A Participatory Design Method for Qualitative Data Sonification

Young, Emma (2021) A Participatory Design Method for Qualitative Data Sonification. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Sound is an emotional driver that can stimulate and shape our responses to create highly engaging and immersive experiences. As such, sound design plays a major role in media and games, yet often remains an afterthought in the design of interactive systems. Sound ideas are difficult to communicate without familiarity with audio terminology, consequently, sound design briefs are often poorly described. While sketching and quick and dirty prototyping is widely practiced in visual design, there is a lack of comparable tools for communicating and exchanging ideas about sound, leading to time-consuming design and re-design processes. Research in the Sonic Interaction Design and Data Sonification fields has led to the development of sound design toolkits enabling faster experimentation with sound, however these proprietary tools offer digital interfaces which are restrictive and unintuitive for the novice user. There are calls in these communities for accessible methods for designing through physical sound making, with studies exploring the use of vocalisation and Foley-based techniques to mitigate against the inherent technical biases associated with existing solutions. Using a Research through Design approach, this thesis explores Foley-based sketching and establishes that designing through sound making can benefit participatory design processes; support knowledge exchange; and inspire new and divergent ideas. By putting sounding materials directly in the hands of individuals, this work examines the concept of qualitative data sonification through embodied kinaesthetic action, which can produce meaningful sonic representations of experiential phenomena. The trialling of accessible group-based activities to support this rapid experimentation with sound led to the formulation and development of a new method, ‘Embosonic Design’. The method was trialled in two major design projects, ‘Her[sonifications]’, where it was employed as an arts-based approach in the participatory design of an interactive sound installation; and ‘Emotional Machines’, where it formed a major part of a mixed modal interaction study in an industry-based innovation context, facilitating ideation and interaction design for future smart speakers at BBC Research and Development. The conceptual frameworks, practical tools and guiding philosophies contained in this thesis will help researchers and designers employ the thinking and methods in their design-led innovation work and participatory design practice.

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Thesis (PhD)
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17 Nov 2021 12:30
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:49