The ZombieBook Pro is a continuation of the sound project we did earlier in the semester. The “broken” laptop is handed to a participant and they are instructed to do a series of activities with it in the style of a tech support tutorial. Here is a filmed run through of the performance:
I wanted to make something that reanimates my dead laptop and memorializes it. This was an object that I used and valued above all others for many years but when it began its slow decent into inoperability I quickly grew frustrated and detached. I though about what it would be like if this were a living creature with wants and desires, and how cold and abrupt its abandonment would seem. I wanted to make something that created sense of life clinging to a failing body.
At first I thought this would use an accelerometer and some timed sounds, lights and vibrations to create this effect. However as I began working on it I ran into some power management problems and nothing seemed to be as powerful an effect as I hoped. Lights were dimmer than expected, motors ran more slowly etc… At the same time I realized that the electronics I had replaced on the inside were almost as interesting and relevant as the damaged exterior case, sounds and lights. I couldn’t figure out how to position the Zombiebook so that the user would experience all of these and feel a connection to it as a sort of living thing. This was super disappointing and I was not feeling great about handing it in until I had this idea to turn it into a sort of performance and have the user follow a set of instructions. I wrote out a script that I thought would be inviting and funny for the user but also kind of brutal and hateful towards the computer. In combination with the chaotic sounds and lights this created what I thought would be a Milgram experiment atmosphere.
This project made use of a MacBook Pro 2010 case, an Arduino uno, and ADXL335 accelerometer, a handful of high power LEDs, a bluetooth serial link, one of the original computer fans, and a battery pack. Here is a video of the internal components running without interaction:
Originally I was hoping that I could send data to a max patch from the accelerometer and then send data back to the lights and fan from the computer. Unfortunately I couldn’t get this communication to work in both directions at the same time so I ended up randomizing blinking in the lights and fan. To my surprise this actually came out to seeming fairly organic. The accelerometer data then fed into a max patch that triggered a series of different sounds depending on the intensity of movement. The sounds would also speed up, slow down, and change looping behavior as well. Frankly, this part of the project worked well for my purposes but it felt extremely hacky. I had a hard time smoothing the accelerometer input and the patch requires a lot of “setup” each time it is run.
Ultimately this project felt like a rollercoaster to work on. At one point I thought I had made something really useless but then by reframing it I ended up with one of my favorite ITP projects so far. I think there are a lot of opportunities to expand this as well so I’m looking forward to that… If I have time.