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Co-Design Session at Perkins

In February, 2022, our team held a co-design session with two teachers from Perkins School for the Blind. While there were many great topics and items discussed, we had a few key takeaways from the session that are included below.

  • Students use silence. The space of silence can become as important as the sounds themselves.
  • Sounds used in orientation and mobility have instruction. There is careful instruction—training—involved for listening to become independent travelers. In designing sonifications, we may hold assumptions about our listening — how far and close sounds are, for example—and may need to include wrap-around instructions of sonifications.
  • Devices, like LabQuest, have earcon beep on and off indicators. They beep twice to indicate that the device turns on, and beep once when the device shuts off. Beeps could be used to indicate the start and end of sonifications.
  • Sudden abrupt sounds are startling and can trigger a heightened startle response. If we create an event sound that is impactful, we should indicate this (either as an audio display or in the sonification mapping) so there is anticipation and not an abrupt loud sound.
  • Tapping is used to signal focus of attention for where to look. If we include spatial mappings, we may consider foreshadow tapping sound as signal for important events/sounds in the data sonification.
  • Teacher(s) use lots of description around a sound. How description is done is important, and what is pointed out. Audio displays may become a larger part of this project. Initially, idea of narrative before/after the sonification. Also, the idea of narrative overlaid on top of the sonification (e.g., two types. One type as the sonification with narration before. Another type as the sonification with overlaid narration).
  • Multiple data streams, multiple sounds are hard to parse. If we include multiple data streams or sounds, we must tease apart one data/sound at a time first. We could have multiple sounds together, but should create individual stems that can be played individually, combined, or simply muted and unmuted.


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by Jon Bellona


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