Thesis Evaluation- Sonifying Air Quality: Investigating Musicality and Aesthetics in Data Sonification

The following thesis actually comes from one of the universities that I was considering when I was looking for a Master’s programme. I thought it would be interesting to take a dive into what their students did and kind of compare with FH Joanneum.

Author: Olli Ketonen

University: Alto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Country and date: Finland, 2021

I chose this topic because my interest was piqued after realising this thesis offers a more artistic/creative approach to data sonification than I have seen before. The degree seems to be similar to that of FH Joanneum.

Level of design

The final product seems to match the initial expectations of the thesis. The author provided good detail regarding the building process itself.

Degree of innovation

Sonification has been done a lot before, and I believe there was already sonified air quality data before this thesis, however the author decided to expand on an existing subject and add to it in a creative way. He mentioned how unexplored the aesthetic aspects of sonification are. The final product is very unique (data sculpture).


Based only on the thesis text, I would say the author worked mostly independently. I did not see him mention that he asked someone for help in the research. He did, however have a 3D modeller design the sonic sculpture, but according to the Author’s own specifications backed up by research in the thesis.

Outline and structure

Based on Aalto’s own formatting guidelines, this thesis seems to be properly structured. There is tons of graphs that make it easier to read, however I would love it if there were more illustrations that depict the author’s journalling process and the ideas in his head.

Degree of communication

To me personally it was clear, but I am afraid that someone who has no previous experience with air sonification doesn’t know the different abbreviations in the air quality data table. There were some other abbreviations here and there that might be unknown to non-sound designers.

Other than that, the work was explained in great details, with pictures showing what the author meant. He made sure to make the sketches as simple as possible, including only the essential information. he explained all the basics of sonification, so no previous knowledge is necessary to understand the thesis.

Scope of the work
The work was 60 pages long + 3 pages of an interview transcript. I thought that was a really nice touch and the amount of information/graphics was just right for a master thesis.

Orthography and accuracy

I did not spot any grammar or syntax errors. Data also seemed to be well backed up and the air quality tracking information was obviously archived meticulously.


There was a very big amount of literature at the end, 85% being specialised books and articles. Only a few sources were online posts or unspecialised articles.