Part 2F: Sonification Tool

Attaching sounds to visual information is very helpful to both those with full vision, and to those with compromised vision. Just think about your phone and the many ways in which different sounds give different pieces of information. Come up with a short list of other ways sound is used to convey information. Jot down a few of these ideas in your journal.

Using sound on astronomical data and hence, on images, is an exciting, young field. Wanda Diaz is a blind astronomer who has given a Ted Talk about this “sonification” in her work.

If you would like to listen to this talk, you will need to follow these instructions:

Use the following link to get to the podcasts. Once on the site, you will have to scroll to the bottom of the list and click on “Load more Episodes” . (Do not use the search feature, it will take you to ALL of NPR’s broadcasts). You will have to “Load more Episodes” several times to find the July 20th, 2018 espisode called “The Five Senses”. Wanda Diaz’s story is from minute 1:28 to 10:00. It is of excellent quality.

Ted Radio Hour


Activities for Sonification

Teachers/Leaders: The resource in the link below has the instructions for both the non-computer activities and the computer activities:

Sonification Activities

Non-computer Activities: (see resource above)

1. Trail Mix Activity: different ways to look at data
2. Follow directions on tactile graph paper or whiteboard (or chalkboard!) using sound
3. Line Activity – people demo


Computer Activities

These activities use the Sonification tool in Afterglow Access. There are more instructions in the above resource.

1. First, we need to open a special set of Sample files called “shapes”. To do this, return to the file folder on the upper right of the file library in Afterglow Access. Open that as you did previously. Find the IDATA folder.

  • a) From the IDATA folder, open the “shapes” folder, which is second from the top. Select all four shapes and open them. The circle should automatically open in the viewer window.
  • b) Navigate to the Sonification tool, which is a tool in the column at the far right. The icon is a song note.
  • c) The first line is the Region Mode. The default setting is “Viewport”. Keep it here for now.
  • Below the Region Mode are “Region Size”, “Start Pixel”, and “End Pixel”. If you choose “Custom” for the region, these numbers change depending on the settings you choose.
  • Below this are the “Duration” and “Tone” settings. The “Duration” is the time for the sonification to scroll over the image, and the “Tones” are simply the number of different tones used. There are scroll bars to the right of each of these to use when changing the values.
  • Click the large Sonify button on the lower right when ready.
  • d) After some practice listening to the various shapes, see if you can identify a shape by LISTENING only.

2. Now try an astronomical image. Use any from the sample folder.

In your journal, record your impressions of this tool. Do you personally find it useful in any way? How?