The Beagle

For the project a special recording device was developed, nicknamed “The Beagle”. The Beagle looks like a normal sling-bag and allows people to go out on their own, and record the city in a special orchestrated way. It takes the participant into a solist, yet shared journey and center stages the role of the individual as a data collecting entity.
The Beagle records sound and movements and gives the person who wears it a series of prompts (via a pre-recorded pod-cast) whereby the participant is given a choice on forehand: between 3 options of prompts-flavours: an empathic, a suspicious or a neutral angle. After her/his return, the participants trajectory is synced with the sound recordings and both are audio-visualised in a cinematographic way: they play out on the flatness of the satellite images.

Ivar wearing the Beagle

The thus edited recordings are experienced by the public as an shared journey that delicately balances between the surveillance, and empathy mode of watching data. Never explicitly mentioning this subject matter, but rather focussing on the personal reactions of people to their familiar or unfamiliar environments, the thematic core “ The human as data collector” is an under current of this experimental documentary approach.

Despite of using one of the major big data collectors platform (Google), the project places itself in an poetic contradiction with… or play with… if you like… the common big-data framework, where generalisation, even on the level of personalised data is core. The Beagle on the contrary collects the participant’s spoken reactions to the city, in a very aware and poetically constructed and media specific manner; triggered by a set of self chosen prompts, and combined with her/his deliberately self-choreographed movements and the contingent appearance of ambient sounds of the city surrounding her/him.

The Beagle was developed in Philadelphia in 2014 as part of the 250 miles project.

A voice recording microphone, positioned on the chest will record ones voice in mono.
There are two more mics, one on the back of the bag, and one on the strap around the body. In that way the person wearing the Beagle become a stereo microphone recording the ambient sounds. The bag also contains a GPS recorder and a podcast with three different voices to choose from.

Akh is off, on his bike ride through his old neighborhood.
Akh is off, on his bike ride through his old neighborhood.
beagle close up
Ursula Rieker and her daughter Caroline.