categorization of everyday actions

How and whether we can categorize actions?

What could be categorized:

  • properties of manipulation
    • discrete / continuous, approx. duration
    • nature: turning, flipping, pressing...
    • energy level needed (what could be a relative scale for this?)
    • ...
  • properties of process initiated / controlled by manipulation
    • duration
    • development properties (could this be something like an envelope as we know it from sound description (ADSR)?)
    • energy level (?)
    • ...
  • properties of sound emitted during manipulation or process
    • basic descriptive level (pitch, perceived loudness (pp, f, ff, etc.), timbre ("sounds like"), envelope(s) (pitch, loudness, filter)
    • materials audibly involved
    • time relation to manipulation / process

How does human action map to existing categorizations of everyday sounds?

1. Sound Categorization Verona


2. Everyday Sound Categorization Gaver


Sound vocabulary:
- onomatopoetics could be put into "". Eg: a short "clack"
- what could be a standardized vocabulary for describing sounds and which elements are of interest?

A interesting citation from Ludwig Wittgenstein: "What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?" (Philosophical Investigationsยง621)

Types of action and their implications to (sound) design
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy various types of Actions. Starting from the observation that a "person's head moves", there are several possibilities: the head was moved indirectly (eg. she moved it with her hand), or directly, intentionally or unintentionally, etc. I think, that this differentiation is lacking in methods like Task Analysis and would help to inform interaction (sound) design decisions. Let's say, I press a switch that turns the oven on. Now if I did this intentionally, the sound should give me an asserting feedback. If I did it unintentionally / accidentally, however, the sound should raise my awareness of a possibly dangerous situation ahead. In the ideal sounddesign, both aspects would be satisfied.
So probably, our scenarios should explicitly develop versions for various forms of actions, and how to respond to them in terms of design decisions.

Action Gestalt
What is an Action Gestalt? An Action Gestalt is a perceived whole entity in the time-space-body contiunuum. It is comparable to a musical motiv, due to it's existence in time. Definition of "musical motif" by Wikipedia as: In music, a motif is a perceivable or salient recurring fragment or succession of notes that may be used to construct the entirety or parts of complete melodies and themes. A motif is distinguished from a figure in that a motif is foreground while a figure is background: "A figure resembles a moulding in architecture: it is 'open at both ends', so as to be endlessly repeatable. In hearing a phrase as a figure, rather than a motif, we are at the same time placing it in the background, even if it is...strong and melodious." (Scruton 1997: 61) A motif may be harmonic, melodic (pitch) and/or rhythmic (duration).

Therefore action gestalts have to be:
  • Salient composition of "action bits"
  • Foreground to other background activities
  • Recurring, that is: a type of action that is performed in several contexts and not unique
  • Open at both ends: can be proceeded from or connect to a next action gestalt

What are the descriptors of Action Gestalts (analogous to harmony, melody, rhythm)?
If Action Gestalts are specific forms of time-space-body- continuum, they could be described along these three components. Eg.: timeframe & movement vector & ...