The Cosmos Room: a data driven sound installation for experiencing data

TEDFellows Retreat 2013. August 17 - 21, 2013, Whistler, BC. Photo: Ryan Lash

Amanullah Mojadidi and I in the Cosmos Room. Photo credit: Ryan Lash

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Artists Nathalie Miebach and Julie Freeman in the Cosmos Room

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Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo and engineers Nina Tandon and Jen Indovina in the Cosmos Room

In August of 2013, several hundred TED Fellows descended on Whistler BC to attend the first-ever Fellows’ Retreat. It was a really incredible week– an opportunity to see old friends from each of our classes, and to make new friends amongst this amazing community of people. The week was extra special for me, as I mounted my first art installation: the Cosmos Room. Cosmos is the first deployment of the data sonification work I’ve been doing: an immersive environment for experiencing data in a visceral, yet meditative way. The environment consists of a dome, in which a software program listens for ambient noise in the room. When noise is detected, the software chooses and plays a sound file from a library of sonified Kepler data. After the initial trigger, the sound becomes an overlapping cascade of sonic data, immersing the guest in a bath of data that can be experienced directly, without mediation or explanation. Abstract projections across the dome ceiling create patterns of darkness and light that recall the cosmos, without being a literal planetarium experience. On the floor, yoga mats are laid out in the pattern of the Kepler detectors, creating a meditative environment for guests to sit and experience the data-driven sound.TEDFellows Retreat 2013. August 17 - 21, 2013, Whistler, BC. Photo: Ryan LashP1020539P1020471

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