I develop movement sonifications for sport performance applications as an independent designer. I’m also an academic philosopher who does fundamental research in cognitive science on the nature of perception. Currently, I’m working full-time to develop fast, accurate, and flexible movement sonifications for high-performance athletes. On the philosophy side of things, I maintain collaborations with leading researchers around the world with the aim of revolutionizing our understanding of phenomenal consciousness and how we perceive sensory stimuli.

Based now in Toronto, I previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Network for Sensory Research in the Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto. In that position I worked with Mohan Matthen, who’s done seminal work on the link between perception and action. I completed my Ph.D. in philosophy at Rice University (Houston, Texas), working under Casey O’Callaghan, a leading philosopher of sounds who studies multimodal perception. I grew up in a small town in southeast Pennsylvania.

I’ve been an amateur athlete much of my life, competing in both powerlifting as a youth and track cycling more recently. Although I’m not currently an active racer in cycling, in the past I’ve raced at velodromes in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario. I worked for a few months at a local bike shop and a bit longer as a youth and community cycling coach. My work with movement sonification combines my expertise on perception with my love of sport.

Movement Sonification

We have sensory receptors in our muscles, tendons, and joints which help us perceive our own body position and control movement, but the information from these receptors is inaccurate, sparse, and often suppressed by the brain. The goal of movement sonification is to capture position and movement information via artificial sensors (like the accelerometers and gyroscopes in a wearable activity tracker) and convert that information into a sound the brain can use. If all goes well, you hear your body position and movement. The brain naturally uses visual and auditory information anyway (think of how seeing your hand helps you accurately reach for a nearby cup, or how the sound of foot falls informs you about your running stride). Movement sonification extends these natural cases.

Currently I’m in the early stages of prototyping wearable devices for movement sonification in sport. You can follow my progress on Instagram.

Academic Publication Highlights

Academic Research

As you interact with the environment (including your own body) you come to experience the stuff stimulating your sensory receptors. The stimuli show up in your phenomenal consciousness. Driven by the offline (re)activation of sensory neural circuits, roughly similar sorts of experiences arise in dreams, hallucinations, imagination, and memory. I’m interested in fundamental questions about these experiences.

For a full list of my papers and research interests (outside of sonification), visit my research/teaching page. You might also check out this piece I wrote on digital fluency, or this recording of one of my latest talks, on how perception involves experience of the past. A paper of mine was recently one of two runners-up for the essay prize at the Centre for Philosophy of Memory.

Interested in chatting about human perception or movement sonification?

michael.barkasi@gmail.com