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Conversion of Global Hot Air Emissions to Music

Aesthetic transformation and instrumentalization of vaporware (Part #1)

Challenge of information overload and information underuse
Technical feasibility of musical sonification
Potential relevance of sonification and animation
Allocation of musical elements to text phrases
Pattern recognition in global declarations and speeches
Enabling user personalization and creativity
Specific applications
Possible texts for experiment
Challenge of self-reflexivity

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In the period of last minute preparations for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (Copenhagen, 2009), the focus worldwide is on the challenge of curtailing carbon emissions. At this stage there is concern that this event, held by many to be one of the most vital for the future of humanity and the planet, will not reach the appropriate conclusions to meet that challenge.

From a more general systemic perspective it could however be argued that humanity is faced with a three-fold "emissions problem", each to some extent serving as a metaphor for the other. However it is the emissions on which the UN Conference is focused which effectively disguise and distract from the other two (Climate Change as a Metaphor of Social Change: systemic implications of emissions, ozone, sunlight, greenhouse and overheating, 2008).

The three-fold emissions problem might then be presented as

  • carbon emissions and the concern that they will result in a dangerous level of global warming -- "hot air"
  • verbal emissions, whether in text or speech, notably in the worldwide preparation and processes of commentary on challenges of society, often described as "hot air", especially when fruitless -- resulting in an increasingly dangerous level of information overload and information underuse
  • sexual emissions, carbon emissions with their own inherent multiplicative propensities -- engendering an every increasing population on a dangerously resource-constrained planet

It is increasingly clear, despite the volume of verbal emissions and the number of resolutions at every level of society, that these are unlikely to ensure adequate constraint of carbon omissions. Such emissions, and other promises of effective change, may therefore be appropriately named as "vaporware". Both forms of hot air will continue to increase. More challenging is the extent to which, irrespective of both, the third form will itself continue to increase and, in so doing, will most probably further increase the first two. Characteristically, there is a large volume of verbal emissions denying this.

The three forms of emission might be usefully recognized as "cognitively entangled", with one entraining the other (David Biello, More hot air on climate change from world leaders? Scientific American, 22 September 2009; UN climate change conference: more hot air?, Ethical Corporation, September 2009; Alex Morales and Kim Chipman, Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars,, 6 December 2007; Chris Lang, G8's hot air on climate and REDD, REDD-Monitor, 13 July 2009).

Although the volume of verbal emissions is evident in the preparation of the UN Climate Change Conference, and although it constitutes a high degree of information overload for all sensitive to the challenge, the generation of these emissions is no more challenged than the quantity of carbon emissions associated with travel to such events. This denial is also evident in relation to the challenge associated with the third form of emissions. To the extent that population is mentioned, it is taken as self-evident that no form of constraint is appropriate and that any form of constraint is itself problematic -- as with verbal emissions. To that extent the UN Climate Change Conference has been appropriately discussed elsewhere as the United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change (2009).

The focus in what follows, however, is on the challenge of verbal emissions, whether generated in relation to the prospects of climate change or to other potential crises. At the time of writing the draft agreement under discussion for Copenhagen is recognized as being long, confusing and contradictory (David Adams, Copenhagen negotiating text: 200 pages to save the world? The Guardian, 28 September 2009). Of wider and more fundamental concern, in the light of the misleading "hot air" progressively developing and sustaining the financial bubble of 2008, is the question of how "hot air" is misused to sustain global strategies (Globallooning -- Strategic Inflation of Expectations and Inconsequential Drift, 2009).

The question is whether the linear approach to processing exploding quantities of information can be circumvented using other modes. The possibility has of course be well-recognized in justifying the many developments of multi-media facilities not entirely dependent on text or speech. Whilst welcome, such facilities constitute a potentially problematic break from the content articulated in text or speech. The primary constraint is in the cognitive capacity to process such linearly presented information. One of the scarcest resources is time -- attention time and learning time -- if people are prepared to allocate it to such challenges.

The exploration here is therefore concerned with how linearly presented information can be "compressed" to facilitate whatever comprehension a person (or a group) considers appropriate. The concern is however primarily with how this might alleviate the current challenges of processing information of relevance to governance. It notably follows from an earlier exploration (Coherent Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier: circumventing dependence on access, classification, penetration, dissemination, property, surveillance, interpretation, disinformation, and credibility, 1999). This was itself framed by speculative consideration of the role of aesthetics in processing such knowledge (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990). Other papers (indicated below) reflect various efforts to exploring the appropriateness and feasibility of such an approach. The original stimulus for these investigations was the project, directed by Johan Galtung, on Forms of Presentation of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University (cf Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension, 1984).

s80s/84forpre.php">Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension, 1984).

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