Friday, February 17, 2012

Making my mind up on a SoundMap...

I've not written about anything I've been doing for my MA yet here on this blog. This is partly because since I started the course, back in September 2011 (around the same time as a new job), I've been so busy in trying to keep up with both the job and things like the reading list that it's been very difficult to find the space for it. However, I think I've reached a point where a post has become necessary.

I'm sat here in a Mac suite at Sussex University, running Chrome stuffed with open tabs. My research trails, thoughts and ideas seem to be tripping over themselves as I try to solidify them into something that is going to actually be achievable in the time I have. A plan is needed, and sometimes plans only become clear when they're written down (or in this case typed out).

This term, I am taking a course called 'New Developments in Digital Media'. It's a blend of theory and practical work, and has been quite a fascinating journey so far. The practical side of it involves a couple of projects that utilise existing web technologies to come up with something new - basically, a web mash-up.

The first project was about learning how to do stuff in Google Maps. I put together a map that showed places around the world that I have visited, with a bit of content (mostly pictures) from each visit. The results of that are below:

View Visited Places in a larger map

Now it's come to the second one, which means ramping things up a little. I'm interested in soundmaps. I'm interested in remixes. What I'd really like to do is to offer a track up for remixing, and plot the results on a map.

Trouble is, this is way more difficult that just adding a bit of HTML embed code to a Google Maps placemark (which is essentially all the above is). 

I've got an old Shelf Life song which I have all the stems for. It would be fascinating to offer that one up and see what journey it took. Thing is, I'd probably need to dive in to an existing remix community and build up some relationships to get anything out of it, which would also involve putting a 'campaign' together around it along with having a load of extra stuff to write to go with it. That would take time I don't really have, even if the longer term benefits would be great (more engaging content for the project, people to work with on stuff in the future).

I really want to be able to create something like the Edinburgh Fringe map below, where the placemarks are clickable and will play an audio track when clicked. So far, I've not been able to find out how something like this could be done. It seems quite simple for people to contribute their recordings to the map (instructions here), by adding content via SoundCloud that has Fringe in the title and a location in the metadata. I fear though that getting it sorted out via the backend would mean having to get to grips with SoundCloud's API, and I'm not sure I'm ready (or got the headspace) to start getting to grips with deeper programming knowledge.

SoundCloud would be a fantastic platform to work with on this project. It seems that AudioBoo would also work well, and it also has a relatively easy means of getting audio content mapped by pasting an RSS feed URL from a user's account into a Google Maps page and changing the .rss extension to a .kml extension (being a form of geocoding that Google Maps understands), as in the Hong Kong sound map below:

Trouble with that one is that it doesn't seem to have the audio player element. Setting up some kind of RSS feed that people could submit tracks to a page connected with that feed which populates on the map would be ideal. All my research so far suggests that this would be far more difficult than it initially sounds.

I'll be leaning on Lawrence Lessig's 'Remix' for some of the theory that will be needed to back this project up. Lessig also donated a spoken word piece to the ccMixter community to launch his 'Strike The Root' project, which resulted in something like 100 tracks being created in a month. Mapping where those tracks were made would tie in very nicely with the theory element, but there is quite a bit of digging to find out the locations of a bunch of the contributors, and I still need to figure out how to embed audio in a Google Maps placemark (anyone know how to do this?).

All I know now is that I'll have to come to some decisions soon and start putting the work in, otherwise I'll get overwhelmed with yet another project that I take on which is too big to manage!

Any thoughts, comments, or help on the above will be gratefully received. Anyone interested in more cool sites where maps and sounds meet should check out the British Library's sound maps collections, Tracks On A Map, SoundSeeker or even CitySounds (not strictly a map, but cool all the same).


pingsandneedles said...

have you seen this ...

funky, man ..

or this new orleans on ... -

they may have a friendly nerd able to help or summat ...

Dom Pates said...

Very cool - not come across either of those two before. They look like great ones to explore!

I'm leaning towards the Lessig/Strike the Root idea now, as it will be easier to map remixes that have already been made rather than trying to get new ones made (at least in a limited time frame). Just got to try and find out where they all came from now.

Cheers for commenting too, btw - not had one in a while ;-)