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Many of the databases offered via the web by the Union of International Associations enable users to represent the relationships between profiles in which they are interested as a dynamic network map of hyperlinks by clicking on the map logo. The user is then free to manipulate the network, increasing and decreasing its complexity, and configuring it in ways that are more meaningful. Progress in developing these facilities is described in a separate note: Interactive Hyperlink Map: Auto-generated, Self-organizing Link Visualization.
This map explored the possibility of attaching simple sound files to each node, allowing the user to trigger them individually by mouse operations. This was seen as the basis for developing an acoustic mnemonic code for structures. Ways of packing sequences of notes into each nodal file were envisaged.
This work was initiated in connection with a 1998-9 contract of the UIA with the European Commission (DG-XIII) on the Information Context of Biodiversity Conservation that has a specific emphasis on innovative uses of multi-media to enhance access to information (explanation)
An extensive bibliography (annotated) of items providing the rationale for this sonification approach is provided by the International Community for Auditory Display . Selected items have been incorporated into the references study on Knowledge Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management as an alternative to Project Logic.
A more structured approach to the use of sound to enhance comprehension of complex patterns of information emerged as a result of exploration of use of the Koan software provided freely over the web as a browser plugin by SSEYO (UK). This focuses on the use of generative music seeded by particular (data) patterns and controlled by an extensive array of parameters familiar to musicians. Generative music has the additional advantage of avoiding some of the obvious copyright issues associated with supplying sound over the web. Of special interest is the fact that the amount of data transferred as a pattern to the plugin is normally less than 30k, since the music is generated by the plugin on the user's computer rather than having to be downloaded in its entirety.
From November 1999, ways of integrating sound into the visualization of complex networks is being explored. In order of increasing challenge and significance, these possibilities can be tentatively presented as:
As of November 1999, UIA on-line experiments are at Stage 1, verging into Stage 2 in the above schema.
Much of the challenge for the networks of strategies, developed by networks of organizations, in response to networks of problems, based on networks of values, lies in how these are to be coordinated or "harmonized" in some way. The well-explored conventional approach, based on some simplistic consensus, has a relatively poor track record and few prospects for greater efficacity. The dimensions explored by music redefine "consensus" in richer musical terms that offer many more ways to explore relationships between seemingly disparate elements, using both consonant and dissonant features to advantage.
The use of sound is therefore seen as a way of benefitting from insights into harmony that are widely and intuitively understood. Hopefully it will also help to reframe strategic responses to complex issues in ways to which younger generations can resonate more optimistically.
This work is licensed by Anthony Judge
under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.