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The Journal of Sonic Studies
Journal of Sonic Studies, volume 6, nr. 1 (January 2014)Daniel Hug; Moritz Kemper: FROM FOLEY TO FUNCTION: A PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH TO SOUND DESIGN FOR NOVEL INTERACTIONS

To refer to this article use this url: http://journal.sonicstudies.org/vol06/nr01/a03

General Recommendations

Enabling a Performance-Driven, Dialogical Process

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We have described, above, the benefits of using a pedagogical approach that emphasizes real time sound making and live demonstration of interaction scenarios, while also offering the possibility to challenge an interaction process with unexpected behaviors. In principle, both Foley and electroacoustic mockups can encourage exploration and ad-hoc ideation, especially at the beginning of the design process. These stages are akin to sketching and moodboards in visual design. But it is important to acknowledge that this method requires the participants to overcome inhibitions related to being on “stage” and, in addition, inhibitions related to making sounds in a playful way.[7]

From our observations, the demonstrations were often a bit too controlled, and improvisation and ad-hoc ideation were not as common as we desired, as the participants followed their scripts, even in the Foley stage. This also has to do with how the educational system in general encourages the presentation of final concepts rather than the collective exploration of open ideas.

There are two strategies that can help to resolve these issues. First, it is important that the urge to “script” interactions in a restricting manner is resisted. The sonic experiences should always have a possible impact on the concept, and vice versa. Second, audience interaction, and the resulting moments of serendipity and surprise should be encouraged or even enforced. The presenters need to understand themselves as part of a rule-based, generative, and dialogical system rather than as actors acting out some previously prepared script.

Another concern is the (self-inflicted) urge of many students to “build” a functional prototype, as they consider this the only valid form of prototyping. The appreciation of non-functional prototypes and quick’n’dirty, low-tech methods is essential.

Enabling Sound-Driven Interaction Design

Providing methods that make use of the performance-driven sound design approach is the basis for enabling truly sound-driven interaction design. The “ease of use” of Foley and the seamless transition to the electroacoustic mockup allow the participants to use sound as material to design with from the beginning. The process facilitates the participation of all members in heterogeneous groups and enables non-sound designers to develop and finally implement convincing sonic ideas as well.

We see these sound-driven methods as an equivalent to conventional drafting and prototyping methods in interaction design. But these sound-driven methods are not established and are not always taken seriously. Therefore, “designing through sound making” needs to be advocated, and other more established methods for developing design ideas, such as sketching and storyboarding, need to be constricted, at least in the initial stage of development.

Avoiding a Purely Representational Use of Sound

If we are demanding an open and explorational approach towards using sound in interaction design, we are also avoiding the reduction of sound to a purely representational medium (i.e. indicating “error” or linear change of some kind of value). This reduction in our view is a central issue that prevents sound from being used successfully in many cases, as it leads to simplistic beeps and potentially annoying stereotypes that fail to stimulate interaction. The issue relates to the “stigma” of functional sound mentioned in section 4. In the case of the elevator scenario from Group 3, strangeness and surprising sonic qualities would have been promising paths to explore. We need to understand that expression can also be considered as function, and the character of a sound is part of its meaning.

Avoiding Stylistic Bias, Stereotypes and Trivial Mappings

From the case analysis we have seen that a design approach that is style-driven restricts possibilities for exploration of alternatives that could be more effective for the functioning of the design method. It usually leads to static and unresponsive solutions, because possibilities for modulations and variations are limited by the style’s formal requirements. In general, the flexibility and openness of the sound decline as aesthetic pre-determinations increase. Similarly, the simplification of sonic interactions leads to stereotypes and trivial mappings, which may clarify the interactions, but lead to dead ends in the pursuit of novel, fitting “sounds for tomorrow”.

A special case of stereotype is the human voice. While on the one hand it is a powerful means of sonic drafting, on the other, it requires extensive work to defamiliarize it, to detach it from its obvious human origins. In the case of Dipalu, this was not an issue, because the voice was meant to be the voice of the creature and could, as such, be sufficiently defamiliarized.

In some cases, the regress to predefined styles and stereotypes originated in a lack of sonic ideas, arising from an inhibition of exploration and a lack of experience in sound design, but possibly also a result of the representational approaches mentioned above. As it turned out, narrativity could be of great help in this case. Creating stories around artifacts as characters helped to define the sonic aesthetics and was also a useful basis to ensure an aesthetic coherence without being too restricted by a style.