Sonification sketchbook: A sonification model based on variations or mutations of single sound objects?

What if data were expressed, not as individual and discrete sound events, but as a sequence of variations, mutations, erasures, or distortions applied to iterations of a single ‘sound object‘ (in the Schaeffer-ian sense of ‘musique concrete’)? The medical practice of auscultation could serve as an existing model for this approachThis idea was inspired, in part, by the following data visualization:

‘Giorgia — week fifty-two’:‘Giorgia — week fifty-two'

This is an example from ‘Dear Data’ ( (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.) — “…a year-long, analog data drawing project by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, two information designers living on different sides of the Atlantic.” For each week of an entire year, they chose a different aspect of their daily lives to track and render as a ‘data drawing’ on blank postcards, and then mail them to each other.
Below is a brief explanation of Giorgia’s data visualization.

In one or two sentences, what story does it tell?

It chronicles one week of “good byes,” “bye byes,” and “goodnights” spoken by the author in chronological order.

Identify the data. What type of data is it?

The data is a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

Identify the visual variables used.

According to legend on back of postcard:

  • Each element is a goodbye spoken by the author that week, arranged in chronological order.
  • Each element is comprised of the following:
    • A primary shape
    • A secondary downward pointing triangle beneath the primary shape
    • The occasional presence of a small dot at the top right-hand corner of the element.
  • Shape:
    • A set of 2-dimensional shapes are used to represent an array of variations pertaining to how each goodbye was articulated. Here, particular attention is paid to the communicational medium/context/situation in which each goodbye was spoken — i.e., ‘in public’, ‘over Skype/(Google)hangout’, ‘over the phone’, ‘in Real Life’
    • The addition of a downward- pointing triangle at the bottom of each shape indicates that the goodbye contained additional words, such as “good luck!”, “have fun!”, “thanks!” etc.
    • The presence of a small circle at the top right-hand corner of each goodbye shape indicates that physical contact was a part of the goodbye gesture.
    • The asterisk at the end of the 3rd row indicates a ‘missed goodbye’ — i.e. she feel asleep before her boyfriend that night.
  • Colour:
    • The colour of each ‘goodbye’ shape distinguishes the person to whom the goodbye was spoken — i.e. mother, boyfriend, friend, stranger, etc.
    • Each variation of ‘additional words spoken’ (the downward-pointing triangle) is identified by a different colour fill. NB: in some instances, distinctions between variations is hampered by the use of similar hues. For example, ‘have a nice day’ and ‘love you!’ have nearly identical colour assignments.
    • The colour hue of each ‘physical contact’ dot indicates whether the contact was a kiss, a hug or a handshake.
    • Position, size, orientation and texture are not utilized.

How many dimensions being visually mapped?

  1. The number of goodbyes spoken in one week
  2. The location/context in which each goodbye was spoken
  3. The relationship of the person to whom each goodbye was spoken
  4. Variations in the message content of each goodbye.
  5. Textual variations that were appended to each goodbye
  6. The occurrence of physical contact as part of each goodbye
  7. The type of physical contact engaged in as part of each goodbye.

Identify the type of visualization, or methods used.

I think this qualifies as a compound visualization.

Referring to the Venn Diagram for information design, comment on this visualization’s

  • Interestingness
    • Representation of communicational exchanges between people through hand-drawn shapes (rather than computer-generated). As a result, the shapes posses a man-made, artifact-like quality.
  • Integrity
    • The highly personal nature of the visualization is intriguing. On the one hand, this is a personal communication to her collaborator, so accuracy and integrity in the reporting of data is assumed. Yet because the data is of a personal nature, one can’t help but wonder if there was some degree of self-censorship involved.
  • Form:
  • Function:
    • Intriguing to explore how the colours and shapes evolve over through time.
    • Provides clear indication of prevailing and evolving trends in the author’s social exchanges through the week.
    • The entirely graphical nature of this visualization tends to encourage a period of prolonged perceptual engagement.
  • Where does it succeed and where does it fall short?
    • One absent (and potentially insightful) element is some time-stamped indication as to what day and/or time of day within the week each ‘goodbye’ occurred.
    • I wonder what effect the use of position, proximity/grouping would have (as akin to a social network array) in representing the ‘who’ of the goodbyes would have on the visualization’s effectiveness.
    • As mentioned above, a few of the colour/hue choices are too similar  and, at first glance, could lead to mis-interpretation.
    • I could also imagine a more rigorous colour scheme being used — i.e., the colour spectrum (warm <> cool) could be mapped to the degree of social familiarity or intimacy (i.e. strangers assigned cool cool colours, family/boyfriend assigned to warmer hues).
Edited by Richard Windeyer on Jan 31, 2017 at 8:36am

Author: Richard Windeyer

digital music / design / performance

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