Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 09.56.56
Courtesy, the ISO

Network Sounds

This is a quick test, for the larger, ongoing, ‘Network Ensemble’ project with Francesco Tacchini. The local wireless network ‘space’ is monitored and different sounds are assigned to aspects of wireless network communications. For this, I’ve broken the communications into packets and placed these in two categories: Broadcast/Direct and Network/Data.

These are communications sent to a specific destination. They could, for example, be data sent from an access point to a laptop containing a web page that has been requested, or an email. They are the first block on screen, and sound in the right audio channel only as a short blip.

This refers to communications that are sent out to the whole network, without a particular target. They allow devices to ‘know’ about other devices available for communication or connection. For example, ‘Beacon Frames’, which are sent by access points to advertise their availability to devices which may wish to connect. These are the second block on screen, in the left audio channel only, and a high pictched, reverberant, ‘ping’ type sound.

These packets are used by the network infrastructure, or by devices to understand the network. They could, for example, be ‘Authentication Requests’, whereby a device requests to connect to a secure network, or, again, the beacon frames that are used to advertise the structure of the network. These are the third block on screen, play in the left channel only and are a short, low pitched sound.

This is the data requested by, and sent to devices on the network, any application level information, such as web page data or emails could be contained within this. The rightmost block on screen represents these, and they cause bursts of white noise to sound, panning between the left and right channels.

This was done at home, somewhere without too much network saturation, so as aresult there’s quite a range of communication levels. At ‘rest’ the network is fairly rhythmic, and the rapid runs of sound that can be heard are caused by loading pages or causing other devices to connect to the network.

Network Materiality

The network is made of cheap plastic, brief protection for young waves as they’re first emitted. Boxes whose only sign of life is a blinking LED, hiding the noise, the speed, the data they channel.