Martin Parker

journeyMan – CWA 2015

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journeyMan: Conference on World Affairs version – the concept compass

journeyMan is a sound composition framework for smart devices. It attempts to exploit data from the onboard sensors of your phone or tablet and turns your device into a mobile performer. Think of it as having a performer in your pocket. The basic idea is to bring listening on mobiles closer to a now-or-never experience — rather than always the same each time you encounter it, journeyMan will perform for you as you move around.

For the 2015 Conference on World Affairs, journeyMan has been configured to take selected searches from 50 years worth of recordings from the CWA archive (curated by Ramsay Thurber and Martin Parker) which will stop, start and be interrupted as you walk around the campus (or anywhere else). Archive searches have focused on themes from panels about privacy, spying, networks, mass media and the future of culture, ideas pertinent to mobile devices and their potential to both liberate and confine us.

journeyMan was developed by in 2015 by Martin Parker and implements some spatialisation and app-based technologies by University of Edinburgh startup Two Big Ears (http://twobigears.com). journeyMan has been used in a number of gallery settings to accompany people’s movements around exhibitions of painted art works and its initial development was funded by a small projects grant from the the Development and Alumni office at the University of Edinburgh.

The technology concept behind the archive searches was conceived by Ramsay Thurber and further developed by a consortium of Boulder, Colorado technologist Wyndham Hannaway, CWA Director of Public Affairs Maura Clare, University of Colorado Archives Director Bruce Montgomery, Sébastien Charrot of SAS Research and Development Scotland’s Advance Technology Team and University of Edinburgh spin-out Quorate Technology (quoratetechnology.com) who provided automated speech recognized transcripts. Semantic Search is a project currently under development with MSc students based at Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh.

Usage instructions:

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Technical details first.

    • This piece takes a considerable amount of time to load, so please wait at least 1 minute before expecting to hear anything.
    • Put your headphones on and when you hear sound, adjust the volume of your player to something that’s comfortable in your listening environment.
    • You then need to touch start for the piece to begin properly.
    • Put the device in your pocket or bag and you’re off.

The best way to experience this piece is to set yourself off on a journey that doesn’t have to get you somewhere. As listener, you are to some extent, in control of the form and timespan of the piece. Get tired of what’s going on, move, enjoying what you’re hearing, try to stand still. You don’t have to dance, or move in a special way, just start the piece and put the phone or tablet in your handbag or pocket and start moving. You may find interest in the piece for up to 5 minutes, though some have spent much longer with it.

Different panels from the CWA archive have been captured and placed loosely on a compass, your heading will set what you focus on, but it’s intentional that you’ll hear plenty of overlap between speeches and noise will surround your head.

While you’re not expected to get a sense that this piece is necessarily ‘about’ anything. It’s for you to decide if there is a message. Panels from the CWA archive have been sampled that deal with themes that relate in tangential and loose ways to themes that have a link to mobile phones. Valerie Plame Wilson’s session on spying for the CIA, is juxtaposed with Tom Imboya talking about Africa’s nationhood, questions about the future of art may crop up along with panels where the role of the media has been questioned and challenged. These ideas, to me, all seem to resonate with the contemporary smart phone from the commercial mining exploitation in Congo required to source the raw materials that allow smart phones to work to the recent knowledge (post-Snowden) we all have that the phone is the ideal device for both corporations, colleagues and governments to spy on us.

Musically I have tried to reflect the business and noise of the opinions and conceptual festival that the Conference on World Affairs is. The piece is busy, dynamic and noisy, but burns itself out after around 10 minutes, when it’s a good idea to quit the app and start it again (if you want to listen to more).

A final note is that this is an experimental project, it’s not a perfect app and I hope you enjoy it as such.