Notes From The Undersound

By Londonist_Laura Last edited 149 months ago
Notes From The Undersound


A Napster-style music sharing service for the London Underground is reported to be in development, aiming to increase social interaction down below by encouraging commuters to swap music files on their way around the city.

The cleverly named Undersound project is accompanied by a very tech-philosophy heavy website - visit here - but has some interesting ideas.

3 million people each day travel through London by means of the Underground, the oldest subway system in the world—people hate it, people love it. Still, the Tube is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city, and practically one of the most used transport systems. With the project undersound we are exploring the experience of riding the Underground and the mediated perception of the urban space through the design of a highly contextualized interactive system—a music-based application that encourages people to interact with others and with the Underground itself. The aim of the project is to make people reflect on their experience through the use of music, to see people's behaviours and patterns of movement in new ways.

So far so intriguing. The project aims to introduce upload points to ticket halls where users can add music, with download available on the platforms and in the tube carriages themselves via Bluetooth.

Ignoring most of the design-brief guff on the website, Undersound is undoubtedly a great idea. But what about the practicalities? With most people using iPods or other non phone-based MP3 devices to listen to music on the move there would have to be a major shift to Bluetooth enabled MP3 compatible mobile phone use for the service to become widespread. And because of copyright laws the only music you could legally swap would have to be "creative commons licensed music recorded by local bands". That could mean a mine of material from great underground bands becoming available à la My Space, but because of the way the service works you become reliant on the people in your carriage having similar tastes in music to you, and how likely is that?

We look forward to seeing what happens with Undersound. It's good to see people thinking in different ways about improving social interaction through a mutual love of music and you never know, we might be quite surprised by what Bob from Human Resources listens to on his way home from work.

Last Updated 20 October 2006