where’s the riot?

March 31, 2009

In advance of  tomorrows events: a ‘print-out and keep’ map of all the happenings c/0 Indymedia:

g20_map_02

see you’s there…

how to be invisible

January 11, 2009

surv3

I’ve always been of the opinion that people over concerned with surveillance and data security are displaying the first stages of clinical paranoia. It’s well known, for those that care to look, that the UK police and military have in their possession technology which enables them to track individuals movements visually and electronically (think of google maps ++), trace your behaviour (spending, travelling, health, political persuasion), listen in to conversations and so-on – our only real defence against this intrusion has been the plod/MOD’s incompetence at cross referencing and interpreting the mass of data they’ve so carefully collated.

Britain is one of the world’s most surveyed society; It is estimated (2002 figures) that the United Kingdom is watched by over 4.2 million CCTV cameras. This equates to one camera for every fourteen people; each UK subject is recorded on average by up to three hundred cameras a day. Surveillance has become part of our lives; we’ve become used to accepting surveillance as a shield against crime and terrorism, sacrificing our privacy for the apparent greater good. However a recent trend is the movement of commercial organisation into the field of surveillance and “dataveillance” – using similar unregulated techniques and technologies global corporations are starting to watch you. Is it time to get paranoid?

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Image: Street advert in Hoxton, London, displaying real-time decibel level. March 2008.

“Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.”

Luigi Russolo excerpt from “L’arte dei Rumori” 1913

Russolo’s eulogy to the sonic city was inspired by the urban clamour of turn of the century Milan.  “L’arte dei Rumori” betrays a fascination with novelty of noise, the signature of modernity and the promise of the future in the form of the industrial city. Russolo argued that music has reached a point where it can longer excite when pitted against the real world sonic complexity of new metropolis. In turn, this statement led to the formation of a new type of music based on machine inspired atonality and stochastic composition.

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The much anticipated Noise Maps version 2 was released by our favorite government agency, DEFRA, last week. This version includes a noise source filter (road, rail, industry and air) – which ‘kind of’ works – and day and night switch. The maps spread beyond London to ‘agglomerations’ of over 250,000 people…everyone else will have to wait until 2012  for round two  – or make do with pdf of ‘major roads’ and airports.

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Onomatopoeic proposal.

March 26, 2008

cuckoo

Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it describes e.g. ‘Crash’ , ‘Miaow’ etc. and as such are possibly the origins of spoken languages being the simplest form of communication – imitating an object to communicate meaning ( for instance in Chinese ‘Mao’ 猫 has become the word for a cat, based originally on it’s sound). Onomatopoeic words are some of the most recent additions to languages, incorporating direct imitations of the post industrial world, ‘Beep’, ‘Zap’, ‘squeak’…occasionally becoming nouns; ‘ratchet’, ‘Crank’ etc. Curiously onomatopoeic words vary considerably across the globe; different cultures seem to hear differently. Languages themselves once established obviously restrict and distort the ability to form ‘pure’ onomatopoeic words but cultural variations also play a part – in the same way that the perception of musical tone and harmony vary across cultures. As an experiment i propose a WIKI Onomatopoeia library which would allow anyone to describe their literal interpretation of sound – not the accepted cultural/linguistic form (e.g. ‘woof’ for a dog) but what the individual hears. This would form a living recording of audio interpretation and the cultural variations and distortions that occur in different regions.

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noisemap
(Image: London Noise-map. The arrow points to my house)

” Noise can cause annoyance, interrupt conversation, disturb sleep and, in extreme conditions, cause physical damage to those affected. The types of noise that are experienced can be classified into some fairly broad categories. For example, occupational noise which is experienced at work, neighbour or neighbourhood noise and environmental (aka ambient) noise caused by transport and industry.”

My cousin does this – standing on a street corner all day in some bland suburb of London, microphone in hand, recording the average volume of environmental sound. The data is collected and projected over a London street map to form a graphic visualisation of the changing volumes throughout the city. this is part of DEFRA’s “National Ambient Noise Strategy” who’s aim is to provide us and ‘policy makers’ with a source of sound data for the whole of England.

The map, though fascinating, seems to me to be of little value because volume is not the only parameter in determining the annoyance factor of ‘noise’. Equally relevant are duration, repetition, pitch, timbre, time( the noise of the city animated over one day), and frequency. And, DEFRA assume that all noise is inherently annoying. My thesis is that the map should become a tourist map of London defined by it’s unique sound as much as by it’s geography, architecture and so-on. At the same time as capturing volume data, all other aspects of noise can be measured and visualised giving an invaluable and unique ongoing audio-visual symphony of London.

London is noise:For instance where i live in east London ( marked a dark brown on the map for ‘reasonably quiet’ ) is bathed in an ever present low volume but high pitched susurrus generated by traffic on the A12 – the sound spill from the motorway gives this area a unique feel and interestingly where the noise peters out, the social demographic radically changes. Time plays it’s part: in the morning the low almost inaudible mumbling of the underground trains at 6am in Whitechapel and the sounds of the first aeroplanes circling the city, a descending tone as they drop down to Heathrow (Sarah says the sound of the banking planes changes from summer to winter and that the winter sound she finds depressing – i had never noticed the difference). Each city has it’s own audio fingerprint: the time i spent in Lisboa had the backing sound of the Ponte 25 Abril (inaudible to the Lisboans), the sound of angry bees made by cars on the resonating bridge (i heard this sound again later in Oxford where the noise from the unusually corrugated surface of the a34, several miles away, drove my friend from his rented, supposedly tranquil rural bolthole). Hanoi is the scooter horn and the early morning rumble of a single advancing tidal wave of noise as the traffic en mass, enters the the sleeping city.

London Noise Map Link here