Flow towerview2 credit Kathy Hinde

Creative Ecologies Category

Rabbit Holes Collective Reflections on Progress

by Dr Penny Hay and the Rabbit Holes Collective'

Rabbit Holes Collective involves a group of artists and creative professionals exploring adaptive podcasting to create unique content and invite (especially young) people to metaphorically ‘fall down a rabbit hole’ to connect more deeply with nature. Individuals discover how they can use adaptive technologies to create podcasts unique to the listener and their context.

This Collective started with initial research as part of the Expanded Performance cohort gathering. Following a conversation about the power of the imagination, Penny Hay teamed up with Ian Forrester and James Cook from the BBC, together with a whole host of creatives and now supported through the Trailblazer fund.

BBC Research & Development is supporting the Collective in new ways of sharing ideas via digital and emerging technologies, creating peer-to-peer connections and networks of learning and support. Working alongside artists and technologists, the Collective aims to constructively disrupt and reimagine possibilities for digital collaboration by developing ideas in different immersive and sensorial technology.

Working with disruptive technology comes with its challenges. The adaptive podcasting app only runs on Android devices and making podcasts for it is similar to writing web pages. However, throughout the collaboration, the artists and creative professionals have stayed upbeat about the possibilities by creating prototypes.

We want to invite their audiences to have a fulfilling and enriching experience, one that allows a personal journey based on imagination and transformation. Rabbit Holes Collective is a community of practice that prioritises openness of delivery, creative consumption and co-creation.

So incredibly, through a moment of serendipity and synchronicity, we now have the Rabbit Holes Collective as a partner in Forest of Imagination. We have tested ideas with the Expanded Performance cohort and prioritise co-production with young people going forward. We have focused on how play, imagination and reflection will inform this creative process, to engage with and deconstruct ideas together.

Ian Forrester, Senior Firestarter, BBC Creative R&D

BBC R&D have been working on Object-based media for quite some time, one of the key aspects in object-based media is using implicit data sources to affect the media in some way. We call this Perceptive Media. This is the basis of adaptive podcasting and it's built for a community of practice, encouraging others to experiment, learn and share knowledge together. Practically this is centred around the Android player which is an app. The app works like a typical podcast, downloading remote podcasts using RSS (really simple syndication) feeds. Once downloaded, the podcasts are played based on a higher level scripting format called SMIL (Syndicarised Multimedia Integration Language).

Kathy Hinde - Audiovisual Artist | Deep Listening Walks as adaptive podcasts

Image Credit: Kathy Hinde

For the past 5 - 6 years, I have been taking people on participatory Deep Listening Walks, which involves sharing a listening experience from an unusual perspective (often underwater), to reveal the often hidden qualities of our surroundings. The act of Deep Listening is to practice unfiltered listening; to pay attention; to attend to, and to tune in to our surroundings, which can be a powerful way to connect more deeply with nature. I often work with generative software to create open-scored compositions and installations, which play out within open frameworks, rather than fixed forms, so they are different each time they are experienced. The adaptive podcast offers a lot of potential as a new format for Deep Listening walks and open scored pieces.

I have noticed that actively listening on location with microphones that enhance usually inaudible sounds, can intensify the experience of our other senses. When Deep Listening, I become more aware of the other conditions of a location, often in connection with the weather. Recordings I've made on location feel very different when listened to in another context, which has prompted me to investigate how sound and weather could become compelling experiential partners within a locative, creative listening experience.

Image Credit: James Cook BBC

Weather physically affects sound, not only in how sound reverberates and travels through air, but also by actively creating sound, eg - what surfaces rain is falling onto, and how wind resonates solid objects to create natural aeolian harps, rattle boat masts and move trees. Both sound and weather work with pressure waves. With these ideas in mind, I have been making sound recordings of different weather conditions, with the aim to construct a weather-related adaptive podcast using a ‘weather merchant’ to change the sound composition from the daily weather forecast. A further, future aim would be to work with young people to design their own weather-responsive adaptive podcasts via a series of Deep Listening walks and workshops.

I created the following soundscape using recordings from hydrophones, to share an underwater soundscape to be listened to whilst walking along the river Avon at Locksbrook Campus, Bath Spa University and some more hydrophone sounds from a location with active invertebrate sounds.

Image Credit: Ibi Feher

Joseff Harris - Composer & Sound Designer

underGrowth: unearthing the intelligence of forest communication networks in a collaboration between sound, science and technology. Blending binaural field recordings and original composition, underGrowth is an ongoing project between Composer and Sound Designer Joseff Harris, Forest Ecologist Dr. Tommaso Jucker and Computer Scientist Dr. Tom Mitchell. The ultimate aim of the project is to sonify the scientific data emitted from oak tree seedlings when experiencing drought, revealing how trees communicate below ground when undergoing extreme climate conditions. With 50 oak tree seedlings being planted in two different soil conditions, we will attach electrodes and soil temperature/moisture loggers to them for a period of two months.

With this all being kickstarted in the immediate future, we will then be able to accurately monitor the changing states of the seedlings and represent the data in sound. The project will allow scientific results and data to be accessed in innovative ways, exploring the middle ground between art, science and environmentalism; I strongly feel that this will open up new pathways for understanding the complexities of forests and how human footprint is impacting it. We will be building a platform that will enable us to take the model to an exponential number of forests to reveal the intelligence of the underground through sound.

Image Credit: Chelsey Cliff

James Cook - Exec Editor of the Creative Development Unit, BBC Audio.

Adaptive podcasting is a way of making pieces of audio that respond to the listener - allowing the listener greater control or influence over the piece they are listening to. They will be able to change various aspects of the audio - to re-order it, change the music or the sound design, change the narrative voice, strip bits out or ask to go deeper into certain aspects of a story. In fact, there are a myriad of ways they can manipulate it. So, rather than being a ‘passive’ recipient of the audio, the listener is a co-creator of it. In that way, adaptive podcasting breaks down the traditional distinction between producer and listener. This means it’s not just exciting in terms of what you might make (and how you might listen) it’s also exciting in terms of who gets to make it. The platform is about encouraging a community of audio makers to come together and co-design projects or find ways of working creatively from the same materials; and it affords listeners the opportunity to join in this process, to become makers and crafters of their own listening experiences.

Thoughts for the future

The Rabbit Holes Collective are applying for future funding to take the prototype to the next stage. Watch this space!