This paper presents an interdisciplinary research-creation project which seeks out the aestheticization and creative transformation of public data. It experiments with a new form of data curation and analysis in order to sonify what is typically visualized.
The primary research question of the project asks what the experience of such sonified data might reveal to us about patterns of sociopolitical activity. In the age of big data, such questions have tended to mine textual data for sentiment patterns in an effort at understanding the mood and affect of political culture (Young & Soroka, 2012). This project however operationalizes sonic terms applicable to political discourse such as resonance and reverberation, and consonance and dissonance, to curate an aesthetic experience of political culture through sound.
We have been exploring these ideas using a practice-based research methodology. We are developing an interactive sound installation which makes uses of data on the voting records of city councillors gathered from the City of Toronto Open Data archive. The data is mapped to a number of audio parameters and is used to generate a dynamic soundscape composed of voice clips of individual councillors. The project refuses normative judgement of the sound itself. Rather than flatten and individuate the voices of the councillors by analyzing their words as a form of static textual output, “The Sounds of City Hall” embraces the democratic quality of cacophony.