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Sonic Planet: visualizing and mapping the voices of the unheards (update v1)

Inspired by many concepts about infographics, art and giving a voice, I thought of a sound design platform which could be developed for viewing on a website, but also be displayed as a multimedia installation in public spaces such as exhibition spaces or in the entrance of Amnesty International Headquarters.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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From the various concepts and conversations (in particular Ana's interactive map, Amanda's My Voice, Alan's cube and Luz's museum of memories - see my virtual team and the concepts on the side), a few things emerged that inspired me when it comes to create public awareness:

- the power of infographics and visualization
- in particular, the importance of mapping
- the power of stories in triggering empathy
- the importance of giving a voice to the people unlawfully detained
-the power of arts

I thought of an experimental sound design interface, Sonic Planet 1.0, that I know:
The idea is to map sounds recorded in various geographies. The user can scroll other a location and it will give him some information on the location and the recording. You can also start a background sound loop and "create" your own music.

What if we were to have a similar map but instead of any recording, once you pass other a region, you would have the recording (in the local language) from the detainee or most probably, from his relatives or friends. You would also see minimum information: the name, location, date of detention. You can imagine that you could also access more information if you wanted.
You could imagine having also some of the texts transcribed and read by natives (with accents) and mixing both. Yet, the main point here would be to hear the voice, locate it and associate with a person and a date. You could imagine that all these stories could be transcribed and translated and accessible on a blog for reading (or through My Voice: )

The experience of the map would be to create a sense of awareness of the different stories of detentions. You could also imagine that there could be a sound track that could be for example linked it to a visual representation as Alan's cube: as more people would be detained, the busier, the soundtrack would be. You could imagine something like the soundtrack done for building_space_with_words, an interactive installation I was involved in:
The sound track was created by recording voices of people in various languages reading excerpts from online forums and it aimed to create a sense of the "life" in the space of online forums. It sometimes was very "quite", and sometimes very "busy" to represent the number of conversations going on online at a point in time.

You could have a web version of this, interactive similar to Sonic Planet 1.0. The version I'm envisioning could be updated but would not be updated "live". Yet, you can imagine having a visual update (per Ana's concept: with only a sample of stories.

You could also have a multimedia installation similar to Listening Post by Hansen and Rubin:

An intermediate version (per Sarah's comment) could be having computers with direct access to the webpage. They could be part of an exhibition or accessible in a public space. They will have some of the public dimension of the multimedia installation while being less expensive to develop. They could be part of Luz's museum.

In that context, you could also think of an interactive element where stories could be recorded (during the exhibitions of the museum, or in the Shift III van), allowing the creation of a collective memory. Collecting stories could of course been done in "developed countries", or even online. Indeed, one should remember that unlawful detentions (as many inspirations reminded us) are not always happening "far away". Things happen in our backyard as well.

The aim would be create awareness and give a voice to detainees through multimedia and art.

The audience would be "the public" (in developed countries) that might not be aware of the situations in other countries.
Through the collection of stories, there will also be an oral history component, important in building awareness in "developing" countries.

What kind of resources are needed to get this idea off the ground and/or support it over time?

A team including a sound designer, a web developer and a multimedia artist Volunteers to collect stories and have them read and record them Some translation resources if we want to have some transcripts Funding from Art Foundations if we want to display this in a public space Data from Amnesty International (or other sources) to start developing a map of the detainees.

My Virtual Team

Ana: Amanda: Alan: Luz: Sarah for her inspiring comments!

How could this idea also be adapted to work in low-tech situations?

The low tech version would be a webpage. The middle tech version: computers with internet connection and headphones The high tech version would be a multimedia installation.


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Hey Anne-Laure,

I like the way that this concept incorporates the vocal element. And, of course, I love that it can integrate with My Vocie ;-) Glad, as always, to be part of your virtual team!

I think Sarah's suggestion of combining this concept with the temporary museum is a great one. I think the verbal elements of the stories are just as important for the museum as the visual elements. And, the audio is much more easily portable, so from a practical perspective this is also a good fit.

Kudos to you for your interesting concept!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks! I've just updated the concept to include Luz's museum concept and Sarah's "mid-tech" suggestion.

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