Rock 'N' Scroll - Throw your mouse up in the air and wave it all around like you just don't care!
Rock N' Scroll is a software infrastructure for interventions into wifi-equipped
Mobile wireless computing is usually a rather immobile affair: people working
on laptop computers commonly stare transfixedly at the device's screen,
typing, and occasionally clicking the mouse: computer work does not usually
require much physical involvement.
Imagine walking into a coffee shop or another semi-public wifi-equipped
place where people normally congregate quietly with their laptops: instead
of working unbudgingly on their computers, they are shaking their office
equipment and wildly tapping their cell phones. Joysticks and old mechanical
mice serve as maracca-type rhythmic instruments or optical mice are used
for DJ-like scratching motions, manipulated using fancier gyro mice, computer
keyboards used as drumkits. Both mobile phones and computers are connected
using Skype voice-over-IP telephony (VOIP) software. This creates delay
effects depending on how good the network connection is. The sound itself
is a combination of standard macintosh and windows sounds, as well as sounds
that included in the Skype software, and pre-made drumloops.
The goal of this project is to take the immobile out of mobile computing
and to put more wiredness into wireless networking. It is a participatory
sound remixing system that is conceived for spontaneous, interventionist
use. A hardware patchwork of built-in laptop speakers and other small portable
computer speakers replaces the typical single sound system.
Rock ‘N’ Scroll is not intended for use in a solo-performance
(one computer). It works best when performed as a trio or quartet. The software
is intended for improvisational sessions by amateurs - not professional
musicians. A few people can get together in a public space and start performing.
Anyone with a computer can join in by entering a participant’s Skype
name when starting the software. But as with any non-solo performance, the
performers need to listen to each other and therefore, rehearsals are advisable.
Because the project uses Voice Over IP telephony, participation is not just
limited to computer users: cell phone users can enter the conference call
as well if a “SkypeIn” regular PSTN (Public Switched Telephone
Network) telephone number (sold as a service by Skype) is made available
to them by one of the computer users. Adding a phone user increases the
echo effect but also slightly increases the risk for feedback.
The Rock ‘N’ Scroll software gives the person who starts the
performance the most control. S/he controls the drum loop. S/he can alone
also use the right mouse-button to turn on the microphone while turning
off the rhythm so that voice input can be given which will then be echoed
through the speakers. The other participants function mainly as triggers.
None of the participants has full control over the whole performance. The
motions are reflected in the sounds but since the sounds are mainly taken
from the standard repertoire of the computer, they do not absolutely mirror
motions but triggering them should have a humorous effect, as they are comments
on computer culture. The standard sounds are most often used to alert the
computer user to some event that requires her/his attention. These are sounds
that all users of a certain operating system have heard before. Using this
sound in an instrument context creates an unlikely juxtaposition of two
related but at the same time disparate items: the sound of the office and
the instrument. This results in a surreally humorous situation.
Rock ‘N’ Scroll is available on this web site as downloadable
software. This makes the performance reproducible. Reproduction of the
performance is encouraged through performance video
documentation and instructions for installing
and using the software. The software is also available
in source code to encourage others to program
their own modules, improve on the design or embark on similar technological