Forma

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a participatory audio-visual communication infrastructure, designed and deployed by Umbrellium in collaboration with local residents and organisations in east Durham. 

People that host part of the mesh network install a Light Antenna (attached to windows on the outside of their homes) that lights up as voices pass down the street, and a Radio Box inside on the windowsill to listen in to what people are saying and performing at VoiceOver Stations that link up surrounding public urban spaces.


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VoiceOver

Umbrellium
2016

VoiceOver is a participatory audio-visual communication infrastructure, designed and deployed by Umbrellium in collaboration with local residents and organisations in east Durham. 

People that host part of the mesh network install a Light Antenna (attached to windows on the outside of their homes) that lights up as voices pass down the street, and a Radio Box inside on the windowsill to listen in to what people are saying and performing at VoiceOver Stations that link up surrounding public urban spaces.

  • Premiered

    25 – 28 March 2016
    East Durham Creates, UK

  • Credits

    VoiceOver East Durham was commissioned as part of East Durham Creates, one of 21 Creative People and Places projects nationally, funded by Arts Council England. VoiceOver is an Umbrellium project, produced by Forma.

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Installation view, Umbrellium, VoiceOver, 2016. Photo: Richard Kentworthy

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Installation view, Umbrellium, VoiceOver, 2016. Photo: Richard Kentworthy

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Installation view, Umbrellium, VoiceOver, 2016. Photo: Richard Kentworthy

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As sound passes up and down the streets and weaves throughout a town, each fragment lights up in response to the different voices and sounds passing through it, making explicit the lines of communication, and connecting together people who, in many cases, were never connected to each other before. VoiceOver gives neighbours who have never spoken to each other before an excuse to talk, ask questions and share stories.

Rather than simply being an ‘efficient’ communication tool (a phone would have been better for one-on-one conversations, and WhatsApp probably more private) the aim is to get as many people as possible together at the same time communicating with others they might not even know, and meaningfully involved in creating, installing, supporting and bringing to life a cultural infrastructure, one that actively encourages performance, sharing and storytelling.

Umbrellium designs and builds urban technologies that support citizen empowerment and high-impact engagement in cities. Working throughout the world with communities, organisations, urban developments and city councils to develop urban technology projects and products, Umbrellium collaborate on building engaging cities (rather than ‘smart’ cities) that put people’s needs first. Their aim is for participants to develop a shared sense of technological enfranchisement and ownership in civic outcomes. 

Background image: Installation view, Umbrellium, VoiceOver, 2016. Photo: Richard Kentworthy