Audio-Visual Aids

By: Peggy Nelson
March 30, 2010

Our translation programs are a little one-sided. We know what looks look like, and what sounds sound like. And what sounds might look like, as in this instance of data visualization:

Which roughly translates to:

[Ennio Morricone, Musica Del Oeste Apache]

But what about the other direction? What do looks sound like? What is the sound of cyberspace? We want data soundscapes.

Some possible contenders follow, in a non-exhaustive list.

What about Solari Boards, if they were really, really, fast:

[Solari Board, Penn Station]

Or pre-computer typing, which now comes in a handy app for your Mac:

But in our auditory ontology things often are only awarded the order of entity posthumously. Often they get sidelined as noise, as typing did, back in the day (and will again if you leave the app running for more than 5 minutes).

Occasionally, noise gets elevated to entity-level itself. What is the sound of outer space? That’s easy — outer space beeps. In Russian:

[Sputnik, recorded by ham radio, courtesy of Don Mitchell]

Or in English:

[Neil Armstrong and Mission Control]

But sometimes, data have no sound at all. So we may need to speak for them, as we do for so many other things.

[URLs read at you by @tezcatlipoca]


All entities are potential media that can feel or whose vibrations can be felt as an object by another entity.

[Steve Goodman, Sonic Warfare, quote courtesy of @LRJP]


Browbeating, Haw-Haw