Archive for March, 2008

Sound and the City:
Binaural Recordings at Union Square Park

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

In pursuit of gathering sounds for my thesis one suggested task was to record sounds from one location in NYC. I chose Union Square because it is a familiar site for me.
Side note: Soon after 911 when there was still a solemn mood in the air I was out with my friend in this part of the city. We were off from work, drinking, and we did not want to call it a night. We then decided to sit and spend the night sitting in Union Square Park. It was the Summer and everyone was out that night; the skaters, couples, dog owners, the man with the Hawk, kids playing, everyone… It was really interesting to view the transition of people, all types of people, different animals that grace the night, and the awakening of the next day. We were there from 11-ish pm till 6:00 am the next day. What was particularly interesting at that time for me was the Rats that dominated the park in the wee hours of the morning. That’s one nocturnal part of the of the life of the city. Then in the morning seeing all the television news vans gather around the south side of the square. I was thinking that they were sharing news and plans for the day. No wonder all the news is the same.

Anyway, almost seven years later here I am this time recording sounds for my thesis. The plan, to record 10 minutes of audio every hour on the hour for 24 hours. It was cold that evening, approximately 34 degrees F. I was dressed the the night ready for this challenge. I started at 6:00 pm, a few hours later than I had planed. I was equipped with my binaural headphones, a stealth way of recording, my zoom recorder in my pocket, and my camera in hand. I chose my spot on a bench , a strategic place to get an optimal stereo recording maximizing differences between the fields. Here is a photo and below is the Time-stamp of my session.

Wednesday March 26 2008.

[ 5:55 - 6:11 PM ]

Its light out
Church bell rings from a distance. Orientation hard to decipher
Girl passes by on phone - walk by right to left
Rush hour traffic to my right at a distance - approx 13 meters
Street brass band playing in a distance to my front right - approx 20 meters away
Skateboarders to my right about - approx 6 meters
Dogs running on gravel in doggy park behind me - right close to left far
Dog chain rattling behind me
Helicopter in sky - height undetermined
People chatting all around walking by

[ 6:55 - 7:11 PM ]

Still light out
Church bell rings…
Skateboarder still practicing
Friends talking bench to my left telling recipes into phone - approx 1 meter
Echo of ambulance siren. Moving so orientation is hard to decipher
Group of guys practice fighting
Traffic is getting quieter

[ 7:55 - 8:11 PM ]

Starting to get a bit dark
Church bell rings…
Street brass band playing in a distance to my front right…
Less people walking by, less activity

[ 8:55 - 9:11 PM ]

Church bell rings…
Men talking on bench to my right - approx 1.5 meters
Plane overhead…
Guy to my left talking on phone - approx 1 meter
Plane overhead…
Higher frequencies more prevalent

[ 9:55 - 10:11 PM ]

No church bell!
Two people on bench having business meeting on phone to my left on bench - 1 meter
Lots of horns honking
More lively than pas hour with people walking by
Plane overhead

[ 10:55 - 11:11 PM ]

Sounds of garbage trucks
Helicopter high up
Park ranger is putting chains in position for park closure
Police are walking/patroling the park
Homeless guy sits to my right - 1.5 meters
Same traffic from two hours away

[ 11:55 PM - 12:11 AM ]

Mid Traffic at midnight - 13 meters away
Less people walking by due to park closure
Getting colder sitting on bench

[ 12:55 - 1:11 AM ]

Getting Quieter
Dark barking in park behind me - apparently its owner left it alone in the doggy park
Saw one rat - vast difference from last time I spent in the park

[ 11:55 - 2:11 AM ]

Changed location - was asked by park anger to leave park bench area
MTA cleaning crew on scene - loud generator sound to my right but sound is traveling omnidirectional
Dog still barking - now attracting several police officers and park ranger
Police pulls over minivan at a distance in from of me - 13 meters away
Police shoots dog with tranquilizer gun - very tragic but I guess necessary.

[ 2:55 - 3:11 AM ]

Much quieter and colder now.
Very little activity with people.
Still few cars on street - city is resting but not sleeping
MTA cleaning crew still on the job

[ 3:55 - 4:11 AM ]

Much quieter and colder now.
Very little activity with people.
Still few cars on street - city is resting but not sleeping
MTA cleaning crew still on the job

[ 4:55 - 5:11 AM ]

Birds chirping indicating dawn
Light traffic flowing freely
Morning Busses in the background

[ 5:55 - 6:11 AM ]

Getting lighter out
Birds still chirping…
Light traffic flowing freely
Morning Busses in the background

[ 6:55 - 7:11 AM ]

Getting brighter
Birds still chirping…
Traffic is slightly lighter than before
Morning Busses in the background

[ 7:55 - 8:11 AM ]

Much lighter now
More birds chirping
Traffic still light
Busses in the background
Man performing Tai-Chi
Park cleaning crew picking up garbage
Doggy park open and visitors arriving
Dogs barking
Sounds of traffic getting a little louder

[ 8:55 - 9:11 AM ]

Church bell rings
Birds chirping
Squirrel running around
Construction behind me begins - approx 10 meters
Park garbage van in area

[ 9:55 - 10:11 AM ]

Church bell rings
Traffic slightly milder
More construction emanating form far
Over cast

[ 10:55 - 11:11 AM ]

Church bell rings
Traffic slightly milder
More people activity
Gloomy and grey day
Starting to drizzle

As you may have guessed I did not complete the 24 hours. It started to drizzle and I needed to get the equipment away from potential damage. Not to mention I was really tired in need of sleep. I do think it was enough to graph a moments of the park over a period…

Here are my accounts from that night minus the list.
Being there by myself, not speaking to anyone made for a very lonely night. I reflected on how important it is to have familiar people around you. It provides some sort of psychological warmth.
It was excessively noisy at night, with the cleaning crew doing there work. At times it was louder than the day, at least where I was sitting.
They closed the park, something I was not aware of. Duh!
I was expecting to see the rats frolic in the absence of people. I saw only one. I later learned that during the Winter months many rodents do not survive during periods of cold and snow.

See - Bureau of Community Hygiene:,a,1384,q,572855.asp

All and all it was a success and my binaural recordings totally present a stereo and timed picture.
My next step is to extract the stereoscopic data, i.e. Frequency, Amplitude an Phase and illustrate it in 3D (Three Dimensions, i.e [ X, Y, Z axis ]).

Check out 3D Audio Spatialization Method:

Also see 2D v.s. 3D

Sousveillance Culture: Voyeur Couture

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

We had to come up with a final project for class with surveillance or its variants in mind. Initially I had another idea involving mannequin heads but then I changed it after being inspired in class after a discussion of the GAZE. I was thinking about how women are normally a victim of this action, at least that’s what I’ve heard time and time again. I made a rough sketch and came up with the concept for a voyeuristic surveillance inspired on body camera system. This later evolved into the proposal below. I then teamed up with Meng Li who brought so much to the table and continues to challenge and inspire the project in the right direction. This was our pitch….

Voyeur Couture project proposal for class:

Project - Voyeur Couture | Class - Sousveillance Culture | Hosts - Allistar D Peters + Meng Li

History & Setting:

This project revolves around surveillance and the challenges and feelings that it evokes. The world has become or is becoming a police state, rolling out many technologies including smaller, smarter, and mobile cameras along with motion and heat detection devices. On the civilian plane surveillance is proposed as a means of our protection, particularly given the climate of global terrorism. But in the US how many of us have been exposed to the Tyranny of terrorism, which we are supposed to be protected against? The UK has experienced its share of terrorism stemming from the IRA attacks, thus the UK host the most surveillance cameras in any city in the world with over 4 million to date ( …msnbc ).

Although many organizations and / or artists have tackled the issue of surveillance, exposing its problems and blatant misrepresentation, we do feel in everyday life that we with our busy lives are really powerless, or at least lacking in defenses, when it comes to combating and effectively addressing the problems of surveillance. I do feel that we may have some control over our person-to-person surveillance. In this scope we are taking certain liberties with the word SURVEILLANCE, as the authorities have taken liberties in many cases.

The Goal:

The focus of this project is the stare and seduction with the attractive female as the object.

Concept: Turn a camera on the men who gawk at a beautiful woman’s breasts (as well as on the women who look with a touch of envy).

The fun part: We want to capture that gaze from the breasts point of view, then rebroadcast it to people standing behind the model and beyond. Now people can see —in real time—what it’s like to have every face in the room staring at you, or at least at the girls!

Artists like Jill Magid and Steve Mann have worked extensively with the camera and personal surveillance and we are thankful for their efforts and research, which allows us to expand our approach.

Our aim is to design a modern day couture style dress, thus the name Voyeur Couture, outfitted with elements of surveillance devices, consisting of camera domes, mini wireless cameras and a 6-inch TFT LCD screen. We chose couture because we wanted a striking visual with feminine seductive qualities, full of softness, in sharp contrast with the technology, and also strengthen the power of performance. We chose this style of cameras because they are everywhere and they become hidden in plane sight. But when discovered you can’t help but stare, trying to figure out where is the lens. Is there someone behind the scenes watching…

Below are visual examples, which we will portray in our design.

Scope and Challenges:

On the technical side we have solved the technology challenges of the camera and broadcasting its image, and also have done a mock test using a mannequin outfitted with the components. We have the wireless cameras, the screen, transmitter and receiver and plastic domes augmenting the breast. We hope this will draw attention. Powering the devices have also been solved so. We’ve also tested the interaction and made some notes to help improve its effectiveness. You can browse our photos and video posted on our blog [ ]

We do have a challenge designing and making the dress. We have sent a call out for fashion designers who are interested in working on such a dress with its technology. We have one lead from FIT. We already purchased the material for the dress, shiny, white modern plastic fabric, which we feel fits with our ideal couture look. The key is to have a stylistic looking look, even seductive, to lure potential onlookers. We are very excited about the potential results.

The Next Step:

We’ll play around with the installation of the cameras on the body, testing two experiments, visible/invisible cameras. We’ll also bring dummy domes, which actually are not functional as a camera, but functional as surveillance.

After designing the second prototype we hope to demo it at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. This venue supports heavy time-based foot traffic; it’s an important transportation hub and is monitored by many security personnel and surveillance cameras. We hope to videotape the interaction with our own camera, without getting in trouble with the law. We were both born outside of the US, so this is a concern for us. We do hope, upon a successful demo, to request the surveillance footage from South Ferry security authority for our final presentation.

We also need more documentation and create a forum for question, which may arise from our demo. Such questions may include, a woman’s identity, the subject of voyeur, the imbalance of power, entrapment, privacy, permissions, ignorance of surveillance, and inability or no sensibility of questioning the privacy invasion, and countless others we are unaware of.

Setup web-view for live streaming of event and solving free bandwidth issues and promotion of Voyeur Couture.

More to come…

For a preliminary documentation we built a prototype and demoed it in the lobby of Tisch.

Check out the first Voyeur Couture DEMO:

After we sent out a request for a designer to help sketch out and build the dress. We received many positive responses. One response from a professor at Pratt Institute rendered a success so Far. Laura Moore had met with us and is at this point assembling a team to help us get this off the ground. Will post images and team members involved once we meet.