Editorial: Designing Our Sonic Lives
Long ago, the mice held a council to discuss how to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. The mice knew that the Cat was sly and that she always approached them quietly, and they were frightened by these sudden encounters. After long discussions, one young and enthusiastic mouse raised his hand and proposed: “All we need is a sign that the Cat is around,” and continued, “Let’s fasten a bell round the neck of the Cat. This way, we’ll be warned by the jingling sound and have enough time to reach our holes before the Cat reaches us.” This proposal was met with cheers, until an old skeptical mouse asked, “But, who is to bell the Cat?”
Alarming Atmospheres - Embodied Sound Habituation as Design Strategy in a Neuro-Intensive Care Unit
Marie Koldkjær Højlund
Nurses working in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit at Aarhus University Hospital lack the tools to prepare children for the alarming atmosphere they will enter when visiting a hospitalised relative. The complex soundscape dominated by alarms and sounds from equipment is mentioned as the main stressor. As a response to this situation, our design artefact, the interactive furniture Kidkit, invites children to become accustomed to the alarming sounds sampled from the ward while they are waiting in the waiting room. Our design acknowledges how atmospheres emerge as temporal negotiations between the rhythms of the body and the environment in conjunction with our internalised perception of the habituated background. By actively controlling the sounds built into Kidkit, the child can habituate them through a process of synchronising them with her own bodily rhythms. Hereby the child can establish, in advance, a familiar relationship with the alarming sounds in the ward, enabling her to focus later more on the visit with the relative. The article discusses the proposed design strategy behind this solution and the potentiality for its use in hospital environments in general.
Tuned In and Hands On: Sound Designers Beyond Technical Expertise
The term sound designer is a relatively new addition to the professional roles in a film sound crew. Its use can be traced to the 1970s when the dismantlement of some major Hollywood studios gave space for more experimental approaches to film making. A study on acoustic ecologies and cinema sound allowed for creative and altruistic collaborations with some Australian cinema professionals. Subsequent face-to-face interviews and correspondence with the participants to the study pointed to the humanity and concerns at play behind the screen. It is apparent that the capacity of sound designer cannot be pigeonholed: it oscillates according to the demands of a film production and depends on its director’s and financial backers' sonic awareness. Amongst professional sound makers themselves exists a lack of consensus on the role and importance of the position of sound designer. The author proposes a way to lessen professional ambiguity and increase public recognition of atmospheric cinema sound. Invoking atmospheric sound at the inception of an audio-visual narrative could reward its makers and audiences in unsuspected ways. To acknowledge sound designers as architects of sensations and, by the same token, include viscerality and affect as creative elements of film production, could lead to a different appreciation of our lives in sound.
Sound Design for Media: Introducing Students to Sound
In today’s multimedia world, an understanding of non-visual modalities, particularly sound, is of great benefit to design. With the use of digital technologies within design and art practices, the affordances for sound are frequently present, but often under-used and misunderstood by those with an education that privileges the visual mode at the expense of other modalities. Despite the importance of sound within multimedia applications and the fact that digital art, video games, film, branding, and product design today all require some understanding of the sonic realm, art and design students often complete their degrees without following a single class related to sound and its perception. In this paper, we introduce several exercises undertaken in interdisciplinary sound design courses taught to undergraduate designers, artists, and game developers with the aim of illustrating a scaffolding approach to teaching about sound.
From Foley to Function: A Pedagogical Approach to Sound Design for Novel Interactions
Increasingly, devices of everyday use employ computing technology. Due to small or absent screens and their ubiquity in the environment, these interactive commodities might benefit from the consideration of sound in their design and use. However, the criteria for appropriate, enjoyable and useful sonic interactions and suitable pedagogical methods for educating future designers in this area still remain to be explored.
We want to encourage design students to create “sounds for tomorrow” in an explorative way, inspired by the sound pioneers of “New Hollywood,” who employed techniques of the avant-garde to establish new sonic identities. We implemented a design process in a workshop setting, continuously scrutinizing sound design and interpretational strategies. The process evolved over three connected stages: Foley-based and electroacoustic Wizard-of-Oz mockups and functional prototypes. Real time sound making, performance of interactions, and critical reflection on the aforementioned are central to our approach. In this article, we elaborate on the method, discuss design cases, and present pedagogical insights.
Using Participatory Visualization of Soundscapes to compare Designers’ and Listeners’ Experiences of Sound Designs
There are numerous rules and well-established guidelines to help designers with the visual appearance of interactive technologies. In contrast, when it comes to the use of sound, there is a paucity of practical information regarding design for euphony, excepting musical composition. This paper addresses this hiatus by describing a theoretically based, practical method for evaluating the design of the auditory components of interactive technologies and media. Specifically, the method involves eliciting the auditory experiences of users of these technologies and media and comparing them with what the sound designers had intended. The method has been comprehensively tested in trials involving 100 users (listeners), and the results have been described as “useful” and “invaluable” by a group of 10 professional sound designers.
The Sonic Lifeworld: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Imaginative Potential of Animation Sound
The wonder of animation lies in its ability to create entirely new worlds that exist only in the imagination. Much care is taken to render these worlds visibly in great detail. Sound, however, is grounded in everyday reality in order to legitimize our expectations of experiential logic and continuity. This paper argues for new ways of thinking about how sound might move beyond this strict adherence to the visual by going beyond the rational. The problem of sound design is that it is an exercise in satisfying modes of Cartesian dualism, which separates the outside world of extension from the inner world of consciousness. Sound design should instead be conceived phenomenologically, as modes of disclosure and nondisclosure to consciousness. I propose new ways of thinking about the sonic connection of character to lifeworld, and in the process offer a critique of prevailing notions of film theory as related to the hearing and listening subject.
The Harley Effect: Internal and external factors that facilitate positive experiences with product sounds
Everyday activities are laden with emotional experiences involving sound. Our interactions with products (shavers, hairdryers, electric drills) often cause sounds that are typically unpleasant to the ear. Yet, we may get excited with the sound of an accelerating Harley Davidson because the rumbling sound represents adventure or an espresso machine pouring cappuccino because the sound signals an upcoming relaxing event. These examples demonstrate that it is often difficult to predict how pleasant or unpleasant a product sound is and that the circumstances surrounding sound events (i.e., external factors) can influence our judgment regarding those sounds. This paper discusses these external factors and provides a technical support for this notion. It will further present implications that could influence future product designers. Furthermore, the aim of this paper is to re-position the role of sound in human-product interactions.