Arduino, Javascript
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The Network Ensemble – Device to sonically uncover and amplify the invisible territory of networks

Created by Oliver Smith and Francesco Tacchini studying for an MA in Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art in London, The Network Ensemble is a tool to sonically uncover and amplify the invisible territory of the networks that sit between our offline and online experiences.

The networks that connect us also surround us, becoming a permanent layer in our everyday environment, a man-made natural force with its own nature and accompanying mystique. It is this force to which the Network Ensemble responds, converting the invisible, airborne communications infrastructure into a sonic experience. The sounds of the ensemble are in constant flux: the external peripherals form an autonomous orchestra, a sonification of slices of the local network layer, changing according to their own inherent logic but providing a melodic representation of the wider network topology.

The device, packaged into a briefcase with a series of peripherals to provide parasite like attachment to physical environment, positions the user as an explorer, a network clairvoyant, finding patterns, mapping the territory and experiencing an active, hidden world through sound. The Network Ensemble collects the communications local to it, pulling in the raw packets, the blocks of information that devices send between themselves, and analysing them. It sorts them into six categories relating to the actions of the network or the actions on the network. These categories correspond to the ports on the outside of the device, into which external peripherals can be plugged. Peripherals are of various shape, scope, and configuration: an antenna, a set of speakers, a MIDI keyboard, a series of solenoids panels that translate data into mechanical movement, to name a few.

The device was built using custom built software, comprising of nodejs and Terminal-based Wireshark, runs in a computer inside the case. An Arduino equipped to run Javascript (Firmata protocol) communicates with the host computer and channels the incoming network packets to the six different ports on the outside of the device.

The project is part of the RCA graduation show and can be seen everyday from 12 to 6 from Wednesday 24th June until Sunday the 5th July.

Project Page | Oliver SmithFrancesco Tacchini





Project at the RCA graduation show.

Project at the RCA graduation show.