Sanctuary=a spot carved from noise

I have written about this topic of sanctuary quite a bit lately. Sanctuary, at least how I am choosing to define it, is a tranquil spot carved amid all the noise. That isn’t to say that my online life has descended into pure noise, but there are occasions when those pesky filters are overloaded and cease to function efficiently.

On a side note, a filter that fails after a day or two away from it is not a sturdy filter after all. Not being overloaded shouldn’t require constant attention. Otherwise, we are not riding the information (towards knowledge creation), it is riding us. Or something Thoreau-esque like that.


Tranquility online is an elusive concept. Partly because our immediate notion is that tranquility is the absence of something. The absence of noise or distraction, like how I used to imagine nothingness when trying to concentrate in church as a child. I failed then partly because it is impossible to imagine nothing. I tend to view imagining the absence of activity much as I did imagining nothingness. It is an illusion. So what if we were to repurpose tranquility towards something more constructive? What if tranquility were merely the sequencing of noise into art? It isn’t our blocks of stuff that we are sequencing (nor should that matter); rather, it is the sequence itself that matters. That offers solace and comfort and calm.

It is building rhythm from noise. Much the same as art speaks to some latent sense of balance and beauty, what if sanctuary were merely the reprocessing of bits of information into something beautiful, into an artifice? Or, at the very least, merely repositioning common info into something playful? The same information that can swallow you whole in numbers greater than the Magic Number 7.

On another side note, unlimited information is often referred to as drowning, but perhaps that isn’t apt. It is being exposed full throttle to the sun. We are swallowed by it. We don’t sink; we are merely consumed.

Audio sanctuary

I digress, partially in an attempt to be playful and stand here before you and attempt to repurpose rhythm from noise. And I am returning to a few tools that allow me to do that, tools I wanted to share with you. They are from an artist/researcher named Andre Michelle. They are simple and playful technologies and I encourage you to give them a whirl and find that sanctuary for yourself, not askew from the noise but immersed in it, conducting it.

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In case you are wondering, that is me merely recording from my Mac. This second video is similar and equally pleasing to the eye and the nerves. If you do enjoy this type of sonic reconstitution of audio, then be sure to check out Brian Eno designed or inspired iPhone apps Bloom and Air as they offer much of the same. But my heart is here with these simple, apps of sanctuary.

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If you want to play with these yourself, and I highly recommend, be sure to check them out from Andre Michelle’s project page, or as individual projects as listed below. In case you are wondering, the videos above cover Pulsate and Tone Matrix. Super Ellipse is more of a listening, rather than interacting, application.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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