During the Almost Perfect residency, I had the chance to try out a few different types of thingies running off the mscape platform, but towards my 4th week in Banff I was starting to question the typical delivery format of iPaq and headphones. I couldn’t see how wandering around on your own, gingerly holding a foreign touch-screen device whilst plugged into headphones and being isolated from your surroundings related to my practice.
Nothing against those other mscapes I experienced, it just wasn’t a canon I wanted to contribute to.
Here’s what we were using to run the mscape player off:
A sight that might make some techies salivate, but kind of intimidating at the same time. These would generally be used in conjunction with some fairly substantial headphones. As a result you could very easily be worrying about if you’d pressed some of the wrong buttons, accidentally nudged the touch screen or whether you were easy prey for some street crime …rather than concentrating on whatever sounds were being delivered to via the headphones.
Things started to get interesting when people paraded down the street en masse but, for the most part, the experience stayed with the person wearing the headphones.
Cue my manifesto for mediascapes:
Be visible (i.e. make it obvious that something is happening, rather than skulking around wearing headphones and looking at a small screen); and be audible (inflict your happening onto innocent passers-by).
These starting points later opened out into further thinkings about how to make mediascape experiences shared experiences and how to make mediascape experiences playful experiences.
How these thoughts manifested themselves was through a quick prototype alternative housing for the iPaq.
First I hacked (in the non-tech sense) apart and rewired some mp3 player speakers and then I mounted them inside a cardboard tube.
I then had something big with a strong physical that you were very aware of carrying; something a bit shonky and made from very familiar, very non-intimidating materials; something that was loud; and something just a little bit ridiculous. A tool, a plaything, a conversation starter.
Actually, I had two.
With a diameter of influence of about 20 metres each.
With two of these ‘talking sticks’ I had a way of encouraging interaction between people using the mediascape. We also started up a few conversations with people who had no idea what was going on …but wanted to find out!
Like when Emergent Game‘s egorbeaver made friends with the ticket inspector or when Paul and some other Digbeth Invigilators found themselves in the position of having to make sure an inebriated stranger got back to her hotel safely I find these instances of when a thing bleeds out of its original context and reaches another layer of participant very interesting.
It was also fascinating to see how changing the interface for the mediascape changed the way people conducted themselves. Admittedly I don’t have a huge amount of experience with mediascapes, and wandering around the corners of campus listening to piano strings being broken is probably going to foster a fairly light-hearted reaction, but there’s something different going on here, right?
[Update: And there's some video footage here too.]