Carbon is a device that translates graphite markings on paper into signals that manipulate sound and visuals. Carbon’s interface is pencil, paper, and an LED screen that reflects the user's marks on paper and translates signals from other modules into light and color.
A synthesizer features knobs, sliders and buttons that allow the user to manipulate sound. The opposite ends of a knob or a slider represent two ends of an axis such as slow and fast or low pitch and high pitch, or, in case of buttons, on and off or play and pause. Each of these elements, controlling singular values, combine to form an interface between the musician and sound.
On a scale of visible and invisible, the interface of the synthesizer is very visible.
It’s difficult to interface with a synth intuitively. The user needs to be knowledgeable about how to make music to experiment or improvise. The interface doesn’t respond to gestures other than turning knobs or dragging sliders. The large number of controls on a synth means these controls need to be arranged in an efficient way. Thus, more important controls which are used more often are more eye catching and easier to reach. While this is important for function, it also creates a bias on ways of interfacing with sound. Some aspect of sound are more important to manipulate while some can be left alone for the most part.
Carbon is an experiment on the effect interfaces can have on decision-making and the creative process.
The knowledge of how to use pencil and paper is much more widespread than the knowledge of playing an instrument. Replacing the interface of a synth with a sheet of paper and a pencil opens this device up to people who wouldn’t know how to interact with a musical instrument. The user can make decisions based on the way they want to move their hand or the shape of marks they want to leave on the paper. In a way, Carbon is also a translator between audio and visual. A musician can use the sound output of the synth to guide their drawing in the same way an illustrator can use shapes on paper to control sound.
Carbon is born out of a desire to interface with a medium one is unfamiliar with. The lack of technical knowledge in music that started out as an insecurity ended up guiding me through this project in exploring how I can interact with the unfamiliar through the familiar.
Flakes is an audio playback device that combines the functionalities of an analog cassette tape player and a digital sample playback module <1>. Merged together in the case of an old desktop cassette recorder, this hybrid machine allows both different audio playback techniques to consolidate each other’s technical limitations <2>, make use (and misuse) of their capabilities in order to emphasize their ‘unique’ characteristics. By connecting the available outputs to inputs and using the adjustable knobs on the interface, the user has the options to mix, modify and let the samples from both analog and digital sources interact with each other to create new, unexpected sounds.
The starting point for making this device was to somehow ‘reveal’ the simularities of the inner workings between the digital software-based module and the analog origins of sample playback technique by using cassette tape loops <3>. With the idea of combining both playback techniques, I explored each unique characteristics, technical limitations and their potentials to function within a hybrid in order to create a new interface where they could work together, influence and even fight each other. Like an audible ‘internal dialogue’, switching between intuition and reason.
How it works
A speech sample <4> (saying IN-SIDE OUT) is cut into pieces so the separate words can be divided to the digital module (programmed onto) and analog tape loop (recorded onto its magnetic tape). While the analog tape loop is prominent and continuously plays the same slice <5>, the digital module runs a program that allows the recorded sample to (start playback on a trigger and) jump between different starting positions and loop sizes start playback. Played together, random flakes and new combinations of the separate words are constantly being generated in real-time. They correct and complement each other, making new combinations of the 3 words: IN-SIDE-OUT. The main goal of my research was to somehow 'reveal' what's happening inside the digital module by showing the similarities to the analog origins of the sample playback technique by using cassette tape loops. Here, the cassette tape is deployed to elucidate what a sample loop is: a seemingly stable mechanism that is fairly transparent in how it works <5>. The digital function is, in contrast, somehow hidden and mysterious in what it will do. Besised that, once uploaded, the code can't be retrieved from the device .
By combining these techniques, the resemblances between the inner workings of the two playback methods somehow seem very logical at first sight. One plays a piece of magnetic tape, the other plays a piece of code in a loop. Over and over again. But both techniques and interfaces offer unique features that can be combined so the machine could have an "inner dialogue", correcting, complimenting, almost discussing each other's limitations and capabilities <6>. Almost as if this device is being self-critical and tries to come to terms with itself.
The visible aspect of the hybrid device functions as a window with the blinds are open: it offers a peek inside but it still raises a question of what's happening inside. As a way to gain interest by showing the first glance and generate curiosity being showing and hiding something. This way, the visual aspect creates comfort and novelty: the analog as the striking presence to draw attention, the digital as the hidden mystery which can raise the question of whether we should care how things are implemented inside. And why should we care as long as it works?
[Note 1]: The modular synthesizer is a type of synthesizer, which exists in both physical and virtual forms, consisting of separate specialized modules. The modules are not hardwired together by the manufacturer but can be connected with patch cords, a matrix patching system, or switches by the user to create a patch. Source: Wikipedia)
[Note 2]: Despite both only being capable of playing lo-fi samples (Analog low fidelity: hiss, fluctuations in tape speed, limited audio frequency range / digital low fidelity: low bitrate, dithering, and limited audio frequency range. The analog device can make recordings and play them back directly and the digital module's behavior is fully programmable, allowing to make use of feedback, phasing, gate triggers, pitch control functions, and configurable functionalities as desired and more.
[Note 3]: In a tape loop, the sound is recorded on a section of magnetic tape and this tape is cut and spliced end-to-end, creating a circle or loop which can be played continuously.
[Note 4]: Working with speech samples for the demonstration gave the device human characteristics. The narrated character of the speech sounds calming and, at first, comforts. We recognize this mode of speech when receiving instructions from a navigation system, for instance; or from a mentor who will lead you in the right direction, which we can follow blindly. As the vocals are processes, language moves from being an interface to becoming an instrument. From the structure of an unknown system.
[Note 5]: In music, tape loops are loops of magnetic tape used to create repetitive, rhythmic musical patterns or dense layers of sound when played on a tape recorder. Originating in the 1940s with the work of Pierre Schaeffer, they were used among contemporary composers of 1950s and 1960s, such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who used them to create phase patterns, rhythms, textures, and timbres. Popular music authors of 1960s and 1970s, particularly in psychedelic, progressive and ambient genres, used tape loops to accompany their music with innovative sound effects. In the 1980s, analog audio and tape loops with it gave way to digital audio and application of computers to generate and process sound. (source: Wikipedia)
[Note 6]: One can argue that the cassette tape's mechanism and recording method on magnetic tape is highly complex and mystical as well. By all means, we are just used to it since it has been around. So it might be a difference in current technical knowledge. But there's a diffrence in visibility and sense of control seeing a mechanism run in front of your eyes or having to rely on the fact that a certain code is running on a micro computer.
Generator is a module that translates voltage into video signal. The voltage can come both from the power source of the module and the outputs of other modules that can connect to it. It is both self-controlled and sound-controlled so it can be a stand alone object or part of a bigger constellation. It is an image maker that explores the visual possibilities within the limitations of the hardware and the code. Coding was a substantial part of this process – sometimes pointing me in the right direction, sometime presenting setbacks and frustrations and and at other times creating unexpected outcomes. The goal at first was unknown and mysterious and I came to realised that I will discover it as I go. Once I got the module to work with the LCD screen, it became my canvas. As I progressed, I realised I wanted the user of the module to be able to generate images and examine the possibilities of this medium. I created this version of the “etch a sketch”, in which the user alternates between the sense of control and randomness. On the one hand the rules of the modules are mostly clear – there are 5 brushes, you can determine their size, and you can draw across the X and the Y axis. On the other hand it takes some time to learn how to control it, there are many options to discover and it can be influenced by other modules' outputs that cannot be controlled directly.
Finally, the screen clears every 10-12 seconds so you have a limited time to draw your image. The act of refreshing the screen seemed natural because every image we make is unique. It is almost impossible to make exactly the same image, so each one created is one of a kind but also temporary and fleeting, soon to be replaced by another image. All of these combined reference the experience of creative coding. There is a magic in randomness, producing while exploring and getting unexpected outcomes. My wish was to embed a personal perspective– happy “mistakes”, making adjustments while working and viewing the tools that we use as partners of the process and not just a means to an end. I encourage whoever builds this module to explore the coding and try to see where she/he can take it, what can happen while playing with code.
GLARE is a speculative interface trying to explore what lies behind the boundaries of the usual input devices. The idea for it arose out of the impression that most of music production interfaces require a deep understanding of the subject and thus impose a considerable hurdle on the average user.
Music is in itself something very intuitive and emotional and as it is something profoundly satisfying and an excellent method of emotional self reflection the making of it should be accessible to a broad audience. This approach is not only aiming to provide a new controller for musicians, but to put the creation of music into the lives of individuals as a practice of leisure and self-realization.
Dancing, usually a way to deal with music after the process of producing it has ended, is a direct and very personal translation of music. Provided the necessary interfaces are available, making music could and should be as simple as dancing to it.
GLARE module is being controlled by gestures only and thereby works in a very intuitive way. The movements controlling the auditive content can resemble the motion of dancing.
Modular Linguistics is based on a series of electronic objects which are programmed to speak. The words chosen to be part of its vocabularies are spoken in unison, generating new associations between terms.
The process of constructing language, both written and spoken, has always been modular. Modularity presupposes a certain compatibility between interlocking parts—this is the crux of language. Modular Linguistics then, is not a claim for the discovery of a new function within the field of linguistics, but simply an emphasis on its constructibility instead of its descriptive abilities.
However, orality is strictly interlinked with sound as a carrier of language, which invests the act of speech with multitudes of aesthetic qualities. The sonic and phonetic dimensions of language are what articulates speech, while simultaneously imposing its ephemerality. As Walter Ong fundamentally states:
“All sensation takes place in time, but sound has a special relationship to time unlike that of the other fields that register in human sensation. Sound exists only when it is going out of existence. It is not simply perishable but essentially evanescent, and it is sensed as evanescent. When I pronounce the word ‘permanence’, by the time I get to the ‘-nence’, the ‘perma-’ is gone, and has to be gone.”1
It is then important to consider the recording of language as not only a practice of writing, but also one of speaking and listening.
The voice appears here as an electronic anomaly: a synthetic placeholder for a missing vocal anatomy. You are now faced with a device which is able to speak—a disembodied voice sounding from an electronic circuit. The voice struggles to articulate through the constraints of a lo-fi sound output. Some sounds fade and are left to exist only as the memories of certain phonemes in the listener’s cognitive effort. Although, listening is performed without the ability to localize the precise source of the sound. It is therefore an acousmatic voice with origins unknown. As Mladen Dolar puts it in What’s in a Voice?:
“In this universe it is more appropriate to say that the voice, far from being a self-expression, a harbinger of interiority and individuality, is more like an intruder, a foreign body, a prosthesis, a bodily extension, an artificial limb – it is never ‘authentic’, it is never just an expression. The voice has like a spectral autonomy, it never quite belongs to the body we see, the voice never sounds like the person emitting it, there is always a gap, a Verfremdung, a mismatch, a ventriloquism.”2
The possibility of producing new words with distinct speculative qualities is why the construction of neologisms is a practice that proposes to constantly reinvent and revise the use of language as pertinent to a certain time. A neologism can manifest as a cut-up: a swift or abbreviated manner of swapping and shifting connotations. Or in other words, the (un-)intentional clumsiness of hot-gluing a semantically loaded prefix to an unsuspecting root-term.
What comes out of the device is a relentless noise which proposes a different kind of deep listening: a low fidelity practice of cutting-up, sampling and mixing prefixes, roots and suffixes. The cultural theorist Kodwo Eshun writes about this act of mixing and sampling, in his book More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction:
“The cut is a command, a technical and conceptual operation which cuts the lines of association. [...] The stammer of the new. Each cut magnifies the words so you hear in closeups which expand space until it blows up.”3
Without the presence of written language, listening becomes a translation of the practice of developing neologisms into an aesthetic experience. And therefore allows for the phonetic process of tapping into the production of neologisms. Or, in other words, this device favors homophonic relations over homographic relations: playing neologisms instead of writing neologisms. The act of listening to the words being produced allows for the possibility of different ways to write.
1. Ong, Walter J.Orality and Literacy. Routledge, 2002.
2. Eshun, Kodwo. More Brilliant than the Sun. Verso, 2018.
3. Dolar, Mladen. “What’s in a Voice?” Resonant Bodies, Voices, Memories. Revolver, 2009.
LIST OF COMPONENTS
(required for one module)
1x Arduino Nano
2x 16 pin male header
2x 16 pin female header
3x 10kΩ rotary potentiometer
2x 0Ω resistor
1x 150Ω resistor
1x C1 106 ceramic capacitor
1x 2x5 pin JP header
2x 3.5mm audio jack
1x Mini USB to USB cable
1x sound output device (headphones/speaker)
1. Solder the two 0Ω resistors to R22 and R23 marked on the PCB; trim excess metal wires.
2. Solder the 150Ω resistor to R24 marked on the PCB; trim excess metal wires.
3. Solder the ceramic capacitor to C1 104 marked on the PCB; trim excess metal wires.
4. Solder the JP header to JP2 marked on the PCB (on the backside).
NOTE: pin 7 and 8 need to be bridged; use one of the metal trimmings to solder this bridge together.
5. Solder the three 10kΩ rotary potentiometers to P1, P2 and P3 marked on the PCB.
6. Solder the two 3.5mm audio jacks to J4 and J5 marked on the PCB.
7. Solder the male headers to the Arduino Nano and insert the female headers on top.
8. Solder the female headers attached to the Arduino Nano to NANO2 marked on the PCB (on the backside).
9. Plug Mini USB cable into the Arduino Nano and connect to a power source (the red LED on the Arduino will light up).
10. Plug sound output device into the output audio jack.
The Modular Linguistics device is now ready to be flashed through Arduino IDE.
Please don’t choke on my module
« For me this book is a bag.
I am making of this bag a body.
A body of work.
A single-use carrier to collect writing.
Like any single-use carrier bag - I disapprove.
It shouldn’t, it contributes to pollution, it should be banned.
Books like this - should be banned.
And yet, in spite of the fact I know this book may be a waste product -
I’m still writing, redacting, expanding.
Even though I know a lot of it is garbage, fool’s words, so much garnish to a lil’ gold -
I’m still waiting, wasting, wanting
And it’s with that conceit our species is known for that I am contributing to a floating continent of plastic, a great patch of unread material.
Like all plastic on the planet - this will probably outlive me.
Please don’t choke on it. »
Sad sack, Sophia Al-Maria, Book Works, 2019
For me this module is a book, a reusable book.
A book that can be infinitely rewritten,
A reusable bag.
Remote control is a storytelling machine.
It’s a cognitive toolkit providing a space for literary works to converge with the dialectics of code.
It’s a simple device that turns a strict protocol into a machine for speculation.
A platform offering a performative approach to discourse, putting forth the idea that conceptual confusions surrounding language-use are at the root of most philosophical problems.
(It’s a defense tool for times when opinionated news footages are being referred to as the truth, and scientific data is being referred to as fake news by figures of power).
A physical object, which goals are to generate a practice of storytelling, inspired by the ways disparate narratives can come together to create inroads into the unknown (or the obvious).
With this in mind, this module is an arena to explore how protocols can induce new forms of inventiveness in the act of storytelling, grounded in the cohabitation of a multiplicity of standpoints, rather than a linear, all-encompassing narrative.
Its interests and uses will reside in the stories you decide to generate through it.
LANGUAGE GAMES :
Just like code, « natural languages » are not chance actions nor randomly proffered words, but actions that owe their legitimacy, relevance, and existence, to a set of rules determining their use.
Language games can be understood as the shared conceptual parameters that make it possible to identify and produce signs and to establish relations of signification and representation.
History (as a field of study), for example, can be viewed as a language game: it is a rule-guided way of attributing meaning to events.
(Whether language plays the central role in it or not, semiotics can be thought of as a rule-guided set of practices.)
Remote control is a reader that supports texts that have these three characteristics: multiple reading paths, chunked text, and some kind of linking mechanisms.
Use the module as a canvas
The protocol is simple :
a KNOB, a SLIDER, a SWITCH.
The KNOB and the SLIDER each receive values ranging from 0 to 1023.
The SWITCH reads two options: HIGH and LOW
From there, you can divide your text in as many ways as you wish by using the IF / ELSE IF condition
On this website, you will find a diversity of open versions of empty codes, which you can fill in to create your own stories.
However, you can also create your own, unique code, to fit your story. You will also find 5 previously written little stories, each exploring different modalities and interests. You just have to copy and paste them in the Loop section of your code, upload your new code on the hardware, and play the story, like a DVD.
>>>> okokokok >> what >> don’t be scared >> seven [‘7’] is a straight forward .print&.read device >> you can play the prewritten poem [‘seven.ino’] or you can write your own >> [‘7’] can manipulate text >> it can send an outgoing message or be interrupted by an incoming one >> [‘7’] enjoys repetition, coincidence & a gentle touch >> to channel text the module needs to be connected to a TV screen through a video input >> a video signal is broadcasted and can be listened to in mono >>>>>> mhmhmhmh >> how >> how i approached hardware >> 7 knobs & 7 buttons arranged in no particular hierarchy >> i wanted to create a humble device with clear manual functions >> an interface that makes you feel in control >> this urge became clear after getting familiar with a term ‘calm technology’ during the Special Issue X >> calm technology - a type of information technology where the interaction between the technology and its user is designed to occur in the user's periphery rather than constantly at the centre of attention >> how >> how i approached software >> working within the framework of the tv.out library and a television monitor determined certain features of the program, such as its esthetics and its interface >> with a subject in mind the content of the poem [‘seven.ino’] was developed and written while learning how to code with Arduino IDE >> the way the poem unfolds to a user depends on his/hers interaction with [‘7’] >>>>>> ghhrrghrrr >>
>> why >> in the beginning of the Special Issue X i was intrigued by DadaDodo >> DadaDodo is a program that analyses texts for word probabilities and then generates random sentences based on that >> sometimes these sentences are nonsense but sometimes they cut right through to the heart of the matter and reveal hidden meanings >> i was also interested in the experimental poetry examples mentioned in Florian Cramer’s “words made flesh” >> but why >> repetition of text is a method that i practice during live vocal performances >> a partial looping of a poem functions as a transition or/and an emphasis >> as a poet i am interested in a life of a written static poem-block >> when a poem does not have a voice present how could it still rustle? >> [‘7’] is a first prototype towards that idea <<<<<<
Txx.uo consolidates two contrasting radio frequency implementation modes: RFID reader scans the cards/objects containing RFID tags using radio waves and LCD screen displays a Q-code* [internationally established three-letter abbreviation used in radio communication].
*A particular Q-code denotes a question when it is followed by a question mark and references an answer [statement] when it's not:
QRT? : Shall I cease or suspend operation?
QRT : I am suspending operation.
The RFID technology is used for object identification, authentication and security reasons, whereas Q-code is transmitted on a specific radio frequency by a radio operator and can be intercepted by anyone, who is tuned in to the same frequency.
This module converts the data received from a scanned card into a sound and binary code. This Binary signal is then transfigured into LED blinking and is also funneled to another module through an output channel. Top row of an LCD screen displays a specific question from the list of a Q-code, depending on a knob position and when receiving a signal from another module, a random Q-code answer is shown on the second row of the screen. All other textual output can be sent to another module via Tx.
Components and configuration
⯐ : Solder
🢗 : Plug into
⯐ 15x1 female header [x2] 🢒🢒 PCB [Nano]
⯐ 15x1 male header [x2] 🢒🢒 Nano
⯐ 4x1 female header 🢒🢒 PCB [LCD1602-I2C]
⯐ 1602 I2C LCD display 🢒🢒 4LCD1602-I2C
⯐ 8x1 Female Header 🢒🢒 PCB [RFID]
⯐ 8x1 male header 🢒🢒 RFID
⯐ 10k ohm potentiometer 🢒🢒 A1 P in
⯐ LED 🢒🢒 LED2 D7
⯐ 10k ohm resistor 🢒🢒 R1
⯐ 220 ohm resistor 🢒🢒 R3
⯐ 220 ohm resistor 🢒🢒 R3
⯐ 3.5mm mono jack socket 🢒🢒 D5 o1 out
⯐ 3.5mm mono jack socket 🢒🢒 D3 o2 out
⯐ 3.5mm mono jack socket 🢒🢒 T5 o3 out
⯐ 3.5mm mono jack socket 🢒🢒 A2 o4 out
⯐ 3.5mm mono jack socket 🢒🢒 D8 o5 in
⯐ 2 pins of 4-pin tactile push button switch 🢒🢒 Reset
⯐ 5x2 male header 🢒🢒 JP [bridge the second row by soldering]
⯐ Vactrol : place the heads of LED and LDR in a heat shrink tube. Heat up the tube and then:
_ ⯐ LED 🢒🢒 LED 1 [long leg of an LED 🢒🢒 square hole]
_ ⯐ LDR 🢒🢒 LDR
🢗 RFID 8x1 male header 🢒🢒 8x1 11mm female header [bend the pins] 🢒🢒 8x1 11mm female header 🢒🢒 8x1 11mm female header [bend the pins] 🢒🢒 8x1 female header.
🢗 LCD 🢒🢒 4x1 female header
🢗 NANO 🢒🢒 2 15x1 female headers
Visible Speech employs phonetic vocabularies and other oddities to visually reproduce conversations. Not only as a stand alone unit, but also as a part of a collective act when combined with other modules.
It communicates by using constructed and non-constructed languages, through alphabets read by both humans and machines.
The Visible Speech module comes from a fascination for constructed languages (as languages that have been consciously created), phonetic translations of speech and the never ending human desire to elaborate an ideal universal language.
This leading interest has been translated towards the structure which sustains the module’s technical core and interface. an instrument built and programmed with its own particular kind of widespread alphabet, human developed and machine readable.
“[…]learned men have long since thought of some kind of language or universal characteristic by which all concepts and things can be put in beautiful order.” Gottfried W. Leibniz, On the General Characteristics 
During the 17th century, Gottfried W. Leibniz – the German philosopher, famed as inventor of the modern binary number system and also for his exceptional optimism - started to dream about a universal language.
He was trying to create a vocabulary able to rationalise universal concepts and numbers. A similar pattern to the machine language used in today’s encoding systems based on binary arithmetics.
Today, four centuries after Leibniz's utopian system was theorised, we can ask to what degree his dream has been accomplished.
Are our machines speaking the ultimate Characteristica Universalis?
Leibniz’s ideal language was conceived to be effectively expressive so as to become universal.
Today, by contrast, we perhaps face the opposite condition. We can see the proliferation of too many universal languages, aiming for the same result but differing at their cores.
The dream of a Characteristica Universalis seems stuck in the complexity arising from the duality of human languages and machine languages, caught between the aim for entirety and the impossibility of reducing plurality.
In a similar way machine languages of today can be really far removed from the user-friendliness that Leibniz theorised: “[…] a new language or script, that could be learned in one week or two”.
Unfortunately today’s scenario presents itself as radically different. While anyone can use and interact with programmed technologies, the knowledge of their language is limited to a comparatively small group of people.
This language, whether it is the Characteristica Universalis we were supposed to reach, is trapped and carried by people everyday, as a blackbox filling our our rooms and pockets.
1. A constructed language is a language (also known as a conlang, glossopoeia, artificial language, auxiliary language, and ideal language) that has been consciously created by an individual or group.
2. Gottfried W. Leibniz, Letter to Johan Friedrich von Hannover .
How to build the module*
*Extract the module’s printed circuit board from the master;
*To prepare the vactrols:place the heat shrink tube over the LDR and the LED. Heat the tube to keep them in place;
*Place the vactrols on their assigned place on the back of the board. Make sure that the long leg of the LED is in the square hole before soldering them.
*Place the female headers on the board and solder them on the back of the PCB. Solder the male headers to the back of the Arduino Nano. Insert them into the female headers;
*Place and solder the resistors in their assigned place on the PCB;
*Place and solder the ceramic capacitor in its assigned place on the PCB;
*Place and solder mono jack outputs, push buttons, rotary potentiometers and the RCA plug in their assigned place on the PCB;
*Place and solder the JP.
How to connect the module*
*Power the module by connecting the Arduino with a power source;
*Connect your screen with the RCA plug via a RCA cable;
*To receive serial messages connect the serial input port with the serial output port of the other module via a mini jack cable;
*To receive sound messages connect the analog input port with the sound output port of the other module via a mini jack cable.
How to interact with the module*
Rotary Potentiomenters 1,2
1*Voice Quality Symbols [AnalogRead A1]
Use the knob to play with VoQS.
[Voice Quality Symbols (VoQS) are a set of phonetic symbols used to transcribe the “voice quality” of a speech.]
2*Machine-Readable Speech [AnalogRead A2]
Use the knob to play with messages from other modules.
Push Buttons 1,2,3
Use the buttons to play with Pidgin’s Visible Speech System and other translations.
[Pidgin’s Visible Speech is a visual rapresentation of speech conceive by the american author and inventor Charles F. Pidgin in 1917. He received a patent to allow this system to be added to (silent) motion pictures by means of “inflatable balloons being shown for carrying the words and for enabling them to be blown from the mouth of the characters.”]
1*Lingua Franca [DigitalRead D4]
2*IPA International Phonetic Chart [DigitalRead D3]
International Phonetic Alphabet is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It is used in dictionaries to indicate the pronunciation of words. The IPA has often been used as a basis for creating new writing systems for previously unwritten languages.
3*Binary [DigitalRead D4]
How are you?
How is your posture?
Are you well hydrated?
Do you have to go to the toilet?
Are you hungry?
Is it time to stretch?
Are you distracted?
Imagine a device, that would ask such questions.
DISTRACTION MANAGER is a wearable "notification" generator, a stimulator for awareness, a trigger generator for a human being.
The user interacts with the device - by turning the knob they decide on how often on the scale/sequence from 5 to 60 minutes they they would like to hear the short high-pitched sound it produces.
Even more, the Distraction Manager (DM) works only when it receives coequal activity from the user. The user has the responsibility to complete the function of the device, to fill in the missing commands of the protocol of sensibilization.
PROTOCOL: The Distraction Manager is switched ON by the user, the time sequence adjusted. -> The Distraction Manager produces the sound. -> The sound triggers the user. -> The user consciously activates their own set of questions. -> The user responds to these questions and makes adjustments that optimise their being. -> ...
The sound that the Distraction Manager makes acts as a productive disturbance, triggering the user to pursue with their own questions.
It exists to sensibilize its user, to induce the development of good habits and taking care of oneself, to enhance focus, to reveal inner states and to manage distraction.
It only works when and if the user is successfully triggered to complete their steps in the protocol, asking and answering their own set of questions.
If the user fails to internalize the protocol, ignoring the sound, failing to reach a symbiotic union with the device, the DM is deemed to be completely dysfunctional and futile.
The interaction between a human and this device can be a productive and an inclusive relation.
(Of course, looking from the antropocentric human perspective, the device can't really feel it, can it?)
Humans (in all instances) are the ones that give devices their life and their meaning, whereas this device challenges its user to reform their own behaviour - at an expense of the human no longer being blinded by other devices and the countless possibilities of use that they possess and distraction that they compell us with.
(What a traitor it is, this device!)
DM is simple, its physical interface is minimal and its purpose is as complex as the user wants it to be. We can consider the DM as a highly inclusive interface, as its user is in charge of the great majority of the devices' functions. The interfacing does not take place in the material world, nor in between the lines of code, nor the rumble of wires. It happens in the mind of its user, discretely and without the need for the knowledge of translation between the language of the human and the language of the device/system/chip.
Each interaction between this device and its user is specific to the needs of the user. You get triggered and you are the one asking the questions.
A device to interface with yourself.
The Distraction Manager is meant to be used as a training-tool that develops the users' internal methodologies for awareness. It highlights the possibility to re-program, to rewire our subconsciousness by enhancing the users' reflexes produces by a response to the DM stimuli. It is only necessary to use this pragmatic device until the questions posed do not anchor into the subconscious mind, the trigger becomes automatic, the pull towards awareness instinctive, the protocol internalized. This is only reachable by repetition that eventually reinforces the habit and embeds the changed behaviour.
Then - the device is not needed anymore. It has served its purpose.
Normally, the goal of creating an interface would be to make it as user-friendly as possible, achieving the desired output with minimal input from the user.
This is not the case with the Distraction Manager. The users' input is far from minimal. In fact: as much input as the human gives, as well the device functions!
Ranging from complete uselesness to accurate relevancy.
The inspiration for the way that the DM is put together derives from the observation and usage of contemporary interfaces – black boxes that conceal their internal workings, seducing the user that remains ignorant to the intrinsic networks and protocols that these devices use.
Induced ignorance masked in a sleek design.
The Distraction Manager empowers its human user to take control, to exercise their capability of intervening into the protocol of the device.
The primary action that a human derives from their wish to manage their distraction (the initial reason to use the DM), switching on the device and choosing a desired time sequence of the trigger production. When the sound appears, as a mid-protocol occurence, the human considers it as an input, triggering the sensibilization protocol. This is where the human and the machine encounter, interface eachother, creating an inter-system communication. The actual output of the DM is the changed state of mind, the management of distraction that the human reaches when the protocol is repeatedly and successfully completed.
The causality of the final output is unpredictable and specific to each individual, whose conceptual input (set of questions) to the protocol is the unknown variable, that depends on the initial motivation and the needs of the individual.
Machines have shaped humanity more abruptly, causing a shockwave stronger and more lasting than any other occurences ever since our species first stepped into existence. Tracing the legacy of tools, humans have always striven for the bettering of our lives, towards the simplification of mundane tasks.
Somewhere along the line, it seems, we have lost control over what kind of tools/machines/devices we produce and how we do it, for whom and why. How we use them and who is the boss.
Since the "discovery" of the internet, our bubble of known or possibly-known has blown up. Complexity arose and hit us hard.
It is alluring to have all the humanity's knowledge accessible anywhere, anytime. It is also perplexing.
(Is curiosity thriving?)
"The world" is a distraction generator, the excessive flood of impulses results in the loss of sharpness in our sensory experiences, perception.
Our generation is severely shaped by the immense power of connectivity, the dominance of accesibility. This is why it is urgent to reassess the notion of relevancy.
Making choices, being focused, having a mission, a clear direction, following a single strong impulse has become an end in itself, being also a desirable fundamental skill to have in order to manoeuvre the entanglements of today.
To completely eradicate distraction would mean to cut off from the world that provides it, to seclude oneself in order to minimize the impulses.
The task is not to battle distraction, it is to manage it.
(Its management is necessary for our mental health.)
I consider distraction as the current systems' strongest tool that makes us obedient and conformed. Our attention is being perpetually pulled from one to the other flashy impulse, headline, infinite irrelevant content packages, our thought stream being disrupted.
Propaganda of today is strong, its tactics are detrimental, ardvertisements bomb us on every step. The outside world penetrates our mind with such a zeal, it is almost impossible to resist it, to finish the thought we have just started without interruption.
To be continuously interrupted, infused with the flood of impulses makes us blind, numb, insensible, inattentive - mainly to ourselves as bodies, as homo sapiens situated in the midst of this complex intertwinement of overwhelming impulses. Our time and conscious attention are swallowed by the black hole, made out of the substance called: distraction. We have sucessfully managed to forget about ourselves, indulged in the virtual reality that became the mirage in the desert of our time.
Being distracted prevents us from noticing that we are governed and manipulated, it takes away our empowerment and therefore we are weakened, not able to intervene, to react. We are less aware of our own emotion, our attention span is shortened, the capability of complex thoughts is crumbling, we dedicate our time to instant indulgence instead of managing our long-term well-being, satisfied by the virtual quick dopamine fix that we are entitled to receive.
It is a hard task to rewire our mind anew and adopt more optimised patterns of functioning. We run on an autopilot of our subconscious mind taking decisions for us in a much quicker way than the rational, analytic consciousness though. But that does not mean that it is optimal, how we would want it to be. The Distraction Manager disrupts this autopilot and triggers a crucial moment in all of this distractive complexity, it aids us to develop the good habit of checking-in with ourselves from "time to time", a moment of presence and self-care.
Sensibilization is the first step. By taking it, we reclaim agency, we empower ourselves to see, to react, to change.
We have the capability to expand our attention from only seemingly relevant matter, missing out on the core of the issue, the hidden mechanisms and intrinsic causes of things, if we are not distracted by any of the random impulses that try to trick us. Distraction works like a magician does - guiding our gaze where he wants to, while the real trick happens outside of the area of our attention. If we develop our potential, sharpen our awareness of things, if our sensibility is well-trained we can reveal the trick of the magician, understand better, direct our focus in the midst of the urge to simultaneously process a lot of information.
Being sensible to ourselves holds another asset. It makes us instinctively sensible to others, our empathy grows. This leads to a change in the way we communicate, being more sensitive and compassionate.
Communication is the basis of any community, of any conglomeration of individual parts, striving towards mutual understanding and well-being.
Separate individuals, modules get interconnected by efficient communication channels, functioning as one organism. The overall function of a system is a sum of specific functions of its constitutive parts.
Community is a modular system.
Social contracts are so deeply embedded in us that we don't even see the very possibility of them being questioned, hacked, shaped, remodeled. We are used of acting and interacting in certain ways. We mostly don't react until the moment when something suddenly hits us – when the way humanity functions reveals itself as cruel at a very explicit level. Then, it is too late.
Isn't this aggravating, maddening? It calls for action, it calls for the change in our subconscious patterns of interaction that would allow undistracted, direct, honest, raw and well-intentioned exchange of content.
The optimization of the whole system can happen only by optimising individual parts that constitute it and this is what the Distraction Manager does – constructs a proposition for reality, an experiment in the everyday life as a form of resistance to the unsocial politics of today, especially regarding awareness of oneself, expanding onto the awareness of others and reciprocal communication.
sensibilization -> awareness -> understanding -> reacting -> change
Being sensibilized, gaining awareness and gradually understanding the structures and the mechanisms of contemporaneity, seeing its faults and difficulties, acknowledging other people (especially) within our communities. Reacting and being critical to ignorance, to distraction, to the means of control governing us, elegantly masked and fragmented, omnipresent and sly. Making, creating something that is beneficial for others. Sharing individual insights, combining and producing new forms of knowledge. Merging and cross-pollination qualities of separate particles. To empower and be empowered.
This publication documents the work developed during the first trimester of Piet Zwart Institute's Experimental Publishing programme 2019.
It involves working with notions of sound, language and interfaces, towards building a common organism - a modular synthesizer.
#define A modular synthesizer consists of separate specialized modules. Each individual module accepts inputs and produces an output. When interconnected, this allows for unexpected results where the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
This point of departure led us to produce 10 unique contributions to the common assembly of the publication INPUT-OUTPUT: Tales from another module. Each contribution consists of one or more modules, which represent our individual interests in exploring this medium. Outputs vary between sound, image and text, resulting in an audio-visual performance.
The following pages are a compilation of our research and resulting work, complete with instructions of assembly and use. See more on the website: https://issue.xpub.nl/10/