“When the babble in your mind falls silent what are you left with?”

In December we heard from Cat Macaulay, Head of Design at the Scottish Government. Cat has lived a fascinating life, navigating a variety of professions as well as going through a personal, inner journey that led to her losing her inner voice and developing new perspectives on the sensory world of humans. In this talk she asks us “How might we as westerners engage with the sonic world in what is a hugely visually dominated world?”

About the speaker

The Silence of the Self

For over 25 years I have helped people and organisations learn to make sense of the social world, and put that sense to work in product, service and technology design and innovation contexts.


After what we now politely call a ‘portfolio career’, which took me from teaching numeracy, running a cafe, managing a leading UK news monitoring agency, organising a million dollars worth of civil engineering aid to Bosnia, and designing one of the world’s first online trademark infringement services, I fell into academia by mistake.


I took a PhD in Computing, and though it started out being about the design of soundscapes for user interfaces, it ended up being an ethnographic study of journalists seeking information.


Starting out as an HCI and interaction design lecturer and researcher, I led the development of the BSc in Interactive Media Design at Dundee University, worked on a number of large research projects, and helped 5 people get their own PhDs. In 2008 I finally realised my ambition to design and launch the world’s first masters in Design Ethnography, and taught, consulted in industry and talked and written about design and design ethnography in India, the USA, across Europe and in Australia. Companies I have collaborated with include Intel, Unilever, Microsoft, the BBC, Swisscom and NCR.


Through the middle of all that though, my connection to the sound world was never far from my thoughts. From investigating the anthropology of the senses to developing tools to analyse soundscapes. From developing ways to help others voice unvoiced thoughts, to using our relationship with sound as a way to explore the essence of consciousness and the nature of cognition sound, and silence. Sound has called constantly to my curiosity. And never more so than the day I lost my inner voice.


When the babble in your mind falls silent what are you left with? And what can the silence of the self teach us about the nature of experience?

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