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So what's the Piano in your office for?

At the moment, I'm making an internet-aware player piano. I'm not a pianist, nor do I play one on TV, which is a small problem.

The idea began as a discussion among the Interval fellows about the activity at ITP. There's a very active community of students working on tons of different projects, many in collaboration with one another. But, outside of the times they're talking together in the halls or the lounge, you'd never know it. Mostly they're huddled in front of computer screens or over work benches. The lack of large physical activity belies the amount of mental and network activity. So we decided to work on a few projects to embody part of that, the network activity. The idea was to find ways to physically represent the activity of the network, to give visitors a feeling that something's happening, and of the general pattern of activity.

 The mechanics of a piano are beautiful to me, and the action of the keys, hammers, and dampers on the strings is great to watch; even more so in the case of a player piano, when the keys move in a ghostly way, with no apparent player. Since there are about 90 computers on the floor in use for various purposes, I decided I'd start by mapping those computers one-to-one to the keys of a piano. Any network-related activity coming from or going to that computer would play a given key on the piano. Of course, I expect that to make a horrible noise.