︎ Headphone warning: the sound of this video might not be pleasant for human ears. 


Encrypted Dialogue
interactive wearable device and screen performance

2022
individual project

Raspberry pi, electrosluczh, TB6612 Motor Breakout, dc motor fan, speaker, aviator goggle frame, Pure Data, Python

︎ research notebook
︎ thesis paper
Encrypted Dialogue is a performance-based film that narrates how the human body can be turned into an instrument playing sounds from electromagnetic fields picked up via a wearable device. The project’s wearable device functions as a “translator” that allows humans to sense the EMF-based dialog surrounding us in Manhattan. As it deciphers EMF activity hidden away from human perception, the wearable, a goggle designed for this project, functions as an external sensor picking up electromagnetic signals, processing the signals in proximity of the wearer into data inputs, received as musical expression and augmented by a motor fan reflecting the strength of the field.

This project challenges our anthropocentric point-of-view about who is the player and who is the instrument. It aims to provoke the audience’s curiosity about one of many types of hidden non-human powers, and the awe, perhaps the reverence we should develop for them.



Motivation


“It is not simply humans who network with humans; nor is it just computers that are
hooked up with one another. As Bruno Latour likes to remind us, humans and nonhumans are
in this together”

-- Anna Munster, An Aesthesia of Networks

This project was initiated with an intention of rebellion against the arrogance of mankind. My whole research is guided by the posthuman spirit of decentralizing humans, paying attention the opaque part of the world, and of the power that goes beyond human perception. The core takeaway of the project will be an awareness of the fact that this is not a human-centered world.

The “human-centered” lifestyle spawned by the consumer economy fuels human arrogance even more, as all it does is drown users with egocentric propaganda that urges them to consume for themselves. Going beyond the human-centric “mantra” with a humble approach to coexistence with other non-human systems, I attempt to depict the intricacies of our living environment - it’s not only our network but also the non-human’s network, but we are trapped in our own Umwelt by the limits of our perception.







Design Keywords


Non-human presence
Unrecognized voices
Decentralizing human
The electromagnetic field is a dominating but also ghostly presence in this universe - somehow considered by humans to be a tool that humans can control. Neglecting the fact that the EMF supports not only humans but also many other “living forms”, we lack the ability to “listen” and appreciate the non-human voices. Those voices are usually interpreted as “noise” as we have labeled the owners of these voices as “objects”. 

An electrosluzch translates the fields’ frequency and strength into audible signals, and different electromagnetic sources have different characteristics in terms of their frequency and strength - at some locations with multiple electromagnetic sources around, the audio output almost sounds choir.

A wearable device naturally creates a first-person perspective experience. But unlike conventional wearable devices, the wearable designed specifically for this project, a goggle that obscure the wearer’s vision, does not default to the wearer as the controller. On the contrary, it weakens human dominance by blocking human vision - so that the wearer can’t “use” the device actively, but to “be used” by the EMF as part of the device. The intention of designing a wearable like this is to create an experience of becoming an instrument, and being “played” by the non-human power. This wearable is not designed to facilitate human needs.







Crafting the device


Physical computing with raspberry pi
Programming in python
Socket communication with Pure data


Reference:
︎︎︎ Listen to Weird Sounds from Electromagnetic Fields



Field Recording


All the sounds used in the film are recorded in real time in the corresponding locations. 
Sound files will be added here soon. 






The Noir 


To present the interactive process in Manhattan, I created a film of a performer wearing the device with specially designed body poses staying still in carefully selected locations. Subways, elevators, kitchens, and offices - these and other facilities have a private dialogue usually unheard by us. But with the object oriented perspective facilitated by the components designed for this experience, we - the “performed on” are able to see beyond these facilities’ superficial identity as tools designed for humans, then and only then the greater system that both human and non-human rely on will start to surface.

The still poses of this performance underscores the performance's goal of de-anthropocentricity, and at the same time distinguish this project from many other EMF relative art practices, as most of them perform with movements, and the sensors are triggered on the move.




Public Event


Participated in Echoes: The 2022 Design and Technology Thesis Show Screening and Pop-up Show. 
During the public show, the film was projected to a blank wall, with provided seat and headphone. The wearable device itself was also showcased on site, and visitors are allowed to take the electrosluzch and explore. Some of the other exhibited student work sounds very interesting - the LED bench, the projectors, also an old display monitor. 




Acknowledgments 


This project wouldn’t be completed withouth the help of Professor Colleen Macklin, Andrew Zornoza, Loretta Wolozin, Sven Travis, Jesse Harding, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, Dominic Pattmen, as well as the acclaimed performance of Jessie Chen.