I’ve always been a tinkerer, now better known as a Maker. From an early age, I clearly remember taking apart mechanical toys and electronics such as radios just to see what was inside and how they worked. As I grew, I became very interested in music and joined band and choir. It was only later that I realized I was spending more time being curious about the physical nature of the instruments and how they created sound than working towards being a musician. This realization led to my aspirations of being a recording engineer, an unlikely prospect for a woman at that time. I had my first professional audio job in college and continued working in entertainment technology while I finished my undergraduate degree at Middle Tennessee State and my masters at New York University.
Ten years of life, work, and study in New York City is a mind opening experience. I was successfully on the commercial music engineer path when I discovered the discipline of interactive sound art and R. Murray Schafer’s concept of soundscape studies. My Maker nature flourished finally finding an outlet to explore physical computing and constructing musical instruments and interfaces. My coursework projects included a Jeopardy style quiz game controller and a gestural instrument prototype designed to the specifications of a musician who had lost some mobility in his wrists. I also joined the New York Society of Acoustic Ecology and contributed to the NYC SoundMap project and to the first Ear to the Earth symposium. For my thesis, I researched the history of and current technological practices of soundscape capture based on the work of both R. Murray Schafer and Hildegard Westerkamp. Invigorated, I started the design work for a major project, a sound art installation of an aural treasure hunt that involved a complex sensor array installed in the room and transmitter/receiver that would be worn by the treasure hunter.
At the same time, New York City awakened my desire to explore culture through cuisine. When I wasn’t disassembling Nintendo game controllers for parts or recording New York City’s soundscape with my head-worn binaural microphones, I was exploring the gastronomic pleasures of the world.
I embraced my love of food and wine by pursuing professional wine certifications. Wine is geography in bottle. As a study technique, I traced maps to give context to the wine in the glass with its terroir and sense of place. Studying maps with such intensity instilled a deep-seated wanderlust within me. I eagerly accepted every opportunity to travel to wine regions throughout the world. One of my first explorations abroad took me to Piedmont, Italy on a project for Slow Food. This project involved recording soundscapes within restaurants, kitchens, vineyards and winery cellars. When I returned, I launched my first website and blog, A Taste of Sound (now defunct), and shortly after discovered a wine specific social network and the first Wine Bloggers Conference. Wine and technology – I had to be there. It was at this conference that I joined Twitter, learned about WordPress, and delved into the brave new world of social media.
As technology becomes more accessible, I find the topic of digital media on my mind more often and in different ways. Technology is ever present be it simple questions from friends who are curious about software functions or errors, a commercial GPS sending me astray in Southern Italy, or my constant companion, my iPhone, that keeps me connected to my online communities.
The research question I will explore is, “What needs to be included in the digital storytelling arc that will compel people to travel and engage artisan food and wine producers offline?” My initial response brings me back to maps. I want to investigate how mapping and digital media complements the analog aspects of travel, food, and wine. I will seek to find the elements of design that transmit a sense of place and inspire travelers to connect with a local culture–specifically, the food and beverage culture. I envision that my research will be a combination of GIS, physical computing and user interface design to create apps, websites and museum installations that can be used to communicate wine and food terroir. I look forward to cultivating these ideas in a studio-intensive doctoral program.