There is a risk of the PAudiotron experience being harsh, annoying, or just plain unpleasant, due to the small enclosed space and captive nature of the potties. Therefore, the PAudiotron audio experience will adhere to the following guidelines (warning: this section is dense and a little technical):
- Volume: The volume of each experience will be carefully tuned to be loud enough to be heard during the day with normal background noise, but quiet enough to not be jarring to anyone (other than the odd/extreme audio-sensitive); technically, this is 25% dynamic range for quiet stuff like dialog and 12.5% dynamic range for dense sounds like most music. This, it turns out, is a very tricky balance to do, which is why we don’t encourage random/unfiltered content installation into PAudiotron units. We will tune for a relatively quiet environment, even though there will be situations at Burning Man where the ambient noise will drown out the PAudiotron. As an aside, the very low volume helps save battery power, so most units are expected to last most of the week without battery changing.
- Length: The PAudiotron V1 units have limited internal memory (about 15-19 minutes at a moderate quality level) and guest visits are variable in length, triggering 2 or 3 tracks per visit. We want PAudiotron experiences to have quite a bit of variety. So, we want each track to be under a minute. This will give us at least 15 tracks per unit.
- Content: Most people when they think audio tracks think music. But just putting favorite tunes into a playlist and then foisting them on potty goers is not what the PAudiotron experience is about. We want the audio content to observe the following criteria:
- Creative: The PAudiotron listener wants something that feels like it was created by an audio artist. So content should be:
- Unique: While some bits and pieces of audio content will have originated someplace else, their assembly and presentation should clearly indicate an attempt at artistic expression. Uniqueness also applies to the audio experience not being easily found elsewhere at Burning Man, thus the prohibition on straight up music tracks.
- Thought Provoking: The material should have some inherent level of interest.
- Provocative of Feeling: An emotional response is very desirable.
- Clever: This is the opposite of boring or predictable.
- Transportive: Since the inside of a port-a-potty is its own little world, using sound to evoke a different time or place is a PAudiotron goal. Thus, soundscapes are encouraged. Soundscapes in which there is motion and movement are even better. But again, because we don’t want to have people feel like the PAudiotron has trapped them in a harsh nightmare, soundscapes should not be loud and/or frenetic. Soundscapes suggested by this guideline would include nature, city, vehicular, fantastic, surreal, creepy, and haunted.
- Venue Specific: Sound can be tricky in terms of conveying context and meaning.
But constraining the content to be relevant to the context in which the sound is heard goes a long way to helping listeners “get it”. If the listener can’t understand why he is hearing some particular content, he will be left with a nagging “the PAudiotron is stupid”:
- Burning Man Specific: This is Burning Man, so the PAudiotron experience can leverage this fact to provide context for content. It is OK to use Burning Man in-jokes or past history. References to beach/playa/desert are appropriate. Rants about the BORG, Pee Funnel Camp advertising, education about BM principles, comments about social norms, etc. are also good. Short Burning Man soundscapes are good.
- Potty Specific: The most direct context is that of being in a port-a-potty. Thus, listeners won’t be surprised to be exposed to (tasteful) potty humor/sounds, soft core sex simulations, etc.
- Enclosed Spaces Specific: A little more subtle, the port-a-potty is an enclosed space in which one is standing or sitting (squatting). So content that plays off enclosed spaces is already half way to ensuring that the listener will understand why he is hearing enclosed space content. Any enclosed space qualifies: elevator (Muzak clips), Tardis (from Dr. Who), turbo lift (Star Trek), transporter (Star Trek), pod bay (2001), shower, coffin, prison cell, airlock, toilet stall, TSA scanner, MIR scanner, closet, etc.
- Legal: Fair use of copyrighted material is OK.
Particularly, in determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered include:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes (in this case, art);
- The nature of the copyrighted work;
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole (i.e., whole songs are a bad idea); and
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
At the end of the day, PAudiotron management has to protect the PAudiotron image and brand, and will have the final say about content.
We, the management, apologize for this un-Burner like stand, but we also know that bad content that does not follow the above guidelines
will kill the PAudiotron from fulfilling it rightful place in the fabric of Burning Man, today and in the future.
Long Live The PAudiotron!
Note to Hackers: The PAudiotron, by its nature of being an electronic device, is hackable (putting your own content on the device).
Should you be considering hacking the PAudiotron, please consider the following:
- Don't: This is the PAudiotron Team's art. Please don't deface it.
- Not this Year: At least give the PAudiotron a pass this year.
- Do It Late in the Week: Let Burners have the PAudiotron experience for the first half of the week.
- Label It: If you insist, please put some label on the inside PAudiotron poster
indicating that folks are getting your experience, not the PAudiotron experience.
- Work with Us: If you really want your content on a PAudiotron, but without getting involved
in the project, feel free to contact us and we will work something out so you get some agreed upon time on some
agreed upon set of units.
At the least, please, please, please follow the volume guidelines described above.
And remember, the PAudiotron has an on/off switch, so if what you put on the units sucks,
folks will just turn it off.
Thanks for your consideration.