Group Clapping ASCII

During Space’s School’s Out For Summer program I had quite a lot of freedom to try new ideas out with the students. Before I started I was not sure how well they would really engage with slowly clapping letters out. We are so surrounded by games and complex technology I initially thought that doing something so simple could turn out to be a bit boring.

This experiment merges John Steven’s rhythm idea of being in a circle with my binary to ASCII software.

10 students…..

It was interesting to observe once understood they understood the rules of the game students really committed to the idea of coming up with a word together and figuring out how to clap it.

Workshops with [ SPACE ]

In July 2016 I worked with SPACE Studios London on a summer school program. Funded by Future Foundation For London who commission all the artistic programming at London’s Olympic park.

During the planning of the project, I gave myself the aim of using basic equipment such as cardboard cups and string and clapping to explore how information is transmitted and received. I ran the workshop for 5 consecutive days with the fantastic help of artists Fran, Ant Hamlyn and project management of Claire Cooke and Fiona Fieber.

The activities were designed for groups of 10 – 30, 10 year olds.

Rerunning the same program over and over again allowed us to hone the workshop and by day 3 it became evident that the best results were had by breaking the day into short 20 minute activities. Below is a break down of each activity.

Activity 1 – 12 Rhythm Game

I chose a rhythm game invented by the musician John Stevens

Activity 2 – Paper Telephone

Make a paper telephone, although not particularly innovative it was surprising how many students had never done this. Students making it with minimal equipment… fiddly was good.

Photo of sound coming through to microphone.

Activity 3 – Morse Code down Paper Telephones

Introduction to Morse code, Fran came up with the idea of sending a question down the line and we found it best to get the students to come up with this in advance

Sending morse code down the line. This was logistically quite difficult as really it requires at least 3 or 4 people to send a message down the line and translate. But it was great how students responded to it.

Cup activity sending sound down cup. Demonstrate how simple sounds can be transmitted further than speech.

Sending morse code. Starts to raise interesting questions about how we guess what the message is going to be. How we need to signal when we have received information.

Electromagnetic spectrum

Using a guitar pick up to listen to mobile phones working

Activity – group Clapping letters

After showing the students some of my pieces that use the software to convert voice to text I demonstrated my new software that allows a series of sound pulses to be converted into letters. This required a fair amount of development and required me to modify standard data protocols to allow for information to be sent at various tempos.

Software information

Hardware information

The Software ran on a Raspberry Pi 3 with a Focusrite sound card that worked straight out of the box, with both the Raspberry and OpenFrameworks Software. We used a Rode Nt5 Condenser microphone which although probably very over specked for the activity provided a really good focal point for the activity. After some initial tests with a Laptop we placed an old flat screen monitor on its back in the center of the group allowing everyone to see what was happening.

Group activity circle of 10 participants around a monitor placed on the floor each person was responsible for clapping ‘1 bit’ out of a sequence of 10 bits. As a bit is either a 1 or a 0 this was interpreted as either a clap or a silence. So the letter “h” would be produced like the following.

All of the participants were encouraged to be actively involved in the process so if your bit was a ‘0’ you would simply not clap, as this could be perceived as doing nothing or out of the game, we encouraged students to wave their hand towards the microphone to represent the silence. This helped to both keep the rhythm steady and to make the participants actively involved in the game.

After grasping the concept and coming up with a word they would like to produce participants often became committed to seeing it appear on the screen. It often became very confusing who was going to be a 1 or a 0 but interestingly when participants were excited about the challenge often managed to organise it between themselves. We used a metronome keep a good tempo.


individuals clapping to metronome

Activity 5

Popping cups

Activity 6

coming up with ideas, balls, smells

Activity 7



Hi I am artist working with sound, sculpture and electronics.  I am currently doing a PhD at Oxford Brookes and writing up some of the experiments and ideas I am working on here.

My research lies between, sound, computing and music.  I am exploring ways of communicating to machines through simple sound and rhythm.

As part of this I am developing software that slows down computer communication systems so that people can interact with computers in the same way machines communicate.

There is quite a mix of stuff here from workshop documentation, to software and hardware development, my experiments with sound and rhythm and theoretical stuff.

You can see more of my work at…