An introduction to Sounding out the System

In this blog post, I present a paper for the Research Infrastructures for Web Science (RI4WebSci) workshop with Alan Chamberlain. I will also add in some extra data that is not in the paper.

The paper discusses the use of an experimental Humanities (Chamberlain et al., 2017; Emsley et al. 2019) approach to a short experiment about using multiple devices to connect to a website. We ran a small experiment using three devices, two phones and a laptop, to connect to the PolemicTweet website using different connection types such as 4G and WiFi. There are various questions that one might want to ask from a network connection or the types of entity providing them, such as platform or service providers.

The data is processed using Python and Jupyter Notebooks to allow the intermediate files and processing to be clear. The data and code are put into a Github repository (RI4WebSci repo) to allow its re-use and inspection. This allows us to explore sonification as a potential scholarly machine (De Roure and Willcox, 2020).

The aim is to explore the use of sound, through sonification and composition, to represent the data. Here I want to discuss the sonifications that are not in the paper. The first file explores the sounds of the devices as they connect. The grand piano is the phone on 4g, the phone on WiFi is an organ and the laptop is a much quieter organ.

The second sonification explores a way of representing the companies that provide services, such as Google or Microsoft, and how they often that they appear. The work here is a simple set of rules that are applied to a map of the IP addresses.

These are simple sonifications designed to explore the data but are not in the paper.

Alan Chamberlain recomposed the MIDI files into a new composition, Unseen in Sound. One of the themes that I get from this is emergence of varying objects. I hope that others hear other things and engage with the work in their own way.

The more that I think about it, the more I am finding in this work.


Alan Chamberlain, Mads Bødker, Adrian Hazzard, David McGookin, David De Roure, Pip Willcox and Konstantinos Papangelis (2017) “Audio Technology and Mobile Human Computer Interaction: From Space and Place, to Social Media, Music, Composition and Creation”, In the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction (IJMHCI) Volume 9, Issue 4, October – December 2017 pp. 25 – 40. DOI

Iain Emsley and Alan Chamberlain 2021 Sounding out the system: multidisciplinary web science platforms for creative sonification. WebSci’21 Workshop on Research Infrastructure for Web Science (RI4WebSci), Virtual, 21 – 22 Jun 2021. Published in: ACM WebSci21 proceedings. ACM (Accepted)

Iain Emsley, David De Roure, Pip Willcox, Alan Chamberlain. 2019. Performing Shakespeare: From Symbolic Notation to Sonification, In Audio Mostly 2019 Proceedings (AM ’19), September 23–26, 2019, Nottingham UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA. DOI 

David De Roure and Pip Willcox. 2020. Scholarly Social Machines: A Web Science Perspective on our Knowledge Infrastructure. In 12th ACM Conference on Web Science (WebSci '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 250–256. DOI:

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