Traditional Sonification

A few years ago at the PopTech Conference in Camden, I saw a very interesting presentation that made good use of data sonification, a technique that uses sound to express data relationships. In this specific presentation, the speed of people joining a social network was represented as a series of sound events. Click here to see a video of the presentation.

While I am a big fan of good infographics and data visualizations, I believe there is MUCH more that can be done to convey relationships between data. Data signification is one of the techniques that is especially good to express relationship of data over time (another technique I’ve been musing about is expression through data tangibility, but that’s another post).

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading an interesting book of folklore stories of Bhutan and a very interesting thing I encountered is a traditional use of sonification in the oral storytelling tradition. The stories begin by “Dangbo..o..o Dingbo..o..o..” which are the equivalent of “Once upon a time …”. But the interesting thing is that when stories are told by a storyteller depending on how ancient the story is to be perceived, the sounds of “o” after the words are extended (i.e., the older the story, the longer the “o”s).

Another thing about Dangbo and Dingbo is that they are Dangbo is following Dingbo and if it catches it there will be no more stories!

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