Palindrone – The sound of drones

Palindrone is about sound.

We spent a bit of time looking for existing recordings of drones to use as a basis for the work, originally I found this recording:

Posted by user Rosa Schiano, who, according to their YouTube profile is an Italian activist and photoreporter. The video was taken during the Israeli military operation “Pillar of Cloud”, which took place 14th through 21st November 2012. (This in the YouTube description for the video, is how Rosa refers to the operation, searching wikipedia returns this entry for “Operation Pillar of Defense” [] for which the Hebrew literally translates to “Pillar of Cloud”).

This operation is the first where there was no significant IDF presence on the ground in Gaza, the operation conducted through the use of air power, ostensibly through the use of drones.

When describing the project idea to Cathal, this was the sound that I used to illustrate what I was initially thinking of.

Further research led Cathal to find these samples that have been put online by Rana Baker and Rowaid El-Madhoun. It was these samples that formed the basis of the ‘drone’ that we installed at Lighthouse for v1.0 of Palindrone.

Rana Baker

Rowaid El-Madhoun

Again, these samples are from Gaza. The reports on drone use that helped to inspire the creation of the piece were reporting on their use in Yeman and Pakistan. In my searches online I have not found any significant online recordings of drone use in these regions though I am sure there are good reasons for this.

Of course, the affect these machines have is the same, the sound creating an omnious terrorizing atmosphere and whilst the report that I initially read was based on the situation in Yeman, further online research has uncovered similar reports from Gaza.

We have tried to contact both people but are yet to hear back from them, hence one reason for writing this post was to creat something to point at explaining what we are trying to do and how we are currently using their samples.

We have started to experiment with creating our own sound, artificially, as well as trying to create some field recordings of light aircraft. We do not want to use the samples we have found in further public installation without having spoken with the originators of the recordings.

How we continue to shape the sound of the piece depends on a lot of things, but if either Rana or Rowaid want to get in touch then they can email me at and I will be happy to talk to them further about what we are trying to do with Palindrone.

UnParty Update

The Unparty

We held another UnParty meet up, this time hosted by Hub Westminster.

One of the outcomes of this evenings meeting was a better structure on what the UnParty is, and where it sits in relation to a number of other projects that are currently underway.

Firstly, we have the crowd sourced manifesto. This project is being led by James Smith (@floppy). Using GitHub as a place to collect, discuss and present an openly sourced set of manifesto policies.

Next we have Democracy Club. At the last election Democracy Club was started and built some tools to try and help people better engage with the whole election process. It started too close to the election, so now, the project is being re-invigorated by Sym Roe (@symroe) and is starting again now with more time ahead of the election. Democracy is about tools, things that can be built to help people to engage better with the existing system. Non-partisan.

Finally we have UnParty, UnParty is a way of framing discussion about politics, participation outside of the traditional party model.

Now for the sketch part, an idea on what the UnParty can be to help take things forward.

What the UnParty can also be, is a way for independants standing in elections to have the support of a cohort.

If you stand in an election at any level, you agree to take part in the discussion openly with everyone else. Sharing of ideas and openess to listen to others who take part. We dont expect you to sign up to the manifesto, policy for policy, though you should contribute to the discussion and if your stance on an issue or policy idea is different, then you should be willing and able to back it up with why you feel you need to take a different tack.

The UnParty cannot punish you for this, for the UnParty has no whips, no structure for discipline within an organisation since it is not that.

What it is, is an agreement and a conversation. Politics and policy will change, the issues change, the facts on the ground often change. New information comes to light, old tenants are disproved by new evidence.

There is nothing to stop anyone just using the OpenPolitics manifesto, nor in fact taking part in all but name of the UnParty, but it is there if you want it.

It feels somewhat odd to deliberately try to create something which isn’t anything beyond and ackowledgment but that is what I feel is the best way forward. The rigid party structures are not what is needed now. The ability to reach into a problem, past ideology and look at the evidence, discuss and shape, making sure its clear on ability (its not good promising to fix something that you can’t at the level of office you hold, that is just disengenuous).

So, we will announce the next UnParty meetup shortly and hopefully we will also be able to tell you about a meetup for people interested in building tools with the Democracy Club.

Emotional Infrastructure Atlas

This is currently the holding text for the introduction:

This atlas allows you to annotate and note your emotional interactions with the urban fabric.

When thinking about the infrastructure think of:






So the next step in the prototype is to develop the necessary text to support the journey though creating the atlas.

I also need to add text about the use of Open Street Maps in the atlas.


A picture may often be worth a thousand words, but behind each picture is at least a story of a thousand words or more.

1:1000 is an occasional event where we invite one or two image makers to come and talk about one of their pictures.

To create a coherent narrative about the picture, its origin, its creation and its life afterwards can be quite a piece of work, so we will carefully select and support the image makers asked to take part.

If you are interested in attending the first 1:1000, in London then please sign up here, and we will get in touch with you once we have a date and location firmed up. Your support at this stage will help 1:1000 happen.


the UnParty UnConference meet @ Hub Westminster, March 2014

We are holding another meeting, to discuss ideas around policy, politics, activism and everything related whilst leaving our party politics at the door.

Hub Westminster have offered us the Library space at their venue, for March 19th 2014 from 1800 – 2130, so if you are interested in coming along then please add your name to the attending page.

If you are interested in holding your own UnParty UnConference meeting then please go ahead, but drop us a line and let us know how it went and what ideas where discussed.

Take Part!

A residents reading list

I have recently completed my residency at the Lighthouse Studios, where I developed a couple of projects, evolving Emotional Infrastructure and Palindrone.

Since I was trying to be at the studio at least two days a week and I live in London, this involved some train time. Not unknown for people to commute along this line but for me it was an extra couple of hours on the train. I thought I would list the books, reading material that I had with me on this journey too and from Brighton.

In no particular order:

  • Paul Virilio: Desert Screen
  • Paul Virilio: War & Cinema
  • Paul Virilio: Speed & Politics
  • Paul Virilio: Pure War
  • Steve Goodman: Sonic Warfare
  • Manuel DeLanda: War in the age of intelligent machines
  • Michael Ignatieff: Virtual War
  • Raymond Wacks: Prtivacy, A very short introduction
  • Eyal Weizman: Hollow Land
  • Geoff Manaugh: BldgBlog Book
  • Muhammad Yunus: Creating a world without poverty
  • Ethan Zuckerman: Rewire
  • McKenzie Wark: The beach beneath the streets
  • Guy Debord: The society of the spectacle
  • Slavoj Zizeck: A year of living dangerously
  • Patrick Kieler: The view from the train
  • Adam Greenfield: Against the smart city
  • Medea Benjamin: Drone Warefare: Killing by remote control

I have probably forgotten some things, papers read and books which I dipped into rather than read cover to cover, but the list shows where my head was at for the last couple of months (and now).


Last night at an event at the Lighthouse in Brighton, Cathal Coughlan and I unveiled publicly for the first time a piece of work we have been collaborating on called Palindrone. We installed, for the evening, v1.0 of the work in the conference room at the Lighthouse venue.

Palindrone is a work that was conceived during my residency at the Lighthouse Studio programme. Whilst at the studio I started playing around with some of the Buddha Machines that I have and started a discussion with Natalie and Honor about drones. The two started to come together quite quickly, initially with an idea to create a circle of sound objects, like the Buddha Machines, each playing different samples to create a soundscape. The idea became simplified to create a background drone and using code, monitors the reports on drone strikes that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism maintains. If a new report is added to the database (which gets reflected by the twitter feed @dronestream, which is run by artist Josh Begley) it triggers an interrupt sound over the background drone.

Whilst playing with the Buddha Machines I remembered a story I had read earlier in the year about the psychological effect the drones were having, specifically on the children. They would not sleep, afraid of the drone in the distance. The drone was a terrorising object, above communities it installed a state of control where activity had to be curtailed, self censored for fear that it might ‘attract the attention of a drone’.

I found a press release from Reprieve, about the psychological effect the drones were having and this was presented along with the piece at the installation.

This is the panopticon, the idea that a central body of control might be observing your activity, so you modify your behavior in case it is watching. The drone though imposes American/British/Western military control over communities in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Installed, the piece is a sound in a room, at Lighthouse the conference room had subdued lighting and on a table we had some texts that I have been investigating whilst developing the work.

The main sample loop has been constructed by Cathal, we have currently sourced a number of drone samples from the internet and laid these together to create the main loop, the interrupt sound is again a sample based on the sound from a military encrypted message.

Version 1.0 is still a work in progress, we are developing how the sound should be constructed, how much detail and noise we want in that main sound and clearing the use of samples as well as investigating the possibility of capturing our own samples to use in the piece.

The work is an artistic response to a situation that has come to our attention, from investigating this further and in constructing the work we are also highlighting possible responses from a design perspective.

We will document the evolution of the piece here, as well as notify of any installations. If you have any questions on the piece then please get in touch.

Palindrone (2)


I wrote this for Mute Magazine, back in April 1999. It was my first attempt at getting down my thoughts on what is happening, and has not really stopped happening. It is simplistic and please do crit in the comments.

The current war inn the Balkans is being called the first Internet war. Previously, the Gulf war was hailed as the first information war. That is, information war in the terms set out by Bruce Sterling, Alvin Toffler, Jean Baudrillard et al – fought by a war machine using the latest information technology to strike at the enemy accurately, quickly and, notionally, ‘without risk to human life’.
Of course, the main front in this information conflict was back at home, packaging and selling the war to the general public. The information war was fought in our living rooms – by each side against it’s own populace. In information conflict, missiles and bombs go on destroying; civilians and soldiers go on being killed, but politicians require at least the illusion of a public mandate to sanction military attacks.
Now, eight years later, we have a similar situation, although this time part of the conflict is taking place online: both war machines involved in the conflict are using websites and newsgroups to spin their media hype.
At the same time, the NATO website was supposedly hit by a denial of service attack, a flood of pings requesting a response from the server and reducing it’s response time to a crawl. In America at least one person took it upon himself to do the same to a pro-Serbian website, using an off-the-shelf spam package.
All of these actions fit wonderfully into the new-speak of military action: ‘SYN Flooding’, ‘Denial of Service Attack’, etc – technical terms that generals would love to be able to use to describe aspects of their bombing campaigns.
Information war has to be constructive, not destructive. Instead of flooding the Net with SYN packets, we should be listening to it’s flood of voices. Away from the electronic toys of crackers and wannabe hackers, the information war is being fought with dialogue, conversation and the broadcast of ideas.
In media terms, the Internet is not quite up there with the televisions, but it’s getting closer to the living room corner. When it does, will we visit the site of consent, as we did before, or will we search out genuinely alternative sources of information? Instead of listening to the news about government sites being brought down by hackers, will we instead find sites built and emails sent by those on both sides of the conflict?

a proper thought for the day

It is nice to have something to mull over, some commentary by someone to think about, respond to or just think about. That is what ‘Thought For The Day’ should be. I guess it is, but it has been limit bound by the editorial team at the Radio 4 Today Programme to not include ‘thinkers’ who are athiest.

So, if we were to have a proper ‘Thought for the day’ what would it be. I was imagining a short 3 – 5 minute podcast that gets sent out each morning, together with a small space to discuss the thought, ideas etc.

Currently the thought is one that is informed by current events and our proper one should be as well, so whoever is invited to speak each day needs to do a bit of thinking and writing early in the morning. Maybe a better thought for the day is one that sums up a day, in the evening. Yes, I am assuming a GMT based timezone here.

So, given 5 minutes to ponder the day, events, and anything else who would you have speak?