JOUR FIXE with Alexandra Supper

Data Sonification and the Boundaries of Science, Art and Art-Science

This jour fixe will be devoted to the phenomenon of sonification, an acoustic counterpart to visualisation, in which data are translated into sound. Sonification projects range from artistic works to scientific applications, with a large and varied grey area in between. My analysis will trace how the identity of sonification – as science, as art, as art-science – is negotiated in the interdisciplinary sonification community. Conceptually, my analysis is inspired by ‘boundary work’ theories from the sociology of science, and methodologically, it is based upon qualitative interviews, participant observation and a literature study. I will discuss how the practitioners of sonification (often quite flexibly) draw the boundaries between science and art in different contexts, and in doing so, raise questions about the nature of categories such as ‘science’, ‘art’ and ‘art-science’.


Alexandra Supper is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department for Technology & Society Studies, Maastricht University, and visiting professor at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna. She studied sociology at the University of Vienna and wrote a PhD dissertation in science & technology studies at Maastricht University, in which she studied the emergence of an interdisciplinary community dedicated to sonification and their struggle to have listening to data accepted as a scientific technique. Her work on sonification has been published in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (edited by Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld) and Das geschulte Ohr: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Sonifikation (edited by Andi Schoon and Axel Volmar). Her research interests include the role of the senses in scientific practice, the status of visual and auditory scientific representations, the emergence of scientific disciplines and interdisciplinary practices, and the history of academic conferences.


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