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Data Centre Review Program

2684 words - 11 pages

1 Introduction
Sound as an information channel has distinct advantages over other methods of
communication, making it widely-used for warnings and alerts in various contexts and
environments. Auditory warning signals in user environments are, more often than not,
very simple, monotone sounds. In application, they are often annoying and difficult for
users to recognize and understand (Block et al., 1999; Ulfvengren, 2006) During recent
time there has been an increasing interest to investigate new and more complex nonspeech
sounds to convey information in critical situations (Stevens et al., 2006;
Ulfvengren, 2006; McKeown, 2005). The Sonic studio, part of the Interactive Institute
in ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand, non-speech based sounds may have
advantages over speech in that they are both language independent and have the
potential to be understood more efficiently and more rapidly. They can be better suited
in environments that require other simultaneous verbal communication, or in
environments with a high level of background speech and noise (Patterson, 1982;
Edworthy, 1994). Research has so far been focusing primarily on two different
categories of non-speech sound – abstract and representational sounds.
3 Abstract and representational sound icons
The concept of using more complex sounds to convey information and feedback in user
environments derive primarily from HCI research in the 1980s. By that time, visual
icons had been around for some time and there was an increasing interest to explore
new ways to convey information using sound. Blattner et al. (1989) described how
sound could be grouped or structured along principles similar to those of icons. These
short sounds, which he called earcons, were defined as “nonverbal audio messages used
in the user-computer interface to provide information to the user about some computer
object, operation, or interaction”. He suggested that earcons, like icons, could be
divided into the classes: representational, abstract, and semi-abstract. Abstract earcons
would make use of the many possibilities offered by musical signals, to form unique
sounds. By manipulation of parameters such as timbre, register and rhythm, hierarchical
earcons with specific meanings could be created. Just as representational icons are
recognizable pictures of objects, representational earcons would be sounds that are
already familiar to the user. Gaver (1986) investigated representational earcons,
although he called them auditory icons. He defined auditory icons as “everyday sounds
mapped to computer events by analogy with everyday sound producing events”. He
divided the mappings between data and their auditory representation into three different
types: symbolic, nomic, and metaphorical.
4 Defining sound types
Ever since earcons and auditory icons were first introduced, authors have been
investigating their potential, and how to make them more effective. Brewster and later
also McGookin have done some important work evaluating earcons (Brewster et al
1993; Brewster et al.1996; Brewster 1998; McGookin 2004) and further developing
design principles (Brewster et al. 1994). Their work clearly focuses on the kind of
earcons which Blattner referred to as abstract earcons. Brewster has defined earcons as
“abstract, synthetic tones that can be used in structured combinations to create sound
messages to represent parts of an interface” (Brewster et al. 1996). Bussemakers et al.
(1998) added mood to earcons by manipulating parameters such as loudness and
intonation. Pirhonen et al. (2006) expanded the category of earcons to cover all nonspeech
audio signs that do not directly imitate sounds...

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