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Data 'Sonification' More Than Just a Cute Trick to Drexel U. Professor

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- We talk about the stock market all the time (notably at :25 and :55 after every hour on KYW Newsradio), but sometimes it may be tough to visualize the information.

But now, an intriguing little ditty on the CNN Money web site may be a peek into how we interpret data in the future.

The song is the music of success, with each day's close of the Standard & Poor's 500 stock average turned into a musical note, and the assembled notes into a tune.

There's also a bar graph, making for what Drexel University professor Youngmoo Kim calls data visualization and sonification, "using that sort of analytical tool, whether it's visual or auditory, to look at all sorts of data, whether it's financial data, health care data.  You know, we're generating so much information naturally, just through the use of computers these days, and we really need to explore these ways to make that information tractable.  There's too much of it to just look at the raw numbers," he says.

Prof. Kim, of Drexel's "Excite" (Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies) Center, says this sort of cutting-edge technology can also be very helpful to the blind, turning data they can't see into something they can hear.

And it can serve the rest of us, too.

"We can present visual data in a compelling way," Kim says, "so you can see a lot more in terms of trends and density and pick things out visually that you might not be able to see just from a series of numbers."

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