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Tuning Fork – Phil Heslop

The Tuning Fork is an exploration of the concept of Harmony, and what that means in the IoT.

Does the current model of IoT foster connection with other humans? And what form does this connection take? IoT seems to be following the established social media paradigm, that connection = communication, and individuals either directly manage their own social sphere to maintain a feeling of connection, or are prompted to connect via an algorithm designed to maximise the number of interactions with a platform (i.e. click harvesting). The side effect of this kind of process is the creation of silos or social bubbles[1], and algorithms tuned towards anger and antagonism (expressed as more clicks) rather than consensus and empathy[2]. The current state of social media, which on the surface facilitates a supportive connection to others, is often in reality divisive and can be a platform for harm or bullying.

The Tuning Fork project is an exploration by Phil of an alternative model of connection; the concept of harmony (meaning things which are complementary, but not necessarily the same, e.g. fish and chips, not chips and chips), and what that means in the IoT, which is ultimately an internet of people. The musical concept of harmony is used as an interaction metaphor, with the physical device resembling the musician’s tool and the interaction working in a similar way as a tuning fork — the ‘sound’ produced by the user measures their ‘harmony’ with others and the world, through a ‘social-able media platform’. The piece is a counter to the often-divisive way in which we interact with each other over social media, instead focusing on what connects us.

The final concept is for a Tuning Fork that captures your current sound (whatever that may be), calculates a ‘note’ and uses your note as an input into a ‘social media platform’. The platform can then show who or what you are currently in harmony with — other individuals, groups, nature (e.g. birdsong) or the universe itself. Through seeing how you harmonise with others and how you fit in the spectrum of everyone, you can experience the ways in which we are all connected, not through being the same, but by being part of a broad ecology that requires harmonious diversity to flourish.

“The Tuning Fork was inspired by a conversation with a music teacher who, during Covid, had wanted a way for his remote students to tell if they were in harmony with each other”. — Phil

[1] Eli Pariser. 2011. The filter bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you. Penguin UK.

[2] Luke Munn. 2020. Angry by design: toxic communication and technical architectures. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7, 1: 53.