Tactical Sound Garden – Mobile Music #8


I haven’t been posting in a while as I’ve been writing up a thesis on Mobile Music. I’m back posting now, and as well as writing about other people’s work I’m going to be posting about In Your Own Time–the composition I wrote for my thesis. Expect some posts about this project in the coming weeks. Today, though, I’m going to focus on Tactical Sound Garden–a community based project using locative audio techniques.

Tactical Sound Garden (TSG) is an open source platform that facilitates community ‘sound gardens’ created by Mark Shepard. The platform piggybacks on existing wireless networks to facilitate members of the community to ‘plant’ sounds by geotagging them to a location. Other members of the community can then experience these sounds by listening to them on a wireless device. The care of the garden is left to members of the community who are able to tend the garden by ‘planting’ or ‘pruning’ sounds or to simply enjoy the garden. It is an example of using GPS technologies to create a locative audio experience. Here’s a short video of Mark Shepard describing the project:


Tactical Sound GardenThe project was created to harness the power of WiFi hotspots within cities to create community sound gardens. Any device enabled with WiFi technology is a conduit for the sound garden and allows the user to listen and maintain the garden. The aim of the platform is to facilitate a technological mediated community experience.

The individual user’s devices act as a network client and when they enter the sound garden and open the TSG application they connect to a web server with information about the garden.  The device downloads the sounds for the garden and they are played back as the user walks through the mapped locations. The programme also allows the user to ‘plant’ their own sounds or to ‘prune’ existing sounds while leaving a note for the original planter.  When ‘planting’ or ‘pruning’ the sounds the gardener has the option to specify a time when the sound is heard or how often it is repeated.

Tactical Sound Garden user screens


The experience of this project has two aspects, the listener experience and the community experience. Any member of the general public can listen to a garden. Once they open the TSG programme and connect to the server they can access the audio and mappings allowing playback. Listeners are able to hear the sound garden created by the communities and enjoy the fruits of their labour. As well as the sonic experience there is a community experience with the users able to participate in creating and maintaining the garden. This provides the opportunity for the users to be creative with their personal sonic experience and to create something that can be enjoyed by the community as well.

Tactical Sound Garden representation

TSG is an interesting take on the locative audio experience. Shepard, the creator of the project, is an architect as well as an artist and his interest in community space was the motivation to create this project. The project is a unique approach to locative audio, creating a community-maintained sonic garden. The project has an interesting sociological aspect ‘How do users interact and relate to an intangible community space?’.