Sounds are Worth a Thousand Words

The advent of mobile has freed computing from both a fixed location and the hegemony of the visual; allowing for new possibilities of using sound that are now being explored. The way in which we interact with sound can be divided into four categories of “placed sounds”, “sound platforms”, “sonifying mobility” and “musical instruments” (Behrendt, 2012), with placed sounds being the most developed.

The most obvious manifestation of placed sound is the tourist guide that, once accessed through their mobile device, accompanies visitors around sites, imparting historical information, narrative, music or a combination of all of these.

An example of this Soho Stories (National Trust, 2012) a walking guide that has been created with AppFurnace, and takes the user on a tour of London’s Soho in the twentieth century.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 22.11.19

Soho Stories from The National Trust

With a combination of music, street chatter, actuality and narrative, the mobile’s GPS locates the user and a different story is told according to the location. As the user leaves the vicinity the story they are listening fades away to be replaced with a fresh one for their new location, only to be picked up again should they walk the same way twice.

While content can be accessed in a virtual mode by selecting locations on a map, the full experience of the work is site-specific and includes the act of walking in Soho, thus changing the experience of the anytime, anywhere access to mobile.

The possibilities offered by sounds are also being explored in innovative ways by news media – telling stories that are easier for the ear to comprehend than the eye, in Fractions of a Second: An Olympic Musical (New York Times 2010), the differences between the first and last places in a selection of Olympic events is demonstrated by the time between notes, a much clearer way of communicating often minute intervals of time.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 23.48.49

Fractions of a Second: An Olympic Musical


Behrendt, F. 2012. The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 18(3)283-295. Sage. Available at:

Cox, A. 2010. Fractions of a Second: An Olympic Musical. New York Times. Available at: [accessed 5 March 2016]

National Trust, The. 2012. Soho Stories. AppFurnace. Available at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *