My initial idea, following the concept of 'importing noise', was to connect two staircases - one here at the institute in Ivrea, and another in a remote place such as a school, or public place like a subway station. These staircases would be connected through sound, so that people can hear the footsteps and activity of people on another stairway as they walk, run, stumble up and down the stairs, as well as stopping to chat as people unexepectedly run into each other.
This idea came from observation of the way the stairway is used at the institute - mostly it is quiet, and people will happliy stop in the middle of the stairway to chat, without obstructing a heavy flow of human traffic.
Also staircases can be interesting sources of sound activity:
(Sensitive Spaces Workshop Fabrica 2004 - Sound interactive stair chamber)
Another idea to import remote noise was to be able to remotely control distant objects. The multicultural population of the institute results in the occasional sense of missing home, sometimes missing the most banal aspects of home life such as television, as a peripheral source of reassuring and comforting noise.
I was interested the possibilities for watching TV at home, while here at school - literally controlling the TV as an object in your home place, somewhere that could be quite far away. This would affect people in both the immediate environment and the remotely connected place, as a source of ambient noise/interference.
This aspect is highly problematic when considering a installation for a shared work space - one persons comfort noise is anothers irritating distraction.
How can you achieve the generation of comfort noise for all in a shared work space?
The next stage in the development of the concept was inspired by the observation of the many other projects in the class concerning issues with instant messaging, Within weeks as a student here at Ivrea, it becomes apparent that appropriate use of instant messenger is absolutely key to existance as a part of the community of people unbound to constant physical locations.
My idea was to start by building a protoyping platform for myself, connecting msn messenger to macromedia director. This would then open up the interactive prototyping potential of director to messenger activity, essentially the status monitor of the activity of the institute community. Once we have messenger activity as an input into director, then we can output as midi/sound/serial port > physical objects and electrical appliances, as well as screen based/projected visualisations.
This then lead to the idea of exploring use of director's midi output possibilities to turn messenger activity into a dynamically generated soundscape that represents the activity of the community, regardless of where people actually are.
This might then provide the concept of increased ambient noise within the institute building, generated by the online/connected presence of its occupants, so even when there are not many people actually in the building, the building is still affected by the communities virtual presence.
Some previous work involved in physically representing instant messanger activity:
- Buddy Bugs: A Physical User Interface for Windows ® Instant Messenger - Susannah McPhail (pdf)
- The Phidget Project Gallery
- IMVis: Instant Messenger Visualization - Carman Neustaedter, Saul Greenberg and Sheelagh Carpendale
- Rapid Prototyping of Physical User Interfaces - Saul Greenberg (pdf)