Education Designer


The Hydrophone rang every 10 minutes on the sidewalk in front of the Somerville Museum in Somerville, Massachusetts for the duration of the Triple Decker Ecology exhibition, between October 11th and December 9th, 2018. It was written about in The Boston Globe.

What does our climate future sound like? The Hydrophone connects you directly to the Chief Meteorologist of @weatherishappening, with a special message from the year 2200. The Weather Man provides the gift of foresight, placing calls across time and space and urging modern humans to “repent” before climate change destroys the planet.

As humans’ runaway use of carbon causes local weather to become more extreme, outposts like this phone booth represent beacons of information that exist out of time with the syndicated messaging of mass media. Visitors can enter the phone booth and pick up incoming calls to be connected with the Weather Man. They can communicate their own visions for what Somerville 2200 might be like through words or drawings. The Hydrophone serves as both confessional and portal into future worlds that compels the voice on the other end to react (before it’s too late).

To create the Hydrophone, we used the existing handset speaker and old bell that was part of this Bell payphone acquired from a library in Massachusetts. When we ran the code for this project, it was the first time the bell rang in at least 20 years.  We rigged the hammer to hit the bell using a Raspberry Pi. You can hear the sound the ringer makes in the clip to the left.

The original concept for the piece, and an idea we may return to in another iteration of the project, was to connect the payphone to microphones recording the cave-like sound of the sewers underneath rapidly gentrifying Union Square. One of the first precursers to development is the expansion of drain capacity to accomodate increased residential development. We wanted to highlight these patterns by connecting people to the watery, subterranean sounds beneath their feet.