Images and templates:
Take, for instance, open container laws. In Chicago, a closed container containing a consumable substance such as alcohol is acceptable in public ways. The same substance, once its container has been opened, is considered an infraction of acceptable public behavior, unless contained within some larger boundary (such as a bar or festival). This policy engenders a kind of streamlined and physically locatable character to Chicago's alcohol consumptive behaviors. While this keeps alcohol out of certain space it also creates a kind of focused intensity of alcohol-enabled relationships. This is an interesting contrast from a different regional open container policy such as in New Orleans, where the free roam of open containers engenders ostentatious and diffuse alcohol-enabled relationships.
Between these two examples of how open-container laws construct cultural space lies a strange an arbitrary opportunity for hybridity. Not entirely a law (more a folk-law such as the “dibs” parking system in winter snow), but widely accepted as a tolerable standard of behavior is the brown bag rule. One can wrap their open-container in a brown bag, and then consume it in public space. Although the paper wrap itself remains as a visual indicator of possible impropriety, those who utilize the brown bag have a modest opportunity of agency in the open-container system.
This project considers altering the the conditions of social space, and the human behavior therein, by re-figuring the brown bag rule, while altering it spatially and structurally. If the visual attention of the brown bag in public engenders neither the radical comradery of New Orleans or the intensified drinking relationships of Chicago, perhaps an inversion of what is contained can provide an atomized unit of both. By containing not the beverage, but a small social situation itself within a brown bag, hybrid, radical, and ephemeral social spaces could be engendered through use of very modest materials.
The autonomy bag is simply a large portable brown paper bag, designed for two. It transposes the restriction of open containers, and the momentary agency allowed by the brown bag rule, to human scale. Instead of alcohol, you are the controlled substance; the open container. The bag, of course, contains its participant, but as a mobile technology offers the user an ephemeral agency on when and where containment takes place.
The bag is now available and open to the public for use. It is currently available only in the Chicago area, and was designed with the open container laws in Chicago in mind. In this its inaugural phase, it is specifically meant to serve Chicagoans who are interested in excercising momentary and experimental autonomy on public space where certain behaviors enabled by the bag might not normally occur. Drinking alcohol inside the bag is only one option. Anyone who wants to use the bag for a week may find and exercise their own activities that the bag engenders. Participants are encouraged to document and share their experience using the bag, but this is not mandatory. I am currently distributing the bag in three ways. First, anyone in Chicago may request to use it for a week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This notice of its availability is accessible from autonomybag.blogspot.com. Second, I am making direct offers/solicitations of the bag to particular individuals who I think might be able to productively use the bag in interesting ways. Third, I plan on bringing the bags to public space through direct engagement. That is to say, going to a particular socially charged event and offering the bags to whoever might want to use them.
Or, you can also make your own at home.
How to make your own Autonomy Bag
48 inch roll of brown craft paper.
Steps toward assembly:
Roll out brown paper and measure off 138 inches in length. Cut that piece off at a nice perpendicular.
Using your friendship with gravity, fold the length of that piece into even thirds. Make both of the creases fold in the same direction.
Fold each outer third into halves. Once again, make sure the crease direction is following the same direction as the earlier folds.
Make a perpendicular fold at 14 inches off one of the short sides. Fold in the same direction as the other folds.
Turn your focus on the second and fifth sections of sixths, counting from the length-wise side. Let say you are standing at the long edge, and the other long side with the perpendicular fold is opposite you. For each, you want to mark a point which is at the center of both columns, and one half the column's width below the perpendicular fold.
Draw lines from those spots, which intersect with the corners of the perpendicular folds and run all the way to the edge of the paper.
Now we can begin using these creases to form the paper into a bag-like cube. It is helpful to do this with the short perpedicular fold flush against the floor and with the long edge sides standing up. It is most helpful to have a trusted bag-folding companion hold these sides up for you while you fold.
At this point you should have a pre-folded rectangle of brown paper that resembles this reference sheet. The next step is folding which is a little tricker to conceptualize so in this reference images key folding lines are highlighted. Red lines fold toward the interior of the cube and blue lines fold toward the exterior.
Now turn the first side of the bag into a right angle. The diagonal fold (or blue line) will fold under the large flap of leftover length from the perpendicular fold. Fold it down nice. The fold creates a diagonal from the corner you just created. Tape this corner in place wherever seems most helpful.
If you are having trouble conceptualizing how the corner fold works here is a demonstration of the one corner fold in miniature for reference.
Continue to fold the bag sides at right angles. Allow the diagonal folds (again, represented by the blue lines in the reference image) to slip under the bag and keep taping to keep your form.
Once you have folded all four corners, bring the two seams together and tape them in place. During this whold holding and taping process you'll probably want someone holding the edges up for you.
Carefully hop in the bag with the rubber cement. Begin cementing all of the creases on the interior. Hold it there for a bit to let it dry.
Now we have the form. Flip it upside-down and prop it up on some high standing object that fits in it. I used two bar-stools.
Spread rubber cement on any exterior creases necessary to add extra strength. Allow the cement to dry.
Fold top of the bag down to one side. This naturally collapses the bag and creates creases on the short ends.
Now bring the flattened bag to a well ventilated area. Lay it flat on a surface and arrange the stencils on the front of the bag to say "autonomy bag."
There you have it. You and possibly a partner may now experience a makeshift and momentary structure of autonomy in otherwise interpellated constructions of social space.
If you like you may fold the flattened bag into thirds and easily stash and port the bag inside a standard CVS trash bag.
Construction method also available on instructables.
Auditory Environment Filter
The act of hearing is only psychologically filterable, the body lacks physically any means to do so. The spaces we traverse every day are dense with sound - the dull hum of an HVAC system, car traffic, pedestrian conversation - and the sources of these sounds are often beyond our control. The solution to attenuating the sound that enters the ear is most commonly by the use of headphones. The personal media player grants anyone instant circumvention of their sound environment with their music (or radio show, audio book, etc) of choice piped directly from device, through headphones, directly into the ear canal. There’s a handy volume control in case things get too loud and buttons to select the next program. Who needs the noise of the morning commute when you can listen to Ira Glass? This is not, however, an attenuation of soundspace but a replacement of that which is unattenuable and beyond control. Further, it is an act of isolation. Headphones have a single user, the attached player device tethered to a single operator, controlling their auditory input based on their personal tastes at the moment, without any interjection or the fear of complaint from anyone else. While I don’t think it’s possible to control your soundspace at all times, I believe it’s possible to attenuate it without full isolation. What if the personal media player was replaced with a means to control the tone and the volume of the environment as it were so that individual contributions remained but were adjustable by the listener?
The Auditory Environment Filter (AEF) is a device that, instead of replacing, amplifies and attenuates a soundspace, granting the listener control over the tone and volume of their environment without fully replacing as would be done with a personal media player. The device can be thought of as and operated like an equalizer. It is, more specifically, a resonant filter which allows a listener to attenuate the frequency range of the soundspace they occupy so that only a selected range of sound actually makes it to the ear canal. There are two modes of operation: high pass and low pass filter. The high pass filter filters upward from low frequencies so that at its maximum setting only the higher frequency elements pass through. Low pass mode operates in the opposite way and reduces the frequency range downward to that at its maximum setting only lower frequencies are passed. Both modes have a resonance control, which acts to accentuate the frequency dialed in on the device, and there is an overall volume control as well.
The device itself is portable, however just slightly too large to be kept in a pants pocket. There is a microphone element on one end and a headphone jack on the other, as well as control knobs on the top of it. It is designed to be actively used, not hidden in a pocket as other passive isolationism devices are. By pointing the AEF in any direction, the sound from that part of a soundspace can be manipulated to taste. Alternatively it may also lead to unexpected surprises: background sounds often become highlighted when frequencies that would overpower it naturally become masked, city traffic can become rhythmic music when the frequency of car tires over a pothole is discovered and the resonance of that frequency is increased. And what sounds are discovered when those same settings are kept when the device is pointed in a new direction? The act of isolation-by-headphones, as with a personal media player, now becomes an act of accute attention to sound environment as acted upon by all players of life, presented in a new way to explore instead of an old way ignore.
The AEF is designed for anyone with a sense of sonic curiosity and a slight technical know-how. The kit does require some basic soldering: the main, and most sensitive, components used to create the circuit are connected with a solderless breadboard, leaving the soldering for the connection of mechanical (and less sensitive) components such as potentiometers and switches. There is also some simple drilling of the case involved, though hole placement is not critical. The breadboard mounts inside the case with double-sided styrofoam tape, as is the clip which holds the 9v battery the entire circuit operates on. Instructions for the circuit can be followed by placing a template of the parts on the breadboard and simply pushing the components through the template into place.
The design has gone through a bit of reversion. The initial prototype was built on a breadboard with the end goal of the finished product being made on a breadboard. Though at first it seemed fragile, after trying to transplant the circuit onto different types of protoboards, it has become clear that the initial idea of the breadboard is in fact the best option. Point to point breadboards will limit the audience to those with the diligence to actually undertake point to point soldering, which is in most cases quite bothersome. Even using a breadboard-like protoboard alters the layout of the circuit in ways that make it fairly cumbersome to put together. By keeping the circuit on a breadboard, the layout of the circuit is fairly symmetrical, and because the components are not being soldered it allows for a template to be used as a punch-through guide. Unfortunately this layout has not been fully reconfigured and the template remains unfinished. There are problems with the microphone preamp circuit and the filter circuit interacting due to the use of a virtual ground, but the problem is thought to be understood and the circuit is being worked out. Because of this I have not been able to bring on a “tester” to assemble the kit, as the instructions have not been finalized.
Another consideration has been that of the case. It was suggested that a nice wooden case could be laser cut, but that would do two things to the kit: raise the cost of materials and place focus of the project on the device as an object. My choice is to have a device that is slightly too big to hide or place in a pocket but not necessarily something to draw attention. The project is based on the idea of listening, and making the case ‘nicer’ would, I feel, lead the device to be more of an object than a tool.
|cutting out components|
|finished Retropticon prototype|
|note the reflection visible in the Retropticon|