Mobile Listening: Augmenting Environments and Connecting Communities with Sound

Dr Leah Barclay, Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre,
Griffith University Part of CW17

Sound has a profound ability to make us feel present and connected to our surrounding environment. Recent years have seen a proliferation of site-specific audio works exploring the possibilities of mobile technologies and locative media in place. This means at any given moment in an urban environment, we could be moving through a sound field of voices, music, memories and sonic art dispersed invisibly throughout the places with inhabit. While this material is available only to those with mobile devices and knowledge of the locative experiences, the advancement of new technologies and the accessibility of mobile devices means this field presents new opportunities for exploring our social, cultural and ecological environments through sound.

In the 2007 CreateWorld keynote, pioneering media artist Nora Farrell remarked that the future of computing is in the mobile phone. She believed it was the most valuable platform to focus our energies as creative artists. As locative media and augmented reality audio shifts into mainstream culture, she was clearly correct. This presentation traces creative explorations with locative sound stretching across a decade of practice at the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, all inspired by the innovative work of Nora Farrell and composer William Duckworth.

Beginning with the ground breaking work iOrpheus – an iPod Opera conceived by Duckworth and Farrell – this research explores the impact of iPods, iPhones and iPads across six interconnected projects. Ranging from the first live performance with iPads in remote Australia to spatial sound walks in Times Square and augmented reality audio on the Eiffel Tower – these creative works draw on sound walking, mobile technologies and locative media to investigate the role of sound in achieving presence and connection to place and communities. This presentation highlights the legacy of Nora Farrell’s creative and technical innovation and explores the value of mobile technologies in understanding and interrogating our relationship with places and communities through sound.

Dr. Leah Barclay is a sound artist and researcher working at the intersection of art, science and technology. She specialises in spatial audio for immersive installations and performances and leads research in augmented reality at Griffith University. Her work has been commissioned, performed and exhibited to wide acclaim internationally by the Smithsonian Museum, UNESCO, Ear to the Earth, Al Gore’s Climate Reality and the IUCN. Her augmented reality sound installations have been presented around the world from Times Square in New York City to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre Griffith University.