SoundMap 2.0


This project aims at devising a new open access curatorial tool to navigate the UK Soundmap hosted by the British library. The current stress on ‘placing’ datasets is arguably borne of the ease with which we can combine information with GPS systems such as Google Maps. The curation of the recordings of everyday life for the UK Soundmap is based on this paradigm, so arguably emphasizing identification of place over the rhythms, temporality and acoustic qualities of the sounds themselves. In effect the sounds currently function as an index on place rather than as an index of themselves. The proposed tool will allow users to access the materials through a new set of sound-related thematic identifiers. It will combine to act as supplementary interface to the current open access webpage for the Soundmap. Working directly with the recorded sounds, new units of analysis will be devised based upon the fundamental principles of pitch, timbre, and beat. The extended curation of the Soundmap will be based upon a new set of hashtags to enable alternative ways into the archive. As a further aspiration of the project, the new hashtags also allow for the possibility of a crowd-sourcing feature. The aim of which would be to encourage rich engagement with the materials and to prompt an open, collaborative handling of the archive

Assessment Criteria
The research question you are trying to answer

The project seeks to answer an overarching question as to how access to the UK Soundmap can be extended and enriched. In doing so it considers the following research questions:

- How can we extend the ‘mapping’ of the UK Soundmap beyond a sense of place, to include the correlation of sounds in the archive according to sound-specific properties?

- In working with the current interface, how can the adoption of a new set of sound-related hashtags help supplement the user experience of ‘entering’ into the archive?

- By extending the searchable terms of the UK Soundmap, can greater participation and engagement with the archive be achieved, ideally by prompting extended analysis and coding of the full archive through crowd-sourcing?

Please explain the extent and way your idea will showcase British Library digital content

The project will work with a selection of the approx. 2,000 recordings of the UK Soundmap: . The project will begin with a sample of 50 sounds, which will then be scaled up to 200 sounds, which is 10% of the archive. The further aspiration of the project is to provide the means of an open access, crowd-sourcing approach to the coding of the complete archive.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods

Indicate and describe any research methodologies and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc
- Drawing on Crespi’s doctoral research on systems of notations (of movement and rhythm) and the reflexive methodology she has developed in relation to diagramatisation, combined with Manghani’s long-standing research on concepts of the image (which includes literary and sound images), the research team will review an initial 50 sounds from the UK Soundmap to develop a set of sound-related descriptors. The descriptors will be grouped under the fundamental principles of pitch, timbre, and beat. E.g. Descriptors under pitch may include words such as high/low, shrill, deep, etc. While under timbre, words will relate to the quality of sounds, such as industrial, natural, metallic, noise, ambience etc. The Soundmap is made of many voices, which will reveal a range of specific qualities, alongside which ambient noises evoke aspects of location, and qualities such as weather and time. All of which will be captured by the descriptors employed.

- The initial set of descriptors (approx. 150) will be reviewed and then applied to a further 150 sounds (making up 200 sound of the Soundmap, or approx. 10% of the archive). The final agreed descriptors will then be coded up as hashtags within the current UK Soundmap database, which will enable a much richer set of search options, all of which will be publically available (as is currently the case with the archive’s single #uksm hastag).

- In conjunction with current web-interface for the UK Soundmap, the new descriptors/hashtag will allow for an alternative, supplementary interface to be built, which will provide new thematic search pathways into the archive. Again drawing on Crespi’s recent work on the concept of the diagram, this new web-interface will provide users with a dynamic way of practically accessing the archive and philosophically allowing users to reflect further on the make-up of archive and its materials. The building of the interface will draw on Manghani’s experience of web-based content management systems such as Wordpress and his published accounts of data visualisations. The team will seek advice from the BL Labs with regards to integration with the existing site. However, back-up is available via the Computing Department at University of Southampton. (Manghani currently maintains a website with a Wordpress install on the University server, and can arrange further support/services if required).

- As suggested from the above, a fundamental methodological principle of the project will be the use of the hastag as both a system of cataloguing and a coding device. The UK Soundmap currently makes only very limited use of the hashtag, with most sounds only adopting the single project hashtag ‘#uksm’. The Research team will implement a whole new set of sound-related hastags, which will provide alternative means of cataloguing the archive. In turn, this will allow for alternative means of displaying and grouping the archive. So, for example, it will still be possible to display the sounds set against the UK map, but to show specific groupings of sounds according to their various qualitative properties. In addition, a supplementary web-based interface will be able to provide thematic ways of accessing the materials beyond use of the UK Map. The extended use of hashtags allows for a more dynamic grouping of sounds, providing users with different ways into the accessing the materials.

- As a further aspiration of the project, the hashtag can be utilized for a crowdsourced approach to analyzing the complete archive (and for this process to always continue and enrich through such engagement). One simple mechanism, for example, would be to use social media, such as Twitter, to solicit new data points. A user might listen to a sound on the UK Soundmap then tweet a simple instruction (which identifies the specific sound recording, accompanied by a selection of established hashtags). This mode of data collection is now quite commonly used for various science projects drawing, for example, on mass observations of the public.
Please provide evidence how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the British Library* *

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)
Dr Sunil Manghani is Reader in Critical and Cultural Theory and Director of Doctoral Research at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton (UK). His long-term research has been concerned with the concept of the image and wider discourse of visual culture. A key consideration has been the expanded concept of the image, that includes not just the visual image, but also literary, virtual and sound-images. His book ‘Image Studies: Theory and Practice’ (Routledge, 2013) sets out arguments and practical engagements regarding a broad domain of images. It concludes with a chapter on image and information, which covers aspects of data visualisation pertinent to the proposed BL Labs project. The field of visual culture has been particularly pertinent to the consideration of digital and networked culture, which pertains directly to the proposed project. Dr Manghani was invited to speak at the National Media Museum’s ‘Archive 2.0’ conference in 2015, and co-convened a panel on ‘Making the invisible visible - activating archives, institutions and platforms’ (25-26 November 2015). He was a speaker at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (26 January 2015) and a member of a European funded project, ‘Dynamis de l’image. Pour une archéologie des possibles’ (2015). He also contributed to a Syracuse University hosted symposium in London, at the architect’s studio AL-A on the topic ‘Imaging Images: Media, Model, Diagram’; and was a member of the AHRC Research Network ‘Designing For Community-Powered Digital Transformations’, for which he offered a talk on ‘Designs on Conversation’ at Tate Britain, 15 May 2012. A list of publications and projects is available online:
Dr Paola Crespi’s recently completed PhD thesis on choreographer and movement thinker Rudolf Laban focused on systems of notations of movement and rhythm. Paola’s work on rhythm has been published in Body&Society (2014) and Theory, Culture&Society (2015). As part of her thesis she developed a reflexive methodology based on the concept of diagram and applied to archival research. Her visual model for this methodology is being published (Theatre, Dance&Performance Training, forthcoming) and she recently presented it at the ‘Artistic Research: Is there a Method’ conference in Prague (7-9 April 2016).

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis


As outlined above for ‘approaches/methods’, the project will function primarily around the creation of new hashtags, which is a very simple and widely applicable coding device. Hashtags can be inputted into the current database. Further technical aspects will include the use of a web-based content management system, such as Wordpress (which can either be installed on the BL’s own server or the University of Southampton’s server). This is commonly used and the team has prior experience in its use. Social media can also be used to develop a crowdsourcing option, but this would be developed in consultation with BL Labs in the latter stages of the projects. Again, however, there is precedent for its use.


The team has pertinent curatorial experience both conceptually (in handling the materials of the UK Soundmap) and practically (in working with online materials).


The current UK Soundmap is open access. Permissions will be required internally to add to the database, but as current British Library digital content there are no specific legal concerns. The sound materials will not be altered in any way. The project only requires adding to the cataloguing of the archive. The project and any new curatorial tools will remain open access.
Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your idea by working with the Labs team *
You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning idea between May 26th - November 4th 2016

June 2016

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)

Initial meeting with BL Lab team and Editor of UK Soundmap. For the first stage of the project the research team (Sunil Manghani, Paola Crespi) will review a sample of the archived sounds to draft an initial set of identifiers around pitch, timbre and beat. The aim is to produce a new set of sound-related keywords/search terms. This analysis will make a consideration of both primary voice and background.

July 2016

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)

During this month the research team (Sunil Manghani, Paola Crespi) will review 50 examples from the UK Soundmap with a view to devising an initial set of descriptors and cross referencing results.

August 2016

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)

New descriptors will be finalized and applied to a further 150 sounds. Entries for these sounds will be coded up with new hashtags. Development will also focus on a new web-based interface to showcase the new descriptors/hastags.

September 2016

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)

Work on the web-based interface to proceed. Testing will also begin on possible crowd-sourcing elements to enable future crowd-sourced coding of the full UK Soundmap archive.
October 2016

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)

Web-interace to be tested, and then finalized.