Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Awkward Silence

Awkward Silence

Silence is a rare pleasure which is hard to come by in the today's fast paced world. The ubiquity of mobile computing, communications and technology have brought us to a point where silence has become somewhat unnerving. It is what we are not used to that makes us uneasy.

This project aims to compete with not only the mobile phone chatter but also with interpersonal physical chatter and extra-ambient noise that we create as “social” individuals. This is an attempt to establish a perimeter of relative silence through the vehicle of annoyance. Imagine a waiting room filled with the chatter of voices, crying of babes and rustling of movement. "Awkward Silence"(AS) sets out to respond to noise by creating a series of annoying shrieks in order to fill any empty silence spectrum in an area. When persons in close proximity disturb the silence enveloping AS, it kindly returns the favor by disturbing them. It sets out in doing so using high pitched sounds so that the sound becomes a penetrating weapon that may be picked up by mobile phone microphones thereby rendering them less useful for communication.

The hope is that when silence is granted AS becomes a focal point for thought. Silence is beautiful and through it an immediate community is created. Perhaps it is through the disdain for AS or possibly because of the awkwardness of silence among a group or even oneself. AS’s goal is to interrupt through silence.

The technical basis of this project stems from the electronic “cricket kit” which may be found at various retailers such as amazon here:


While this cricket kit is light sensitive the goal is to modify it to be acoustically sensitive. The kit may be found for less than $8 online and may be cheaper if self assembled. The remaining cost will be used for the enclosure of “AS” which will consider manufacturing processes, materials and acoustics. A possible prototype sketch would have it consist of a number of stacked hollow disks in an attempt to create volume and amplify the shrill cries. Should the budget allow LEDs may be integrated which activate when silence is encountered to create even more focus on the object itself.


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  2. Its quite more complex (budget-wise too), but I wanted to suggest a reference related to the project you propose. Its the project "Yoyo" by Hans-Christoph Steiner (one of the developers of PD). Project info here: http://at.or.at/hans/yoyo/

    Basically it listens to the sounds and noises of a space, and when there is a silence it tries to create sound to fill this silence that is integrated into the previous stream of sounds... of course its not the same exact idea, by it revolves around the idea of the silence among people that creates this "awkward" situations...

  3. This reminds of something that happened to me the other day. I got on to the metra train to get to school and the conductor had turned off the the exterior doors and interior lights of about half of the train cars. There was no one sitting in these cars and it was nice and dark, so I thought; great a whole train car to myself wear I can sit in the quite and cool dark. Usually the train is filled with yellow light and people talking on their cellphone, very annoying in some cases. So I sat in this quite train car the whole trip enjoying myself. Then when the train got close to my stop I moved to the adjacent car to get off because the doors on the car I was in were off. The car I walked through was nosey and crowded, and then I reached the conductor and she like scolded me for sitting in one of these cars. She said "didn't you notice there was no one sitting back there and the lights were turned off." She probably just didn't feel like walking the whole train to take tickets thats why she had turned those cars off, but it was like she didn't understand why I desired to sit in a dark empty train car. The quite is what I wanted and she probably thought I was just some kind of creep.


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