Sound Spheres

Sound Spheres

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Overview | Exhibitions | Conceptual Framework | Artist Statement


Sound Spheres is a web-based interactive installation created in collaboration with Greg Philbrook that combines computational digital media and storytelling techne to explore interactive, participatory sound-based narratives.
LEARN more at Sound Spheres website.

Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts

ICIDS 2018

International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS)
(Juried, international exhibition)
Studio 2, Science Building
Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
5-8 December 2018
Event website
My work at festival website.

Sound Spheres was jury-selected for inclusion in the Art Festival associated with the ICIDS conference. The curatorial theme of this exhibition was to explore the combination of digital media and non-human sound sources for interactive storytelling. Dedicated festival webpage.

ICIDS is the premier conference for researchers and practitioners concerned with studying digital interactive forms of narrative from a variety of perspectives, including the theoretical, technological, and applied design practices. The annual conference is an interdisciplinary gathering that combines technology-focused approaches with humanities-inspired theoretical inquiry, empirical research, and artistic expression. ICIDS Conference website.

Conceptual Framework

Sound Spheres is a web-based installation combining computational digital media and storytelling techne with which participants can create interactive, participatory sound-based narratives.

The interface visualizes a night-time city skyline. Atop one building is an antenna mast. Periodically, this antenna broadcasts multiple colored spheres. These spheres circulate above the city skyline, rebounding from the monitor's edges. More spheres are broadcast at regular intervals.

Each sphere carries a unique audio sample. Participants may listen to these samples, and construct stories using multiple interactive approaches.

First, by moving the cursor to intersect the trajectories of the sound spheres, participants can hear the audio samples they carry. The cursor is a listening device.

Second, participants can position the cursor anywhere on the screen, and wait for sound spheres to pass within its range of hearing. As sound spheres approach the cursor, they glow and their audio contents are heard.

Finally, participants can click sound spheres, moving them into an audio player embedded in the building skyline. Up to five spheres at a time can be placed in the audio player. Once in the player, the sound spheres can be heard in the order they were selected. Participants can stop and restart the audio narrative as they wish. And, they can, at any time, eject any sound sphere from the player.

In these ways, participants can create serendipitous linear narratives based on interactivity and narrative elements provided by the selected sound spheres.

Artist Statement

Sound Spheres is a collaborative exploration of interactive digital storytelling. The collaboration begins between the artists who conceived and developed the work, and is continued by participants who create serendipitous narratives based on their listening to different sounds provided by the selected sound spheres.

The interface is purposefully game-like, to encourage participants to explore the narrative contents held in each of the colored spheres. It is also challenging as these spheres are constantly moving. Eventually, sound spheres disappear, replaced by new, different spheres/sounds, and thus, new and different potential narratives. How to create narratives in this moving/changing context is one of the questions explored by Sound Spheres.

Another question is the nature of narrative itself. Using this interface, can participants dip in and out of ongoing, continuous potential narratives by "listening" to the surrounding sounds?

And what of these sounds? Do they have to be known, identifiable sounds, or might they be acousmatic, sounds heard but their sources unseen?

Sound Spheres answers both questions affirmatively. Within this work, engaging narratives do not necessarily require definitive beginnings, middles, or ends. Nor do they require linear arrangement. Instead, narratives are ongoing, constantly changing, rearranging themselves, depending on to what we listen, and how. Narratives create worlds, sounds create ways to be in those worlds. Through its visualization of narrative components, and invitations to participate and/or interact, Sound Spheres points us toward the listener's imagination as the glue cementing components of interactive digital storytelling into satisfying and fullfiling narratives.