Dr. Elizabeth Perry is an artist and the Technology Coordinator at The Ellis School in Shadyside. She’s also a member of the awesome, non-profit, community-based workshop known as Hack Pittsburgh. I’ve known Liz for years through technology education connections and circles, and in early November, we both attended the Mobile Art && Code conference that took place at Carnegie Mellon University. Designed by artist Golan Levin, the symposium focused on the artistic and tactical potential of mobile, networked and locative media, and took place at Carnegie Mellon University from November 6-8 of 2009.
Liz’s ringtone contribution for this project comes from a workshop she participated in that weekend called the Scrapyard Challenge. Hosted by artists Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki, folks who attend the Challenge built simple electronic projects (both digital and analog) out of found or discarded “junk” (old electronics, clothing, furniture, outdated computer equipment, appliances, turntables, monitors, gadgets, etcetera). Liz told me she signed up for the workshop because she facilitates a similar experience, an after school invention workshop, at The Ellis School for 3rd and 4th grade girls. The day I visited the workshop, to take photos and conduct a proper interview with Liz, the young girls were designing and building projects with ear buds and LEDs.
Wow! Dr. Perry’s work at The Ellis School is powerful. As a media literacy educator, I know that democratization of the skills and tools for making electronic media in relation to future educational and career choices is important for populations traditionally unfamiliar with or excluded from these fields. Exposure to the skill set through fun and hands-on experimentation/invention experiences for girls (and others lacking access), in relation to science and technology, is so very important.
The ringtone contribution from Dr. Perry is from a recording she asked me to capture with her 3G iPhone after the workshop participants from the Challenge showed off their projects and then ‘jammed’ together, setting off, or playing their creations together at the same time. Many of these devices incorporated interesting sound and/or musical elements, so it was good fun listening to the performance. Liz told me that she had me recording the Scrapyard ‘jam’ with an iPhone application called iTalk Lite. “That application allows you to record ‘lossless’ AIFF files–that’s why I chose it.” The piece Liz built in the workshop was called Art && (Morse) Code.
She describes her workshop project this way: “It consisted of a cigar box containing a large old metal switch, which turned the sound off and on when you tapped it, a non-functioning analog signal gauge, and a light sensor hooked up with pipe cleaners, which modified the pitch of the sound, depending on how bright or dark it was. A smiley face lamp in the background provided extra light for the sensor. My piece, like all the other projects, was connected to an Arduino microprocessor, and from there into software which interpreted the signal as sound. I played my instrument by tapping the old metal switch while moving my other hand around near the sensor to alter the pitch. It was lots of fun to make and play, and produced a surprisingly variable sound.”
Here’s Liz’s description of the audio source for her tone: “The ringtone is a recording of all the Scrapyard Challenge participants playing our new instruments at once. Cacophonous and joyful, it reminds me of the cheerful chaos of making new things from old.”
Liz Perry’s Art And Code Scrapyard Jam Tone is dedicated to the democratization of electronic media, creators of mobile (locative) media, and Pittsburgh hackers of every age!