To begin figuring out how a single light can be used to communicate something, I mapped out what I thought to be the significant communicative elements of a light. These were:
Each of these elements could affect what a light communicates in several ways. For example, directionality of light leads to the question of what is being illuminated and what is being hidden, and why those choices have been made. The form of the light would determine the “texture” of it e.g. tight beam, general flood. The form has technical implications such as directionality and spread but also aesthetic implications. Physically, the different types of light would be read differently based on how they interact with the space.
Colour also became an extremely important factor for me. What would be the relation between emitted light colour and the perceived colour of the environment and objects within the environment. What would be the emotive weight or affect of particular colours? What would be the subjective synesthetic relations established between colour and individual participants?
Then came considerations of how to interact with the light. I started by deciding that the light must do more than change a parameter based on something one does. Changes to its output should in turn result in a change in the participant’s actions. The output of the light should feed back to the input (participant).
I came up with this idea: an audio responsive room. The room contains nothing but a single large light (I thought of it as a big RGB LED). I imagined the whole space fitting comfortably fitting about 20-30 people. My idea is for this light to communicate something on the nature of communication between the audience members in the room. The light has 3 parameters that can be changed:
- Colour (RGB)
- Frequency/stability – the rate at which parameters 1 and 2 change
The light would be responsive to changes in the following elements of the room sound:
- Predominant pitch(es) (if any).
- Noise vs. tone(s)
The interaction would be as follows. The predominant pitch maps to the colour spectrum of the light. Lower frequencies correspond to redder light, while higher frequencies correspond to bluer light. The amplitude corresponds to the intensity/brightness of the light. Louder room = brighter light. A prevalence of tones would mean a more stable light, while more noise would mean greater fluctuations (rate at which room information is sampled and light output is changed).
The idea here is that different forms of communication would be reflected in the light output. For example, a hushed conversation would have no predominant pitch (white light), a low amplitude (brightness) and, be noisier. But imagine if the room was full of shouting, singing, or wailing. And ultimately, the output achievable by a group of participants working together would be far more interesting than an individual interaction.
So essentially the idea is for the audience to explore first how their individual sound affects the light and then to realize their full potential as a group in engaging with their vocal capacity and different methods of sonification as reflected by the changing light. The audience would hopefully understand that their co-operative effort can achieve things that they cannot individually.