Ambient MET : Final Project Proposal

AN OVERVIEW:

I will continue on the same path that interested me during the midterm - an iOS app that bundles a suite of interactive, ambient music soundscapes that respond to some of the different galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After meeting with ITP alum and MET employee Spencer Kiser, my sense that this might also be interesting to others within the museum-going community was invigorated.  We connected over a shared love of sound design and Janet Cardiff's Her Long Black Hair, and Spencer offered to help in ways that might benefit the development of the project.  Particularly, that I might be able to enter the MET before visitors have arrived to capture Impulse Response (IR) recordings of the empty galleries.  By using the natural decay of an IR (like a clap or sharp attack, discrete event), I can model room-specfic Convolution Reverbs that make the audio samples of that soundscape realistically sound as though they exist within that room.  

I've also made some preliminary visits of my own to the MET, looking for ideal rooms and galleries, and making some iPhone field recordings of the spaces with visitors in them.  This is a key element to each soundscape's ability to convince your brain of the mixed reality element, which I learned firsthand from Janet Cardiff's incredibly simple yet effective piece.  

Here are some images from my MET visits and their associated field recordings.

American Wing

American Wing

People on their phones in American Wing.  

People on their phones in American Wing.  

American Wing

American Wing

the iconic Egyptian Gallery, with abundant seating and people using their phones.. 

the iconic Egyptian Gallery, with abundant seating and people using their phones.. 

folks + couch + phones = a classic combination

folks + couch + phones = a classic combination

Euro Sculpture Gallery

Euro Sculpture Gallery

seats in Euro Sculpture Gallery

seats in Euro Sculpture Gallery

 

There's also a paper which recently affected me very much, "The Coming Age of Calm Technology" by Mark Weiser and John Seeley Brown.  They authored this in 1996, built on their experiences at Xerox PARC.  They correctly predict the coming age of IoT, and that in order to retain our personhood/sanity/calmness, we must design these types of experiences and smart objects to exist seamlessly within our cognitive periphery.  The more effortlessly we can pull something from the periphery to the center of our focus, the more control we'll feel over that experience and thus the more calm we will feel.  It is not enough for my project to simply aesthetically align with the idea of calmness, but it must also be capable of gracefully transitioning from the periphery of your museum visit experience to the center of your focus.  

In visiting the MET, what you see -- especially in the larger rooms with abundant seating options -- is that the majority of people pull out their phones when taking a break from the art.  This is an opportunity!  Both in the interest of my project, and hopefully in the institution's interest as well, keeping users creatively engaged with their visit vs. logging on to social media, for example, is an effective way to exploit our inclination to reach for our phones in moments of downtime.  

 

NEXT STEPS:

Implement vector analysis of user touch, so as to implement physics engine that allows realistic "flinging" of balls.

Consider 3.js to turn the balls into spheres or low poly 3D objects that bare greater resemblance to the objects in each gallery. 

Complete IR room recordings. 

Complete sound designing the audio source material of each response piece. 

Redraw a MET map for user navigation that's relevant and aesthetically linked to Ambient MET.