Eric Hreha is an internet/multimedia/game artist from New Jersey, USA. Primarily working in Flash, Eric has created many web-based games for his website Eberonics.com. Using humor and satire, Eric's games have won praises from many of their players.
Currently, Eric is attending the Masters program for Computer Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he is studying telecomunications and multimedia. Eric's most recent work, Phonemer, is a phonetic chat environment programmed in Flash and PHP. While outside of academia, Eric works as a freelance video game developer for various companies. His works are created for the Internet as well as CDROMs.
AD: When you developed Phonemer did you see yourself making a new musical instrument?
EH: Not really. I was thinking about the piece being more related to the voice and poetry. There is a poetic quality that I enjoy. It reminds me of Dada poems. What got me thinking about Phonemer was the idea that speech is modular and that the Internet works in a similar way, with its tiny data packets. By using the phonetic sounds in a system where they can rearranged and spit back at the user (in a somewhat clumsy manner), the Phonemer has the potential to give meaning to a series of simple sound samples.
AD: Phonemer differs from conventional audio software in that it is collaborative and easily used from a Web browser. Is it significant that you're involving people in making their own compositions rather than downloading someone else's music? What are some pros and cons of this approach?
EH: It's very important to have collaboration. Many people use the software differently. When there are two or three people using the piece, the results can go two different ways. One is that the users begin to collaborate on separate chunks of words in a cooperative communication. Each chunk is representative of each user. The other is more competitive. There is usually one large chunks of sounds that each user is adding and deleting from. The sounds that emerge are usually a string of baby talk, or another language. I like the results very much.
As far as pros and cons go. As I said before, the chaotic results are very interesting to me. Other people may not like that, but they can always go and change it. That's why the piece is collaborative. If you think the piece should be reciting song lyrics, then you can make it do that, instead of gibberish. But is very difficult to "talk" to each other with this piece. When you hear the sounds spoken back to you, there is a much different response than when you hear someone on the phone (with the voice's emotion) or a message in a chat room (with the text's emotion). The Phonemer has it's own character, which is no emotion. It's not simply a messenger between people. It acts more like a broken typewriter.