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Thursday
Dec252014

Sonify... Wi-Fi

With the coming of “the cloud”, and other services which rely on wireless internet, we’re living under the impression that Wi-fi is constantly around us. However, if you travel a bit like me, you’ll still often find yourself looking for Wi-fi. Furthermore, even when it’s around, the very fact that it’s wireless sometimes makes it a vague technology.
In the “Sonify…” series, we look at different ways of sonifying data. This time: Wi-fi signals. Phantom Terrains is a collaboration between science fiction writer Frank Swain and sound artist Daniel Jones. Swain has been slowly going deaf since his teens, and he’s been thinking about using hearing aids in different ways.
Phantom Terrains works by receiving a wireless signal on a hacked iPhone and sending the sounds to Swains hearing aids, connected via Bluetooth. After a few months of testing and experimentation, they’ve released the first audio of their sonification. Wi-fi is a very rich signal, almost as rich in data as our own physical surroundings. In urban life, it is almost constantly around us, so Jones made sure it sounded like something which would not be too intrusive, and could be around you all day. Distant networks are heard as a gentle clicking, which ticks more frequently as the wearer gets closer.
I think the fact that one could create an application where you’d be able to choose between different layers of sonified data is very promising. What other signals would we be able to sonify?

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