to quite literally ‘follow the actor’. By providing a direct sensory experience of data through sound I’m interested in how it feels to live in a culture where our public space is mediated by technological infrastructure that simultaneously empowers via communication and compromises via mass surveillance. Do our smart devices operate primarily as bridges or walls?
Stationed at the Technology & Protest Conference at the Technical University, Berlin & again at West Space gallery in Melbourne - I provided participants with the opportunity to make their personal Sound Selfie. Looking into the camera on my laptop, facial recognition algorithms detected and analysed conference / gallery attendees’ faces, and the individual facial data generated sound. Exploring modes of participatory surveillance as well as making a parallel action to the usual chain of events for the Selfie, the Sound Selfies were instantly uploaded and archived to a Facebook page.
Investigating how the surveillance of identity can lead to a biological reductionism, I programmed a basic form of digital synthesis (FM synthesis) to emphasise the reductive process of digitally encoding the face into a few basic measurements. By taking measurements at regular intervals and storing them as numbers, digital (binary) encodes by marking thresholds of absolute distinction. The gap between two thresholds is a range of quality, but digitisation imposes a uniform value on this range thereby erasing difference. Digital excludes excess, singularity and uniqueness in favour of static fixed forms. I’m interested in what this means when our identities, choices, and personalities are transformed into streams of data under the algorithmic gaze.
*Facial recognition technologies (FRT) use mathematical algorithms to create a digital template of a person’s face. FRT when employed as a surveillance technology requires no involvement from the person that is being surveyed or incidentally captured by camera. Unlike other biometrics FRT can operate anonymously in the background. People do not need to surrender their face image as they would their fingerprint or their iris scan. A face can be captured and (de)coded without the person’s consent or active participation. FRT is therefore considered to be a ‘silent technology’.