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1000 Cell Phones

1000 Cell Phones

This video was recorded at 8th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia. Emerging out of an institutional collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design (New York City) and the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University (Beijing), the mobile media installation, "1000 Cell Phones," exposes the invisible conversations that constantly occur between the networked devices we carry throughout our nomadic urban daily life. The installation consists of multiple displays that playfully visualize and animate discovered Bluetooth devices within its situated space. Devices are represented as abstract discs in dimensional screen space, colored by transcribing the devices' unique identifiers to distinctive tone and hue values. This simple but evocative effect emphasizes how an ID number expressed as a one-of-a-kind color not only makes visible a distinguishing feature of our portable networked device, but also reshapes its obfuscated technical datum into an aesthetic and coherent design object. It asks us if this machine identifier expresses our persona and personality, perhaps without our knowledge and complete understanding of the implications. In addition, discovered device names animate across the screens, emphasizing the transient nature of the tracking devices we carry, unwittingly broadcasting a unique identifier for anyone or anything willing to listen. By installing the work in a social space, such as a café or lobby, "1000 Cell Phones" captures the unseen dialogue between mobile phones and laptops broadcasting their Bluetooth identities while owners lurk and socialize. When participants realize how their device names render on the displays, they often engage in the intervention by altering their device settings to affect the textual content on the visualization. In these moments, the conversations between the invisible and visible, technical and aesthetic, surveillance and dissemination, machines and people all become intertwined in a simple but enjoyable expression.


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