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The design of The Exchange

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

The Exchange is an interactive audio installation, inspired by an old telephone exchange and designed to allow two people to listen to a series of housed recordings compiled around a set theme or topic. By using two audio jack plugs audiences can choice their own listening experience, helped by a brief guide at the bottom of the installation.

The Exchange was first developed in 2020 as a vehicle for housing Cheshire children’s experiences of the pandemic. A product of the time, it was designed with the pandemic in mind, such as ensuring that all surfaces could be easily wiped clean in between use. However, the Exchange project was conceived prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 (we had originally planned to collect children’s responses to the climate crisis, but quickly shifted this approach when we commenced initial workshops in March 2020 and discovered what children really wanted to talk about was ‘the bug’). We had always intended to include a response wall on the reverse of the structure, however, in 2020, with ongoing social distancing measures and concerns about virus transfer, this just wasn’t viable.

With this second iteration of the project, we were keen to return to those original thoughts, and explore a way we could encourage and enable listeners to respond to the material they have heard. Consequently, working with designers Stand + Stare we have decided to alter the reverse side of the installation so that it now features a response wall. We originally considered adding a digital interactive feedback mechanism on the rear of the structure. However, following conversations with partners and design concerns around integration, and how the mechanism related to the existing look and feel of the installation, we have decided upon a more analogue feedback method.

Inspired by the wires of an old telephone exchange, the wall uses a criss-cross of elastics and a series of cards featuring questions and provocations drawn from themes within the recordings. All designed to tie to the current colours and fonts of the installation, these cards will allow audiences to share their own pandemic responses and experiences, as well as responding to the recordings themselves.

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