Readymades – Sound Project Prototype

Computers do what you tell them to do, except when they can’t.

This week I hacked at my “broken computer” to have it babble out sounds of it’s working life past. The goal was to create a seemly dead laptop that eagerly spits out fragments of media when it senses human interaction. To achieve this I put an accelerometer and Arduino inside of the hollowed out laptop and had the data feed into MAX MSP where it was basically smoothed and used to trigger different sounds from a video game called Railroad Tycoon 3. As the user interacts with the laptop it gets more and more excited to fulfill the role it once had (as a working video game machine). Video coming soon.

I tried for a long time to get bluetooth serial communication working and ran into a series of difficulties. I’m going to try this again when I have time but I think it had to do with a bad Arduino Mega I was using. I also tried to get the audio to come from inside the computer but could not get my computer to pair with the speaker. The combination of these two issues was especially disappointing because having both a wire and external sound make it difficult to realize this project as a junked laptop in a pile of other e-waste; which was the original idea.

Ultimately I think it works as a proof of concept but the feeling of shaking out old memories isn’t really there as much as I would have liked. Especially with the wire sticking out and the external sound, the interaction feels forced and not as serendipitous as I was going for.

Here’s a look at the max patch I was working with:

A large portion of this is from an Arduino serial handshaking example that worked out really nicely for my purposes.

Forgotten hardware from Jesse Horwitz on Vimeo.



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Towers Of Power – Final project Idea and class 3 assignment

I’m not exactly sure where the two assignments for this week begin and end but the two ideas I’d like to pursure include a project relevant to my thesis work and a contribution to a NYC mesh network.

My thesis project its related to “people counting” based on radio communications. Initially my plan was to use Wifi and Bluetooth but I’m curious if it’s feasible to use GSM as the core technology. What I’m able to do with Wifi is sniff packets and tally unique MAC addresses of the various wifi clients and devices sending probe requests. This number is ok in terms of counting people but theres a lot of problems with people having multiple Wifi devices in certain areas and people disabling wifi connections on their phones. GSM seems like a great solution to this problem since most people (in highly connected economies) carry only one GSM device and rarely disable its signal. I’m not sure if this is achievable by just listening to GSM and demodulating (my preferred approch) or if I would need to set up my own BTS and actually have devices connect to it. Ideally this set up can be small enough to “wear” and it would count/estimate the population surrounding it’s user. There are a lot of potential applications of this kind of people counting. It could be used by retailers to gauge for traffic in an area, by city planners to understand where people experience the most crowding, or by organizers to estimate the size of an event without relying on 3rd party data or labor intensive hand counting.

A separate project, that would probably utilize a lot of the same research, would be some kind of contribution to the NYC mesh network. It seems pretty easy to join their network at a low cost and they have a bunch of volunteer opportunities to help install and maintain infrastructure. I was thinking that it could be cool to set up a node and maybe build a short range GSM system on top of their internet connection. I don’t know how realistic this is but I like the idea of contributing to a network that may help subvert telecom monopolies and improve local communication during emergencies.


NYCmesh Nodes

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Readymades – Sound Project Concept

Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to keep an old Apple Laptop alive by doing things like replacing hard drives, upgrading ram and clearing out dust. However, it finally stopped working in a final way in September. I’ve since bought a new laptop thats better in almost every way but it feels kind of empty. I had my old computer through college and for the start of ITP so there was tons of weird crap on it; my home folder was filled with torrent files, uninstallers, one off episodes of tv shows, games, papers I had written, versions and and more versions of resumes. It was like a playroom with toys scattered all over it.

My goal for this Readymades assignment is to give my computer this kind of appearance/personality with sound. My plan is to collect a bunch of system sounds, tv clips, and sound effects from games I’ve played and play them through the dead computers speakers if I can. I’m thinking about joining it with a few other dead computers that have accumulated at my parents house and doing the same. These sounds will be triggered via various means; Initially I want to work with accelerometers so that if the computer is moved or interacted with it begins spewing out these seemingly instinctual sounds it remembers from it’s past life. On the other laptops may make simple sounds when they detect movement via a PIR sensor. Ideally this will appear as a pile of zombie computers each with their own characteristics but all abandoned and not useful, made for you but no longer able to fulfill its purpose.


I’d like to to look like a cross between these two images ^


I also started working with Max MSP and strung together some sounds from a video game I spend a lot of time playing (Railroad Tycoon 3). 

Right now I’m thinking the sensors will be mapped to increase the computers level of “excitement” which will accordingly play more sounds it “remembers” and maybe at a faster tempo. Overtime this excitement level will cool down and the computers will become quiet again. I think the metronome will be useful in controlling when the different sounds fire so that they don’t all just overlap into unintelligible random sound. I picture the user picking up or sifting through the laptops and noticing that one or more of them seems to respond to stimuli. If the computer with the accelerometer is picked up for instance it might get really excited and start making all sorts of fast and crazy noises, but when its put down the speed and number of sounds its making fades until it goes quiet again.

More coming soon.

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Towers Of Power – OpenVPN

Setting up openVPN took a few hours of flipping back and forth between the documentation for openVPN, our Towers of power git hub and the virtual machine. Not to mention the obligatory google searches. I tried to do as much in the terminal as possible; using the nano editor to create the conf files and navigating the file paths. Ultimately I think I have a decent understanding of what I  did. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to generate my own CA and client keys which in retrospect may not have been necessary. One difference I had from the instructions was that I ended up having to use the sudo command a lot. I’m not sure if this means I was working in some sort of protected directory or if that was something we were intended to figure out. Either way I’m glad I seemingly got this up and running in the end. I understand how this is relevant for secure connections to to devices like a BSC but I’m still a little fuzzy on why this would be necessary exactly (I know it has to do with public vs private IPs but that concept hasn’t totally clicked yet.)

-Built to last reading-

These chapters of built to last really drove home the benefit of having guiding principles or core ideologies behind a company (or any institution). However my concern with this idea is that, as far as I understand it, it is in some conflict with the way the American corporate finance and legal system work. While a founder or CEO may appreciate the need and usefulness of core principles and favoring other ideal over profit most of our large companies are publicly traded and are majority owned by a series of atomized investors who rely on these profits exclusively. Ford may be a stable long term business but how much can that matter to a person who’s close to retirement and who holds an investment in the company through a byzantine structure of special retirement amounts, mutual funds and stock brokers. It seems like our system of investment is arranged to create un-visionary companies focused on short term profits. With this in mind It makes sense to me why many of the behemoths of Silicon Valley have adopted corporate structures that insulate founders & CEOs from their investors. This seems like a smart move to preserve the power of core principles (or at least core decision makers). But I wonder if this has its own, unaccounted costs. These chapters really made me think about what a financial system that incentivizes goal oriented organizations rather than profit hungry companies would look like.


(I have some screenshots of the terminal but I’m gonna hold of on posting them until I’m sure they don’t contain sensitive information about my computer) :/

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RWET – Terminal Assignment

This week for Reading and Writing electronic set we were asked to do something creative with command line text manipulation. As a source material I started working with two thesis papers I wrote in college. One was for a Transportation Geography class that dealt with the impact of mobile phones on transit preferences and the other was for a class on Public Finance where I had written about GPS (GNSS) systems and the economic structure behind them. I’ve done a lot of work related to transportation and to a certain extend behavioral economics while at ITP so I thought going back and working with these half remembered papers would be interesting.

First I converted the files from their “.Docx” format to “.txt” to use with terminal. This worked but resulted in really long lines. Apparently in this instance the lines were broken where there had been paragraph breaks. I used the cut command to try and break up these lines into words or even sentences but had a hard time with that. Eventually I used Fold to force the paragraphs into lines 80 units long. Fold had broken the paragraphs at odd points so there were fractions of words at the beginning and end of each line. I kept playing around with the cut command and figured out that I could take the second word off of each line and come up with a list of full words that were pseudo randomly selected from each paper. I though comparing a random selection of words from each paper could be interesting to see how they differ. I guess I was curious if the topic or my writing style would stand out under this comparison. I took both lists, sorted them and pasted the two columns next to each other in a separate file. Alone this wasn’t very interesting but when I ran different grep searches for words it would sometimes yield some interesting stuff.

Grep eco

become about

become about

becomes achieve

ecosystem as

for become

incentive economic

second not

socio-economic of

was second


Grep tech

technology. of

whose technology

willing technology

with technology

with technology

world technology


I thought this was an OK application of terminal but I felt like I could have gotten more out of this if I hadn’t spent so much time struggling with the weird line lengths. I would have preferred being able to pair words from both texts in a more complete and contextual way. However I was happy that I figured out how to compress most of this process into a couple lines in terminal. Mostly it was:

fold <CapstoneEcon.txt | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort >AlpListwordsEcon.txt

fold <geogcap.txt | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort >GeogFoldSort.txt

paste AlpListwordsEcon.txt GeogFoldSort.txt >CombinedEconGeog.txt





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Towers of Power – IMEI & “Built to Last”



The built to last reading seemed to really drive home a concept I’ve heard repeated multiple times, which is that a good idea is secondary to the organization and persistence that goes into making it a reality. As the author listed off numerous examples relating to the theme of – Don’t just tell time, build a clock – I kept wondering how modern tech companies, and their “leaders”, would be judged with this frame work. Apple for instance, seems as though it could fit into either category (visionary success vs. more conventional success). Similarly I wondered how modern data might confound some of the categorization that the author made. Some companies like Walmart have since seen their preeminence degrade while others like Hewlett Packard have since become nearly iconic failures of management and innovation. Citibank too was almost completely wiped out in 2008 while its “control group” alternative Chase seems to have claimed the mantle of most admired. I think the point of the first two chapters was well taken but I am often suspicious of business writing like this. My suspicion comes partly from the fact that I’m not sure if there is useful advice on how to start a generic company. I don’t deny the value in having some business education but as the author points out many of the most prominent business people in the world had no background in business planning or business school. There are so many factors that determine a companies success that it seems like a very difficult thing to model (especially when your units of data are bookshelves and . Furthermore, there is the issue of cherry picking winners and data availability. How many visionary companies for instance didn’t make the author’s list because its founder chose outcomes besides scaling up and remaining independent. Or because time, place and circumstance closed the doors available to budding entrepreneurs…. Either way I did enjoy reading these accounts of how these big name companies stated and thrived, I just wonder about the blind spot in studies like this.



I was able to get my phones IMEI number fairly easily. At first I found it in the settings menu on my iPhone but later realized its written on the back of my phone. The IMSI was tricker – I didn’t get it exactly – I ended up calling AT&T customer service who told me that they had, never heard of an IMSI, then found it in my account and had to ask their boss whether it can be given out. They eventually told me that they can’t give it out to me on the phone but that it could be found in/written on my SIM card. I get the sense that I could figure it out based on other ID numbers on my phone but couldn’t figure exactly where it would come from.

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Designing for Digital Fabrication Final

For my final design and fabrication project I decided to design and fabricate my own chess set. I developed the design offer the course of a few days. The basic shape is a sphere on top of a skinny pyramid with a round base. This basic frame comes in three sizes to represent each “class” of pieces (eg. Pawn, knight, king). I decided after I made this basic frame to differentiate the pieces according to how they move on the board. As such the points on the head of each piece indicates the general movement pattern of that character. So the pawn has one point facing forward while the queen has eight points facing in every direction.

Then I had to decide how to fabricate these pieces. I wanted them to be solid and ideally somewhat heavy so I figured I could use the 3D printer or the 4Axsis mill. I went with the 4Axsis mill because I had just learned how to use it a week earlier and it offers a wide range of materials to work. The 4 Axis also offers the ability to test a bunch of different materials and see how they work out. Ultimately I cut half a set in soft wood and almost half a set in black delrin.

Ideally I would have had the time to cut one side out of white delrin and one side out of black delrin and the wood would have been a test version but the 4-Axsis takes approximately 1.5-3.5 hours per piece. I completed 29 pieces and ran out of time. Another issue I ran into was that the delrin would warp under the pressure of the mill if I was cutting too many pieces at the same time (in an effort to reduce waste material). I eventually figured out how to correct for this issue by cutting in stages, but this added even more time and could introduce errors of its own. That being said I am really happy with the delrin pieces that made it and the design. I’ve learned how to use the 4 axis mill pretty thoroughly and by virtue of spending a lot of time in the shop, I’m a lot more comfortable with all the machines in general. However if I were to repeat this project I think I would instead send the file out for 3d printing and/or casting. The 4-Axsis is great for prototyping and provides high quality results but when constant attendance is required it just isn’t economical time wise.


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Art Strategies – Final

As I mentioned in my previous post for my Art strategies final project I wanted to continue working with systems art and traffic routes. In this case we were also asked to consider a critical use of spectacle in our work.


In my mind Times Square stands out as an intentional spectacle. To millions (billions?) of people this place  and the image of it represent New York City. However if New York City is a spectacle in in itself, as I believe,  TSQ is a fairly poor representation of that. My goal with this final project was to make a sort of Times Square-esq spectacle out of the lives of real individuals who live here. To make a truer representation of NYC. To make the case that the city itself, and the people and places who make it are where attention should be paid, rather than the baubles set up for visitors.

Basically, I wanted big lights for the big city that said something other than “buy American apparel” and “share this with your friends”.

The final vision for this project entails a large canvas that moves to various buildings/locations throughout the city and documents the travels of regular visitors/residents. At each location a map of New York is projected onto the canvas and the various destinations and routes are traced in EL wire (or some equivalent lighting technology). Hopefully this can be displayed in a common area, like a lobby, as that buildings routes are being added. As the canvas moves to new locations in different neighborhoods the routes begin to crisscross and pile up, creating a realistic representation of density and interconnectedness of otherwise disparate personal paths. Ideally each origin point (where the work is temproraily displayed) and it’s respective routes would be represented in a different color so that they are distinguishable across the map.  Each line would also be set on a timer to light up at the rough start time of each commute/journey, stay on for the usual duration of this trip, and then turn off. This creates a cyclical, blinking, light up board that creates a similar visual effect to TSQ advertisements.

Here is an image of the prototype (no blinking yet):


The piece would stop traveling to different buildings and neighborhoods once a map/image of New York is easily recognizable through EL wire alone.

A major concern with this work was making sure I use a system to select which buildings I would set this up in, and what order. At this point I think It would visit and map from buildings in each of the city’s 59 community districts (which roughly correlate with neighborhoods) and the order of these would be selected randomly. Within each neighborhood I think I would try to identify buildings that are within the median height, use and age for the neighborhood and find property owners or residents from that list that would be accommodating. Basically I want to work in a typical building for each neighborhood. I would then trace the paths of as many people as volunteer within each building, I may also pay participants for their involvement.


Ultimately I think this map will include trips to work, school, grocery stores and doctors offices and will involve a wide enough spectrum of people to be familiar to the vast majority of NYers. The process of this work can also be repeated with different building selection, cities, and should be relatively easy for an “unskilled” person to complete so theres a lot of opportunity for iteration in this work. I like this project because it literally highlights the ways in which mundane individual decisions, together, build the tremendous spectacle of The City.

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Art Strategies Final Proposal

For my Art strategies final project I’d like to continue to work in a similar theme to what I’ve made previously involving routes and paths through cities (mostly new york). I’m thinking it will be a sort of neon sign sign for my apartment building. I’m planning to use EL wire sewn onto a canvas to create a map of routes that people in my building frequently take (maybe to work, school, or a friend’s house). This is roughly what it may look like:screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-38-48-am

I’m hoping that the physical EL wire looks good when bunched up on the canvas to add weight to common routes. I found a similar use of EL wire in Anna Madeleine’s Submarine Cable Map (2016):

Submarine Cable Map
Submarine Cable Map

At this point I’m unsure of what else I’d like on the canvas. I’ve considered a simple reference map like I sketched out in the first image or maybe a full arial photography. I really like how these images look with the subway lines superimposed:

By Arnorrian
By Arnorrian

I’m going to post a sign up sheet in my building to collect some real destinations but failing that I’m going to try to make them up based on real data.


Additional thoughts:

Like a neon sign for beer in a bar window. This is what this apartment building has!

I think of this as presenting a “chicken/egg” question in reference to housing, place and identity or the idea that the destinations construct the origin.

Visualizing individual routes in the same way we might view subway lines is interesting to me – its sort of like using a microscope on urban transit issues.

I’d like to make a series of these on the same canvas. I think it could be really interesting to add new buildings and their associated routes to this over time. It would create multiple hubs and interwoven spokes that would make the people flows more distinct and make the broader system I am referring to clearer. This is especially interesting with no base map. How many buildings would I have to add before the form of New York becomes obvious? Is New York defined by the paths we carve through it?


How big should this be?

What about the basemap?

Would other interactivity add anything to this?

How do I solicit this information from my neighbors?

Are there questions I need to ask myself about this?


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