Chapter 2: Theory of Sonification

by Bruce N. Walker and Michael A. Nees


This chapter give a broad introduction to sonification, and discusses the guiding theoretical considerations for sonification researchers and designers. It brings in many of the insights from relevant domains of research, and offers areas where future researchers could answer unresolved questions or make fruitful clarifications or qualifications to the field. While the chapter stands on its own as an overview of sonification, in many cases the interested reader is pointed to another more detailed chapter in this book, or to other external sources for more extensive coverage.

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Media Examples

Example S2.1: Spearcons plus TTS auditory menu
This sound file demonstrates a user scrolling through an auditory menu that represents contacts in an address book. As the user scrolls down the menu, a spearcon of the contact’s name plays. The display uses spearcons until the user pauses the scrolling input, at which point a slower text-to-speech (TTS) representation of the contact’s name is played (see, e.g., Jeon et al., 2009).

media file S2.1

download: SHB-S2.1 (mp3, 191k)
source: Jeon, M., Davison, B., Nees, M. A., Wilson, J., & Walker, B. N. (2009). Enhanced auditory menu cues improve dual task performance and are preferred with in-vehicle technologies. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (Automotive UI 2009), Essen, Germany.

Example S2.2: Spindex plus TTS auditory menu
This example parallels the previous sound example, but prepends spindex cues instead of spearcons to the beginning of each menu items. As a result, the user can more quickly scroll through alphabetical auditory menu structures (see Jeon & Walker, 2011)

media file S2.2

download: SHB-S2.2 (mp3, 191k)
source: Jeon, M., & Walker, B. N. (2011). Spindex (speech index) improves auditory menu acceptance and navigation performance. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, 3, Article 10.

Example S2.3: Spearcon example
This example is the word “beautiful” made in to a spearcon.

media file S2.3

download: SHB-S2.3 (mp3, 7k)
source: created by Myoung Hoon Jeon, used with permission