Data Karaoke: Sensory and Bodily Skills in Conference Presentations

A. Supper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


At the International Conference on Auditory Display (ICAD), an interdisciplinary conference dedicated to sonification and the use of non-speech sound to represent information, presenters make use of a variety of bodily skills and representations that appeal to the senses of their audience. In many established disciplines, the conventions that guide the use of these skills and representations are taken for granted; but within ICAD, they are often explicitly negotiated. The practice of data karaoke', in which researchers mimic the sound of a sonification with their own voice, is particularly instructive for understanding these negotiations, and the ICAD community more generally. Data karaoke fulfils five functions: embodiment, highlighting, illustration, authorisation and integration. To make sense of data karaoke, we have to understand the institutional and intellectual environment in which this peculiar practice has emerged; but conversely, an understanding of data karaoke can help us throw new light on epistemological debates about the hierarchy of the senses: data karaoke is a multisensory skill engaging the whole body of the sonification researcher, and thus calls into question the dominant epistemological discourse within the ICAD community, in which the different sensory modalities are framed as competitors. The ICAD case shows that studying conferences as sites where bodies interact, and presentations as performances involving the bodies and senses of scientists, helps us to understand not only the conference cultures, but also the ideals about scientific scholarship and academic authority held by scientific communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-457
Number of pages22
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015


  • academic conferences
  • bodily practices
  • hierarchy of the senses
  • sonification
  • sound

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