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Digital technology has transformed the listening experience. But there’s little in the way of physical artifacts of that act, and a diminished sense of humanized relationships to an individual being at the other end. From modern radio to Internet-streamed playlists, our listening world is DJed by automated robots in streams that flow through generic, mass-market speakers. The object and the content lack the design intention that imbued, for instance, the gorgeous radio sets of the early 20th Century and the personalities that narrated the programming.
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Armed with a lasercutter, designer Matt Brown has a novel concept for how to redesign the act of listening. From the creator’s blog Real Tomato:

For this system, you would have a speaker with an rfid reader, and laser-cut paper radios with rfid chips inside. The radios themselves are designed by musicians, charities, brands, and designers. When the paper radio is placed over the speaker it changes the radio station to what the artist has chosen. Other noises and interactions can be programmed in too. Alec Baldwin’s radio for example could politely ask everyone to turn their lights off from time to time. People could have the paper radios around their house in different rooms. The supremes radio might be a better living room station. This system tries to add a little bit of fun to internet radio, and give people a connection with the artists they choose. The radios themselves would hopefully be cheap and collectible little sculptures, each one accessing unique stations.

The artist, D.A.R.Y.L., is a recent alumnus of Sweden’s Umea institute of Design.

I think we need a new, specialized Creative Commons license that describes “Great Concepts I Probably Won’t Get to Developer Further so Please Go Run with It With Some Credit to Me.” (Okay, maybe with a shorter name.) I love the possibilities this project suggests, if for no other reason than the beautiful sculptures created with the lasercutter.

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The works themselves are printed out a single sheet and assembled. THat demonstrates some of the power lasercutters can provide, and the promise they hold for localized production of objects. (Use eco-friendly recycled paper and inks, and this is a consumer product that doesn’t deliver a dropkick to the planet.)

I just interviewed Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy, and he told me saw a survey that showed some 80% of music journalists listen through music via the built-in speakers in their laptops. That would be terrifying if true – I’m not certain that it is – but regardless, I think there is a clear need to rethink listening processes and objects.

Check out the post and the blog for more inspiring images. Via the wonderful Saturn Never Sleeps blog by Rucyl Mills and King Britt.

  • http://wizardishungry.com/ Jon Williams

    I just interviewed Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy, and he told me saw a survey that showed some 80% of music journalists listen through music via the built-in speakers in their laptops. That would be terrifying if true – I’m not certain that it is – but regardless, I think there is a clear need to rethink listening processes and objects.

    That can't be right.

  • Captain Howdy

    I don't get it…

  • Damon

    I like it. GUI for your radio listening. Just nice pieces of art as well. I often thought it would be cool if a company produced custom GUI cases for beloved gear. You could have all your gear dressed in style coordinated custom regalia. It is interesting how altering the visual sense of something can inspire how you observe it. I have said this before, and it does not bear repeating, but oh well…

  • http://www.myspace.com/keatshandwriting Keats'

    I hope that statistic fall into the "89% of statistics are made up on the spot" school of statistics.

    If not, that's utterly horrifying. If ANY music journalists listens to music on their speakers I would have been surprised, much less 80%. I can't imagine anyone who loves music, much less even *kinda likes* music enduring that torture. Even my girlfriend doesn't listen on her laptop speakers anymore.

  • http://nickkent.net nick kent

    It seems obvious that the statistic is not qualified by adding "occasionally", "exclusively", etc. I mean I will play a youtube from time to time and not power up my audio monitors, so that's surely listening to music through built in speakers. Actually that does bring up the subject that today we can listen to almost anything anytime in crap fidelity maybe even with a crap moving image. But are you really experiencing anything that the artist intended?

  • http://evolution bill pullman

    RFID IS an orwellian technology no need for its futuristic assistance in listening to music we have guitars for that

  • Thanks bill

    your right bill. i wrote something similar here yesterday and see now that my comment was deleted.

    oh well.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Bill: You do know how RFID works, correct? In this case, it's a passive circuit, about as evil as a Theremin. I mean, a *camera* is an Orwellian technology, but only dependent on how it's used. This chip literally doesn't do anything, let alone something bad.

    RFID is only a privacy concern when:

    a) its presence and use is known

    b) there's a reader to read it that's out of the hands of the user

    Neither is true here. There's no potential for abuse until you get to the iTunes stage, and then no more potential for abuse than simply using iTunes (and that's just in the shot as illustration — it's a concept, only — so you could use something else)

  • John

    Cool idea.

    Reminds me a bit of this guy's project: an RFID controlled SqueezeBox. In this case, songs/albums are represented by pictures which have RFID tags on the back of them.

  • Greg

    I don't get it. What does this thing exactly do? I understand the RFID-concept, but how does that change anything on your computer? Cause then you need an RFID-reader with a serial port… I dstill don't get it.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    That's right; you'd need a reader. Beyond that, I don't know — it's just a concept.