Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Music of Science: Environmentalist Data Sonifications, Interdisciplinary Art, and the Narrative of Climate Change
by Hilgren, Bailey, M.M., The Florida State University, 2019, 135; 13811892
Abstract (Summary)

The current environmental crisis is due at least in part to a lack of effective science communication. Traditional methods of disseminating findings are important for continued progress but can be inaccessible to the public and rarely communicate the important emotional and cultural dimensions of environmental issues. Mitigation of the effects of climate change will not occur if a majority of people cannot understand the problem or do understand but fail to change their behaviors. There has been significant communications research into these issues—findings have suggested that communication techniques that can create a narrative, engage emotion, make the abstract more understandable, and use value frames to connect to an audience and encourage empathy will be most effective in encouraging behavioral change. The arts are capable of communicating in this fashion; sounding art in particular has a long history of engaging with politicized and emotional issues in ways that can ultimately provoke large-scale shifts in social convention. The arts and sciences each provide important responses to environmental problems. When used together, however, they have serious potential to create change.

Data sonification, or the translation of data into sound, combines climate science and ecological art into a potentially powerful form of environmental activism. This thesis research examines the technique’s blend of art and science and its potential as effective environmentalist art through an exploration of three case studies: Lauren Oakes and Nik Sawe’s 2016 sonification of climate change impacts on Alaskan forests, Andrea Polli’s 2004 online sonification project Heat and the Heartbeat of the City, and the 2012 telematic multimedia opera Auksalaq by Matthew Burtner and Scott Deal.

Data sonifications defy classification as either solely artistic or scientific—this disciplinary ambiguity can create tension—but it is exactly this disciplinary ambiguity that makes them useful as environmentalist tools. Sonifications appeal to emotions and logic and require creativity and evidence, powerful persuasive combinations in the face of environmental issues. They require scientists to consider the aesthetics behind the art, and composers to understand the science behind the data; in forcing us to acknowledge the importance of the other disciplinary perspective, they help us to question some of our disciplinary boundaries and effectively serve as a model for the interdisciplinary collaboration that is increasingly necessary as we navigate our changing world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Von Glahn, Denise
Commitee: Eyerly, Sarah, Broyles, Michael, Chagnon, Jeffrey
School: The Florida State University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: MAI 81/1(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Climate Change, Sustainability
Keywords: Climate change, Data sonification, Ecological art, Environmental sustainability, Interdisciplinary art, Science communication
Publication Number: 13811892
ISBN: 9781085566803
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