Posted on Wed 20 Dec 2017
An update from Action Hero's first few weeks as Artists in Residence
We’ve been busy messing around with Oh Europa at the Pervasive Media Studio since October. Our priority has been working on what the technology is that the beacons use to transmit the love songs. This has involved lots of conversations with David the creative technologist and Victoria the Pervasive Media Studio producer about various options. We initially wanted the beacons to be transmitting radio waves, and for participants to be able to tune into the beacons with an FM radio when they’re within a 100metre or so range. It turned out though that because we want all the beacons to be playing the same thing at the same time and because we need what they’re playing to be updated regularly (with new recordings of love songs sung by people we meet on the way) this is pretty impossible. Or at least, if it is possible its using secret military-grade technology we’re not allowed to know exists. Pervasive Media Studio are good, but they’re not that good.
It also turns out on investigation that FM radio is not as accessible as it might seem to us two non-digital natives. The number of people in Europe who have access to an FM radio is far less than the number of people with access to a smartphone for instance (Norway won’t even have an FM signal by next year!). This info has led us to look at the possibility of developing an app that can transmit the love songs from your phone when you walk into range of the beacon. Effectively turning your phone into a device that can pick up and transmit the love songs like a radio. One of the reasons we wanted to work with the Pervasive Media Studio so much and a big reason why we applied for the residency was because we knew working with them would challenge us, and challenge the ways we approach projects and potentially push us into new territories and new collaborations. Finding ourselves in the process of potentially developing an app is definitely not something we would have imagined doing in the past, and we still have a certain amount of healthy skepticism (I didn’t even own a mobile phone until my late-twenties and I’m generally someone who runs a mile from anything ‘app-based’) but when we ask ourselves what we want this project to do and when we research the possibilities of the technology and it turns out to be the best way to do what we want to do, we think its worth exploring what would happen if we did develop an app and what might our version of an app look like. We’re really hoping to find ways to make it work very instinctively and borrow as much as we can from the analogue experience of ‘tuning in’ via a radio but using a technology that is more readily available and accessible to more people. Another great thing about working at the Pervasive Media Studio is that we have ample opportunity to experiment with these thoughts and actively work with the technology to test it and see if it works in ways that are compatible with the project and the ways we like to operate as artists.
Today was the first day we tested something on our phones. We walked into Queen Square and magically started to hear a static noise that then changed into music the closer to the centre of the square we walked. There’s still loads of work to do but the fact that something works and the idea is not a dead end means we’ll spend the new year playing with it some more to see where it takes us.
We’ll let you know how it goes!