Observe, Recount, Distort!

Observe, Recount, Distort! - Stelios Manousakis - node interface

a micro-telematic sound-art installation

Observe, Recount, Distort! is a site-specific piece that explores the observer effect and the iterative distortion of information through its collective social re-statement. The piece is as a metaphor for the distortion of information/fact/event occurring within a social context, and the constant transmutations this networked context causes.

The installation consists of a speaker array for ambisonic projection, and a computer that acts as the brain of the piece. Outside the exhibition space, a microphone is located for listening to the environment. Visitors can download this application and connect to the system with their own computer to listen to the outside. When no visitors are connected, no sounds comes out of the speakers.

Upon connecting to the system and turning the remote application ON, one becomes an active node, inserting oneself as an agent in the system, and therefore altering the original information. The more visitors/machines that connect, the noisier and less intelligible the original source becomes, as one node feeds from another’s filtered/modified/versioned re-statement of the original and themselves, thus perpetuating the distortion.

The amount and type of filtering, depends on the ‘persona’ of each node. This is defined through a set of characteristics that visitors can modulate in real-time, therefore changing their node’s way of listening and interacting with the system. Node qualities are defined on a 0.0-1.0 scale and are identified as: egocentric, receptive, opinionate, (un)stable, inventive, misinforming. Another set of important parameters are where the node is located within the speaker array and where it listens from.

Listening and sounding in space:

Observe, Recount, Distort! - Stelios Manousakis - playing & listening

Year: 2010
Type: Interactive installation
Description: Micro-telematic sound art installation
Dimensions: Variable
Duration: Variable
Capacity: Variable
Materials/Media: WiFi network, WiFi-enabled devices, software, loudspeakers, sound
Software: SuperCollider, Unix Shell networking tools

Technical Information

Technically, the piece treats a wireless Local-Area-Network as a feedback network, with visitors’ computers acting as individual filters. In this manner, the WLAN network is designed as an instrument with resonant surfaces.
Filtering is defined from:
– the virtual distance (delay) between the node and the server.
– the location of the node in the ambisonic sphere; this is where the node’s output comes out from.
– the ‘listening position’ of the node in the ambisonic sphere; this is where the node grabs its audio-in from.
– visitor decisions (conscious and unconscious) that describe the node’s character.

The piece is created in the SuperCollider programming language. It consists of a main application for the installation’s brain and a downloadable standalone application for the nodes.

System structure:

Observe, Recount, Distort! - Stelios Manousakis - system structure

Node anatomy:

Observe, Recount, Distort! - Stelios Manousakis - node structure