STAPLR Dispersion (2016)

This was a collaboration with York University Associate Librarian William Denton and the students of my “Performing Telepresence” course. Denton created a real-time sonification of the library’s reference desk activity, called STAPLR (Sounds in Time Actively Performing Library Reference). Equal parts installation, sonification, and performance, the STAPLR Dispersion piece created a performative conversation with the library space, influencing the data streams and drawing attention to the practices and rituals of the library. We created sound and light instruments to receive the library data, which defined an immersive space within the DisPerSion Lab that spatialized the sound and light based on the library branch that the data was coming from. Twitter was scraped for hashtags and keywords, which modified the results and were displayed as part of the piece. Laptop stations showing the stream from the lab, the sonification stream and the Twitter comments were placed at five different library branches and students embedded themselves (quietly!) with headphones at each station. Library patrons were made aware of the ongoing activity and encouraged to join in and influence the piece either by tweeting or by engaging the reference desk, thereby altering the sonified data and engaging the public in a performative interaction with the library space. Various students and librarians moved between libraries and the immersive lab space, creating a meditative engagement with public space, data, archives and performative practices in everyday life.


Conception and Direction: 

Doug Van Nort

Library Data Sonification:

William Denton

Sound, Light and Text Instrument Design:

Doug Van Nort and students from the “Performing Telepresence” course: Gale Cabiles, Kevin Feliciano, Floria Fu, Akeem Glasgow, Radi Hilaneh, Rory Hoy, Justin Hsieh, Candy Hua, Raechel Kula, Sam Noto, Sarah Siddiqui, Keren Xu, Carey Zheng, Mingxin Zhang, Keke Zhou, Tongliang Liu)

Further Reading

Doug Van Nort, “Distributed Networks of Listening and Sounding: 20 Years of Telematic Musicking”, Journal of Network Music and Arts 5 (1), 6, 2023.