Sonification and data representation design

Steve Lee steve at
Fri Apr 10 09:35:43 EDT 2015

FYI - Doug Schepers had a neat hallway demo at CSUN using pitch to
explore SVG charts
Steve Lee

On 9 April 2015 at 20:48, colinbdclark at <colinbdclark at> wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> As part of the Floe Project's efforts to create personalized, accessible
> user interfaces that can be used across a variety of Open Educational
> Resources, we've been working on a design framework and JavaScript toolkit
> for authoring multimodal charts, graphs, and other data "visualizations."
> One of the central goals of this effort is to make it easier for teachers,
> students, and content authors to represent data in "layers" consisting of
> different modalities--graphics, text, and audio.
> To start, we've been focusing a lot on sonification, the process of
> representing data using sounds. We're in the midst of a very early
> brainstorming, sketching and idea generation process. Our work is documented
> in the wiki:
> In order to start exploring the potential of data sonification in a way that
> allows us to experiment with different approaches and to iterate from
> mockups to working implementations reasonably quickly, we've constrained our
> current design sketches to tools that will help authors produce multimodal
> "pie charts." The goal of this tool is to enable authors to produce layered
> representations of fairly simple data, and to give end-users the ability to
> explore, remap, and share their own personalized sonifications and
> visualizations.
> As part of this process, we've been exploring some new methods for how we
> design sonifications strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. We've
> started working with a small, informal group of people in a co-design
> context, and will also be sharing our in-progress work here on the list.
> What we've done so far is to prototype several different types of
> sonifications using low-tech tools and then shared them with people using a
> process of "progressive explanation." We start by having them listen to the
> sonification with no additional cues or explanation, asking them to describe
> their impressions (including how they imagine the sounds map to some
> underlying data set). From there, we progressively explain more about the
> intentions behind sonification (such as describing the sound mapping using
> an "audio legend"), and continue to gather impressions and ideas from our
> listeners. We've found this to be a very helpful process for exploring how
> much textual or explanatory supporting material to provide with a given
> sonification approach. Sepideh has posted some great examples and prototypes
> in the wiki.
> Over the coming months, we'll expand this design effort to encompass more
> complex data and to more interactive situations such as simulations, games,
> and performances.
> We'll continue to share ideas, sketches, and works in progress here on the
> mailing list, in the #fluid-design IRC channel, and in the wiki.
> Constructive feedback and creative ideas are always appreciated during this
> early stage in the process, as well as the understanding that we're still
> experimenting and exploring the design space. Failures and half-baked ideas
> are as useful at this stage in the design process as successes.
> Colin
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