Representing uncertainty through sound

New paper with David Gordon and Alexander Boone: “Sonifying data uncertainty with sound dimensions” in Cartography and Geographic Information Science. [PDF]

Abstract: The communication of data uncertainty is a crucial problem in data science, information visualization, and geographic information science (GIScience). Effective ways to communicate the uncertainty of data enables data consumers to interpret the data as intended by the producer, reducing the possibilities of misinterpretation. In this article, we report on an empirical investigation of how sound can be used to convey information about data uncertainty in an intuitive way. To answer the research question How intuitive are sound dimensions to communicate uncertainty? we carry out a cognitive experiment, where participants were asked to interpret the certainty/uncertainty level in two sounds A and B (N = 33). We produce sound stimuli by varying sound dimensions, including loudness, duration, location, pitch, register, attack, decay, rate of change, noise, timbre, clarity, order, and harmony. In the stimuli, both synthetic and natural sounds are used to allow comparison. The experiment results identify three sound dimensions (loudness, order, and clarity) as significantly more intuitive to communicate uncertainty, providing guidelines for sonification and information visualization practitioners.


KEYWORDS: Sonification, uncertainty, aural cognition, sound variables, communication