Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Auditory Meaning-Making” – Christl de Kloe

In this fourth Transmission in Motion seminar, Dr. Thomas Hermann presented us with the potential of auditory representation of data (see also (Hermann, Hunt, and Neuhoff 2011)). Hermann discussed for example how it might be easier, for those who have trouble expressing emotions or to express certain feelings, to do so through sounds. Or how in the operating theatre, ‘hearing’ the status of the patient, through the sonification of the data, might be more helpful than visualizing the data of the patient since it would not distract the surgeon from their primary tasks. All in all, he showcased how sonification, which is the auditory representation of data, might help or might be useful in the process of meaning-making.

First of all, this is an interesting project in terms of ‘overcoming’ the primacy of the visual. What I mean is that in this datafied society, data is mainly presented visually and these data visualizations are part of our making sense of the world. To represent data in a different way, namely in an auditory manner, is very interesting in terms of using our other senses in the process of meaning-making. Rethinking meaning-making and knowledge production with other senses than the visual is something that has already been given a lot of attention within the Humanities. Consider, for example, the many ‘movements’ and/or ‘turns’ that recognize the importance of the entire body. Where meaning-making and knowledge production are considered to be situated and embodied processes. This project that Hermann presented is a project that overcomes many dualities not only in terms of the senses, but also in terms of combining the sciences and the Humanities.

This move of representing data in other ways than visually, would also require ‘new forms’ of data literacy and data ethics (even in our mainly visual culture it already appears to be very difficult to make data visualization in a clear and readable way. See for example these data visualizations). Data literacy is shortly said “the set of abilities around the use of data as part of everyday thinking and reasoning [and is] considered to be a life skill” (Wolff et al. 2016, 10). Data literacy has, until now, mainly focused on data visualizations (see for example (Crusoe 2016; D’Ignazio and Bhargava 2016; Frank et al. 2015)). Projects like the one presented by Hermann call for a rethinking of data literacy in terms of sonified data and auditory meaning-making.


  • Crusoe, David. 2016. “Data Literacy Defined pro Populo: To Read This Article, Please Provide a Little Information”.
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Rahul Bhargava. 2016. “DataBasic: Design Principles, Tools and Activities for Data Literacy Learners”.
  • Frank, Mark, Johanna Walker, Julie Attard, and Alan Tygel. 2015. “Data Literacy – What Is It and How Can We Make It Happen?”.
  • Hermann, Thomas, Andy Hunt, and John G Neuhoff. 2011. “The Sonification Handbook,” 586.
  • Wolff, Annika, Daniel Gooch, Jose J Cavero Montaner, Umar Rashid, and Gerd Kortuem. 2016. “Creating an Understanding of Data Literacy for a Data-Driven Society”.