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Meet: Jim Stevenson

Experimental Psychologist

My Journal

Jim's interview is available in streaming audio. To listen to it you need to have Real Player installed on your computer. From the download site linked below look for the reference to the free RealPlayer. Once you have located the form that allows you to download the software, the information that you provide will instruct the server to provide you with the appropriate version of software for your computer and connection to the Internet.

Once you have installed the free player, you can hear the interview with Jim Stevenson. What follows is the text transcript of the interview.

Who I Am
I am an experimental psychologist. I am also blind. My work has applications for sighted as well as blind people. It involves representing mathematics, graphs, statistics, statistical structures what we call stochastic processes and Markov chains in multiple variables in each of those and representing them as sound. So they are tone encoded sonic representations of complex data structures.

This is basic research any scientist could use it to either add sound to a graphical display or to put into sound more dimensions than can be displayed graphically. There is considerable evidence that the ears can hear patterns in different ways, different kinds of temporal pattern that the eyes detect best. It is another mode for data analysis. It could be used in medical imaging. It could be used in astronomical analysis. It has already been already been tested in representation of infrared spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy in chemistry.

My Career Path
At Pomona College I had a double major in math and psychology. Then I attended Stanford University for my Doctorate in Experimental Psychology. My thesis was on experimental hypnosis. I took a lot of math courses along the way and then I took a post doctorate in biostatistics, and another post doctorate year as statistical genetics.

Then I came to work at NASA Ames Research Center were I was the statistical consultant on a number of projects including the Aviation Safety Reporting System as it was being set up.

Now I am doing full time auditory display sonification research work.

Early Influences
I have many mentors along the way. Jack Kilgard at Stanford University, who ran the hypnosis lab, was tremendously instructive in the method of doing experiments scientifically.

As a child
I was always interest in mathematics. In the eighth grade I was in a math class where mathematics was presented merely as an arbitrary set of rules but as rules derived for a reason. Once mathematics were rationalized I couldn't get enough of it. I would read the next two years books over the summer and skip the courses in high school.

The sonification work that I am doing now is deeply connected to turning mathematical functions into sound.

Learn as much math and science as possible. Don't be afraid of the hard classes. Take on the challenge and learn as much as you can.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet in new groups. I am very interested in ideas of Ayn Rand called Physical Objectivism, meaning that the only means we have of knowing reality is reason. The individual is supreme in rights and should not be sacrificed to the state.


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