A project in collaboration with IDEO, Villa Montalvo and the ZeroOne San Jose Residency Commission for ISEA2006. 

Physical-music-controller-interface.

skateboards, which sense SPEED, 3d orientation, acceleration and tilt, as well as record audio, and transmit via bluetooth, are used to translate between the riders and a lucent sonic landscape.

Concept:  


ELECTRONIC SKATEBOARD
 ( handy phone or I-pod  on wheels: )

In a world where our physicality and sensuality is celebrated to the full, we might also find a better understanding of our environment.


Much imagination is not needed to understand the potential impact of an interface like this. More than interest in one specific interface, I am concerned about an attitude in lifestyle/expression/communication design:  a desire to get away from the desk-computer horrible little claustrophobic geek unhealthy body-posture-mouse-hand-cramping-eyes deteriorating-lifestyle.  An understanding of the vitality of addressing this issue is explored.  We need to weigh with great care what are our benefits and losses in this rapid changing world in order to make good decisions for our increasingly complex future.

Looking at non-western countries, especially where mobile technologies like mobile phones are hugely successful, one asks: why?  It’s obvious:  a mobile phone is small, wireless, you can use it whilst doing a milliard other things - it allows for multi-tasking.  Your eyes are mostly free to engage with the world or when your eyes are occupied your ears are free.  Your body is mostly free. It is in agreement with a lifestyle anywhere: in a rural area, mountainous, desert, tropical, nomadic.  

We need to rid ourselves of our creativity inside a little square box frame - nothing wrong with squares, as long as we keep in mind that these rules or containers are imaginary, temporary and that we should spill outside the borders as often as we like.  Boundaries hold life and constraints are important for our creativity, rules create language - - -  but,  instead of always putting life/nature into a box we should strive to create systems that can exist ‘outside’ or ‘anywhere’, ‘anytime’.
I would like to see the next phase of SKATESONIC to make use of the I-Pod and mobile phone culture on a personal street experience level.


TRANSPARENCY AS VARIABLE IN INTERFACE DESIGN

One suggestion would be to move away from interfaces that require your full visual attention. Rather interfaces might visually augment what is already in the world.  How might we introduce more ‘see through’ ways of reading and accessing the growing shared wealth of information in the info-sphere and learn to share ourselves in meaningful ways without sacrificing our physicality and physical relationship with the physical world?  Perhaps the shift in focus lies fundamentally much deeper.  What do we want to see?  Do we want to see the way the ‘other’ sees the world and ‘us’.  Do we want to see ourselves collectively through our collective eyes and how do we log into that collective eye of which we each are a part?  How? Are we completely (in language driven interfaces) underestimating the body for its own sake and the spirituality that is rooted in the body?    Communication is cultural and in some cultures non-verbal communication weighs more importance than in others.  There are a milliard examples like this but obvious and important is the realization that technology and media (and our attitude towards it) is certainly shaping our world. From our private lives to global politics, economy, academic exchange - we have become digital.  Looking at the earth in its current state of crises when one considers how far we have removed ourselves in our daily lives from direct encounters and thus direct understanding of nature. How often do we touch plants, walk in natural forest, desert etc; when was the last time (if ever) that you have walked barefoot on a forest trail, feeling soft moss and soil under your feet?  Okay, so the Californians certainly appreciate health and good weather, which is why it is so ideal for this project.  Together with a wonderful group of designers at IDEO in Palo Alto, we tried to apply this thinking to an existing Californian icon and subculture - a skateboard.


MOVEMENT AS MUSIC


There is an important existential quality to African music with which I personally relate:  the anti-hierarchic nature of the music and the process of creating it.  Most African music involves the repetition of certain cyclic patterns, be they chord progressions or melodic phrases. The music is perceived as a continuous flow, like a river or a waterfall. The interlocking techniques, shifting downbeats, the largely non-functional harmony, the open forms, the extremely fast tempi of some music, the non-developmental use of repetition, contrasting and irregular patterning, the tone color, the energy and the joy.  Departing from this familiar context and extending it to the experience where rhythm in music is a complete integration of what you see and hear: a combination of 'silent' visual action and audible physical (motor) body movement; and also focusing on micro rhythm and surface texture of sound, I believe that sophistication in collecting and mapping this data to the vast possibilities of the electronic and electro-acoustic vernacular allows for a rich field of new expression in the interactive media art setup.  Boundaries between audience and 'virtuoso' performer disappear and it becomes a meaningful, fun activity in a group situation.  A closed feedback-loop between body (movement) and music is created.  Physical handles are attached to virtual and complex studio processes.  Rhythm is something that is 'felt', something that can be understood by analysis of movement.
  


3D movement and speed map to different LFO frequencies which in turn map to a micro loop’s start position, loop length, panning, filters, amplitude and pitch-bend, creating a synth-like stretching sound. By ‘riding’ or affecting in realtime a frequency of the oscillator that modulates the various integral parameters that create the sound, the metaphor of surface tension is continued in the architecture of the sound.

Identity is not about place as much as about being. The architectural metaphor: skater functions as metaphorical concrete bender,  riding waves of chaotic timing,  implying temporary control of what is temporal.  

this work strives to activate the sense of a dynamic presence in the city or dynamic architecture: sound reveals space, be it physical, social or imaginary. 




Thanks to IDEO, Villa Montalvo, ZeroOne and ISEA.  Special thanks to Sven Newman, Mark Harrison, Kyle Doerksen, Katie Clark, Scott Tong, David Janssens, David Aycan, Denise Sink, Haakon Faste, Jennifer Thiltgen, Steve Bishop, John Ravitch, Jonah Houston, Rickson Sun, Patrick Wilkin, Kathy Wallerstein, Jon Leidecker, Sasha Leitman, Jeremy Bernstein, Gary Holl, Carla Leitao, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Carl Faia, Andreas Breitcheid,  Olivier Pasquet, Floor van Herreweghe, Renee Wash, Steve Dietz, Wanda Webb, Cynthia Taylor, Joel Slayton and Gordon Knox and all the other Californians I met for their kind input and support.  Skaters Andrew, Lucky, Ryan and Landro.