"Our phones have become like shiny new appendages, but like the itch of a phantom limb, the recognizable sounds and vibrations of our mobile phones exert a power over us from our pockets and purses."UBIQ
iTones is an interactive gallery piece that transforms a user, and her smartphone, into a musical instrument. A user is confronted with a minimal set up: a simple black set of earphones hanging on the wall next to a repurposed iPhone armband. A drawing, done directly on the gallery wall and labeled “iTones,” demonstrates how the piece is worn.
The user is required to use her own personal smartphone, which she inserts in the wristband and plugs into the earphones. At the moment of plugging in, the system starts to play the ringtones she has assigned on her personal phone on the black headphones. Audio filters are mapped – using a hidden Kinect and PD patch – to the movements of her limbs. The systems allows her to use her body as an instrument, varying the pitch and frequency of the ringtones as she moves her arms and legs.
iTones is an update of Krzysztof Wodiczko's Personal Instrument (1969). The Personal Instrument, an interactive, wearable artwork addressed the façade of freedom of speech in the “state socialism” of Poland during the 1960s. In Wodiczko's piece the sound of public space becomes the contested ground where citizens and government metaphorically negotiate freedom. In iTones, the Personal Instrument is updated to reflect a new power struggle, not between government and citizen, but between algorithm and user. The sounds of public space, which represent freedom, are replaced with the pre-programmed cell phone ringtone of the user, to represent the user’s personal data repurposed by the algorithmic systems of dataveillance for ulterior means. Just as Wodiczko revealed the dominated citizen by empowering him as a conductor of the sounds of public space, our update, iTones, reveals the user as a used user, by allowing her to transform her ringtone through gesture. The goal is to offer users of iTones a means to metaphorically negotiate agency in the face of algorithmic control.
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