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The Sound of Data (a gentle introduction to sonification for historians)


While there is a deep history and literature on archaeoacoustics and soundscapes that try to capture the sound of a place as it was (see for instance the Virtual St. Paul’s or the work of Jeff Veitch on ancient Ostia), I am interested instead to ’sonify’ what I have right now, the data themselves. I want to figure out a grammar for representing data in sound that is appropriate for history. Drucker famously reminds us that ‘data’ are not really things given, but rather things captured, things transformed: that is to say, ‘capta’. In sonifying data, I literally perform the past in the present, and so the assumptions, the transformations, I make are foregrounded. The resulting aural experience is a literal ‘deformance’ (portmanteau of ‘deform’ and ‘perform’) that makes us hear modern layers of the past in a new way.

In The Programming Historian.