installation view of colourful maps of waterloo region on a convex wall

Borderline is a sound mapping tool for iOS that uses urban sound to create new understandings of place. Using algorithms trained to identify ~100 common sounds, the project enables users to map sounds in their environment and place them in dialogue with other forms of urban data. The tagged recordings play back in their original locations, which creates an interactive acoustic footprint that changes as you move among them.

‘Borderlines’ are invisible boundaries that affect social and economic mobility in urban spaces. They appear whenever there is a difference in income, stability, or other forms of demographic information, and when combined with local sounds, they illuminate important intersections between sound, place, and power. 

These maps illustrate the percentages of renters living in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, and the percentage of renters who spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The borderlines show the difference in after-tax income between neighbouring areas. The larger the borderline, the greater the difference in income. 

During CAFKA, Thompson and her research team will lead a series of soundwalks through downtown Kitchener using the Borderline mobile app. 

Jessica Thompson is a media artist working in sound, performance and mobile technologies. Her practice investigates the ways that sound reveals spatial and social conditions within cities, and how the creative use of urban data can generate new modes of citizen engagement. 

Her interactive artworks have shown exhibitions and festivals such as the International Symposium of Electronic Art (San Jose, Dubai, Vancouver), the Conflux Festival (New York), Thinking Metropolis (Copenhagen), Beyond/In Western New York(Buffalo),NIME(Oslo), Artists’ Walks (New York), Locus Sonus (Aix-en-Provence), the AGW Triennial (Windsor), InterACTION (Kitchener), HASTAC (Vancouver), Re:Sound(Aalborg), and Entorno Encuentro Exploración (Pamplona), The Politics of Sound (Lethbridge) and CAFKA (Kitchener). She has received grants from the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Government of Ontario.

She is an Associate Professor of Hybrid Media at the University of Waterloo and the Director of the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business.