The Revolution will not be Amplified

A mobile loudspeaker array

Something like what you see above will not be found around the #occupy movements growing in cities around the globe.  An amplified platform, broadcasting a clear and distinct message, is fittingly absent.  It is not permissible by many of the occupied downtown neighborhoods, nor is it even necessary as a technology for these groups to express themselves.

The NYPD requires a Sound Device Application, plus 45 dollars per day, to use amplified sound in a public space.  This includes battery-powered bullhorns.  While numerous groups have applied for permits, it stands within reason that the NYPD is not going to be granting any permits to the Occupy Wall Street movement. How is one to speak to a crowd of hundreds?

Free and requiring no permit is the human microphone. Anyone who has heard one of the celebrities speaking to the crowds will be familiar with its odd cadence and glitchy translations.  The concept is incredibly simple: a group of people who can hear the speaker simply repeat what was said, causing speech to move at a slow and deliberate pace.

Corporate art as sound amplification near Liberty Park, NY  (edited; orginal by Cryptome)
While the human microphone is an awesome, almost church-like display of the power of a group, it is worth thinking about how the built context of a protest group might assist in the un-powered amplification of speech.  We know from stages and well-designed lecture halls that reflective surfaces near the speaker amplify sound.  The same principles can be taken outside.  The above image caught my attention when I realized that corporate art is often made of large, hard surfaces.  This group of activists found a 'natural' site of sound amplification and gathered around it.

In lieu of being approved for one of those amplified sound permits, perhaps Occupy Wall Street or any number of Occupy movements around the country should solicit pro bono advice from an acoustics engineer at the Arup SoundLab.  Or better yet, find a blind person.  Acoustic wayfinding helps the blind use sound reflections to navigate urban space.  There might be hidden sweet spots in some of these parks and plazas that would help amplify the human microphone.

Slavoj Zizek and the Human Microphone (edited; original by Cryptome

I was watching Slavoj Zizek's human-microphone-amplified speech and what struck me most were not his words but the situation of my watching the video.  This video, with the recording taken from somewhere in the middle of a giant human microphone, left the impression of the crowd generating the words, and the speaker with his tiny voice becoming anonymous.

To top it off, next to the human microphone video was a google ad for a loudspeaker array, from a company called TVi Audio.  The slogan? "Experience the Revolution".