Lobbying for the ear, listening with the whole body: the (anti-)visual culture of sonification

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Sonification, the transformation of data into sound, is often argued to challenge the “visual culture” of science. Based on an analysis of rhetorical discourses as well as bodily practices within the sonification community, I show that the relationship between sonification and visual culture is in fact more complex and ambivalent: in publications and interviews, sonification researchers blame visual practices for the marginalisation of sound, but also look up to visualisation as a role model. I argue that this delicate balancing act can be regarded as an expression of what historian of science Thomas Kuhn has referred to as the “essential tension” of science between convention and iconoclasm; here: between questioning a scientific status quo (equated with a “visual bias”) and conforming to it. Turning towards the sonic and embodied skills involved in doing sonification work, I show that the different sensory modalities, which seem so neatly bounded in discourses about sonification, are intimately intertwined in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
JournalSound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016

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