Traffic II: Sound Art Installation


13 years ago I had the opportunity to combine my previous skills in music with programming and my understanding of the implications of various known American government surveillance programs. This resultant sound art installation, one of a series, has taken on a number of forms over the period it was shown, including sound coupled with motion graphics. My sound art was exhibited through-out the North and South of Taiwan in 2003.

An important part of my work was gaining an understanding of how the network can play a part in our music making activities. Our exploration led beyond the concept of linking remote participants to how the network itself can become an essential part of the artwork.

I created all the sounds for performance while configuring and programming the applications that create the music.

Statement 1

Traffic is a carnivore client which attempts to create spontaneous real time auditory compositions or improvisations using data gained from network surveillance. Many previous examples of this type of work attempted to create unique visualisations that allow you to see network traffic and thereby create a new understanding of what are essentially invisible unheard events. My approach is to allow the users of the network to wittingly or unwittingly play a part in creating unique compositions within certain harmonic constraints.

Traffic interprets ip data that carnivore sends it by first assigning function to the 4 separate numerical groups. The first two sets are assigned to create simplistic animations, based on the origin of the data, to show that activity is present on the network. The last two groups of numbers are assigned to the creation of music. In this version of traffic the first group of these last two groups controls tempo and time while the last group controls melody and harmony. The melody and harmony is based 256 separate sound files which are loaded dynamically depending on the corresponding number.

When online you are identified by your ip address. All your interaction online is enabled by this identity. Instead of using this information for nefarious purposes, I have transformed this unique number into a single voice in a broader composition. Each network event was represented on screen by a simple character and by the introduction of a sound event.

Carnivore , created by RSG , is a surveillance tool for data networks. At the heart of the project is CarnivorePE, a software application that listens to the Internet traffic (email, web surfing, etc.) on a given local network. CarnivorePE serves this datastream over the net to a variety of interfaces called “clients.” These clients are each designed to animate, diagnose, or interpret the network traffic in various ways. Carnivore clients have been produced by a number of computational artists and designers from around the world.

CarnivorePE is inspired by DCS1000, a piece of software used by the FBI to perform electronic wiretaps. (Until recently, DCS1000 was known by its nickname “Carnivore.”) Improving on the FBI software, CarnivorePE features new functionality including: artist-made diagnosic clients, remote access, full subject targetting, full data targetting, volume buffering, transport protocol filtering, and an open source software license.

Statement 2

Traffic 2 attempts to create spontaneous real time auditory compositions or improvisations using data gained from network traffic. A secondary aim is to test our understanding of the usage of network data in the public and private sphere.

We treat the network as an unseen life form – a body in constant change – born from the usage patterns of the users of the system. By using network traffic as a tool for creating music we in effect illustrate this unseen form.

Unlike traditional musical performances, Traffic 2 does not exist over a set period of time. It is in effect never ending and never the same at any given point in time.

Traffic 2 uses a very simple logic. Pre-created sound files are dynamically played as there corresponding data id number is recorded by our server software. The first step, we use our software to collect network data. Using the “sender ip” we call different sounds (or movies). The following is the formula:There are 4 numbers constitute an ip, eg. a.b.c.d, then we transfer it to an unique number using the operation:

IPNun=a16^3+b16^2+c16^1+d16^0 to get an unique number IPNun, then mode it with the number (MovNum) of movies we have, i.e.(IPNun) mod (Movnum)The result is the movie number which we will call in the movies’ sequence.

Carnivore taps the data lines of the server on which it is installed. A flow of data is fed into a software client for the purposes of artistic performance.

This installation hoped to test our understanding of the usage of network data in the public and private spheres.

Output samples