TinyRiot, the sound of a thousand (tiny) riots


With most demonstra- tions and street protests it’s hard to know exactly who hurled the first bottle. Amidst a sea of people engaged in a collaborative state of mind, the sense of anonymity generated can be very empowering. In the ever-congealing, international abyss of the iPhone (the networks, the users and the apparatus itself) anonymity in this perceived collective is curbed by a registered phone number and GPS coordinate tracking. Social networking-enthused developers have been finding more and more ways to implement existing social network platforms to enhance the usage and appeal of their applications.
The iPhone applications which engage in content and experience sharing, which no doubt offer a number of benefits, require new or pre-existing usernames, email addresses or often involve third-party requests for sharing through pre-registered accounts on social network platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. One of the key features of the application ‘TinyRiot‘, which provides a cathartic soundtrack while its users shake out ‘tiny’ bouts of frustration, is that it does not require users to sign in or register to share.
As users record, title and approve videos, they are auto-uploaded to a shared YouTube account which acts as a sub-platform where users can share and watch each other’s videos in real time. In turn, videos appear embedded on the application’s homepage which also shows the GPS coordinates via a modified GoogleMap API, with lightning bolt icons showing where TinyRiots have occurred around the world.
Aside from location, what makes each video unique is how the iPhone’s audio and visual functions are exploited. With shaking as the guiding praxis, the application’s major functions benefit from two facets of the iPhone’s design – namely the relative positions of the camera and flash as well as the microphone and speaker. With the speaker only a few centimetres away, a howling, reverberating feedback is triggered as the internal microphone begins recording audio.
At the same time, as users shake their iPhones while taking video footage, the pulse of the camera flash is synced and since the lens is a few millimetres to the side, nanoseconds of blinding flashes and visual feedback appear on the user’s screen-cum-viewfinder. Aesthetically, what would be a normal video takes on a disorienting effect that is equal parts entertaining and blinding. The accompanying soundtrack draws on a number of pre-loaded samples and as users shake, a randomized assortment of heavy metal sounds emit.
A simplified, 8-beat format of guitar and drums was chosen for simplicity as the developers saw a similarity in the way teenagers once picked up their instruments and regardless of skill, started playing loud. TinyRiot is to apps what teenagers were to rock – just playing loud and shaking it all out.
In doing so, the gesture-based method of sampling and remixing takes another step towards becoming its own platform. Seeing potential in the format, TinyRiot’s main developers Sembo Kensuke of media-art unit Exonemo and Taeji Sawai, who has worked extensively on music-enabling technologies with The Boredoms, teamed up with Atari Teenage Riot frontman Alec Empire and recently released Atari Tiny Riot as an application.
Users are able to play with loaded samples of the artists’ beats and rhythmic arrangements. Banner lyrics such as “Anonymous Teenage Riot” blare through the cacophony and align with a spirit the developers’ and the band champion. In terms of participation it’s in the tradition of mass movements and as a collaboration, the anonymous user videos are uploaded on the TinyRiot page where fans watching each others’ ‘riots’ has an infectious property. With uploading remaining anonymous, the application creates an international, anonymous collective.
As social networking itself no longer wrestles, but rather develops and intensifies its own imperative of increasingly constant and closer connectivity, the parameters of sharing and privacy have manifested themselves in the form of contentious issues for users. Users of TinyRiot find themselves no longer, or less, restrained by the (inadvertently) associated pressures or assumed embarrassment from the “friend” connections maintained on the social networks in which they participate. TinyRiot users can sidestep electing usernames or avatars, however, once a video is uploaded to the mutual YouTube account, the application’s developers have included a prompt for inclined users to further share their videos on existing social platforms.
The model of sharing anonymously or recording video publicly has re-emerged in recent years as an issue entwined with both privacy and ethics. Both have been highlighted in the media-wide coverage of Wikileaks and its submission policy and procedures, as well as in recent legislation in some states of the United States where it has become illegal to record video of law enforcement. Indeed, these issues will remain a nuisance as social networking developers move forward on an increasingly user-generated content and information-dominated superhighway.

Vicente Gutierrez