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Project report "Busboîtescartesmaps"
2009-10-25 17:49:23 - by Nicolas Malevé

More than time for a project report on Busboîtescartesmaps project that took place last November.

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The project proposed to the participants to drift within Brussels using the post boxes as elements to create their itinerary. The walks were conducted by several guides (Peter Westenberg, Christina Clar and Natasha Roublov, Lottie Child) who imagined different experiments to understand space and urbanism differently.

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Walking blindfolded
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Ears enhancement

This project was the occasion to make a first software prototype, using the Tresor’s toolbox, to record the meanderings of people in the city.

Here follows a series of notes explaining the first steps of the project.

The scenario goes like this. We select a series of spots in Brussels. These spots correspond to the postboxes spread in the center of the city. Their locations cover a wide range of places and environments, you can find them near schools, streets with heavy traffic, dead end streets, parks, etc.

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Postboxes as anchors for a walk

A group of people go in the city with an audio recorder and a GPS and visit the spots. The clocks of the GPS and the recorders are synchronised. The GPS records all the time the tracklogs of the people and the audio device capture the sound for the whole duration of the walk. When they come back after the walk, the GPS data and the audio data are copied on a computer. By comparing the time code of the GPS track and the start time of the audio track, we can extract audio segments based on location. we can extract the audio recorded by the walkers when they were nearby the spots.

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The software captures the audio fragments recorded near the postboxes

These audio segments can then be placed on a digital map where the visitors can listen to them. The interface allow them listen to the chaos of all the sounds they have recorded near the spots or to select the sounds one by one, turn them on and off.

Samples:
Some walks have concentrated on the atmospheric sound, recording the ambient atmosphere( ie. pool_atmosphere_long.ogg), or interacting with it (scratching the surface with shoes ie. scratching_the_ground.ogg).
Other guides gave instructions like describing aloud what one was seeing (STE-003-workingcopy_00m_43s_40h__01m_25s_90h.mp3, STE-003-workingcopy_35m_43s__38m_59s_40h.mp3, STE-003-workingcopy_09m_01s_80h__10m_37s_60h.mp3, STE-003-workingcopy_51m_30s__55m_28s_60h.mp3,STE-003-workingcopy_15m_55s_50h__19m_37s.mp3,STE-003-workingcopy_23m_17s_40h__27m_52s_90h.mp3)
Etc etc.

Interface:

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The spots are displayed and all sounds played

By default, the software lets you listen to the ’mumbling’(all_walk-5.ogg,all_walk-0.ogg) of the whole last walk, or to select individual takes within this.

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The user can filter the sounds and select the walks

Using the menu, you can chose a walk or chose a date or a guide.

Software in use:
openstreetmap, setting the coordinates
gpsbabel, can extract data from a gps unit. can also select data by region and time
sox, given a start time, it can cut audio fragments for a certain duration
mp3splt, cuts an mp3 file in segments
gstreamer allows for playing audio files concurrently
perl, php and java to glue the elements.

The software prototype has been developed by Ivan Monroy Lopez and Nicolas Maleve. The pre-alpha soon available for download.