Modular Patch and Algorithm Signal Processing and Diagramming in a Design-Driven Research Methodology

Author: Taufan ter Weel, TU Delft


The human use of electromagnetic energy as carrier of information (from early electric telecommunication and radio to global computing networks) complicates the relationships between bodies, media technologies, and lived environment. Transmission with the speed of light brought about a shifting sense of space and time. Ubiquitous computing transforms the modes of governance. The increasing dependency on media technologies to carry out activities (to sense, build, and change our environment) and the interdependencies between them, coupled with the decreasing clarity of their inner workings, which is in part inherent in their expanding complexity, creates unprecedented forms of automation and control. In the context of the concrete entanglement between bodies, media technologies, and lived environment, or abstract space-time and social realities, how could we address the problem of automated subservience and ubiquitous control in order to recuperate the recognition of the right, or response-ability, to actively engage in the making of our habitat? And how to develop the means to do so?

The transdisciplinary research explores this concrete entanglement through a spatial and diagrammatic approach based on sound and signal processing. It seeks to explicate the transformative power of signal processing in the production of space-time by combining a theoretical and design- driven path at the intersections of architecture, sonic practice, sound studies, and the philosophy of technology. In connection with the conference edition’s theme (framing and reframing) this paper discusses the research methodology.

First of all, the diagram is employed as a means to explore, expose, and design processes of technological mediation. Diagramming is understood here as a material-discursive process, which implies both meaning and matter, epistemology and ontology, and is performative. This lies at the core of combining theoretical and design-driven research. In turn, the realisation of a series of site-specific sound installations is a way to put the diagram into operation.

Employing the capacities of sound and signal processing in spatial design allows for producing spatio- temporal manifestations in a dynamic, instant, and real-but-abstract way, articulating abstract relationships and operations such as algorithmic processes sonically and spatially. It works at various levels: (1) understanding architectural space in terms of vibrational energy or waves; (2) approaching the analogue and digital as intertwined modes of technological mediation and thinking; and finally, (3) drawing relationships between the circuit diagram, abstract machine, and architectural diagram, aiming to contribute to expanding the notion of and techniques for diagramming.

Through the series of installations, the research seeks to develop an abstract machine which enables processes of reterritorialisation by modifying existing sites sonically. Each project modifies a sonic space, exploring other forms for or latent potentials of that given space by rerouting its circuits and producing new material configurations and spatial articulations of sound. This involves real-time signal processing. The architectural machine is itself composed of multiple machines, and learns to adapt to and intervene in different environments. Through an iterative process of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation, which involves various sites, it is conceived, constructed and effectuated.