Information in Program Debugging
Dimitrios I Rigas,1 Mark A R Kirby2 and Daniel O'Connel2
1 Department of Computer Science, University of Hull, Hull Hu6 7RX, UK
e-mail: D.Rigas@dcs.hull.ac.uk, Tel: (+44) (0) 1482 465038
2 School of Computing, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH,UK
e-mail: M.A.R.Kirby@hud.ac.uk, Tel: (+44) (0) 1484 472938
This paper describes three experiments in which audio, non-speech sound and particularly structured musical stimuli, was utilised to communicate information in interfaces for program debugging. In this paper, the term audio or non-speech sound refers to structured musical elements such as pitch, rhythm, melody, tunes, harmonic sequences, and timbre. The experiments investigated pitch, tunes and timbre produced by multiple timbre synthesisers, sound cards or computational equivalents. The goal of these initial experiments was to obtain a substantiated view of the potential capabilities and limitations of using sound to communicate information in program debugging activities.
Auditory feedback can be generally divided into synthesised speech, environmental sounds (or auditory icons) and structured musical sounds (or earcons). Musical sound is a rich medium containing numerous structures introduced by musicians over many years of human evolution. Also, given that we live in an age where multimedia systems are fully capable of producing musical sounds relatively easily and effortlessly, the use of structured musical stimuli in interfaces is currently at a relatively low level. The auditory channel, as a whole, has been neglected in the development of user-interfaces, possibly because there is very little known about how humans understand and process auditory stimuli. It is not intuitively obvious how to use musical structures in interface design. Current user interfaces focus heavily on visual interaction. The consequence of this is that user interfaces have become more and more visually crowded as the user's needs to interact with the computer increase. This creates considerable difficulties for blind users. Sound has already been utilised