Sound (in)Stall

Sound (in)Stall
October 2009                   Lamar Dodd School of Art    The University of Georgia Athens, Georgia   

By hacking into the sensors located in a women's restroom and adding new sensors, an interactive sonic intervention was deployed in order to spark debate about our pervasive surveillance culture and question the boundaries between public and private space using college humor.

A dramatic site-specific scene was recorded using a Marantz portable sound recorder and a Senheiser SM-80 microphone. The scene stars a male (played by me) and female who argue and make love in the public restroom. 

Motion sensor (installed in restroom), door, 1 Ademco door security sensor, 2 computer speakers, and 1 make controller running into Macbook pro running a patch on MAX/MSP/Jitter.

The rest of the article continues….

"While some people were too discomfited to stay in the restroom, senior Johanna Richard from Tyrone was too curious to leave. "Initially I thought two people had come in. I was definitely intrigued and I sat and listened for awhile," she said. Graduate student Malia Polster found the experiment to be unconventionally humorous. "I saw it as an Andy Kaufman kind of joke," she said.

The sociological rationale behind the experiment is no laughing matter, however. The sensors that Warren used are the same sensors installed in most restrooms around campus. "It's a matter of someone tapping into that and they'd be able to do anything they wanted to with the sensors in the system," he said.

Warren separated voyeurism from government surveillance but said that both are a problem in the United States. He said his experiment had no correlation with pornographic voyeurism or voyeuristic fetishes but believes people do have a strong interest in learning about other's private lives.

"Digital surveillance is a reality that we are facing now and we will increasingly face that in the future. Digital surveillance can be used for you and for society's benefit and it can also be used against society so we need to be wise about what kind of society and what kind of culture we want to be."

He pointed to cameras that monitored traffic as a source for technology that seems benign but which might also be hijacked by special interests. "Many companies exist whose sole value proposition is to monitor the Internet traffic of entire countries, regions or organizational networks -- selling spyware to the highest bidders regardless of use case. I think people will always be fascinated by other people, especially people's private lives, but the risks of oppression and silencing of free speech are real threats, and the way to transcend these threats is with transparency -- but how much is too much! That's the funny gag at the heart of this whole issue." Warren said.

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