Greetings, sonification fans! This is the weekly Loud Numbers development log - a newsletter that explains how we’re building the world’s first data sonification podcast, one week at a time. You’re getting it because you signed up at loudnumbers.net, and if you need one then there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom.
One theme of the project for us so far has been balancing up the need to create the podcast and the need to build the audience for the podcast at the same time. We try to lean towards actually making sonifications for two reasons - first because if we don’t then there won’t be anything to actually give the audience we’re building, and second because making sonifications is more fun than writing tweets, articles, talks and newsletters.
But we have to do a bit of audience-building work because otherwise we’ll release the podcast and it’ll just go “plop” in the huge ocean of stuff on the Internet and sink to the seabed and no-one will ever hear of it again. So this week has unfortunately been 0% sonification and 100% audience-building.
So what have we actually been doing? Well, last week we wrote the talk that we’re going to be giving at the Outlier conference in a few weeks time (see last week’s devlog for details on that, then grab yourself a ticket). This week we gave it a test run, delivering the talk to students at the University of Cardiff’s journalism school.
It went pretty well, considering that it was the first time we’ve played one of the finished tracks to an audience. The weirdest bit was that we didn’t know where to look while the music was playing. There were a bunch of great questions, too, particularly around how you balance data storytelling with musical structure, around accessibility, and around the emotional power of sonification and whether that presents ethical questions around its use. We think it does.
Then today we’ve been recording the talk itself (it won’t be given live, so that the Outlier team can get it subtitled for accessibility, but there will be a live Q&A afterwards).
It’s very weird recording a talk with someone else when you’re in totally different places, and we’re also making it unnecessarily complicated by shooting for a slightly fancier approach than just a talking head and some presentation slides. It involves a whole storyboard and websites floating next to us and all sorts of nonsense. Maybe by the time it’s all put together we’ll have decided it’s too complicated and gone back to the talking heads. Who knows?
Finally, we wanted to give a shout out this week to Sara Lenzi and Paolo Ciuccarelli who have collected and curated a fantastic archive of sonification work from the last few years at http://sonification.design. It’s a great library, complete with a snazzy tagging system that allows you to search for different types of work. If you ever need a birds-eye view of what the sonification landscape looks like, then this is it!
That’s all for this week, but we’re always on the lookout for more sonification-related resources to share. If you’ve made something cool and sonification-adjacent then hit reply and tell us about it, so we can tell others.
All the best,
- Duncan and Miriam