User Experience Researcher
Design an urban birdsong experience
Jolin Ma, Ruoxi Song, Harry Solomons and Qibin Cheng
Soundwalking, Physical prototyping
10.11 – 24.11.2022
Despite the helpful feedback, the question that we still had to figure out was:
What is the real-world use case for our prototype?
A potential answer to our question came about from our visit to Mercato Metropolitano. While waiting for our food we were given food buzzers which were activated by beeping and flashing once our food was ready. We thought that was quite an interesting encoded way of communication.
We also looked at the work of Jon Young – What the Robin Knows How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World (2012) and an article from Ornithology, the science of birds website:
An idea we had was: “nature awakens”. Similar to the feedback from the last week, make all devices in a certain area self-execute a sound. However, this felt that the weak point of the idea was that this sounded more like a danger call than anything else despite the surprise element. Moreover, it was just bird calls not sounds in such scenarios as the research pointed us.
We were set on the idea of making a communication channel between two people with sound one sound only. Our idea was gravitating toward the context of a canteen, an indoor space disconnected from nature, where people would either have speakers or phones and use them as relays of communication using the whole network of available devices.
So we tested this experience with one ordering the food and the chef and when the order was ready the chef started playing a birdsong from their device just enough to be caught up by the nearby device and then the next one playing it, using the chain of participants (nodes). We could have researched better the sound noise level and travelled across obstacles in our environment.
Because we wanted to make our prototype automated, picking up the sounds and playing the sounds themselves, we needed Arduino electronics and the opinion of the Creative Lab technician. However, because of the time of the year, there was not sufficient equipment and it is not doable in the time we had.
And looked at Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory which we rather simplified unconsciously, influenced buy the similarities we say in our experience to fit it.
In the end, we ended up involving the audience in our experience by asking the participants to play the related sound they hear which we shared in a group chat. We played unexpectedly two different bird songs to create resonations of sounds.
Once again our feedback was pointing us to incorporate more senses: seeing mapping visually how the sound broadcasts in the room or creating confusion; and touch by adding some physical elements to the experience.
Munro, R., 2009. Actor-network theory. The Sage handbook of power, pp.125-139.
Ornithology.com. (n.d.). Territoriality of birds. Available at https://ornithology.com/ornithology-lectures/territoriality-of-birds/ (Accessed 20 November 2022)
Young, J., 2012. What the robin knows: How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world. HMH.