The second iteration of this project focused on resonance as a physical and social phenomenon. Physical resonance depends on amplification of a signal through frequency matching. The key elements are that one external system acts on another, causing an increase in the amplitude of oscillation. Resonance occurs in and along specific frequencies. The classic examples are the soprano shattering a glass and a bridge swaying to the point of destruction. In the first example, the frequency of the sound wave produced by the human voice matches the resonant frequency of the glass, causing it to vibrate at ever increasing amplitude and ultimately shatter. In the second example, the susceptibility of a bridge to respond at an increased amplitude when the frequency of oscillation caused by footfall or heavy traffic matches its natural frequency of vibration causes it to undergo mechanical failure. All the materials around us vibrate at specific frequencies, external influence can be introduced to create resonance in them, a playground swing works in this way, as does the mainspring in a mechanical watch and the optical cavity in a laser. Many modern technological devices depend on resonance. Magnetic resonance imaging depends on atomic resonance, and television reception on electrical resonance. Taking a neuro-scientific approach Wheatley and Sievers (2016) describe empathy and communication between individuals and throughout society as examples of social resonance – the mechanism by which brain signals resonate through social groups and ultimately society. Coleman at el (2014) trace the history of though related to social resonance with particular reference to second order cybernetics, Ashby, Varela and Bateson etc. Students were asked to design and make an object or system that demonstrates resonance, focusing on the physical and social properties of resonance as a naturally occurring phenomenon and as a metaphorical construct.

Rob Marshall and Noami Ashworth made a resonating sculpture stretched across the stairwell. An input of energy at one end caused a ripple through the whole system in which it appeared to travel along the length of the ribbon, bounce against the far end and travel back. Using simple materials they took advantage of the resonating space of the stairwell and the natural oscillation of the arms in the mobile. Experimentation with different materials and spans may produce more pronounced resonance.

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Tae Young Choi and Thibault Evrard collaborated on a design featuring a light flickering in response to heart rates. The idea is that two people would be able to synchronise their heart beats and the resulting frequency would result in a form of emotional and physical resonance. The finger sensors worked well to trigger the light which glowed two different colours to indicate the two heart rates. Responses from the group suggested the design could be developed to be a more immersive experience perhaps with an entire room or other responsive environment pulsating in time to heart beats.

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Gregg Orrom-Swan and Jack Alexandroff made a measurement device intended to give feedback on the pace of life in distant cities. A wheel rolls at the walking speed of the user, the speed is mapped to a database of average walking speeds of global cities. A small screen then tells the user that they are walking at Cairo speed or Paris speed etc. The aim here is to evoke resonance between two different and disconnected urban systems by feeding information into a personal context. Walking is then reframed as a resonance creating activity creating the possibility to shop at Los Angeles or Hong Kong speed, then saunter at Rio speed.

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Valeriya Zaytseva and Albert Barbu made a connection system featuring two boxes placed in different locations. Each one had 2 buttons, headphones and a receipt slot. When someone approached a box and picked up the headphones, the other box starts to ring, inviting a by-passer to participate. If they stopped to pick up their own set of headphones, both then heard a set of random questions, to which they could answer by pressing a button. If people answered in the same way the design inferred they were in resonance and a ‘clue’ was printed. Clues contained short lines of information such as location/behaviour that helped people to meet. Only those who answered all the questions in the same way ‘resonated’ and thus only they received the full sets of clues required to set up a face to face meeting. A great idea perhaps realised in a slightly convoluted way, somewhat reminiscent of the classic Mr and Mrs TV show.

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Tom James and Eleni Papazoglou made a group interaction piece consisting of a large wooden circle balancing on a ball. This required people to collaborate on finding the fulcrum, performing a careful group shifting of body weight and position. While the physical properties of the design were improvised in the short two week project period the interactions it elicited were complex – a good example of emergence. Resonance appeared elusive in this project but on reflection it did require some subtle communication between participants that increased the longer we spent standing on it and reacted to each other.

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