Using the Library

In one of our taught sessions, we toyed with the idea of exploring the library through instructive audio. Group members were given wireless headphones and a transmitter was used by the lecturer to feed us instructions as we walked around the library.

The commands were not particularly difficult to begin with. Simple tasks such as pretending to look for a book, or pretending to type, eased us into the situation, before they began to get a little more intrusive. After we had begun to feel comfortable, we were asked to do tasks such as sit down near a group of people and begin to sing happy birthday, made slightly more difficult for myself as I had decided to travel to a different floor of the library on my own, so gained no comfort from ‘safety in numbers’.  We were also asked, at the end of a short countdown, to collapse to the floor and lie motionless. We realised upon doing this that nobody came to our aid, and the majority of people didn’t even want to look at us. They would glance over when the movement caught their eye, then look back at their work, as if not wanting to become involved with the drama (excuse the pun). Upon discussion, we decided that this was more to do with the fact that the wireless headphones we were wearing were large and prominent, not because the people in the library have no souls.

The size of the headphones, in my opinion, made the piece a little less effective, as it was obvious to the audience that we were part of some kind of performance or pre-planned event. This made them a little tentative to become involved, through fear of being dragged in and possibly humiliated.

Another flaw with the idea was the lack of signal in some areas of the library. Because we were using wireless devices, we were relying on an adequate reception for them to work. This meant that in certain areas, such as the back end of the library and the stairwells, where the signal was not detected,  the speech and instructions were not audible. This meant the participants were unable to take part if they walked into one of these areas.

I realised when doing the exercise that when you put on the headphones, you suddenly became a more confident person, it was as though you were in your own little world. Because the headphones blocked out background noise, you could only hear the voice of the person giving you your instructions. This meant that you were not worried about the other people in the library. It was also reassuring to know that there were a large number of people doing the same activity.

We also looked at some podcasts online by Fuel Theatre, who created a series of podcasts called ‘everyday moments’ based around everyday life, designed to be listened to whilst doing the same activities mentioned in the audio, such as sitting in bed in the morning with a cup of coffee, or standing in a licked bathroom in front of the mirror. They created a piece for a completely dark room at the Oxford Playhouse, and described it as ‘an invitation to move without inhibition’.1 I feel this statement ties in with my earlier suggestion that an audio piece can make you feel more confident as you are not as aware of your surroundings.

From this experience, I have decided that an audio piece would work well with my earlier idea of being a person in the library and not a number, though I would be tempted to work with a downloadable podcast so as to not incur the problems that we had with signal whilst using the wireless device.

  1. Shechter, Hofesh (2011) Everyday Moments, Online: (accessed 19 March 2013) []

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