February 27th, 2013
Every day I go to work, I walk through this underground channel connected to the subway. When I first started work in Shanghai, different colours were projected onto the side panels, creating a neat saturation effect (it’s orange in the photo). About 6 months ago, the colours were replaced with video ads, so now, when you walk through the tunnel, you’re bombarded with slick marketing messages. The problem with these ads, besides being intrusive and annoying, is that most of them aren’t made for the 25-metre wide-screen format: they just project eight TV ads that play simultaneously. Stupid, right? So, I was thinking, armed with a dozen Kinnects, what kinds of interactive/reactive multimedia experiences could be created to make this underground passage more interesting? I only have a few ideas at the moment, but I suspect that I’ll get more over the coming weeks. So, I’m gonna start a list, feel free to contribute in the comments and I’ll add your ideas to the list. A few more details:
- The two screens are facing each other on opposite walls.
- There’s a series of handrails in the centre.
- The tunnel has a slight ascent.
- Sound is played through speakers attached to the ceiling.
- There are eight projectors in total, four for each side. The projected images overlap slightly.
- Thousands of people pass through here each day. Most people are transferring between subway lines.
1) The screens display video of people walking through the passage, acting as a mirror. Zombie textures are then mapped to the passersby. This could be an advertisement for The Walking Dead, being a literal representation of the name.
2) The Kinnects could track walking data and present it on the screen. So, steps taken so far for the day, week, month or year could be displayed. By comparing sets of data—for example, how many steps were taken yesterday to how many have been taken today—a relative high score element is added, encouraging commuters to take more steps.
Any kind of quantification of activity which is then presented back to the people who engage in the activity encourages certain types of behaviour, so there’s certainly ethical questions that need to be considered*. Personally, I think it’d be better if steps were translated into calories burnt, or something like this. This would encourage commuters to think more about their health, as opposed to taking more steps, which is a bit silly.
*For a better example of ethics and gamification, watch this video and ask yourself whether the Delite-o-matic is “right” or “wrong”.
February 24th, 2013
I normally don’t write about music. It scares me a bit because I don’t know much about music theory and lack the cultural capital and general know-how that comes with being a hardcore music buff. Still, given that I find myself more and more invested in what I listen to, but have been struggling to find writing that clearly explains it to me, I’d like to give it a try myself. I only have two, maybe three, posts worth of ideas, so this’ll only be a short excursion. I’d like to start with an album that I’ve been listening to for about 3 weeks, Maxinquaye by Tricky (1995). You can hear the whole album here or just listen to several select songs below:
Maxinquaye has an elusive quality which is created through harmonic dissonance, contrasting styles, and a subversive approach to singing and songwriting. Examples include:
- The blend of different genres, including hip-hop, rock, soul, and electronica.
- Tricky’s role as a backing singer for more than half of the record, despite it being “his” album.
- Tricky’s assortment of singing styles (sing-speak, rapping, whispering, and various inhaling, exhaling, moans, and groans).
- The way a singer of one sex sings lyrics written from the viewpoint of the other (eg. Black Steel). This gives the music an ambiguous sexual identity.
- The vocal relationship between Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird.
In regards to the former most point, sometimes:
- Tricky speaks the lyrics before Martina sings them (Strugglin’), which sounds like Tricky is the voice in the back of Martina’s head, feeding her the message.
- Tricky speaks as Martina sings, producing an out-of-time backing vocal (Aftermath, Abbaon Fat Tracks).
- Tricky whispers and his vocals are, seemingly, cut up and looped, creating a bedrock of background conversation (Feed Me).
- Tricky is absent altogether (Overcome).
- Tricky moans and exhales (Ponderosa).
- Tricky sings the verses, while Martina sings the chorus (Suffocated Love).
The changing relationship between the two singers, through Tricky, conjures up a variety of associations. Do they know what the other is going to say? Are they conversing or just talking over each other? How are power roles expressed through the vocals?
Ponderosa combines several of these points together. In this song, Tricky is the backing vocalist. He backs the last few words of each line, sometimes sitting out, other times taking the lead. At the start of the song, he whispers. After the first verse, the song pauses while he exhales and moans, before the chorus kicks in. Near the end of the song, he repeats key words that come later in the track as he waits for Martina to catch up. The result is a dynamic layer of vocals that weaves in and out of the main thread, lifting the peaks (“different levels of the devil’s company”) and prompting the listener to mentally rewind and fast forward the lyrical content of the song.
Similar to Ponderosa’s vocals, Black Steel’s second half sees the singing become detached from the music and weave in and out of the time of the instrumentals, before eventually finding its focus.
February 22nd, 2013
The other week, I joined Richard Terrell and a few of his mates on the b-side recording of his third Critical-Casts podcast. The final cut was put online yesterday, so go ahead and check it out. Like the previous shows, Richard did a great job at putting this one together, and I had a great time being a part of it. Having just come off crunch time on my book, coupled with Chinese New Year commitments, I was pretty exhausted going into the recording. I wake up about half-way through though, so it’s not all bad. I’m thinking of writing up a few comments on what we discussed, but it seems like I’ll need to do a bit of research first, so that might take a while. In the meantime, be sure to have a listen and leave Richard any comments on his site.
The blog’s been a bit quiet this week cause I’ve been relaxing a bit more, working on a few longer posts, and doing a ton of research. It seems like some of my notes are turning into their own mini-projects, so we’ll have to see where that gets me. By the way, if you like the Wipeout series, you should totally check out Hellfire_WZ’s YouTube channel. This guy has done hours worth of tutorials, tournament matches, and documentaries on the series. I’ve been watching his stuff for the past few days and learnt a whole bunch. I would recommend Wipeout HD Fury – The Basics, Wipeout – Circuits from Hell, and Wipeout – Through the Ages – The Weapons.