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Philosophical perspectives on sounds and sonification

10 October 2014
13:00 – 18:30
Room 104 (Senate House, first floor), Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU.
Event website

Image from page 455 of "The Pharmaceutical era" (1887)

We commonly use non-speech sounds to learn about their sources: Hearing a car horn, for instance, warns us that a car is coming, and where it is coming from. When we listen to a piece of music, we rarely turn our interest to the properties of sounds themselves, in such a way that the sounds stop representing an independent object. What should we then think of the new techniques where sound properties are used to represent scientific data – and not sources? Does sonification require a new kind of listening, or does it compare to musical listening?

The new methods of “sonification” use either direct data-to-sounds mappings, or more interpretative mappings, to transform data relations into perceptible relations in the acoustic signal. Sonified data are especially useful to reveal dynamic patterns in phenomena such as traffic, seismic waves or brain activity. They also manage to tell us something about other properties of these phenomena, for instance, whether a brain is functioning well or not.

Despite its recent progress, sonification has not yet been the object of philosophical attention. This workshop aims to examine some the theoretical challenges raised by sonification, and to explore the relevance of specific examples for our philosophical understanding of auditory and music perception, and of scientific inference and representation.

Full programme and registration details at event website.