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07/16 Micro-positioned Storytelling in Sound

Micro-positioned Storytelling in Sound – Field Trial Evaluation of a Media Prototype, presented by Lars Nyre and Jon Hoem, at The Radio Conference in Utrecht.

The presentation gives an introduction to the media prototype – “Auditor”., and the  sound drama  – “Railroad Dialogues”,  both developed and produced by Jon Hoem and Johannes Ringheim, Centre for New Media at Bergen University College. The sound installation is exhibited at the university college’s premises. .

During the presentation we also discuss some preliminary findings from a field trial with 42 informants., and concludes with some thoughts about the relevance for (locative) radio


Auditor is an application that supports what we call Sonic Augmented Reality. This application is used to present an episodic sound drama triggered by movement. The application is run on smartphones, and used by listeners with. noise-cancelling headphones.

The users, or more precise the mobile devices, are located in a space defined by radio transmitters (Bluetooth Low Energy – following the standard that Apple have labeled ibeacons). Location is then used to play sounds at three different levels. These sounds can also be oriented (the stereo perspective is panned) using information from the smartphones’ accelerometers.

We are interested in how to use sound to create a sense of being somwhere else, and at the same time let the sounds augment the physical environment where the user is present.. The overall question is: how to produce sonic augmented dramas for specific places

The scene is defined by six ibeacon-transmitters, placed around a square. These transmitters are used to position mobile devices and control sounds at three levels. 

At the first level there is a background sound from a railway station. This is a professionally produced stereo track, which is looped, and continues to play during the whole experience. 

At the second level we have effect sounds, used to give some character to specific zones. These sounds change as the user moves around. The effects sounds are panned when the user turns, corresponding to the mobile device’s accelerometer. 

At the third level we have placed six different dialogues. The users listen to the one end of fictional phone calls, spoken by characters at the train station. When the user moves around the different parts are played in accordance with changes of position. The result is a mix of different calls together with changes in the background sounds. Several different voices might be played at the same time, and the sounds of the people speaking are also panned when the user turns.


We are then interested in what are the user experiences might be like. To get knowledge about this we did a quite extensive field trial and evaluated the listening experience with 42 informants. We registered:
– Their immediate response
– Survey after the test
– Log data from the phone.
– Reflexive description through 10 qualitative interviews

Informant characteristics
  • Young adults between 20 and 30 years, students as well as working people. 
  • 52 % were women. 67 % have a bachelor degree, 21 % have a master.
  • 98 % use a smartphone for listening to music and sound, and 94 % use a PC or mac.
  • 29 % listen in headphones for up to two hours each day, 24 % for up to three hours, and 31 % for more than three hours.

Conclusion – relevance for radio
Listenership. Young people listen while they walk, using mobile phones with headphones. Traditional radio has a weak grip on this group.

Content. Radio is a profession with expertise in sound content production, and should be in the vanguard of micro-positioned storytelling.

Technology. Radio should be more innovative in regard to auditory interfaces and distribution technologies.