S

O
U
N
D
&
S
U
B
V
E
R
S
I
O
N
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
III II
Edited by Sofie Elana Hodara
Dynamic Media Institute Press
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Boston, MA
S
O
U
N
D
&
S
U
B
V
E
R
S
I
O
N
UBIQ
Tis catalogue was published on the occasion of the
exhibition Sound & Subversion, organized and curated
by Sofe Elana Hodara, T Gallery, New York, Oct 4
2013 —Jan 13, 2014.
Generous support was provided by benefactor and
patron Wendy Richmond, writer, artist, designer,
educator, and critical thinker, of Brooklyn, NY.
Copyright ©2014 by Te Dynamic Media Press.
All rights reserved. Tis book may be reproduced, in
whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form
(beyond that permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of
the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for
public press), without written permission from the
publishers.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 09-77038
ISBN 0-7380-3847-9
Tis catalogue was produced on the occasion of the
exhibition Sound & Subversion held at Lite Gallery, New
York, Oct 4 2013 — Jan 13, 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-7380-3847-9
1. Sound art 2. Design research 3. New Media 4. UBIQ
4. Hodara, Sofe Elana, editor of catalog.
TR647.W385 2014
001..4 — dc233
2012088576
LITE GALLERY
141 Beard Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
THE DYNAMIC MEDIA PRESS
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
621 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
www.dynamicmediainstitute.org
Tis catalogue was produced by the publications
department at Te Dynamic Media Press, Boston,
MA: Jan Kubasiewicz, editor with assistance by Susan
Hodara; Sofe Elana Hodara, designer with assistance
by John Howrey and Robin McDowell; Zachary Kaiser,
rights and reproductions.
PROJECT MANAGER
Sofe Hodara, Jan Kubasiewicz
DESIGNERS
Sofe Elana Hodara, John Howrey, Robin McDowell
EDITORS
Jan Kubasiewicz, Susan Hodara
PRODUCTION
Zachary Kaiser
PROOFREADERS
Nathan Tomas Wilson, Ingrid Pimsner
PREPRESS
Sofe Hodara
PRINTING AND BINDING
Te Dynamic Media Press, Boston, MA.
Tis book is typeset in Avenir, Chaparral Pro, DIN, and
Roboto and is printed on 148 GSM ProLine Uncoated
100# paper. 156 pages.
Printed in the United States.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
there are rules to follow.
Foreword xi
Surveillance, Subversion and Sound 001
Content Blackout 031
UBIQ 047
Public Soundings 055
The Apple Bomber 059
Black Friday 067
Cross Walk 075
An Intermission 081
Private Soundings 097
iTones 103
iHear 119
in Conclusion 131
Works Cited 137
NOISES ARE
TOO SIGNIFICANT
TO BE NOISES.
DOUGLAS KAHN, NOISE WATER MEAT

XI
FOREWORD
On a monitor on my desk at the Dynamic Media Institute
graduate research center, a Chrome browser sports a little
box in which a fickering and grainy image of Michael Jackson
struts across the screen holding a plastic Pepsi cup. Te words
Pepsi Generation slowly fade as Bonin Bough, V.P. of Global
Media, Mondelez Intl., appears. He gestures while he speaks
in an authoritative voice:
…the icons of this generation are the like button, the tweet
button, the reblog button… I mean, this is the biggest transforma-
tion that we’ve had in terms of communicating with consumers in
our lifetime…
1
It’s true. We worship these buttons — not only as icons, but
as idols, as well.
Te clip was from Douglas Rushkof’s Frontline documentary
Generation Like, which explores the culture of likes. Towards the
end of the flm, danah boyd, a principal researcher at Microsoft
Research, makes the point that “selling out doesn’t even exist
as a term… I don’t hear young people talking about selling out,
I’m not sure if they even know what it means.”
Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Today, individuals use
the same modes of expression as celebrities and corporations.
If Coca-Cola has a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account
just like the rest of us do, why shouldn’t our relationship to
such cultural abstractions of authority transform?
Te Millennials, or Generation y, are the frst generation to
grow up with the Internet literally at their fngertips. Te reper-
cussions of this have led to a restructuring of society’s commu-
nication and information infrastructures. Te Dynamic Media
Institute, founded in 2000, promotes and enables research
and design to examine exactly how these new technologies
and media are changing the texture of our lives. More relevant
Photos from UBIQ’s studio in Brooklyn.
1 Rushkoff, Douglas,
“Generation Like.”
Frontline, PBS, 18
Feb 2014.
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
XIII XII
than ever, the work produced at the institute results from an
understanding not only of how to design for better communica-
tions, but also of what questions designers should be asking of
communication media in general.
By curating an exhibition of UBIQ’s work and producing this
catalog, I echo the sentiments of Rushkof and boyd. As Rush-
kof writes in his blog:
…Young social media users today draw no distinction between art
and commerce, culture and advertising. While kids engaged with
social media have the ability to express themselves and their values
to pretty much the rest of the developed world, they seem unaware
of the extent to which these platforms shape the values they choose
to express.
2
Tis comment implies a poignant and very new cultural
phenomenon: the eroding of the distinction between main-
stream and counterculture. By examining the work of UBIQ,
the Dynamic Media Institute is asking: where is the outlet
for contemporary subversive and disruptive thought,
traditionally carried in the legacy of the avant-garde and
counterculture movements?
Research at the institute is rooted in the history of design.
Accordingly, we can trace UBIQ’s lineage to the photomontages
of the Dadaists of 1920s, where the images of political and
commercial infrastructures were repurposed for antitheti-
cal readings. Where is this tradition of media today? What, if
anything, can be considered subversive or disruptive besides
an expansive power failure? We can cite Internet-outlaws like
the Bitcoin hackers, but how can we know if the mathematical
geniuses who made of with the digital capital of others are any
diferent from those who run Bitcoin itself (Satoshi Nakamoto?
or the NSA?)?
Te work presented in this publication is a rare example of
21st-century subversive media. UBIQ’s anonymity as a indi-
vidual, as well as his technological know-how — a skill set that
seems more magical than anything else — exemplify his agenda
2 Rushkoff, Douglas,
“Social Media
and the Perils of
Looking for ‘Likes,’”
Rushkoff.com, 19
Feb 2014.
as the Robin Hood of Sound. However, UBIQ isn’t robbing the
rich and giving to the poor; he is holding a mirror up to society.
His Soundings are opportunities for us to reconsider our alle-
giance to our technologies. He borrows a ringtone and returns
its iconic melody to us as a metaphor of power. Emerging
from unexpected, often forgotten, and larger-than-life sound
infrastructures, the tunes, heard anew, loud, and clear, take on
godlike proportions. Tey don’t demand action. Instead, they
encourage pause and consideration for how to listen to the
dynamic voices of authority today. UBIQ is reminding us that
just because we choose to click the like button does not mean
we are expressing ourselves freely.
UBIQ, though no stranger to press, has been put in the spotlight
with this catalogue. I appreciate his trust in me and his exten-
sive input with the manuscript. I’m especially grateful to Brian
Lucid, Gunta Kaza, Jan Kubasiewicz, and Joe Quackenbush
for their continued support as senior advising faculty at the
Massachusetts College of Art and Design. For their tremendous
generosity, I’d like to thank Zachary Kaiser and John Howrey
for encouraging me to compile these ideas into a publication,
and for ofering support at all hours of the day or night. Finally,
I’d like to thank the public institutions and private individuals,
who have asked to remain anonymous, for graciously support-
ing this project with either time or funding. May this book
grace the shelves of the institute and bring future researchers
information, insight, and delight for years to come.
Sofe Elana Hodara
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
1 XIV
SURVEILLANCE
SUBVERSION
& SOUND
ERIC SATIE
Nevertheless, we must bring about a music
which is like furniture — a music which will be
part of the noises of the environment…I think
of it as melodious, softening the noises of the
knives and forks, not dominating them, not
imposing itself…
JOHN CAGE
A time that’s just time will let sounds be just
sounds and if they are folk tunes, unresolved
ninth chords, or knives and forks, just folk tunes,
unresolved ninth chords, or knives and fork.
Reprint from John Cage, “Erik Satie,” in Silence: Lectures and Writings by John
Cage (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1939), p. 76, 81.
JOHN CAGE &
ERIK SATIE
The text below first appeared in the 1958 Art News Annual. It is an
imaginary conversation between Satie and myself [John Cage]. Because
he died over thirty years before, neither of us hears what the other says.
His remarks are ones he is reported to have made and excerpts from his
writings.
5
SURVEILLANCE, SUBVERSION
AND SOUND
It’s Sunday, December 19, 2010. Te three foors of Boston’s
Boylston Street Apple store are flled with Christmas shop-
pers — tis the season of the iPhone 4, sans Siri, and everyone
wants one. Sometime between two and three in the after-
noon, during the post-lunch rush, the not-too-loud overhead
soundtrack stops. For half a minute, no one notices. Unbe-
knownst to the shoppers and salespersons, they are about to
become victims of one of UBIQ’s Soundings. A clear single note,
similar to a trumpet, pierces the store. Everyone — workers,
customers, technicians alike — pauses, in confusion and
surprise. No one knows what the hell is going on.
Te sound, the Apple ringtone alert known as Sherwood Forest
(similar to the call of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah) played
three times before the sound system’s volume dropped and
Coldplay resumed. Tis was one of the initial documented
Apple Bombings, a sound intervention by anonymous artist
UBIQ: Te Robin Hood of Sound. UBIQ’s interventions, known
as Public Soundings, are notable for their use of trademarked
Apple ringtones, interrupting audiences, mostly busy consum-
ers with the surprise of an unusual but harmless interference.
Tough little is known about UBIQ, his Public Soundings
give those who experience them a chance for refection — to
consider their relationships with the ubiquity of new personal
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
7
technologies, and just how these devices afect our relation-
ships with one another, ourselves, and our environments.
UBIQ uses the Apple ringtones in both his Public and Private
Soundings to investigate how we interpret these all-too-famil-
iar tones. In the Public Soundings, he removes the ringtones
from the tiny devices they normally inhabit, and changes their
scale so that they become intrusive and menacing. Instead
of ‘answer the phone,’ ‘check e-mail,’ ‘work-meeting now,’ the
melodies, when booming overhead, become mysterious and
transcendent. Out of context, their function changes; in UBIQ’s
Soundings, instead of interrupting the moment to pull us into
our screens, the same sounds create a new kind of moment, one
of renewed awareness of our surroundings.
Tis is best seen in the rare video footage of the Black
Friday Sounding at a Wal-Mart in Philadelphia. An anonymous
bystander (perhaps UBIQ himself) captured the moment of
confusion followed by awe that was sparked by the disjointed
yet recognizable sound of the Apple ringtone Anticipate. Te
scale-shift from the smartphone text or email alert to the
blasting loudspeakers in the store stunned the chaos of Black
Friday shopping into an eerie silence. However, the work wasn’t
merely a sensational stunt; it follows a long line of art-based
musical interventions that resist and subvert the underlying
and often invisible order of life.
Subversion, according to its etymology, refers to an act of
defance in an attempt to overthrow the “established social
order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy.”
1

Tere is an extensive history of subversive media within the
arts. Canonically, the trend begins with Marcel Duchamp’s
Readymades — his placement of everyday objects, like his
infamous Urinal, in the pristine gallery setting. In doing
so, Duchamp subverted the role of the artist and the gallery,
forcing his audience to reconsider the value and meaning
of an object when it is labeled as art within four white walls.
Subversive techniques within the art world are extensive: we
could discuss the ins and outs beginning with Warhol
or Sherrie Levine; we could frame a conversation about con-
temporaries — street artist Banksy or the masked girls from
Pussy Riot. For the purposes of this essay, I place UBIQ’s Public
Soundings within a lineage of subversive Net Artists whose
work explores the impact of art rooted in new media platforms.
Te mechanics of programming and dynamic visual interfaces
present opportunities for artists to examine what constitutes
art if it is no longer tied to its traditional physical and spa-
tial formats. Of particular relevance are works that examine
identity in relation to data — the countless bits of quantifed
information tied to our online accounts, profles, and devices.
Tis essay aligns UBIQ’s interventions, as well as his earlier
project the Perfect Human Application, with the work of contem-
porary artists investigating the relationship between digital
technologies and our evolving sense of self. Alongside the
Public Soundings are, for example, the Preemptive Media col-
lective’s piece SWIPE (2002-2005) and Osman Khan’s Net Worth
(2004), and more recent works by Jacob Bakkila and Tomas
Bender. All use subversive methods of countersurveillance and
anonymity to dislodge assumptions about the power dynamics
between human and technology. As Christiane Paul, curator of
new media arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, put
it, these are works that “play with identity, and the fusion of
human and machine.”
3
Te Preemptive Media collective is a group of artists, activ-
ists, and technologists who aim to “create new opportunities
for public discussion and alternative outcomes in the usually
remote and closed world of technology-based research and
development.” SWIPE took a form similar to a performance or
happening. Te group installed and tended functioning bars
in exhibition spaces across the United States. Along with the
purchase of a drink, participants were required to swipe their
IDs through scanners — the same scanners found at hospitals,
airports, liquor stores, etc. With their beverage, customers
1 Subversion,
Wikipedia.com.
2 For more
information on
the Duchamp’s
Readymades see
Stephen Wright,
“The Future of
the Reciprocal
Readymade: An
Essay on Use-Value
and Art-Related
Practice,” first
published in
the leaflet for
the exhibition
The Future of
the Reciprocal
Readymade,
Apexart, NY, March
17 April 17, 2004.
3 Quoted in Susan,
Orlean, “Man and
Machine: Playing
games on the
Internet,” The New
Yorker, 10 Feb 2014.
Screen grab from
Black Friday news
broadcast.
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
9 8 received a receipt detailing data culled from the 2D barcode
and an online search: tangible evidence of all the information
attached to the drinker’s driver’s license.
Tat receipt highlighted the pervasiveness of existing systems
of consumer surveillance, with the aim of encouraging dialogue
about the ensuing power of database infrastructures. As the
SWIPE project description states, “…with public knowledge
there is a chance for public voices, and ultimately resistance.”
In applying the technologies of data surveillance, SWIPE
penetrates the inter-workings of data surveillance systems
in order to make them public knowledge, as well as the
centerpiece of critique.
In a current consideration of SWIPE, we have to reference the
communication breaches by the National Security Agency of
Verizon, ATT and Sprint customers.
4
Te application of algo-
rithmic surveillance shouldn’t come as a surprise, but we are
left asking questions posed by SWIPE. In what ways exactly are
these surveillance activities liberty limiting (an issue trans-
parency could solve)? And, especially pertinent, what are the
implied rights to privacy of a consumer acting within these
communication and information infrastructures?
On its website SWIPE discloses how its database information
is used — for marketing campaigns similar to consumer loyalty
cards, as well as demographic information. However, they note
that it is currently illegal for them to share or sell the informa-
tion they collect (the one exception is to law enforcement).
Te threat the Preemptive collective articulates is that maybe
“someday this data becomes totally free!” Today, this state-
ment appears ironic. Tese data sets have incredible economic
potential
5
— they are recognized as valuable commodities. We
are forced to consider which is scarier: free circulation of this
data or assigning to it monetary worth?
SWIPE touched on the ability of data to determine value on a
personal level. Te installation ofered participants computer
stations to view the market value of their data, putting a literal
price on a given participant’s name. Tis meant that data was
not only embodied on the receipt and computer screen, but
alternatively visualized by the socially lubricated (thank you
alcohol), shiny, receipt-holding crowd.
Te realization of the social group in SWIPE forced users to
refect on the relationship between the monetary worth of
their data and their own perceptions of self-worth relative to
those around them. Every participant was reduced to a set of
measurable and comparable data. Te piece demonstrated how
surveillance technologies act as authority in shaping not only
a system of global fscal control, but an individual participant’s
sense of self. SWIPE turned humans-at-play, the crowd in the
bar, into a walking data set. Te data surveillance regime
may be in question here, but so are the ways that participants
choose to incorporate (or not) the revealed data into their own
perceptions of self.
Similarly, Osman Khan’s Net Worth (2004) installation
explored online identity initiated by participants’ swipes.
Entering into a more traditional gallery environment, the
visitor was presented with a kiosk and card reader in front
of monolithic projected image of various names. As in SWIPE,
4 In reference to
ongoing debates
in the media and
courts regarding
NSA surveillance of
U.S. citizen phone
activities.
5 For more on
data markets (as
well as on SWIPE
and Net Worth)
see Rita Raley,
“Dataveillance and
Countervailance”
published in
“Raw Data” is an
Oxymoron,” Lisa
Gitelman, ed.,
(Cambridge: MIT
Press), 2013.
Images of SWIPE, above, taken from www.preemptivemedia.net/swipe/.
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
10 the participant’s swipe of a purchase card triggers a Google
search of the name contained on the magnetic stripe. Te name
then foats onto a glowing wall and positions itself vertically
based on a ranking determined by the number of hits returned
by the search. Te name sits alongside the names of past ran-
ked visitors, as well as higher net-worth individuals pre-fed
into the system by the artist.
Te luminescent wall of names is a silent and revealing
presence in the gallery. A user’s swipe made at a kiosk across
the room becomes a symbolic (and pathetic) attempt to slice
down the center of this glowing wall. Tere is a slight delay
between the gesture and the appearance of the new name,
which foats into legibility, growing larger and more opaque
before settling in its position. Tese few seconds create a stir-
ring moment of suspense: participants appear frozen, eyes held
on the screen. As soon as the moving text grows legible, there
is a metaphorical sigh of relief: one man points and smiles to
himself; another, happy with his high ranking, looks at the
camera and behind him as if for additional validation. Tis
slight delay of computation at work, ofers users a chance to
consider the mysterious prowess of code.
Images of Net Worth demonstrating a user glancing back to the crowd for
validation (above) and the action of swiping (opposite). Both images are
from www.osmankhan.com/.
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
13
As Rita Raley, information scholar and Associate Professor
of English and Culture at UCLA, notes in her recent “Data-
veillance and Countervailance,” the piece draws on “the
familiar practice of ego-surfng, the tracing of one’s own
virtual-physical presence and presumed importance online.”
Validation is encoded in the database: “…you don’t exist
unless you appear on Google” (136). Google is transformed
into a ranking system embodied by a larger-than-life wall.
Te swipe, as the point of encounter, reduces its participants,
if just for a moment, to anonymous consumers.
Te Perfect Human Application,
6
UBIQ’s early project with
Content Blackout, follows the tradition of these works. It is
a smartphone application, now being developed by Klout, that
tracks and scores a user’s various connected interactions to
create an aggregate score, easily sharable and comparable with
the scores of other users. Te user is not reduced to a consumer
per se, but rather to the sum of her interactions: her value is
informed by “quantity not quality.” Te exploration of how
identity and sense-of-self is increasingly shaped by the expan-
sive amount of data derived from technologies echoes Paul’s
statement above: all are works that play with “the fusion of hu-
man and machine” through perception of self. Does the super-
fcial validation of existence tied to data — as evidenced in the
pleased participants of Net Worth and the users of the Perfect
Human Application who compete for higher scores daily — indi-
cate the fusion of man and machine? Or more provocatively, is
it even appropriate to consider a clear distinction between the
two in the frst place?
What makes Net Worth and SWIPE media of subversion are
their alternative uses of the database to reveal a lack of privacy.
Te resulting sentiment is an eerie feeling of being watched (by
whom and for what? SWIPE asks) and the repressed comfort and
validation we take in knowing others are watching (as wit-
nessed by watching the reactions of users of Net Worth).
By embodying the tactics of database surveillance, both pieces
unveil a technological infrastructure of information control.
Tey allow for a role reversal of sorts — participants surveil
the system of surveillance.
Instead of subverting technological systems to reveal them as
regimes as control, Jacob Bakkila and Tomas Bender intervene
in a diferent manner with their Twitter project Horse_ebooks
(2011-2013). Like UBIQ’s Public Soundings, Horse_ebooks sub-
verts social assumptions about the power dynamics between
technological infrastructures and society.
Bakkila and Bender, respectively Creative Director at Buzzfeed
and a freelance consultant, grew up in suburban Pittsburgh.
From an early age, both were responsible for interventionist-
style pranks. In middle school, they modifed a CB radio to
transmit to passing cars, “without anyone realizing where it
was coming from” (Bender quoted in “Man and Machine”). In
2008, they released “Hoopsteon” a short video describing and
advertising a fctitious town in Milwaukee. Using footage of
New York City paired with touristic jargon, the video was a
success and within three days had more than 100,000 views.
Horse_ebooks (along with its companion piece Pronunciation
Books, not featured in this essay) was born of a similar desire
to expose the absurdity of advertising lingo and corporate pro-
motional babble. Te latter two works, both lasting for a series
of years, broke the mold for thought–provoking Net Art.
Fears about intelligent technologies overstepping an invis-
ible dividing line between man and machine are rampant in
contemporary culture. Take Spike Jonze’s recent flm Her, in
which Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with his
OS (enacted by the voice of Scarlett Johansson — can you really
blame him?), or a host of classic sci-f ficks including A.I., Blade
Runner, and Te Matrix. Or consider Eliza, a script written by
Joseph Weizenbaum, professor of computer science at M.I.T.,
in the 1960s. Eliza was a text-based program with which users
could converse. She was programmed to respond in the nature
6 For more on Content
Blackout and the
Perfect Human
Application, see
contentblackout.com.
Rita Raley
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
15
of a Rogerian therapist — to repeat users’ phrases back to them
in the form of questions. Horse_ebooks approaches the issue
from the opposite direction: a human impersonating a machine
trying to impersonate a human.
For over two years (742 days), Bakkila posted tweets from
the Horse_ebooks Twitter handle every few hours. Originally
the handle was run by an automated bot created to promote
e-library.net; in an efort to evade detection it was programmed
to scrape the Internet for fragmented text to tweet. Bakkila’s
takeover was an active attempt of a man to impersonate a
program built to appear as a sentient human. His tweets,
like those of the bots, were created from found text, scraped
from the Internet.
Te prank worked and the account grew popular — no one knew
it wasn’t a bot. It featured tweets like “Events developed” (Feb 19,
2012), “in, your phone is ringing, your email is” (August 2, 2013)
and “and embellishments creates a completely” (May 23, 2013).
Followers created elaborate fan fction based on the tweets, and
a browser-plug-in, featured in the Observer in 2012 , trans-
formed the text of any website into a Horse_ebooks-inspired
truism.
7
In a gallery performance in September 2013, Bakkila
revelead that it was himself, not a bot, behind the account,
the response was excitement as well as anger: the public felt
betrayed, confused, and maybe a little foolish.
8
Te work, which Bakkila refers to as “performance mischief,”
is notable for two reasons. First, it raises questions about the
changing nature of media falling into the genre of art. How do
digital platforms change the form art takes? How will curators,
along with the greater institution of art, accommodate newer
digital forms of media?
Te Museum of the Moving Image ofered an initial response
to this line of questioning. In 2013, it presented the frst
#VeryShortFilmFest,
9
featuring twenty-two Vine videos
looping on a large plasma TV, under which hung twenty-two
corresponding USB drives — each awaiting transfer to poten-
tial collectors. Tey sold one, for $200 — Tits on Tits on Ikea by
Angela Washko — to curator and collector Myriam Vanneschi.
When asked what she intended to do with the piece, she said
she thought she might let the artist upload it to her own Vine
account. What does this imply about the value of the content of
social media profles and accounts, or the role of such accounts
within the art world and beyond? Are they commodities with
which we can adorn our identities — in the same way we hang
art and select furniture to decorate our homes?
An inherent factor of diferentiation between art-before-digital
interface and art-after is temporality. Te institution of art
is built on deliverables (paintings, flm, sculptures), ready to
be commodifed as a form of beauty and entertainment. In
contrast, digital platforms ofer deliverables not in space, but
rather in time. Take Washko’s use of Vine as a platform, or
Horse_ebooks on Twitter: these feeds continuously grow, and
posts disappear into endless digital records. For Bakkila, the
answer was to post continually for over two years; the piece
was greater than the sum of the individual tweets. Grando was
quoted in “Man and Machine” as saying, “I think what they did
was art to the most modern degree. It was such a long con.”
As in any performance, what happens to the “art” when it ends?
What are the artifacts left behind, by which we remember and
value the work? Can we liken Bakkila’s Twitter timestamps to
the chairs Marina Abramovic and audience sat upon in Te Art-
ist is Present (MOMA, March 14-May 31, 2010)? What happens
when Twitter as a medium becomes obsolete? How will critics
and fans alike reference this act of “performance mischief?”
Second, Horse_ebooks is notable for highlighting the intimate
and complex relationships users develop with these platforms.
Tese platforms are more than just modes of expression for
user entertainment and communication. Tey carry assump-
tions and expectations about the diferent roles and functions
played by man and machine. Bakkila’s prank asks, if a program
can impersonate a man, can a man perform the job of an
7 Fan fiction here:
horseebooks.
tumblr.com;
Browser-plug-in:
observer.com/
2012/02/horse_
ebooks-takes-over-
the-internet/.
8 Gallery reveal
featured by Susan
Orlean, “Horse_
ebooks Is Human
After All,” The New
Yorker, 24 Sept
2013.
9 To read about the
#VeryShort
FilmFest, visit
theguardian.com/
technology/2013/
mar/12/vine-
twitter-moving-
image-art-fair
(or work some of
your own Google
magic).
Jacob Bakkila of
Horse_ebooks.
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND
17
automated bot? What are social implication if man out-bots the
bot? Further, is there a clear division of labor between the bot
and the man, or does that question, in and of itself, imply
a social construct on the verge of dissipation?
UBIQ’s Public Soundings address similar questions. At their
heart, these pieces address issues of control, showcasing the
power struggle between the device — metaphorically, through
the use of their iconic sounds — and the user. Of course, his
work negotiates the question of how these works can inhabit
the art world. His answer is one of practicality. First, he uses
his website to collect public-generated documentation of the
works. Second, he uses the gallery as a platform to explore his
ideas a bit diferently, in works he calls Private Soundings (not
featured in this essay).
Key to these works (and, most likely, the reason for his
anonymity) is UBIQ’s ability to gain control of the semi-public
audio-infrastructures of commerce. He has infltrated a Wal-
Mart in Philadelphia, a Trader Joe’s in San Francisco, and Apple
retail stores across the world. In one of his initial ventures, in
2011, he replaced the beeping that indicates the walk signal of
the pedestrian crosswalk with the sound of a dial-up modem.
He later admitted in a video apology published on Vimeo that
the use of a crosswalk was “disruptive to those who relied
solely on the beeping in order to cross the street,” and therefore
was, “much worse than an indulgent expression of art, but a
shameful and naive piece that endangered a demographic for
whom society does so little …” Nevertheless, his crosswalk
piece foreshadows UBIQ’s interest in subversion. It calls atten-
tion to society’s passive acceptance of the sounds assigned to
the our social functioning — in this case, crossing the street.
Te beeping gives a corporeality to this particular action; it
serves as a universal embodiment of a social cue that works
in tandem with our footsteps. Te focus isn’t the sound itself,
but rather our unquestioning allegiance to it, as UBIQ himself
suggests: “We walk like sheep when the white man beeps…
Can’t we waltz instead?”
WE WALK LIKE
SHEEP WHEN THE
WHITE MAN BEEPS…
CAN’T WE WALTZ INSTEAD?

UBIQ
SURVEILLANCE SUBVERSION & SOUND SOUND AND SUBVERSION
19 18
Te move from the specifc beep of the crosswalk to the
soundscapes of commerce, targeting with special attention
Apple stores and products, refects a more pointed disapproval
of our religious fervency towards popular corporations. When
UBIQ usurps the audio systems of Apple stores, he urges us to
question the authority and power we give to the brands. His
Soundings are less the gloried genius of a snickering prankster
than anonymous and seemingly efortless gestures: an invisible
wave of the hand that transforms the barely noticed Bieber-
playing speakers into a brief yet unsettling and omnipotent
force of sound. When he breaks through the monotony of pop
music, he breaks through the status quo. As in Net Worth, UBIQ
calls on our role as consumers — though not through the pur-
chasing card, but rather unnoticed icons of consumption: the
ringtone. He forefronts our blindness as willing consumers in
the free-market global capitalism, as well as, our unawareness
of the very sound infrastructures that are pumping the afrm-
ing monotony of ideology into the air.
However, the primary similarity between the Public Sound-
ings and Horse_ebooks is how they both subvert the assumed
roles and functions of technologies. Just as Horse-ebooks
inverts the role of human and machine, UBIQ inverts the call
and response of the device. In his Apple Bombings, instead of the
ringtone Sherwood Forest calling to users from their pockets,
the “musical melodies” (as UBIQ refers to them) call from above.
And instead of drawing us into our private personal worlds of
email and texting, we are lured into a shared moment of won-
der and awe. UBIQ shifts the role of our mobile technologies.
Tese shared interruptions highlight the power we have given
to our personal mobile devices. Te Sounding is an attempt to
reclaim such power.
UBIQ’s anonymity transforms him from a belittled hacker to a
technical savant. He acts within our existing sound structure,
but also from above it. In this way, he subverts the use of these
infrastructures, as did SWIPE and Net Worth, to embody an al-
ternate perspective: one that forces us to confront exactly what
kind of relationship and power dynamic we want to have with
these, at times awe-inspiring technologies.
Further, UBIQ acknowledges that our selection of cell phone
ringtones, like the imagery which we choose to wallpaper our
screens or the cases we handpick to protect our phones, allows
us to personalize our otherwise mass-produced devices. Yet it
is this very ability that encourages our absurd attachment to
these devices. Whether we choose the more familiar of these
sounds, an echo of our public soundscape, or create our own vi-
bration, the resulting sounds have a specifc meaning to us and
power over 0us. By de-contextualizing these noises, UBIQ rips
them from their meaning, forcing us, his audience, whether
passive bystanders or active users, to listen to the tones as mu-
sic. When we do, we are reminded of the physical presence of
the devices in our hands. Teir cries are made of the same stuf
as ours — according to Jonathan Sterne, in Te Audible Past, all
“sound is a little piece of the vibrating world.”
10
In A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveil-
lance, an essay by Gary T. Marx,
11
the MIT professor emeri-
tus surveys eleven prominent types of responses to newer
technologies of surveillance and dataveillance. Tough this
essay is not the place to go into detail about his ideas regarding
resistance opportunities, Marx’s well-crafted introduction pres-
ents two timeless points about the suppositions we make about
technologies and infrastructures of control.
First, he writes, “…just because there is potential of a technol-
ogy for harm…does not mean that it must happen.” Te threat
of harmful control, the fear that technology and data will sub-
sume and fatten certain abstract aspects of humanity “needs
to be kept distinct from its realization.”
Second, he suggests that the mysterious workings of techno-
logical power cause fears about an authoritative data-regime
and vulnerable populace. We only see the tip of the iceberg in
10 Jonathan Sterne,
The Audible Past,
(Durham: Duke U
Press, 2003). p 11.
11 Gary T. Marx, “A
Tack in the Shoe:
Neutralizing and
Resisting the New
Surveillance,”
Journal of Social
Issues, vol. 59:2,
May 2003..
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
20
terms of how these technological infrastructures are applied,
yet it is important to not blame the technologies, but the
infrastructure created by the people who apply them; it is how
we implement them: “…they become enmeshed in complex
pre-existing systems. Tey are as likely to be altered as to alter,”
Marx writes. UBIQ’s Public Soundings embody a microcosm
of these dynamics of control — between the smartphone and
user, as opposed to technological infrastructures and justice in
society. Tese concepts are at the core of UBIQ’s work.
As Marx puts it, “Te Sky Isn’t Falling — At Least Not Yet.”
UBIQ’s Public Soundings echo that sentiment. If he can make
Marimba stream from a metaphorical sky, there is hope. Te
control systems may not be predictable, but they are not im-
penetrable either. Let us decide the role they play in our lives,
in shaping our sense of self, and in determining our, as well
as their, value in society.
SOUND
DESIGN
SOUND
DESIGN
So it’s no surprise that one of the major
selling points of Apple’s iOS 7 operat-
ing system was its new ringtones and
alerts. Tey are as familiar as the latest
Beyonce hit— a new kind of pop. Who
doesn’t recognize and respond intui-
tively to the start-up beep of a laptop?
But the diference between Beyonce
and our iPhone ringtone is that while
Beyonce’s songs bring us pleasure, our
ringtone carries weight beyond its
form. It is always tied to a use — a new
email, Dad calling, etc.
In the summer of 2010, I took my 1994
Buick Le Sabre to the local repair shop.
I knew something was wrong because
my brakes were squeaking. When I took
the mechanic for a drive and he heard
the specifc ‘squeak’ I was referring
to, he laughed and told me to get new
brake pads.
My mom’s new car beeps when some-
one doesn’t buckle her seatbelt. What
if, instead, it made the sound of a dog
barking? Where we wouldn’t hesitate to
understand the beep as an indicator of
‘pay attention, do something,’ we might be
confused by the bark. Te squeaking of
brakes is part of a language a mechanic
knows intimately. But what happens
when sound is no longer a direct result
of its function? How do we design
sounds to successfully communicate
a specifc function? What enables a
sound to retain a common meaning?
Aesthetics? Taste? Humor? History?
Te ringtone is a relatively new genre
of designed sound, one that has its own
history of development tied to technol-
ogy, pop culture, and musical infuenc-
es. By de-contextualizing the iPhone
ringtones, UBIQ calls attention to how
arbitrary these sounds are as indicators
of functioning. With his Soundings, he
asks us to forget the sounds’ intentions,
and to experience them in the moment.
JIM MCKEE
I was working with this guy at
the advanced product group at
Apple, and he had a case for a
Walkman, and he opened it up
and he closed it, and you heard
it click…and he said, ‘Somebody
worked really hard to make that
click sound that way…’ That was
an acoustical element on
a mechanical device…
ROMAN MARS
Well, there aren’t a lot of moving
parts and moving bits in today’s
devices but Jim McKee still has
to make them sound right.
THE SOUND OF THE ARTIFICIAL WORLD
EPISODE 15, 99% INVISIBLE: A TINY RADIO SHOW ABOUT DESIGN WITH ROMAN MARS, 11 FEB, 2011
Tough responsive visuals are integral
in our interactive interfaces, sonic
feedback is just as important. With the
advent of new technologies, the sound
designer, like the visual designer, plays
an evermore important role in develop-
ing and shaping the digital platforms
of the computer, the browser, and the
smartphone.
From alerts to start-up tones, these
sounds act as way-fnding points, allow-
ing users to navigate complex systems
with efciency and ease. In “Te Sound
of the Artifcial World,” 99% Invisible’s
Roman Mars interviews Jim McKee, of
Earwax Productions, who sums it up
nicely: “Try using your telephone with-
out the beeps and it’s really confusing…”
In the physical world, the sounds of our
objects— all the diferent components
and little pieces— are a direct result of
the materials and mechanics behind
them. Tink about the distinct sounds
of diferent motorcycles: a Harley
Davidson, say, compared to a Triumph.
Each bike makes a unique noise, and
to a trained mechanic, these sounds
hold a wealth of information about the
mechanics of the engine hidden behind
the casing.
Tough many of our digital experiences
lack the audio quality of the mechani-
cal world, we rely on sonic feedback to
successfully integrate these systems into
our world. McKee explains:
….without all the beeps and chimes,
without sonic feedback, all of your
modern conveniences would be very
hard to use. If a device and its sounds
are designed correctly, it creates a
special ‘theater of the mind’ that users
completely buy into. Electronic things
are made to feel mechanical. It’s the
feeling of movement, texture, and
articulation where none exists.
AVIARIUM
TERRY ADKINS, B. 1953 WASHINGTON, DC – D. 2014 BKLYN, NY
For Aviarium, Adkins devised a sound-based installation that is entirely silent. Using
aluminum rods and multiple sizes of stacked cymbals, he rendered wave rectors of
birdsong in three dimensions, making visible the diverse sonic patterns inherent
to the songs of each (unidentifed) species. Cantilevered delicately overhead, these
sculpted songs hover in place and answer the artist’s call to “fnd a way to make music
as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is .”
Terry Adkins, Aviarium, 2014. Steel, brass, aluminum, and silver; dimensions variable (installation
view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Estate of Terry Adkins; courtesy of Salon 94,
New York. Photograph by Bill Orcutt. Text adapted from show catalogue.
FIND A WAY TO MAKE MUSIC
AS PHYSICAL AS SCULPTURE
MIGHT BE, AND SCULPTURE AS
ETHEREAL AS MUSIC IS.
TERRY ADKINS
SOUND IS A LITTLE PIECE
OF THE VIBRATING WORLD.
JONATHAN STERNE
JONATHAN STERNE
THE AUDIBLE PAST: CULTURAL ORIGINS OF SOUND REPRODUCTION

Generally, when writers invoke a binary coupling between culture and
nature, it is with the idea that culture changes over time and nature is
permanent, timeless, and unchanging. Te nature-culture binary ofers
a thin view of nature…
In the case of sound, the appeal to something static is also a trick of the
language. We treat sound as a natural phenomenon exterior to people,
but its very defnition is anthropocentric. Te physiologist Johannes
Müller wrote over 150 years ago, that, “without the organ of hearing
with its vital endowments, there would be no such thing as sound in
the world, but merely vibrations.”
As Müller pointed out, our other sense can also perceive vibration.
Sound is a very particular perception of vibrations. You can take the
sound out of the human, but can take the human out of the sound only
through an exercise in imagination. Sounds are defned as that class of
vibrations perceived — and, in a more exact sense, sympathetically pro-
duced — by the functioning ear when they travel through a medium that
can convey changes in pressure (such as air). Te numbers for the range
of human hearing (which absolutely do not matter for the purposes of
this study) are twenty to twenty thousand cycles per second, although
in practice most adults in industrial society cannot hear either end that
range. We are thus presented with a choice in our defnition: we can say
either that sound is a class of vibration that might be heard or that it is
a class of vibration that is heard, but, in either case, the hearing of the
sound is what makes it.
My point is that human beings reside at the center of any meaningful
defnition of sound. When the hearing of other animals comes up, it is
usually contrasted with human hearing (as in “sounds that only a dog
can hear”). As part of a larger physical phenomenon of vibration, sound
is a product of the human senses and not a thing in the world apart from
humans. Sound is a little piece of the vibrating world.
Adapted from John Sterne, The Audible Past (London: Duke University Press, 2003), 11.
YOU CAN TAKE THE SOUND OUT
OF THE HUMAN, BUT CAN TAKE
THE HUMAN OUT OF THE SOUND
ONLY THROUGH AN EXERCISE IN
IMAGINATION.
CONTENT BLACKOUT
31
CONTENT
BLACKOUT
33
View from the original office of Content Blackout, Bklyn, NY.
Photo from personal records of Isaac Weinstein, taken on the occasion of signing the lease, 2009.
Content Blackout began as a small tech startup based
in Brooklyn, NY, from 2009 to 2011. Tough most prominent
for their social media application the Perfect Human Application,
the company moonlighted as audio engineers and consultants
for the performing arts venue Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Tey were acquired by Klout in 2011, and are currently con-
tinuing their research and development on the Perfect Human
Application as a subsidiary of the corporation.
CONTENT BLACKOUT
35 The original Content Blackout team: Jeremy Berger, Sam Heartfield, and Isaac Weinstein (L to R).
THE STORY
In 2009, Isaac Weinstein, Sam Heartfeld, and Jeremy Berger
decided to turn their drunken laments into a proftable ven-
ture. Te group had met during their freshman year at NYU,
where all three studied sound engineering. After graduation,
they founded Content Blackout, a small company devoted to
creating new media tools that aimed to inject critical discourse
into function. In 2011, Klout saw the endeavors of Content
Blackout as a potential threat to their social media application
and in an attempt to thwart competition acquired the company.
Isaac now works as senior engineer at Klout’s Content Blackout
group, but the other two men are nowhere to be found. It is as
if they have fallen of the face of the traceable universe.
CONTENT BLACKOUT
37
The Perfect Human Application.
THE PERFECT HUMAN APPLICATION
Te Perfect Human Application is a social networking
application that tracks and aggregates the quantity of user
interactions made on smart devices and social media accounts
in order to generate real-time statistical information on a user’s
functioning, or “perfection.” Te application puts an emphasis
on the quantifcation of information, behaviors, and interac-
tions, thereby identifying a prevalent theme in contemporary
media of emphasizing quantity over quality.
Trough an algorithmically calculated Perfect Human Score,
the application stresses the ease and importance of sharing
and comparing these numbers with a greater community of
users. Te numerical scoring allows a user to track his or her
progress toward perfection, i.e., a greater (or lesser) quantity
than yesterday, as well as metaphorically turning each user
into a dynamic set of data. By assessing ideals of success
and perfection as numbers, the application boasts that
“users don’t just see how perfect they are, and how perfect
they can become.”
What is believed to have driven the interest of Klout is the
way the application divvied up user interactions into six
distinct categories known as the “Anatomy of Perfection.”
Each category represented a diferent grouping of online
actions made by the user throughout a 24-hour period. Te
Content Blackout team jokingly named these categories
after the of ine goals of their collegiate friends. For example,
“Communication Skills: Texting is the New Hugging” was an
aggregate of all the minutes users spent talking on their phone,
as well as any text or voice mail they sent using their phone.
“Looks: It’s What’s on the Outside that Counts” measured the
number of photos a user was posted in online, referencing the
misleading belief that a fattering angle and good lighting can
produce beauty. Te overall process refected the of ine impor-
tance of the networking and interviewing skills the creators
and their peers needed to hone as recent college alums.
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
38
Inspired by Jorgen Leth’s 1967 short flm Te Perfect Human,
the App is a facetious comment on the ritual of coping with
societal ideals in constructing images of self-worth in a land-
scape evermore drastically shaped by digital media. It reveals
an ideal user whose focus is on quantity not quality, on scoring
rather than experiencing, thereby confating companionship
and solitude. Te Perfect Human Application user — in an at-
tempt to understand herself relative to others, in an attempt
to defne her identity in society — focuses only on the numbers,
in particular, her score. Te application mocks our pleasure as
we receive more and more comfort from the number of friends
we collect and curate on Facebook and other social media sites.
Photo of Perfect Human Application brochures, Septa Car, Philadelphia, PA.
Te
PERFECT
HUMAN
AN APP FOR YOUR LIFE
Publicity materials for the Perfect Human Application, 2014.
CONTENT BLACKOUT
41
Video still from “Loser Syndrome,” Weeping iPhone.
THE WEEPING IPHONE
When Content Blackout was acquired by Klout in 2011, they
had just begun to prototype the Weeping iPhone, a series of vid-
eo alerts that would update users of their poor scoring. After
much user testing of the Perfect Human Application, it became
clear that users were put of by the complex matrix of scoring
(presented through a series of pie charts and graphs). Had it
been released, the Weeping iPhone would have been a notifca-
tion system consisting of 30-second animations triggered by
extreme scores from the Perfect Human Application.
According to Weinstein in a 2011 interview in Wired magazine,
“In an era when we expect our smartphones to take responsibil-
ity for so much of our responsibilities, why should users have to
check the application to retrieve their results?” So the Content
Blackout crew decided to let the smartphone be responsible for
monitoring and updating users of their ever-changing scores.
Tough this update never reached the public, it both embraced
and mocked our fear of expressing emotional vulnerability. We
expect too much from our iPhones, it suggests. Can we really
expect them to take on the role of identifying and expressing
emotion? Especially when we ourselves have such a hard time
with that task?
Characterized by their disruptive nature, the Weeping iPhone
“notifcation” videos were intended to interrupt the user’s
ability to use his or her phone. For example, if a user’s Perfect
Human Score dropped below the 10th percentile, the phone
would assume its user was feeling imperfect, unloved, and
worthless: like a loser. It would automatically play a 30-second
video in which a woman’s voice tauntingly chanted: “Loser,
loooooser, who do you think you are? You are nothing but one
big fat loser.” Meanwhile a collection of Apple “x-in-a-bubble”
icons would accumulate in mounting piles at the bottom of
the screen. If low scores persisted over several days, the phone
would take on the burden of expressing the depression caused
CONTENT BLACKOUT
43
IN AN ERA WHEN WE
HOLD OUR SMARTPHONES
ACCOUNTABLE FOR SO MANY
OF OUR RESPONSIBILITIES, WHY
SHOULD USERS HAVE TO CHECK
THE APPLICATION TO RETRIEVE
THEIR RESULTS?

ISAAC WEINSTEIN
by the isolation of imperfection. No longer able to function
normally, the phone would play the sound of a human wail in
tandem with adjusting its brightness, as if sending out an SOS
to its (hopefully nearby) owner.
If triggered, these videos would have to play through to
completion, thereby imposing on the surrounding environ-
ment the emotional distress coming out of the machine, most
likely to the dismay and embarrassment of its owner. On the
surface, the Weeping iPhone turned the phone into an object
with needs, prompting the owner to attend to it and to his or
her “perfection.” On a deeper level, the Weeping iPhone’s short
videos ridiculed the fervency with which we attend to our cell
phones, and the reliance that ensues.
CONTENT BLACKOUT
45
Omar Cuniga, Shruti Ganguly, James Franco, UBIQ, and Alexis Gambis, at Tar after-party in NYC, August 5, 2013.
THE AFTERMATH
In retrospect, it is clear that the ventures of Content Blackout
into new media technologies were meant to mock our social
entanglement with the digital. Ideally, the Perfect Human
Application, with its complex matrix of scoring, would encour-
age users to critically consider the importance they gave their
iPhone and the interactions and relationships it enabled. Te
Weeping iPhone alerts would have literally interrupted and pre-
vented phone use by poor-scoring users, driving the recipients
of the alerts to turn away from their devices, whether by rolling
their eyes or shamefully laughing, as they were forced to wait
for their wailing devices to quiet themselves. Smartphones
have unexpectedly fnagled their way into the most personal
and intimate moments of our lives. Tese videos, in conjunc-
tion with the PHA, rather ridiculously suggest that if we have
given away so many of our parameters of self-worth to social
media and our connected actions, we may as well give over our
ability to express our most vulnerable emotional states as well.
Today, Isaac manages the Content Blackout Team at Klout, but
Jeremy and Sam have disappeared; they seem to have fallen
of the face of the traceable — both connected and disconnect-
ed — universe. Tough many believe they moved to Vietnam to
live well of their profts from the buyout by Klout, the popular
mythology is that they have collectively become an anonymous
sound artist called UBIQ: Te Robin Hood of Sound. In popu-
lar vernacular, UBIQ, short for ubiquitous, is referred to as a
singular male. He has been known to appear as a masked DJ at
late night raves alongside the likes of James Franco. He posts
documentations of his public sound interventions, known as
Soundings, on his website. Because his identity remains un-
known and his performances always occur unannounced, he is
often likened to street artist Banksy.
UBIQ
47
UBIQ
CRITERIA FOR
A SUCCESSFUL
SOUNDING
ACCORDING TO UBIQ
DISPLACE the FUNCTION
Te sounds of our new media technologies are heard
not as music but as alerts for the functions they imply.
Each Sounding must shake free or loosen the featured
ringtone or familiar sound-symbol from its preexisting
autonomous reading carried by its recognizable melody.
By transforming the context through which we
encounter these sounds, their original meaning and
their implied function are displaced.
HARMONIZE with FORM
When a ringtone is distanced from its existing
meaning, the experience of the Sounding ofers an
antithetical reading of the sound’s original function.
Te sound is no longer a service of technology; instead
it exists as a corporal embodiment of media as form.
Te co-existence of these readings, sound-as-function
and sound-as-form, gives the audience the ability to
harmonize these two meanings as they see ft.
EMPOWER the USER
As bystanders and audience members assume the role of
critical listeners, they become empowered. Tey are not passive
onlookers, but refective and active individuals. By hearing
these sounds in the new light ofered to them by the Sound-
ing (whether as music or as a metaphor of our relationships
with our new media devices) they become engaged in a critical
dialogue. Tey are reminded of their own agency in how they
choose to interpret the world.
PUBLIC SOUNDINGS
55
PUBLIC
SOUNDINGS
57
Is there such a thing as silence?
Even if I get away from people, do
I still have to listen to something?
Say I’m off in the woods, do I have
to listen to a stream babbling?
Is there always something to hear,
never any peace and quiet?
If my head is full of harmony, melody,
and rhythm, what happens to me when
the telephone rings, to my piece [sic]
and quiet, I mean?
Are we getting anywhere asking questions?
Where are we going?
JOHN CAGE SILENCE
WHEREVER WE ARE, WHAT WE HEAR IS MOSTLY
NOISE. WHEN WE IGNORE IT, IT DISTURBS US. WHEN
WE LISTEN TO IT, WE FIND IT FASCINATING.
JOHN CAGE
UBIQ’s Public Soundings, documented in the following
pages, can be seen in two distinct lights. First, the Soundings
comment on the absurdity of our intimacy with our personal
technologies, especially the Apple iPhone. By using Apple retail
stores as his performance venues, UBIQ subverts and undercuts
Apple as a corporation, as well as our almost religious fervency
for their products.
Second, optimists and humanists, who receive his work with
joy and wonder, experience these Soundings as examples of
the beauty that new technology can bring into our lives. Spon-
taneous and loud, they ofer viewers a rare chance to hear the
sounds of their devices in a diferent context — one that inter-
rupts the group at large and entices individuals to be silent,
to listen together.
UBIQ is asking us to recognize and accept these sounds as
symbols of our growing e`ntwinement with technology. He is
urging us to pause together, as group alongside machine, to
listen, and celebrate, and consider how we can better harmo-
nize with our devices.
Further, he wants us to assess our agent role in the modern
soundscape. Our cell phones, whether they vibrate or ring,
create a chaotic, unregulated, and novel chorus from our pock-
ets and purses and the palms of our hands. Tis is a brand new
sound infrastructure, created solely by us and for us. In keeping
with John Cage, let us hear it as “fascinating.”
THE APPLE BOMBER
PUBLIC SOUNDINGS
61
SHERWOOD FOREST
Sherwood Forest, a royal forest in Nottinghamshire, England, is the legendary
home of heroic outlaw Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. It is also the name
of a ringtone in Apple’s iPhone operating system — one UBIQ uses often in his
Public Soundings.
UBIQ, though known as the Robin Hood of Sound, is also
referred to as the “Apple Bomber,” because of his works
involving the Apple retail stores.
His frst “attack” happened in December 2010, during the
Christmas rush at Boston’s Boylston Street Apple retail store.
Trough unknown measures, he was able to gain control of the
store’s speaker system for 15 seconds and played the Apple
ringtone “Sherwood Forest” three times in a row.
At the time, the event was met with security concerns, but
over the years UBIQ’s Soundings — his short concerts using
Apple store speakers and the pre-made sounds from the
iPhone — have increased in frequency. He has proven himself
to be a globetrotter, with impromptu Soundings in major cities
including New York, Berlin, and Paris, as well as in suburban
malls in the middle of Iowa and Kansas. It is generally consid-
ered good luck to be present during one of his Soundings.
UNITED STATES
BOYLSTON STREET
815 Boylston St,
Boston, MA 02116
BRIDGE STREET
320 Te Bridge St,
Huntsville, AL 35806
BILTMORE
2502 E. Camelback Rd,
Phoenix, AZ 85016
COUNTRY CLUB PLAZA
4712 Broadway St,
Kansas City, MO 64112
FIFTH AVENUE
767 Fifth Ave,
New York, NY 10153
GRAND CENTRAL
45 Grand Central Trmnl,
New York, NY 10017
JORDAN CREEK
101 Jordan Creek Pkwy,
W. Des Moines, IA 50266
SAN FRANCISCO
One Stockton St,
San Francisco, CA 94108
THE FORUM SHOPS
3500 Las Vegas Blvd S,
Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, NV 89109
INTERNATIONAL
KURFÜRSTENDAMM
Kurfürstendamm 26,
10719 Berlin DE
CARROUSEL DU LOUVRE
99 rue de Rivoli,
75001 Paris FR
SITES OF REPORTED APPLE BOMBINGS
BLACK FRIDAY
PUBLIC SOUNDINGS
69
Fight between two shoppers Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia PA, 2013.
Black Friday refers to the Friday following Tanksgiving,
which falls on the fourth Tursday of November. Tough not
a national holiday, Black Friday is known as one of the busiest
shopping days of year and considered the commencement
of the Christmas shopping season. Te day is a testament to
American consumer society, notorious for major discounts
and price-slashing, drawing shoppers to line up in front of
stores and malls hours before they open. Te infamously
raucous and vicious nature of Black Friday shoppers was
mocked in Season 17 of South Park. Devoting three consecu-
tive episodes
1
to the topic in the fall of 2013, Trey Parker
likened consumers’ fervor and brand loyalty to the factions
in the HBO series Game of Trones.
UBIQ’s choice of the South Philadelphia Wal-Mart is no coinci-
dence. Coined in an article about worker absenteeism in 1951,
2

the term Black Friday came to refer specifcally to the shopping
rush and heavy pedestrian and vehicular traf c in Philadelphia.
In an email to the American Dialect Society, Bonnie Taylor-
Blake cited a 1961 article that stated:
For downtown merchants throughout the nation, the biggest
shopping days normally are the two following Tanksgiving Day.
Resulting traf c jams are an irksome problem to the police and, in
Philadelphia, it became customary for of cers to refer to the post-
Tanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday.”
Philadelphia cops, who were required to work 12-hour
Black Friday shifts, picked up the term and popularized it.
Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Wall Street Jour-
nal, reported that Philadelphia merchants disliked the title
and tried to enforce the more positive term, Big Friday, in
an attempt to encourage consumerism. But the darker term
persisted and spread. Zimmer noted that shops and advertis-
ers, somewhat successfully, rebranded the title by introducing
campaigns using black to refer to retail profts, and referenced
the Back to Black campaign of the 1980s.
3
1
“Black Friday,” “A
Song of Ass and
Fire,” and “Titties
and Dragons,” South
Park, Season 17, Nov
2013.
2
“Friday after
Thanksgiving,” from
“M.J. Murphy’s Tips
to Good Human
Relations for Factory
Executives,” Factory
Management and
Maintenance 109:11,
Nov 1951 (p.137),
cited by Bonnie
Taylor-Blake in email
to American Dialect
Society, 4 Aug 2009.
3
Ben Zimmer, The
Origins of Black Friday,
25 Nov 2011.
Footage aired on Fox Philly, Oct 29, 2013
BLACK FRIDAY SOUNDING
October 29, 2013, Wal-Mart Supercenter
1675 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Te term “Black Friday” came
out of the old Philadelphia Police
Department’s traf c squad. Te
cops used it to describe the worst
traf c jams which annually occurred
in Center City on the Friday after
Tanksgiving.
It was the day that Santa Claus took
his chair in the department stores
and every kid in the city wanted to
see him. It was the frst day of the
Christmas shopping season.
Schools were closed. Late in the day,
out-of-town visitors began arriving
for the Army-Navy football game.
Every “Black Friday,” no traf c
policeman was permitted to take the
day of. Te division was placed on
12 tours of duty, and even the police
band was ordered to Center City.
It was not unusual to see a trombone
player directing traf c.
Two of cers were assigned to
intersections along Market Street
to control the throngs of pedestrians.
Te department also placed police
of cers outside parking garages
because the “lot flled” signs failed
to deter motorists from lining up on
the curb lane outside the garage. Tis
reduced street size from two lanes
to one. Tis caused traf c to back up
and block traf c at the next intersec-
tion. Tis caused massive gridlock.
In 1959, the old Evening Bulletin
assigned me to police administration,
working out of City Hall. Nathan
Kleger was the police reporter who
covered Center City for the Bulletin.
THIS FRIDAY WAS BLACK WITH TRAFFIC
Joseph P. Barrett
Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov 25, 1994
Image from “Shopping Madness: 5 iOS Apps to Help You Survive Black Friday,” mactrast.com, 2012.
In the early 1960s, Kleger and I
put together a front-page story for
Tanksgiving and we appropriated
the police term “Black Friday” to de-
scribe the terrible traf c conditions.
Center City merchants complained
loudly to Police Commissioner
Albert N. Brown that drawing at-
tention to traf c deterred custom-
ers from coming downtown. I was
worried that maybe Kleger and I had
made a mistake in using such a term,
so I went to Chief Inspector Albert
Trimmer to get him to verify it.
Trimmer, tongue in cheek, would
say only that Black Friday was used
to describe the Valentine’s Day
massacre of mobsters in Chicago.
Te following year, Brown put out
a press release describing the day
as “Big Friday.” But Kleger and I held
our ground, and once more said it
was “Black Friday.” And of course
we used it year after year. Ten
television picked it up.
Today the term seems lost in
antiquity, but it was a traf c cop
who started it, the guy who directed
traf c with a semaphore while stand-
ing on a small wooden platform, in
the days before traf c lights. But
that was a long time ago.
Reprinted from philly.com.
CROSS WALK
ORIGINAL INTERVENTION
Monday, April 16, 2012, 6-11 am
Footage uploaded to youtube.com by geographyuberalles.
Te pedestrian footage documents UBIQ’s intervention at
the crossing from Seventh to Eighth Avenue on West 43rd
Street in Manhattan. For fve hours during the Monday rush,
he gained control of the existing sound structure that “beeps”
to indicate pedestrian crossing, and played the sound of a
dial-up modem instead.
Technicians and authorities arrived at the scene around
7:30 am, and despite their best eforts, could not disable the
sound. Te following day, UBIQ formally apologized via his
Vimeo channel for any disservice he had caused to the
hearing-impaired.
All images taken from footage uploaded to UBIQ’s vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/85220672.
UBIQ REPLACED THE
CROSSWALK BEEP
WITH SOUND FROM
A DIAL-UP MODEM.
THE NEW YORKERS
SEEM UNAMUSED.
AN INTERMISSION SOUND AND SUBVERSION
81 80
AN
INTERMISSION
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS SOUND AND SUBVERSION
97 96
PRIVATE
SOUNDINGS
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
99 98
User testing with UBIQ, 2013.
Once I was visiting my Aunt Marge.
She was doing her laundry.
She turned to me and said,
“You know? I love this machine
much more than I do your Uncle Walter.”
JOHN CAGE SILENCE
1Steinbergh, Adam.
“The Post-Hope
Politics of ‘House of
Cards.’” NY Times
Magazine, 31 Jan
2013.
Today, we live in a world where our online interactions are
reproduced for purposes we never intended. Modern computa-
tional advancements that allow increasingly large sets of data
to be quickly processed and analyzed have transformed our
most mundane decisions and everyday clicks into priceless
(or very valuable, depending on where you stand) data.
Take, for example, the media-streaming epicenter Netfix. In
his recent New York Times Magazine article, “Te Post-Hope Poli-
tics of ‘House of Cards,’”
1
Adam Steinbergh wrote,
Netfix knows a lot about what you watch. Not just generally, but in
a granular, data-driven, clicks-and-duration-of-viewing time way.
It knows what everyone on Netfix watches, and how much they
watch it, and how all of this might translate into what people want
to watch next.
Te key here is that Netfix not only collects all this data,
but through its specialized algorithms knows how to turn
our information (number after number) into something truly
valuable (in this case, the series House of Cards).
As users, our ‘usage’ is used in the service of the success of
the corporation. Tough many frame this as a problem of free
labor, a symptom of the digital economy, UBIQ wants us to per-
ceive our role not solely as used user, but as agent user. Trough
awareness, users have the ability to question and infuence this
power dynamic. Within the privacy of our own homes, when
we commune with our personal mobile devices, we must be
aware and willing participants in this economic relationship.
If not, he asks, how else can we move forward with the hope
of harmonizing?
In his Private Soundings, the gallery pieces iHear and iTones,
UBIQ aims to redefne our relationships with the sounds of
our ringtones and alerts. Both pieces utilize participant-based
gestural interactive systems which transform the familiar
sounds of the iPhone by manipulating their pitch and frequen-
cy. Giving these iconic noises yet another context, UBIQ asks a
user to hear them diferently, not with their cultural meaning,
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS SOUND AND SUBVERSION
101 100
but rather as sounds given actual physical form. By leaving
the public infrastructure for the privacy of the gallery setting,
UBIQ speaks more directly to his audience-members; they are
no longer passive and unknowing bystanders but willing par-
ticipants. And by enabling users to manipulate the tones, UBIQ
calls on them as empowered individuals. Tey make a choice
to participate in the pieces in the same way they choose to use
their personal technologies. Further, the experiences they have
in gallery become a metaphor for the users relationship with
the power structures at play in a digitized and abstract world
of constant connectivity.
iTONES
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS
105
iTones is an interactive gallery piece that transforms a user,
and her smartphone, into a musical instrument. A user is con-
fronted 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.
Te user is required to use her own personal smartphone,
which she inserts in the wristband and plugs into the ear-
phones. At the moment of plugging in, the user initiates code
on a hidden chip in the headphones, which discovers the pre-
assigned sound she has set on her smartphone. Te earphones,
however, are not wired to the audio-jack of the smartphone;
instead they connect wirelessly via bluetooth to a 13” Macbook
Pro (mid-2010) hidden in the gallery. Te gestures of connect-
ing the phone into the earphones, the act of “plugging in,” and
putting on the earphones are together an important initiation
into the experience. Te act of plugging in imitates the inser-
tion of an IV or a lifeline, yet simultaneously suggests the
injection of intravenous drugs, a gesture of escape, denial, and
self-destruction. Tough the act of hooking up references users’
reliance on their smartphones, it also enables them to give the
sounds of their personal data a new, audible life.
iTones, Tower Gallery, 2014.
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS
107
iTones, Tower Gallery, 2014.
iTones, Tower Gallery, 2014.
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS
111
THE ORIGINAL
Te Personal Instrument, 1969
As the show’s curator, I approached UBIQ with a proposal to
update Te Personal Instrument (1969), an early piece by Polish-
born artist Krzysztof Wodiczko. Tis interactive, wearable
artwork addresses the façade of freedom of speech in the “state
socialism” of Poland during the 1960s. In his piece, the sound
of public space becomes the contested ground where citizens
and government metaphorically negotiate freedom.
His Personal Instrument was the frst in a series of public inter-
ventions that aimed to “…metaphorically defne the situation
of a human being as ‘citizen’ in a totally controlled environ-
ment…”
1
— a public space dominated by a repressive Polish
state. As a young industrial designer, Wodiczko found himself
making mass-media products to broadcast propaganda for
the government. In response, he wanted to create a “…critical
and ironic dialogue with a real and monstrous designer — the
communist state itself — who was in total control of the entire
society and treated it as a single work of art or design.”
2
For
Wodiczko, Te Personal Instrument was an “articulation of the
boundaries of freedom and of the ways of practicing it, as well
as of the individual Polish citizen’s reserves of power in relation
to the use of space.” His goal was to articulate the voicelessness
of the citizen who was forced to listen to repressive state direc-
tives, but unable to make himself heard:
Under the conditions of life in existing public space, democracy is
the practice of making oneself heard (instead of passively listening
to someone else’s voice)… How is one to treat such a crowded space
as an instrument of democracy when this instrument is not in our
hands and when public space is barricaded and sealed of by the
colossal bodies of the great speakers (demagogues), ringing with
the choirs of advertisements, and occupied by armies of heroic
memorials?
3
Wodiczko’s Personal Instrument was an otherworldly costume.
Te headpiece consisted of an oversized pair of metallic head-
phones and a microphone, perched on the forehead in lieu of
1 Wodiczko, Krzysztof,
“A Response to
Maria Morzuch,”
Critical Vehicles,
(Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1999),
p. 141.
2 Wodiczko,
Krzysztof,
“The Personal
Instrument,”
Critical Vehicles,
p. 102.
3 Wodiczko,
Krzysztof,
“A Response to
Maria Morzuch,”
Critical Vehicles,
p. 142.
The Personal Instrument, Krysztof Wodiczko, 1969
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS SOUND AND SUBVERSION
113 112
a third eye. Tis bizarre contraption was wired to a simple pair
of black gloves, with discrete photocells sewn into them. Te
microphone captured the ambient noises of public space — an
outdoor plaza, park, or busy street. Tose sounds were fltered
through the photocells in the gloves — the left hand control-
ling a high-pitch flter, the right hand a low-pitch flter, so by
waving both hands the wearer could create a “glissando sound
efect.” Te transformed noises returned to the helmet, playing
in the private space of the wearer’s enormous headphones.
A description from 1973 states that “the instrument is for
the exclusive use of the artist who created it.”
4
Te images of
Wodiczko wearing the costume in public, altering the ambient
sounds of public space or “making artwork out of the art of
listening” depict a man embodying the “haunting silence” of
the citizen. According to Wodiczko, Te Personal Instrument
relies on a “socially active environment” — it needs a passerby
to observe its silence. Yet that same bystander is also witness
to “a public-private exaltation of the citizen’s freedom. It is
an art of private countercensorship.” By performing in public,
Wodiczko fought censorship through his ability to orchestrate
the contested sounds of public space privately. As he explained:
I am an artist in the listening, not in the speaking, and though
I do not have the right to say what I really want to say… let me at
least be allowed to listen to what I want to hear…
5
On one hand, the citizen, represented by Wodiczko as wearer
or performer, is emancipated as free to listen. However, the
silence of the performance exposes the inability of this same
citizen to be heard. So in an elegant double-entendre, Wodicz-
ko empowers the citizen by revealing his situation as controlled
by the state.
Te piece is an expression of the need to challenge a repressive
sociopolitical situation. Te metaphor of turning the noise and
chatter of everyday life into a private chorus for the wearer’s
enjoyment is inspirational. However, at its heart, Te Personal
Instrument is a piece of critical refection necessary in only the
most dire of circumstances. Today, in the new digital spaces of
our dynamic media society, we can fnd ourselves in a situation
of similar duress.
UBIQ and I agreed that Te Personal Instrument needed to
be updated to refect this new power struggle, not between
government and citizen, but between algorithm and user as
reproducer. In our version, the sounds of public space, which
represent freedom, are replaced with the pre-programmed cell
phone ringtone of a user, to represent the user’s personal data
repurposed by the algorithmic systems of dataveillance for
ulterior means. Just as Wodiczko revealed the dominated citi-
zen by empowering him as a conductor of the sounds of public
space, our update, iTones, reveals the user as a used user, by al-
lowing her to transform her ringtone through gesture. Te goal
is to ofer users of iTones a means to metaphorically negotiate
agency in the face of algorithmic control.
4 Wodiczko,
Krzysztof,
“The Personal
Instrument,”
Critical Vehicles,
p 102.
5 Wodiczko,
Krzysztof, “A
Response to Maria
Morzuch,” Critical
Vehicles, p 142.
iTones, user testing in Tower Gallery, 2014.
AMBIENT NOISES FROM PUBLIC SPACE = METAPHOR FOR FREEDOM
THE INSTRUMENT EMPOWERS DOMINATED CITIZEN
GOVERNMENT
CITIZEN
PERSONAL RINGTONE FROM MOBILE DEVICE = METAPHOR FOR FREEDOM
TRANSFORMED TONES EMPOWER USED USER
ALGORITHM
USER
SOUND AND LIGHT FROM OUTSPACE
PHOTORECEIVER PHOTORECEIVER MICROPHONE
FILTERS
EARPHONES
ARTIST
Original description published as “Instrument Osobisty/Personal Instrument,” in Autoportret/Self-Portrait, exhibition
catalogue (Warsaw: Galeria Foksal, 1973).
The instrument transforms the sounds of the environment.
The instrument functions in response to hand movements.
The instrument reacts to sunlight.
The instrument is portable.
The instrument can be used in any place and in any time.
The instrument is for the exclusive use of the artist who created it.
The instrument permits him to attain virtuosity.
PERSONAL DATA FROM INFRASTRUCTURE
OF ALGORITHMIC CONTROL
RINGTONE GESTURE GESTURE
FILTERS
EARPHONES
USER
The instrument transforms the sounds of the user’s personalized ringtone.
The instrument functions in response to hand movements.
The instrument can be used in the gallery.
The instrument is for smartphone users, exclusively.
The instrument permits users to attain virtuosity.
Compatible with iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5s, and Samsung Galaxy S4, S5.
THE PERSONAL INSTRUMENT
Krzysztof Wodiczko, ip6p
iTONES
usiq and Sofe Flana Hodara, zoiq
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
116
I AM AN ARTIST IN THE LISTENING,
NOT IN THE SPEAKING, AND THOUGH
I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY
WHAT I REALLY WANT TO SAY…
LET ME AT LEAST BE ALLOWED TO
LISTEN TO WHAT I WANT TO HEAR.
KRZYSZTOF WODICZKO
iHEAR
iHear, Nave Gallery, 2014.
AS TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS ARE
INTEGRATED INTO SOCIETY IN EVER MORE
FRUITFUL WAYS, OUR RELATIONSHIPS
WITH OUR MOBILE DEVICES HAVE
BECOME EVER MORE INTIMATE.
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
PRIVATE SOUNDINGS
125
A small electronic instrument resembling a theremin, iHear
plays cell phone ringtones in order to highlight the pervasive-
ness of our mobile technologies and the familiar sounds they
produce. By interacting with iHear, in the gallery setting, the
user manipulates the frequency of ubiquitous and iconic cell
phone ringtones. By playing the little black box, the audience
can transforming these nagging musical melodies into some-
thing diferent — something, perhaps, resembling music.
iHear, Cyber Arts Gallery, 2014.
LEARNING TO RE-HEAR
a note fromthe curator
What makes iHear such a profound experience, is that the piece,
in its innocence, asks its users: isn’t it you who is supposed to be
in charge?
Despite being a printmaker and painter, I came to Boston to
respond to questions about how our new technologies — and our
subsequent constant connectivity to both others and informa-
tion— are shaping the texture of our lives. When I met UBIQ, on an
overnight in Brooklyn, I was stirred by iHear — by the simplicity of
putting our ringtones, which are literally at our fingertips, on public
display. I couldn’t stop thinking about the piece, then called the
Mobile Music Box, and I featured it in my spring keynote at the
Dynamic Media Institute.
I returned to UBIQ’s studio to discuss the potency of mobile
melodies, as UBIQ calls them. Though we spoke about these
melodies as annoying and often unwanted interruptions, UBIQ
always seemed more interested in them as catalysts for intimacy.
He spoke about the personal connection we develop with these
sounds when we set them to specific contacts “…without even
hearing them. We don’t listen to the forms of these sounds, we just
respond. I want people to claim them, to know them, as intimately
as they know the relationships and responsibilities they symbolize.”
Because a book cannot deliver an audible interactive experience,
I want to take a moment to explain how the piece works. The
box has four sensors, each one mapped to one of four ringtones.
Though UBIQ often swaps out the sounds, I’ve seen it featuring
Apple’s Marimba, AT&T’s Cingular Original Ringtone, T-mobile’s
T-Jingle, and Nokia’s signature ringtone from the 2600 model. The
music box is tuned to vary the pitch and frequency of each melody
based on how much light hits each sensor. Left alone, sensors
uncovered, the sounds play slowly, abstract and ominous notes
booming slowly from the speakers. But as a user approaches,
the pitch and frequency of the ringtones increase, and when the
sensors are completely deprived of light, from the shadow of a
user, the ringtones play at full speed, becoming the recognizable
mobile melodies of our phones. The real beauty of the piece is that
throughout all this interplay, the ringtones mix together and fade in
and out of recognition, creating a truly unexpected audible experi-
ence — a symphony of technology.
As a painter, this examination of the ringtones ‘rang’ true. As
I learned the language of color, I learned how to re-see. When I
paint, I don’t see a building on a street or a book on a shelf, but the
complex and various shapes and colors that allow us to perceive
space. Similarly, when I play with iHear, I no longer hear Marimba
as an alert, but as the mysterious notes and pitches that form its
melody. I have learned to re-hear.
iHear, Nave Gallery, 2014. iHear, Cyber Arts Gallery, 2014.
IN CONCLUSION
While I was preparing notes for this publication, UBIQ emailed
me a copy of Evgeny Morozov’s January 13, 2014, New Yorker
article, “Making It.” In keeping with so many of our interac-
tions, he did not email me a link, but instead a scanned PDF of
his marked-up pages from the magazine. Te essay, a survey
detailing counterculture movements, traces the lineage of the
American Arts and Crafts movement into the hacker culture of
the 1960s and the contemporary maker movement. As Moro-
zov claims: “…makers are the new hackers.”
Te counterculture spirit Morozov writes of — with its utopian
and anti-authoritarian embrace of ideals to “de-institutionalize
society and empower the individual” — holds marked dif-
ferences from any subversive act of the arts. But within his
analysis, there is ample room for UBIQ’s call to individual and
social agency within a society of self-tracking users. Both men
want us to consider the authority we have given to platforms of
data. Morozov’s point is that the failures of the utopian goals
of counterculture movements aren’t the result of the discon-
tents born of the technologies we use, but rather of the “uses to
which those pixels are put.” He would probably argue that the
ideals of such movements have never succeeded and are inher-
ently bound to fail — no matter how much we try to remove
“equality” from its nascent abstraction. However, both men still
call the humanist to center stage. Both demand hope — Mo-
rozov’s dripping in irony and reference, UBIQ’s captured in a
moment named Art.
UBIQ’s Public Soundings hinge on a simple transformation
of context. Taking the iconic ringtones out of our personal
pockets and giving them a more ftting stage — public, or semi-
public, sound infrastructures. He presents a grand shift in
scale. But the success of these Soundings relies on UBIQ’s tech-
nological prowess. With a skill set akin to magical powers (less
CONCLUSION
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
132
a Robin Hood than a dragon-slaying knight), he unveils the
startling chinks in the armor of technological infrastructures
and data security, humbling corporations and institutions
of authority in his wake. And though it is only through his
expertise that he counters or subverts the infrastructures of
power, his message of hope and empowerment extends to the
layperson — the bystander caught in an audible sound attack.
To conclude this catalogue, I type the handwritten note UBIQ
left in the margin of Morozov’s article:
Text me hope, and I’ll / hmmmmm / vibrate in return.
Beside Morozov’s printed word, set in Te New Yorker’s famil-
iar Adobe Caslon, UBIQ’s cursive seems out of sync with the
times — his letterforms sweep elegantly below an invisible,
well-kept baseline as if he had written with a ruler on hand.
Te text he circled and starred reads as follows:
…our tech imagination…is at its zenith…But our institutional
imagination has stalled, and with it the democratizing potential
of radical technologies. We carry personal computers in our pock-
ets — nothing could be more decentralized than this!—but have
surrendered control of our data, which is stored on centralized
servers, far away from our pockets.
1
Te overt sexual innuendo of UBIQ’s scrawled note, his
insistence on never distinguishing between himself and his
personal technology, as well as the double meaning of the frst
clause (am I meant to text him “h-o-p-e” or a hopeful senti-
ment? And to whom is the note even directed?) encapsulate
my experience during the past few months working on this
catalogue, and ofer readers a window into my interactions
with UBIQ. Tere is no surprise ending. Te ingenuity with
which UBIQ overthrows today’s global society of surveillance
resonates in a realm beyond the digital technologies he refer-
ences — his soundings literally vibrate.
HIS SOUNDINGS
LITERALLY VIBRATE.
1 Morozov, Evgeny,
“Making It,”
The New Yorker,
13 Jan. 2014.
SOUND AND SUBVERSION
134
IF DEMOCRACY IS TO BE A MACHINE
OF HOPE, IT MUST RETAIN ONE
STRANGE CHARACTERISTIC — ITS
WHEELS AND COGS WILL NEED TO
BE LUBRICATED NOT WITH OIL BUT
WITH SAND.
KRZYSZTOF WODICZKO
137
WORKS CITED
Adkins, Terry. Aviarium. Whitney Biennial 2014, Whitney Museum, NY. Estate
of Terry Adkins; courtesy of Salon 94, New York.
Barrett, Joseph. “Tis Friday was Black with Trafc.” Philly.com. Web. Accessed
10 March 2014. <http://articles.philly.com/1994-11-25/news/25869629_1_traf-
fc-cop-block-trafc-trafc-policeman>.
Cage, John. Silence: Lectures and writings by John Cage. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan
University Press, 1961. Web. Accessed 14 April 2014. <http://archive.org/de-
tails/silencelecturesw1961cage>.
Content Blackout. Contentblackout.com. Web. Accessed 25 April 2014. <http://
www.contentblackout.com>.
Horse_ebooks. Twitter.com. Web. Accessed 25 April 2014. <https://twitter.com/
Horse_ebooks>.
Gitelman, Lisa, ed. “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.
Print.
Khan, Douglas. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 2001. Print.
Khan, Osman. Net Worth. Feb 2004. Web. Accessed 28 April 2014. <http://www.
osmankhan.com/works.asp?name=Net%20Worth>.
Leth, Jorgen, dir. Perfect Human, Te. Denmark, 1967. Film. Web. Accessed 13
April 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9kls6bMkRo>.
Mars, Roman. “Episode 15: Te Sound of the Artifcial World. Episode 15.” 99%
Invisible: A Tiny Radio Show about Design with Roman Mars, 11 Feb, 2011. Web.
Accessed 13 April 2014. <http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-15-the-
sound-of-the-artifcial-world/>.
Marx, Gary. “A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveil-
lance.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 59, May 2003. Web. Accessed 13 April 2014.
<http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/tack.html>.
Miller, Rachel. “Moving Image art fair sells frst ever ‘Vine-Art.’” theguardian.
com, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. Accessed 25 April 2014. <www.thegaurdian.com/tech-
nology/2013/mar/12/vine-twitter-moving-image-art-fair/>
Morozov, Evgeny. “Making It: Pick up a spot welder and join the revolution.”
Te New Yorker, 13 Jan. 2014. Print.
Murphy, M.J..“Friday after Tanksgiving,” from “M.J. Murphy’s Tips to Good
Human Relations for Factory Executives,” Factory Management and Maintenance
109:11, Nov 1951 (p.137). Cited by Bonnie Taylor-Blake, in “‘Black Friday’
(day after Tanksgiving), 1951,” an email to American Dialect Society. 4 Aug
2009. Web. Accessed 9 March 2014. < http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/
wa?A2=ind0908A&L=ADS-L&P=R2555>.
139 138
WORKS CITED WORKS CITED
Wodiczko, Krzysztof. Critical Vehicles: Writing, Projects, Interviews. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1999. Print.
Wright, Stephen. “Te Future of the Reciprocal Readymade: An Essay on Use-
Value and Art-Related Practice.” Networked_Performance. 13 May 2005. Web.
Accessed 25 April 2014. <http://www.turbulence.org/blog/archives/000906.
html>. An earlier version of the text was frst published in the leafet accompa-
nying the exhibition “Te Future of the Reciprocal Readymade.” Apexart. New
York. 17 Mar. 2004.
Zimmer, Ben. “Te Origins of Black Friday.” Visual Tesaurus. 25 Nov 2011. Web.
Accessed 10 March 2014 < http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/
the-origins-of-black-friday/>.
Orlean, Susan. “Horse_ebooks is Human After All.” Te New Yorker, 24 Sept
2013. Web. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://www.newyorker.com/online/
blogs/elements/2013/09/horse-ebooks-and-pronunciation-book-revealed.html?
printable=true&currentPage=all>.
Orlean, Susan. “Man and Machine: Playing Games on the Internet.” Te New
Yorker, 10 Feb. 2014. Print.
Perfect Human Application, the. Content Blackout. Web. Accessed 15 March 2014.
<http://www.contentblackout.com/theapp/>.
Raley, Rita. “Dataveillance and Countervailance.” “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013. Print. 121–145.
Richmond, Wendy. “What’s Best for You.” Communication Arts, 14 May 2014.
Rushkof, Douglas. “Generation Like.” Frontline. PBS. Original Air Date 18 Feb
2014. Web. Accessed 28 April 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/front-
line/generation-like/>.
Rushkof, Douglas, “Social Media and the Perils of Looking for ‘Likes,’” Rushkof.
com. 19 Feb 2014. Web. Accessed 25 April 2014. <www.rushkof.com/blog>.
South Park. “Black Friday.” Season 17, Episode 7. Original air date 13 Nov. 2013.
southparkstudios.com. Web. Accessed 16 April 2014. <http://www.southpark-
studios.com/full-episodes/s17e07-black-friday>.
South Park. “A Song of Ass and Fire.” Season 17, Episode 8. Original air date 20
Nov. 2013. Park.southparkstudios.com. Web. Accessed 16 April 2014. <http://
www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s17e08-a-song-of-ass-and-fre>.
South Park. “Titties and Dragons.” Season 17, Episode 9. Original air date 4 Dec.
2013. Park.southparkstudios.com. Web. Accessed 16 April 2014. <http://www.
southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s17e09-titties-and-dragons>.
Steinbergh, Adam.“Te Post-Hope Politics of ‘House of Cards.” NY Times Maga-
zine. 31 Jan 2013. Web. Accessed 16 February 2014. <http://www.nytimes.
com/2014/02/02/magazine/the-post-hope-politics-of-house-of-cards.html.>
Sterne, Jonathan. The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Dur-
ham & London: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.
Subversion. Wikipedia.com. Web. Accessed 19 April 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Subversion>.`
Preemptive Media Collective, the. SWIPE. Documentation and information can
be found at Internet Archive: Way Back Machine. Web. Accessed 28 April 2014.
<http://web.archive.org/web/20050319004417/http://www.we-swipe.us/bar/
setting_up.html>.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from
Each Other. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2011. Print.
UBIQ. Web. Accessed 25 April 2014. <http://www.ubiqsound.com>.
Weeping iPhone, the. Web. Content Blackout. Accessed 25 April 2014. <http://
www.contentblackout.com/story/>.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful