iSIC: information through music

10 Feb 2006 - 3:53am
8 years ago
5 replies
807 reads
Lada Gorlenko
2004

I found this very intriguing:

iSIC is short for information music. It is a unique research project
which explores the use of musical rules as a way to convey
information. iSIC is a monitoring system, sort of a baby sitter for
big complex systems. The complex system could be a large network, a
server farm or a nuclear facility. iSIC lets operators mind the
activities of systems through precisely mapped sounds which play
pleasantly in the background. To achieve this the sounds are expressed
as a musical paradigm. Most people will think that iSIC sounds like
background music however a trained operator will know differently.
Someone trained to understand iSIC will be able to get the latest
conditions just by paying momentary attention to the “music”. Even if
they are not paying attention the operators will be immediately
alerted to changes in the system by changes in the music.

http://www.soundtomind.com/

Any expert opinion on whether this is viable?

Lada

Comments

10 Feb 2006 - 1:01pm
John Vaughan - ...
2004

Intriguing premise. Sort of an inverse variation on the early biofeedback
experiments and "color organs" of 60's music/light shows . Those were
pretty rudimentary - The visuals responded physically to volume & percussion
(usually the output of a speaker). In the 70's the (Nam June)Paik/Abe and
Rutt/Etra videosynthesizers used audio inputs to drive analog video images
to "syntehsized" abstraction. Like ... wow. In the 80's MIDI (Musical
Instruction Digital Interface, I believe) came along, which provided digital
definitions for the formerly analog world of sound. http://www.midi.org/

Roots: Film montage pioneer Sergei Eisenstein
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Eisenstein captured the cultural and
perceptual roots of multimedia dynamism in his books "Film Form" and "The
Film Sense" (see chapters on "Synchronization of the Senses" and "Color and
Meaning"). Disney's film classic "Fantasia" was one of the best known
attempts to present music as visual abstraction. Creative entrepreneurs in
the early 19th century produced "color symphonies" in which lighting,
smoke, mirrors, drapery and water provided a dynamic visual expression of
orchestral works. Creative scientists / scientific artists like Goethe (and
others) have often tried to define a lexicon for the "universal meaning" of
sounds, colors and abstracted visuals.

Some of the above speaks to the issue of integrating visuals and sounds to
convey and reinforce meaning, whereas you seem to be considering a
"sound-only" system. Not an "expert" opinion - but still - These might be
helpful resources.

IMHO Anecdotes:

In the early stages of this new media stuff , I was the visuals guy and my
partner was the musician (We tried - among other things - to develop a
digital videosynthesizer, MIDI-VIDI). Working together, we discovered that
I couldn't work with TV in the background (I would be distracted by the
visuals), whereas he couldn't work with music in the background (he focused
on the language of sound). Which is to imply that your iSIC "trained
operator" is probably not so much trained as "sensitized". And that
sensitivity is probably inherent rather than learned.

On a later project: Whilst working on stock trading systems, the design
group toyed with the idea of using sound as another valuable dimension for
communicating a dense information environment. What killed it: The trade
desk environment was itself just too noisy. Environment always a factor.

Net/Net: You're pursuing a really important and undervalued vector of what
is otherwise a truly "dumb" medium. We should all hear more on this. And
listen.

John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lada Gorlenko" <lada at acm.org>
To: <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 4:53 AM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] iSIC: information through music

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

I found this very intriguing:

iSIC is short for information music. It is a unique research project
which explores the use of musical rules as a way to convey
information. iSIC is a monitoring system, sort of a baby sitter for
big complex systems. The complex system could be a large network, a
server farm or a nuclear facility. iSIC lets operators mind the
activities of systems through precisely mapped sounds which play
pleasantly in the background. To achieve this the sounds are expressed
as a musical paradigm. Most people will think that iSIC sounds like
background music however a trained operator will know differently.
Someone trained to understand iSIC will be able to get the latest
conditions just by paying momentary attention to the “music”. Even if
they are not paying attention the operators will be immediately
alerted to changes in the system by changes in the music.

http://www.soundtomind.com/

Any expert opinion on whether this is viable?

Lada

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10 Feb 2006 - 3:16pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

I am clearly not an expert, but slightly modified concept seems to be
very much viable. Some common sense thoughts:

Music tastes are varied and ever changing (personally and for the last
three years I prefer to listen to Argentine tango, jazz and techno pop
for background music). Finding acceptable background music for group
of people could be challenging.

Why not use forest as a background sound? Let's say forest represents
entire nuclear station facility. In 3-d environment sounds from
different clumps of trees in the light breeze could represent related
parts of the system chugging along, occasional songs of specific birds
- periodic updates from critical variables (bird songs, length and
pitch could change), a moose rushing toward you through the underbrush
- emergency from that particular part of the system. Ah, the
possibilities... One could monitor system performance via headphones
anywhere, even in the restroom. Imagine the intrigue of confronting
the moose in the restroom.

Enjoy the picture, Oleh Kovalchuke

On 2/10/06, Lada Gorlenko <lada at acm.org> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I found this very intriguing:
>
> iSIC is short for information music. It is a unique research project
> which explores the use of musical rules as a way to convey
> information. iSIC is a monitoring system, sort of a baby sitter for
> big complex systems. The complex system could be a large network, a
> server farm or a nuclear facility. iSIC lets operators mind the
> activities of systems through precisely mapped sounds which play
> pleasantly in the background. To achieve this the sounds are expressed
> as a musical paradigm. Most people will think that iSIC sounds like
> background music however a trained operator will know differently.
> Someone trained to understand iSIC will be able to get the latest
> conditions just by paying momentary attention to the "music". Even if
> they are not paying attention the operators will be immediately
> alerted to changes in the system by changes in the music.
>
> http://www.soundtomind.com/
>
> Any expert opinion on whether this is viable?
>
> Lada
>

10 Feb 2006 - 3:53pm
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

Sound (music included) lends itself very badly to a layered
presentation of an environment, unless all of your audience is made up
of audiophiles. Any music, any sound is, unlike a visual creation, a
serial presentation.

In my experience computer science people are nearly all audiophiles or
have extremely sensitive ears so it's no wonder they would come up with
something this unusable.

Alain Vaillancourt

__________________________________________________________
Lèche-vitrine ou lèche-écran ?
magasinage.yahoo.ca

10 Feb 2006 - 8:30pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Well true, not all people listen to music, but most of us do use ears
frequently, I would even argue every day. Why not design for hearing?

Actually, the idea of sound of forest as an *auxiliary* feedback for
system status is essentially an extrapolation on sound as part of
feedback mechanism mentioned most recently by both Norman (in
Emotional Design and in The Design of Everyday Things) as well as by
Cooper (in About Face II). Except both Norman and Cooper write about
short melodic chord-like sounds or mechanical ventilation hum and
would probably prefer clunks and clinks instead of more organic
metaphor (both dislike system "beeps" (as far as I know only some of
developers enjoy hearing those and even then I think they like it
because the error box is so easy to code)).

--
Oleh Kovalchuke

On 2/10/06, Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt <ndgmtlcd at yahoo.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>
> Sound (music included) lends itself very badly to a layered
> presentation of an environment, unless all of your audience is made up
> of audiophiles. Any music, any sound is, unlike a visual creation, a
> serial presentation.
>
> In my experience computer science people are nearly all audiophiles or
> have extremely sensitive ears so it's no wonder they would come up with
> something this unusable.
>
> Alain Vaillancourt
>

11 Feb 2006 - 9:05am
Marc Rettig
2004

Hi,
People interested in sound as an information-bearing layer in interaction
design might like to know about "Peep, the network auralizer." It's been
around a while, but I still use it once in a while as an example. It often
makes people go "ah-ha."

The abstract of a paper on Peep explains it pretty well:
. . .
Activities in complex networks are often both too important to ignore and
too tedious to watch. We created a network monitoring system, Peep, that
replaces visual monitoring with a sonic `ecology' of natural sounds, where
each kind of sound represents a specific kind of network event. This system
combines network state information from multiple data sources, by mixing
audio signals into a single audio stream in real time. Using Peep, one can
easily detect common network problems such as high load, excessive traffic,
and email spam, by comparing sounds being played with those of a normally
functioning network. This allows the system administrator to concentrate on
more important things while monitoring the network via peripheral hearing.
. . .
Good papers and -- even better -- sample sound files can be found here:

http://peep.sourceforge.net/intro.html

Cheers,
Marc

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Marc Rettig
Fit Associates, LLC
www.fitassociates.com

-----Original Message-----
Oleh Kovalchuke wrote:

Well true, not all people listen to music, but most of us do use ears
frequently, I would even argue every day. Why not design for hearing?

Actually, the idea of sound of forest as an *auxiliary* feedback for
system status is essentially an extrapolation on sound as part of
feedback mechanism mentioned most recently by both Norman (in
Emotional Design and in The Design of Everyday Things) as well as by
Cooper (in About Face II). Except both Norman and Cooper write about
short melodic chord-like sounds or mechanical ventilation hum and
would probably prefer clunks and clinks instead of more organic
metaphor (both dislike system "beeps" (as far as I know only some of
developers enjoy hearing those and even then I think they like it
because the error box is so easy to code)).

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