Category Archives: Research (2006-2009)

Artful Data

I’ve considered making a kind of data to sound generator. Rather like Cornelia Solfrank’s Net Art generator, but like a sound art generator. This is a different approach, that I was led to by browsing Max Tundra’s brilliantly crazy website.

Daniel Cummerow has made various MIDI files (musical arrangements) that are generated by tapping into various areas of mathmatics. He’s producing the sound of maths. A fantastic idea. It also explains – to some extent – the multi-timbral soundscapes that Max Tundra produces.

Listen to an example of Daniel’s work, using Pascal’s Triangle. This is a MIDI file, most media players should be able to play it OK. Read about MIDI here.

I figured this was a cool example of how data meets art meets data.

Data Sonification

I’ve been thinking about Sonification (has a definition on Wikipedia, even if it isn’t a real word) of data for sometime. My first experiment used this blog. A hidden iFrame on the main page opened a page on a web server running off my laptop. These requests were then converted to audio and played out of the laptop’s speaker. I’m interested in the concept of listening to data all together, and in particular web / internet data is especially intriguing. Similarly I’ve recently become inspired by autonomous art works, things that do their own thing without intervention, and even better than that they do something entirely unpredictable.

My research has progressed, and now rather than using a simple PC speaker my software outputs MIDI information. That can then be interpreted by all means of other software, or even hardware synthesisers to actually turn the data into sound. Also I’ve stopped using this blog as the data source, I’ve actually obtained a months worth of web server log data. This has given me about 7 million records to use as my data set. Due to the way the software processes data the amount of time that it would take to “play” is equal to the amount of time that data took to collect. So, the months worth of data I’m using currently would actually take 1 month to listen to. Here’s a few excerpts from my current set up.

Example 1

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Example 2

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Example 3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Example 4

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The “rules” that the software adheres to are as follows.

  • MIDI note is determined by an addition of each segment of the clients IP address, which is then divided by 8. The reasoning behind this is that there are 128 possible MIDI notes. The sum of IP address segments has 1024 different possibilities. 1024 / 8 is 128; so this calculation will always provide a valid MIDI note.
  • Length of note is determined by looking at the length of time in between web requests. This means in busy periods the software produces lots and lots of notes, whereas at quiet times (in the middle of the night) very few notes are played.

In time I’d like to further develop the system, exploring using other things as parameters with which to modulate aspects of the synthesis. One idea is to look at the geographical location of the client and then alter the sound accordingly in some way. This could work very well with a multiple speaker set up. Also plugging the system into the live log data would be really exciting.

A further development would introduce a visual element to the software. Illuminating variou screen sections according to IP address processing, like the audio. I haven’t looked into that as yet though..! It would probably mean transferring the MIDI processing code from VB into Processing; no bad thing me thinks.

Textual Twitter T’ing

I’ve just returned from a trip to London, with mixed fortunes. I didn’t do quite what I wanted, but I’ve come back inspired. Its culminated with my mind being full of art stuff that I want to do – at some point. Twitter is going to be my starting point, as a dataset to work with. Anyhow. This is the story.

I failed to go to a party at Lo Recordings, which Leo invited me to, which was annoying. As it happened I made it to Old Street, and was waiting for a bus there, when my mobile phone died. It took with it the address I was going to, the contact numbers of the people there and any chance of finding the place. So I took the tube back to Fulham where I was staying. Effectively making a 2 hour round trip to nowhere. Making matters worse the travelling between Fulham (West) and Central & East made it impossible for me to go and see the first ever Starting Teeth gig – which was another annoyance.

On the plus side, I briefly met both members of Starting Teeth and Nathan Fake in some bar on Brick Lane. And indeed, it was the first time I’d ever been to Brick Lane so that was cool too….

Continue reading

Osama Loves..

“Global dialogue” as an American Osama said;

This was made for TV I guess, hence the Channel 4 link. Essentially, muslims called “Osama” are asked to provide a photo or video showing something that they love. I think it’s showing – well it is showing – “500 faces of Islam”. The diversity, the interest, the warmth and the difference between global citizens. Linked by their name and by their religion. Bloomin’ brilliant interactive art, IMO.

You must look.

My HDR Pics

I’ve been researching and experimenting with various ways of taking high dynamic range images, this the result of my research so far. Also serves as an opportunity to test the gallery functionality in this version of WordPress!

There are plenty of glitches still in the pictures, but I’m making some progress.

Infrared Pen for Wii

I’ve made my own Infrared Pen for use with a Wii controller; interactive white board a-hoy. Hopefully will use it somehow with Zimmy’s feedback project using Johnny Lee’s interactive white board software. See this post for some cool videos demonstrating it.

For anyone’s reference; I got the infrared LED from Maplin. The part is “High Power Infrared Emitting Diode” – it is rated at around 1.5 volts, so you can just directly connect it to a single AA battery. I then stuffed the whole lot inside a pen casing, with a push-to-make button on the end. Brilliant!

Infrared Pen for Wii

ps I do not sell these pens. If you want one, I suggest making it or if you can’t employ the services of an electrician! :o)

Feedback Things

I’ve started working with Zimmy on creating an multi-faceted installation based around audio visual feedback. It stems from Zimmy’s experiments with pointing video cameras at projections of what the video camera is looking at… thus creating a feedback loop.

It is hugely fun, and awe inspiring in a way- I really love things that make you stop and think about all the technology we’re using day-to-day. Normal usage doesn’t have this effect. With the video feedback it really makes you stop and think about how it can happen, and therefore how the components in the loop can actually function.


I think our (my & Zimmy’s) aim is to create an interactive installation, whereby everything you can see and hear is created by feedback; yet both audio and visuals will be controllable by the audience (or at least influenced by them). I’ve created a system whereby an audio feedback loop is created and then modulated by movements of a Wii remote controller- I’m pretty pleased with it! It sounds good (reminded to self, make a video for demonstrating this…)

Some Research

There is a plethora of many existing Wii hacks, and even more examples of using feedback principals to augment or create audio (and video) – I’ve done quite a bit of research into GlovePIE. It is a simple programming language that allows you to program the information from the Wii remote controller. I am only using two factors from the Wii remote – the “roll” and the “pitch” of the device. For my purposes I then convert that to a MIDI (MIDI is a standardized protocol for communication between electronic music devices) signal which is finally sent into an audio program – I am using one called Ableton. Ableton then processes the signals and changes various internal parameters to control the feedback.

I’ve also done quite a lot of practical research experimenting with shepard (or risset) tone generators. According to WikiPedia a shepard tone is;

A Shepard tone, named after Roger Shepard, is a sound consisting of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves. When played with the base pitch of the tone moving upwards or downwards, it is referred to as the Shepard scale. This creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower.

Although not a feedback element itself – its something that Zimmy wanted to use in the audio-element of the work. In my feedback machine using the Wii remote, a shepard tone modulates any audio signal it creates… which will then be fed-back. I’m pleased with the result, although it can sound quite harsh if you aren’t careful.

So far I’ve only used the sensors in the Wii controller that sense whether it is pointing toward the floor or the ceiling and whether it is on its front, back or side. They also have accelerometers, sensing what direction it is moving in – although I find this hard to work with. Finally, they also have an infra-red based ability to tell exactly what the remote is pointing at. In games the infra-red sensor is used for things like pointing guns at enemies or drawing a circle round something. Using the GlovePIE software I talked about earlier you can use this to control the cursor on a computer screen.

In theory (and practice, it turns out) it should be possible to “paint” on-screen with the remote. Combine the on-screen painting, with Zimmy’s video feedback loop, with my audio-feedback loop (which is controlled by the same remote control as the on-screen painting) and there you have it… I’ll put this to Zimmy, and see what he thinks.

Whilst researching other Wii painting projects and things on the internet, I discovered Johnny Chung Lee‘s website. He has done quite a lot of really amazing work with the Wii controllers – much more sophisticated than what I’m trying to do (but I think we have different aims, after all). What I learned from his site was that the Wii controller actually has a high-resolution infrared sensor on it (which works in conjunction with a little infrared emitter that you put on top of your TV, for gaming). Its very high resolution, and very sophisticated. Johnny Lee’s videos demonstrate various things including “painting” but also using the controller as a so called “multi-touch screen” and interactive white board applications – all at a fraction of the cost of the normal hardware required for these applications. One of the coolest is using your fingers as points for the sensor to see.. see it to believe it. Brilliant!


Interactive Whiteboard

BlogCrossing; Isnternet; Anti-Blogs; Liberation

Since I discovered it was possible, I’ve been yearning to make something out of the Webserver on a Stick project (WOS). Components that make WOS are:

  • A web server; Apache
  • A database server; MySQL
  • A scripting language; PHP

For one, I love all the recursive acronyms. GNU, stands for GNU is not UNIX. Witty! And PHP stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor. I suppose this is why I get called a geek. Not just for knowing the acronyms – necessarily – but that I find them funny.

Anyway, the case in point is that these three pieces of software, three giants of the software world; can all be crammed onto a USB memory stick. The “AMP” combination (Apache, MySQL, PHP) is such a powerful combination, although rarely seen by end-users directly, it sits behind hundreds of millions of websites, not to mention the hundreds of famous companies that use software like MySQL. Most amazingly something that warms by heart and opens my mind is that it is all distributed for free and with freedom. Their mission statement is this:

[it is our] mission to preserve, protect and promote the freedom to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer software, and to defend the rights of all free software users

It is also, from what I can tell, a mostly pointless exercise. There is very little point in having these three incredibly powerful pieces of software on a memory stick; it is more a showcase of possibilities. The power of the software, and the millions of man-hours of work that has gone into the software development, is encapsulated in an extremely small artifact. Its almost like having an all knowing guru, who could have memorised all of human history, but they are unable to write, talk or communicate in any other way. The strength and power of the software is somehow “trapped”.

BlogCrossing Concept

You may have heard of BookCrossing (“bookcrossing” is now included in the Oxford Concise Dictionary). BookCrossing is defined as;

“the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”

Although I have significantly different aims, I have transferred the same functional structure, which resonates well with my other audience collaboration oriented work, to work with the “Webserver of a Stick” technology.

Rather than leaving a book in a public place, I am leaving USB memory sticks. Each stick has installed on it Apache, MySQL and PHP and blogging system WordPress (also the system behind this blog!). Anyone who plugs in a memory stick they have found is invited to make a blog entry and then pass the memory stick on to another person, who will then pass it on to another, and so on. I want to this to continue until each stick’s memory is full, when they will all be sent back to me.

Isnternet; although it is all web and internet based technology, BlogCrossing works in a completely “disconnected” manner. The network is made by the people rather than the telephony and internet networks that we are more often a part of.

Anti-Blogs; traditionally a blog resides on the web, and can be accessed by any number of visitors, search engines, news aggregators and so on. Also, most blogs are maintained by an individual, they’re often diaries and journals (like this one!). BlogCrossing is neither of these things, and in fact it is in the inverse. Maintained and written by many individuals, accessible by only one person at a time.

BlogCrossing; a tribute to the brilliance and success of BookCrossing.

I’ve released three BlogCrossings so far.. I hope they’re doing well.

My one misgiving is also the strongest part of the project. I’m worried that the network of people will break down. Somebody might loose the memory stick, they might steal the memory stick, they might accidentally delete all the data on it, anyone of these things would just ruin it. However if those things don’t happen, it proves a mass-understanding, a connectedness (even in anonymity); for me a pleasurable outcome. The aim, is that each person that takes part, and in the future people who see the fruits of the project will feel that pleasure too.

NB, I just spell checked, misread something that I thought I’d written, then thought of the word “witticism”, checked it and it exists – Cool!

“Witty remark. Blend of witty and criticism.”

Low Fi, Net Art Locator

Artists are utilising the net as a medium for developing art projects, however these projects are often hard to find. The range of activity is extensive: artists use the net to experiment; to display and distribute their art projects; to collaborate; and sometimes to intervene critically in the increasingly commercialised and politicised space of the net.We intend to make these art projects more visible and accessible by seeking out key current projects and by encouraging artists to input information about their projects in low-fi’s open submission database.

however these projects are often hard to find.

Unfortunately I only just found it! Still, interesting thing, seems to have been dormant for a while though.

Diwali at Platt Fields Park

I went to a pre-Diwali celebration at Platt Fields Park a couple of weeks ago. It was fantastic. Not really directly relevant to my artistic practice, but certainly a good thing to do (for me) to keep my mind happy and creative. It was a really nice community event, but the dramatic climax was hugely enjoyable.

Dewali Fire Poi

Fire Poi.

A 30′ tall effigy of the ten-headed demon king Ravan was burnt, along with atmospheric music and a beatifully choreographed fireworks display. The effigy was buily by an arts company called Walk the Plank.

Platt fields seems to be a hotpot of these brilliant events; the other one I’ve been to being the fire-art-french-thing.

Burning Davan, at Diwali

The burning of Davan.

Spy Phone

I recently purchased a modified Nokia phone, that lets you set it into a “spy mode” – whereby the phone appears to be off but will actually automatically answer any incoming phone calls; without any visible signs. Its designed for un-trusting types to spy on their friends, employers or loved ones. Fortunately, I’m in a position where this is not by primary intention!

I thought it would be cool to do some kind of interactive art work with it. When my University tutors asked me to look at the Urban Legends stories, I thought it’d be fun to create an Urban legend of my own. It would start, in lavish style, in a toilet. Graffiti on the walls tells the story, and concludes with a “real world” factor – a phone number. If anyone is inclined to phone the telephone number, they would be connected to my subversive spy phone – which resides in an undisclosed location. What the caller is listening to is…… in the eye of the beholder. I guess.

Spam Good, Spam Bad; Spam Bad

Amazingly, since my last post thing have been going pretty well!

I wrote that yesterday, and things were still okay this morning. However I’ve annoyed one many spam-savvy academics, one too many times (maybe).

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I was reported to, who notified my ISP who then temporarily disabled my account.

So I think, for the time being, this project will have to go on hold. I still want to continue it in the same vain, but I will have to either find a way to legitimise what in reality is spam; or simply only involve people who decide to take part off their own free will. I do feel however, doing that would detract from what (has proved to be, I think) a fun experience for at least 90% of the people who have responded to my mailings.

I’ll be posting again soon, I’m going to collate all of the submissions from recipients of my spam emails – its quite a nice little collection of nuances now! And hopefully I’ll facilitate a way in that which I can further the project somehow. I still have the ultimate wish of making this a gallery-based piece that can be tangibly viewed by the public. Not just a web-based experience.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, its been lovely!

May the lap of the spamGods be with you.

Art Spam, Spam Art, spArt I suppose

What is Spam Art?

I have a new harebrained “artistic” scheme. As the title suggests it is to do with spam.

I read about something I thought that was cool; a guy had simply created a dedicated email inbox and ensured that it received lots of spam all the time (not too difficult these days). Then a computer printed all of the messages that were delivered into that inbox and immediately the paper it was printed on was shredded.

I liked it – but a little one dimensional I suppose (I probably wouldn’t have said that if I’d have thought of it first and done it, however).

Another interactive art work I read about, that utilised the Internet, was the guy that had a balloon rigged to an air-pump that was triggered by hits on his blog. Anyone who looked at his blog could rest-assured that their hit, inflated the balloon that little bit more – at the end of one day the balloon was popped.

I really loved this concept. I’m not sure quite what it was meant to represent, but it definitely appealed to my tastes.

Try googling “spam art” – loads of cool results.

My Ideas & Testing the Concept

What I would like to do started with the idea of running two pieces of software on a gallery-based computer. The first program continuously spiders the web and builds an ever-growing database of email addresses. Despite the spam it attracts there are still millions and millions of such addresses out there on the web. The second program would send a message to each of the emails that the spider discovers.

Responses to the sent message would also be displayed by the computer and be published on a blog.

I guess I’m interested in turning the tables on spam, so for somebody out there they will receive my spam and be surprised and joyed at the fact that it isn’t actually the traditional form of spam. If they respond they will be interacting with anyone who looks at the gallery-situated computer or the blog. Thus my interactive art is born.

I tested the concept with a few hundred email addresses that I collected using a simple spidering program, and this has generated a few replies – mostly encouraging. One or two slightly angry or annoyed…. not surprisingly (I am sorry..!)

Take a look at the email I sent here.

The responses have ranged from;

Hi, what exactly is the purpose of this project? And what is the “art” for this project?

To lovely and encouraging responses like this from Anne-Marie;

I am always very happy to see that Students “in general” still have
ideas ! (you are the future my Dear…and the world depends on you all)

And this is the major point that I have to address:

How is art different from spam?David K

Many thanks to everyone who did respond – you’ve helped me a lot.

Also another huge debt to the open source developers who wrote PHPList and all of its components.

Where’s it going?

Well there is quite a development overhead with a project like this; for it to work seamlessly. For my initial test I’ve been filling in all the gaps that ultimately a computer will have to, but I reckon it has proved the concept well.

I’ve refined the idea through the testing. The part of the project that I really want to nurture is the relationship between the email content and the people that receive it. That was one of the most interesting concerns of the people that responded; the content must be relevant or of interest somehow – otherwise the email still constitutes itself as spam and will not be enjoyed by its recipients! So where do I find the content for emails so it will be relevant?

My current thinking is that all the emails that are sent to members of my spam list will actually be generated by users through a website. The website will serve as a medium for any single person to communicate a nuance of thought to (potentially) many thousands of “subscribers”. It can also be a hub for responses generated by any of these “spammed thoughts” to be displayed on the web. I’ve also concluded that anyone who receives these emails must not in an unsolicited manner. It just doesn’t quite sit right with most people (or myself).

Original Spart Email

This is the content of the email that I sent in my preliminary spArt tests…..

I’m an Art Student, in Manchester (UK).

I’m mainly interested in working with computers, technology and the web – and finding interesting subjects within those areas to base my work on.

This will form part of my creative process.

I (literally) just had the idea of putting a computer in an art gallery, connected to the internet and constantly trawling the web for email addresses. This is exactly the same process that some internet marketeers (as they might like to be called) otherwise known as “spamsters” use to gather some of the email addresses that form their spam lists.

My motives however aren’t to lure people into a scam or for some other commercial purpose. I’d like to see if I could have a computer that is constantly collecting new email addresses, and that would also receive a constant stream of replies – as the message is worthy of response, and is not spam.

All the responses would be displayed on the computer in the art gallery.

Something along those lines anyway……

As a sort of preliminary dry run, I’ve just gathered 500 email addresses from the web and I’m testing out the idea with them. If you’re reading this, then you were one of the 500 I got in my initial run.

Do you understand the idea? If so what do you think?

Any thoughts would be great!

Also, if you want to find out a bit more about me, have a look at my website; (however watch out, its kind of a work in progress….)

Many thanks! And I apologise for filling up your inbox :o)


Geocaching; Personal Procrastination

I’m becoming increasing frustrated with my inability to record my music in a efficient manner. Procrastination is a big problem as is occasional lethargy. Also I find it difficult to defer my desires to mess about with my various other projects that are on-going.

Today’s procrastinative displacement activity is giving some much needed attention to this blog.

Photobombing has attracted some comments from various people on the internet and is still smouldering away by itself, which is really encouraging. I really want to get it properly sorted, so its a more cohesive system and accessible to anyone (which unfortunately it is not at the moment). I think that is going to involve quite a lot of re-learning how to program – but should be fun in its own right.

I was particularly pleased yesterday when I stumbled across Imran Ali’s blog and his post about photobombing. Its so good to see/hear/know that people other than myself are attracted to the concept. Imran summated photobombing with this, it isn’t quite correct (I don’t think) but this is probably how photobombing should operate:

I guess it’s basically the inverse of geotagging, rather than tagging a digital map with digital photos, you tag a physical place with real photos :)

A (cool) twist of fate is that he discovered the concept of photobombing via geotagging which is something I’ve been extremely interested with lately.

Speaking of geotagging, I’ve finally got my mobile phone/bluetooth GPS and camera combination to work smoothly, so in future I can ensure all my photographs will be geotagging automatically. But I’ve also discovered the phenomenon of geocaching. What am amazing thing this is. A network of “cachers” maintain thousands of caches throughout the globe. A cache can be any sort of container, and will contain a log book and official paperwork. Sometimes there are gifts inside, or puzzles, riddles, clues to find another geocache – anything! Anyhow, all the cache’s and their GPS co-ordinates are available on the website and anyone who so wishes can go in search of them. Its great fun, I recommend it to all.

I am certainly going to combine my photobombing escapades with geocaching.

Sometimes I wish time went twice as slow, or me twice as fast.

GPS Success

I’ve purchased a bluetooth GPS device for my mobile phone. The purpose, to geo-tag my digital photographs, so that all of them can appear on any compatible mapping software. This applies to Google Earth (and maps), and other sites like

I already have a page for my photobombing project to include geo-tagged photographs – using the website

Anyway, I’ve had some success, its taken a few days but I’ve finally managed to create a Google Earth file containing correctly geo-tagged photographs from a trip I took yesterday. Fantastic! See here…..

GPS with Photos

If you’re interested in doing this yourself, I suggest reading this page; – its a very thorough walk through of how to set all this up.

Also, many thanks to Ed, of and Tommi Laukkanen. Ed wrote a blog entry about Carling beer taps, which I landed on very randomly. Then I read his article about GPS tagging photos, using a Java enabled phone and Tommi Laukkanen’s “Trail Explorer” application – a very useful program that logs your geo location as you go and exports to a .GPX file.

Also this is fun opportunity to send another trackback :o)

iPhone, AudioCubes, Max/Msp – Interface!

I’m a big fan of interfacing different bits of hardware and software together, I’ve come across two today. Using the iPhone to control Max/Msp and also a thing called AudioCubes. This uses Max/Msp as well, but is available as a “boxed” product, and manages to control Ableton Live (or any other MIDI enabled software) using these weird coloured cubes. Strange, but interesting I guess.

This is a video of the iPhone thing (from, to see the demo of the AudioCubes go to its website.

Public Art; Large Scale

I just saw a post on about making crop circle-esque images in rice paddys, in Japan.

Rice Paddy Art

Its really cool. Everyone should do it, on different levels. Farmers with fields, architects and town planers with buildings, streets and parks, “ordinary people” with their houses, gardens, cars and selves.

World Collage.

How does one start a thing like that?

On the subject of public art, I stumbled across a blog entry about attempts to cut the public art funding in Florida. Hear, hear to the writer I say!


As part of the process I’m going through to install WordPress on this website, I’ve now become familiar with what a track back is.

Really cool principle, I like it. Web2.0 Go! (or something)

a system in a blog whereby a related item on another site appends information from its first paragraph to the bottom of the text of the original item. Some observers cite trackback as manifestation of the interactive Internet.


I just read a nice comparison article, between and – free blog hosts. Succinct and useful!