Public Amplifier

Conflux 2008 Submission

public amp header

The current slew of audio devices (mp3 players, cell phones, PDAs) are designed and marketed for individual use and solitary experience. Aside from the rogue train passenger ‘blasting beats’ from his or her cell phone, most users plug in headphones and disengage from the spaces and people they pass–movies accompanying their own personal soundtracks. With so many shared spaces in between, and often moments of pause–waiting for the light to turn, sitting for the bus, watching for a train to approach–what would happen if we shared the recordings we listen to with those around us? How might the devices that further our separation become a platform for interaction?

Here is a Google map of our locations at Conflux 2008:

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Public Amplifier will consist of a series of audio speakers placed in public spaces. Each speaker will be camouflaged as a part of the built environment (a trash can, a parking meter, a fire hydrant, etc.) and sited in places where people linger in their routine commute through the city. The function of the speakers will be made apparent by a protruding mini stereo cable and plug. Their locations will be documented on a website.

People who use Public Amplifier will effectively become performers and those that happen to pass by or listen in become the audience. Anyone with an audio device has the ability to tap into Public Amplifier, rendering the audience/performer dynamic fluid and subject to change. This openness presents an opportunity for dialogue and interaction – a reminder and illustration of some of the crucial functions of public space. What activities might come together around shared audio experiences? Dance parties? Teaching workshops? News broadcasts? Performances? Protests? Participants’ use, appropriation and activation of these pedestrian spaces will reveal the built environment as a pliable medium, not merely a static design for the routines of city inhabitants. We intend Public Amplifier to create a model for alternate uses of public space and foster active, empowered citizens.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

[sample experiment without camouflage]