Intentional to Incidental

As the technological landscape expands we are discovering the characteristics of our electronic objects becoming quiet. The Sonification Handbook is the leading resource on the development and research of auditory displays and the many facets which create it. Sonification is a form of auditory display that uses a data-dependant generation of sound to communicate and transform data relations into perceived relations provided, that the transformation is systematic, objective, and reproducible. Sonification is then an intentional display specifically designed for an object and function. However, there is another dimension to our sonic experiences which is called the incidental. A more in-depth comparison between intentional and incidental sound is found in the Handbook:

“Intentional sounds are purposely engineered to perform as an information display, and stand in contrast to incidental sounds, which are non-engineered sounds that occur as a consequence of the normal operation of a system (e.g., a car engine running). Incidental sounds may be quite informative (e.g., the sound of wind rushing past can indicate a car’s speed), though this characteristic of incidental sounds is serendipitous rather than designed.”

Sonification proclaims itself as a subjective layer or a sensationalized mode of perceiving information by ear. The distinction made between the two categories allows for speculation that incidental sound is a potential path of critical applications. Incidental sound can be employed as a material to design informative displays and influence interaction; taking it beyond the serendipitous and meaningless to the meaningful and purposeful. The Affection Research Lab searches for ways of extracting incidental sound to develop a palette of materiality for affective designs.