The Signal Archive: User Research

The Signal Archive is an expanding collection of recordings of as many different devices as possible in development of User Research for the Affection Research Lab. Visit the collection on vimeo


The Signal Archive frames the development and history of Morse Code as a point of reference. A point in time when our modes of communication were at the early stages of mediation. The electrical telegraph, the mediator of that time, was a device to communicate the spoken word through a codified system of dots and dashes. The electrical telegraph and its intrinsic physical properties and technology, coupled with this codified system of writing, quickly became a sound object as it became evident that listening to the device was just as effective than reading the dots and dashes. As a point of reference, this compelled the research and collection of the intrinsic sonic qualities of our contemporary communication devices: the cell phone. Today’s devices communicate in verbatim. They surpass any codified means and transmit the word, image, video, and sound directly by way of its sensorial facets: microphone, keypad, camera, to the receiving end, which may not be anything like the source.

With respect to scientific investigation, all recordings conducted on a systematic approach of treating every device exactly the same. Owners were requested to follow the same steps and perform the same tasks: text, email, load a website, get current geo-location, and watch a YouTube video. This systematic approach revealed the different timbres between each device and the reactions per user were recorded, influencing the nature of the greater thesis research, and clarifying the innate quality of people to imagine their devices being more than just objects of utility.