Quad-channel data sonification installation incorporating live keylogging and text-to-morse code generation.
Melbourne Premiere - Tilde Festival of New Music & Sound Art - 19th January 2019 - Testing Grounds
‘These shifts of gaze and plays of imagery, this emptying of the consciousness, can be caused - this time in systematic, generalised and prosaic fashion - by the characteristic features of what I have proposed to call ‘supermodernity’. These subject the individual consciousness to entirely new experiences and ordeals of solitude, directly linked with the appearance and proliferation of non-places.’
- Marc Augé (Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity)
When Marc Augé first began identifying the alienating and transitory spaces that marked his notion of the supermodern life they were big, architectural and public. Computers had yet to so thoroughly inveigle the personal space, let alone become miniaturised, super-powered and portable. The revolution that has occurred since has shifted the site of the non-place from the public to the personal, and from the large to the small. The new non-place par excellence is the QWERTY key[board/pad]. It exists as a our prime zone of interaction with, and mediation of, the world yet they are inherently empty. We spend more and more time with them, for digital transition and transmission, for the genesis of our identities.
From My Non-Place is an attempt to interrogate the habitation of this space, to further depersonalise the experience of engagement with the keyboard and to consider the ultimate significance of the content that we produce daily and that constitutes so much of our personal archive. Additionally the work attempts to free past streams of activity by allowing them to live on as things of beauty through sonarising and encoding.
The source data set for this work is activity on a personal laptop, as tracked by a covert keylogger. This data is broken into four subsets which is each parsed by a discrete morse engine using Max/MSP. The text generates a stream of morse code. Each engine is tuned so that the four voices, when occurring simultaneously, comprise a D minor chord. The tempo of each voice is also controlled independent of the others. The voices are then routed into Ableton Live where they undergo additional processing and spatialisation. They are then presented in a quad speaker array, with each discrete voice granted into its own speaker. Echoes of each voice can heard in its cardinally opposite speaker.
The choice of morse code as a carrier codec for the data set reflects its suitability for sonically creating the impression of a celestial scape. Using spatialisation techniques, the attempt has been made to immerse the listener in a stream of personal data that may as well be distant points of energy. All information has been preserved, and is available for decoding to any listener. It is not long before the listener ceases to hear textual communication and in it’s place hears musical tonality and perhaps randomness. Any traces of significance have been erased.
The keyboard user has been surveilled in the process of having their data scraped and is again surveilled, albeit by a non-understanding listener, in the presentation. Not dissimilar to our current online lives - our personal data floating online awaiting it’s malevolent repurposing.
NB: This work is adaptable to site by harnessing the data streams that are suggested by each new context eg. traffic flow data, nearby tweet emanations, etc.