Adding Audibility - Reifying the Soundscape of Process Operators

Petter Alexanderson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


A contemporary challenge when designing interactive artifacts is to take into account the wealth of devices, systems, and tools people use every day - here termed an 'interaction ecology'. This thesis addresses three research issues. Firstly, the character of sound perception, and how auditory interaction can be applied to ubiquitous computing. Secondly, how everyday sounds make people aware of surrounding events and situations. Thirdly, the design-oriented issue of how to make use of sound as a medium for interaction. The first issue is addressed by means of a theoretical study of the character of auditory interaction and audio perception. Previous research indicates that sound is a sensitive and precise modality of interaction. The second issue is taken up through a qualitative study of the work practice of process operators, targeting how they ascribe meaning to sounds in their daily work environment. For the operators, the embodied experience of pumps, motors and driers in the plant area is crucial for the up-to-date understanding of process status and quality. During Participatory Soundscape Interpretation (PSI) sessions, operators listen to sound clips from the factory, and their thoughts about each clip are discussed. The operators make use of daily sounds for identifying things and places, for notification about status of surrounding artefacts, for maintaining social awareness, and for issues relating to learning and work timetables.

Based on the findings from the factory case study, three design directions were explored during design workshops at the factory. A sound probing device was designed to be a personal device for gathering and collecting everyday sounds, and thereby to address temporal limitations of the sound medium. A sound repository concept elaborated on how to interact with sounds from a single source but from different points in time. With these two concepts, novel ways of collecting and accessing sounds over time were achieved. The third design concept dealt with being aware of multiple ongoing things of interest, and how to 'stay tuned' without being drowned in impressions.

In a balanced interaction ecology, people are informed about the status of surrounding resources, can bear with and control the attention demands of surrounding artifacts, and experience the ongoing dialogue as well in hand. The balance of an interaction ecology and the creation of meaningful relations are the result of an ongoing interaction between people and artifacts. I argue that adding audibility will contribute to more balanced interaction ecologies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Informatics
  • Tollmar, Konrad, Supervisor
  • Messeter, Jörn, Supervisor
Award date2007 May 10
ISBN (Print)978-91-628-7116-1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2007-05-10
Time: 13:00
Place: Department of Informatics, room 101 Ole Römers Väg 6 Lund, Sweden

External reviewer(s)

Name: Svanaes, Dag
Title: Associate Professor, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Department of Computer and Information Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Information Systems, Social aspects

Free keywords

  • Technological sciences
  • Samhällsvetenskaper
  • Social sciences
  • systemteori
  • Informatik
  • systems theory
  • Informatics
  • Process Control
  • Acoustic Ecology
  • Interaction Design
  • Auditory Interaction
  • Teknik


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