Carnegie Mellon University
kgiesa_ms_architecture_2021_R.pdf (4.95 MB)

Listening Out: Towards a New Spatial Sonic Imaginary

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posted on 2022-10-31, 18:53 authored by Katherine Giesa

In the 1960s, Guy Debord proposed the dérive, a new way of walking, which was of course new only in name. The dérive was an essential part of psychogeographic practice, emphasizing observation, spirit, emotion, and experience in response to what Debord deemed a memetic society of consumption and distraction. Today, experimental and affective geographers wander down paths laid by the psychogeographers, similarly exploring the affective import of space. Cartography has served as an important medium for those interested in space; and offered a tool for geographers and artists alike to make relational sense of place and space. Still, cartographies, even those that emphasize subjectivity and abstraction, are largely visual. Soundscapes and sound mappings offer rich potential to expand sensory cartography and bridge aural and visual spatial epistemologies; but, soundmapping's emphasis on high fidelity recordings, tied directly to precise geographic coordinates leaves room for abstraction and musicality in sonic cartography. Building on decades of audio visually inspired work, this thesis examines new ways of narrating space through sonic experimentation, provides a performative protocol for data collection, and describes a resulting computational system for mapping visual to sonic spaces. The output is a site specific and autobiographical work that takes the ‘daily stroll ’as its central input. These daily strolls are formalized as data collection: daily video recordings were captured of Shadyside (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) over the course of a six-month period. Their visual streams are segmented and mapped to audible parameters, ultimately creating a generative composition that tells an evocative story of place over time. In so doing, the work proposes and demonstrates mapping as composition and composition as a mapping and tugs at the affective and performative potentials of sound mapping to generate new spatial imaginaries. Reflecting on the work opens further possibilities for ‘hearing ’visual space: from assistive wayfinding technologies to urban planning tools, there remain rich potential applications for sonifiying the built environment. 




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Architecture

Degree Name

  • Master of Science in Computational Design (MSCD)


Daragh Byrne, Daniel Cardoso Llach

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