The ECHO Theory

In the modern age, we are constantly inundated with a plethora of information. When accosted with this constant stream of consciousness, it is necessary to filter out and focus on only the topics that appeal to you. However, this human defense mechanism has its downsides, as often times, more “important” issues will be overshadowed by shallower, yet viscerally satisfying topics. For example, a quick look at the Yahoo front page will reveal a scroll bar of “top stories” that the editors feel are most likely to be read. Near the top of the list are banal tales of Celebrity weddings and shallow fashion advice. In contrast, more “important” stories, like political upheavals, are thrown to the wayside.

According to DailyBeatsMotion.com, these are the top trending topics from September 2012:

Here are the top 10 Twitter Trends for September 2012, ranked by the number of days on which they trended in at least one major metro area in the US.

  1. #nowplaying: (29 days) –
  2. Bonanza: (26 days)
  3. Cali: (26 days)
  4. #job: (26 days)
  5. #oomf:  (24 days)
  6. #blessed: (23 days)
  7. Facebook: (22 days)
  8. Calm: (22 days)
  9. Netflix: (21 days)
  10. #news: (21 days)

The goal of this project is to expose this unfortunate truth, which is accomplished by counting the number of Tweets under the hashtags: #firstworldproblems #humblebrag #yolo; allowing us a glimpse into the true concerns of the modern age. These concepts are going to be represented by a droning sound, which represents the numbing drone of the twitter feed. To draw attention to this, we will also monitor the hashtags of a few, more “important”, tweets: like human rights and the like. When our program detects these tweets, instead of a comfortable droning noise, a bit more dissonant, looping sound will play – hopefully jarring the listener.

These sounds will be playing all at once, which will cause a hellish cacophony – but this is the point.  We contribute to the noise of media with opinions and discussion every day through our tweets, but how many of them are making a difference?  By hacking the Twitter system and hashtags and making more of a clear dichotomy between “first world problems” and “real world problems,” and converting them into sound to make a little more sense of the scale of this problem, perhaps people will take pause and really consider how they perceive the world.

This is a social experiment and an exercise in observing the digital environment that has become an integral part of our lives. The Echo Theory is our attempt to drag the gems of decency from the shallow black lake of escapism. While, in and of itself, E.C.H.O cannot change the world, the resulting insight may bring our society to a higher state of digital and social awareness.

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Project Inspirations: Arduino Harped

Our group’s first ventures into the world of hacking with arduinos was concerned primarily with the concept of disruption. Utilizing twitter, we incorporated an interactive element that allowed participants to trigger a motor, which in turn would spin wheels on a motorized car that was mounted on an autoharp. In theory, this setup would create a live noise experience with completely different sound results at every trigger.

Ideally, the audience would use certain hashtags that would immediately trigger this loud cacophonious noise. As this was a big learning experience for all of us, the final product was triggered by the signal of any tweet on our project’s own twitter account’s timeline: @arduinochopped. The account followed all group participants, so any tweet each of us made that showed up on the @arduinochopped home timeline triggered the motor to turn on for 1 second. The mounting on the car was also another hurdle, as the car tended to “roll off” the autoharp. We had to attach a shield to keep it in tact.

Unfortunately, the car itself ended up making more noise than the wheels spinning on the strings. A plucking motion would have been more ideal. This code was written in python by Belinda, Laura and Robert with the help of Andrew Famiglietti and lots of googling. It uses relatively simple concepts, but it was the first time our group had ever worked with Python or an API. Essentially, the code checks the @arduinochopped home timeline for new tweets every 15 seconds. If there has been any action, the code sends a message to the arduino to turn “on” for 1 second.

Python Code for Arduino Harped

Python Code for Arduino Harped

The arduino was connected to the car by hooking up with the integrated circuit chip on the motherboard of the motorized car. This was essentially the arduino code that spoke to the car:

Arduino Code for Arduino Harped

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