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CITY SOUND MAP Report


CITY SOUND MAP MA GRAPHIC BRANDING AND IDENTITY 2011 LONDON COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION SILVIA GIULIANINI


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Contents 07 | Research Question

08 | Introduction 11 | Field of Study 12 | Sound and Sonics 14 | Perception of sound 16 | Acoustic Ecology 20 | Visualising sound 24 | Mapping and wayfinding 26 | Psychogeography

32 | Methodology

40 | Visual Experiments 58 | Outcome 70 | Bibliography 72 | Appendix


CITY SOUND MAP

RESEARCH QUESTION How can sound be used through design, to offer an alternative way to perceive space?


CITY SOUND MAP |

Introduction ‘There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make silence, we cannot’. | John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings

My project explores the dialogue between sound

accepted as parts of urban life. In fact, it may be

and space, and more specifically, it focuses on the

impossible to mediate what we call the ‘culture

relationship between the personal perception of

of noise’ and the scientific regulation of noise.

sound and the experience of the urban environment. My project aims to create a tool for collecting data Noise and sound exist everywhere in our life.

on how sound and noise are perceived in cities by

As acoustic phenomena, they can be assessed

their residents and visitors. The brand I have created,

qualitatively and quantitatively. Noise and also

named ‘City Sound Map’, without being scientific,

quiet are indeed possible to measure: those who

aims to give information about the areas that are

do so, tell us that many cities have everyday events

perceived as the noisiest and the quietest.

with noise levels dangerous for the human ear. The objective is also to educate people to listen, Many scientists seek to establish thresholds and

as sound being invisible and intangible, is often

norms, including legal and regulatory ones, for

overlooked and people are seldom aware of the

exposure to noise. But it is no surprise that science

‘soundscape’ surrounding them. Our sense of

has not won the battle against noise in the city.

vision often seems more dominant than our sense

The qualitative experiences of noise and quiet differ

of hearing, yet sound plays a fundamental role in

in fact radically from person to person, by time, and

our everyday lives, especially for detecting danger,

by place. There are huge gaps between what some

for communication and also for orientation in space.

scientists call ‘unwanted’ noise and the sounds— many of them loud and intrusive—that are happily

Moreover, sound and memories of sound are able


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to trigger physical and emotional responses in

loudness in public spaces, and overload of sonic

individuals, which are very subjective.

messages.

According to the psychologist Michael Forrester, (2000 cited by Toop 2004) sound plays a significant

The basic notion behind the concept of ‘sound

role in our emotional lives: many of the sounds we

mapping’ is the theory of sound and sonic, which

hear, conjure up particular memories, associations,

will be the subject of the first section of chapter

and images of significant moments in the past,

one. The following sections of the field of study

thus there is a close relationship between certain

will focus on several subjects, starting with the

sounds we hear and their significance in our lives.

effects that sound have on people’s emotional life.

Also, the acceptance of noise is a very personal

Afterwards it will be dealing with some attempts

and subjective matter: while some people will

related to the visual depiction of sound in several

prefer absolute quietness, others will claim some

fields, such as design, art, installations, generative

background noise.

art and notation.

Therefore, as we experience space not only by

Likewise, the concept of space and mapping is at

seeing but also by listening, my project aims to

the core of my research and will be developed

put forward a more personal and sensory way to

throughout the field of study: throughout time,

perceive space. When analyzing space, in fact one

many theorists from various fields have attempted

should not limit only to its topographical aspect but

to represent space differently, and the way they

it should also investigate it through other sensory

have challenged usual and unusual representations

inputs, to form a complete understanding of it.

of space will be explored.

My project wants to offer an alternative point of

Once the field of study is clarified, the methodology

view to explore a city, starting from its sonic

and the final outcome will be explained, showing

features, and trying to escape from the traditional

in detail the process that I have followed and the

ways to navigate it, often dictated by routines or

series of visual experiments I have undertaken, to

necessity.

get to the final visual solution.

Furthermore, 'City Sound Map', by encouraging

The report will conclude with my critical reflection

people to experience space through attentive

about the project.

listening, aims to spread education and awareness on issues such as noise pollution, increased


01 | Building footprints of Boston (http://bostonography.com/2011/footprints-of-boston)


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Chapter one

FIELD OF STUDY In this chapter I will discuss and investigate the key concepts that are at the basis of the notion of ‘sound mapping’. Firstly the focus will be on sonics and acoustics and on the emotional effects of sound. Afterwards the chapter will explore some examples of visualisation of sound, and finally will deal with different examples of mapping.


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Sonics and Sound ‘Whether I make them or not, there are always sounds to be heard and all of them are excellent’. | John Cage, 1973. Silence: Lectures and Writings

This first section of the chapter investigates some aspects of sonics and sound, which are the basis of the study explored in this project, focusing on how we can distinguish different types of sound by their different physical characteristics. As our universe defines itself as the interaction of masses and forces, sound can be defined as a disturbance of mechanical energy that propagates through matter as a wave, at certain frequencies and loudness. To convey the energy, it requires a medium and in everyday-life the medium can be solid, liquid or gaseous. Unlike light, sound can travel through solid materials, giving less privacy than our visual world (Sonnenschein 2001, p.63). Sounds are not just merely abstract acoustical events, but they must be investigated as acoustic signs, signals and symbols. Sounds often have a specific meaning, and they often stimulate a direct response. A sound event is symbolic when it stirs in us emotions or thoughts beyond its mechanical sensations or signaling

function, ringing through the deeper recesses of the psyche (Schafer 1993, p.169). Sounds may be classified in several ways: according to their physical characteristics, or to the way in which they are perceived, and finally according to their function and meaning. It was particularly useful for my project to identify the types of sound by their physical qualities (rhythm, volume, pitch, shape). Rhythm characterizes the regular recurrence of patterns of sound in time and it ranges from completely regular sounds, usually mechanical, to more irregular, more often organic. The volume or intensity is measured in decibels, a scale which, each ten points, represents ten times the loudness of a sound, ranging from 0 to 160 db. The pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency related scale. Pitches are compared as “higher” and “lower” and while very low pitches may be


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02 | Random and Binary Noise

(Wishart, 1996. On sonic art, p.60)

perceived bodily as rumblings, frequencies above hearing may not be audible. Finally, sounds can be described by shape: each sound has an attack, a body, and a decay. Sounds can be classified as impulsive or reverberant: while a gunshot would be termed impulsive as attacks, peaks and decays rapidly, the wind blowing in a tunnel is reverberant, as gradually rises and falls (Sonnenschein 2001, p.68). This aspect of sonics turned useful, especially when I tried to create a notation system, representing different types of sound.


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Perception of sound ‘The roar of aircrafts passing overhead is intolerable to the unfortunate who lives in the house below, but the noise of an aircraft returning from its maiden flight would gladden the heart of the test pilot’s wife’. | Rupert Taylor, 1970. Noise

The purpose of my project is not the scientific documentation of a city soundscape, but the exploration of the way people perceive sounds, how they relate to them, what makes a sound personal and how sound interconnect with feelings, thoughts and images. Once sound has entered our ears, it is processed by our brain, inducing specific physical and psychological responses. As we react in resonance with the vibrations and the fluctuations of our surroundings, it follows that our physical functioning may be altered by the impact of sound waves, from the digesting activity to the rapid firing of neurons in the brain (Sonnenschein 2001, p.97). Gestalt psychology used in visual perception, can find equivalents in aural perception as well, studying and identifying the mechanisms that our brain employs to analyze sonic information, but individual habits, experiences and culture may influence what we listen to and our perception. From the analysis of a pilot study of the relationship between sound and affect (Forrester 2000 cited by Toop 2004), focused on emotional responses to particularly significant soundmarks, it was clear that remembering significant sounds served to

reproduce different images and associations for people. The images themselves were often effused with affect, or point to important aspects of past relationships, and appear to have the potential to make people ‘feel again’ sensations from the distant past. So through sound we can relive earlier associations and feelings. As the environmentalist Murray Schafer pointed out (Schafer 1993, p.146), even if certain sounds, like the wind blowing or the birds singing, can stir our ancestral memories and create a sort of universal emotional reaction, they still affect individuals differently, and a single sound will often stimulate a wide assortment of reactions. His research supports the hypothesis that different cultural groups have different attitudes towards different environmental sounds. Climate and geography, for example, can influence people’s likes and dislikes to some extent. Therefore perception of sound is a highly subjective matter, as influenced by many factors, such as culture, personal experience and memory. Consequently, my project aims to fit the individuals point of view, and give them the possibility to voice their own personal sonic experience of the city.


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04 - 05 | Pictures I took in London during the sound recordings


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Acoustic Ecology

06 | Prague, Noise Pollution Map (http://www.abcprague.com/noisemap-of-prague)

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This section is focused on acoustic ecology and on the problem of the increasing noise pollution in big cities. Acoustic ecology is the study of sound in relationship to life and society, which can only be accomplished by considering on location the effects of the acoustic environment on the creatures living in it (Schafer 1993, p.105). My project aims to educate people to listen and become aware of their surrounding soundscape: heightening people’s perception of noise could be a first step towards improved noise policies. As Schafer pointed out, ‘only a total appreciation of the acoustic environment can give us the resources for improving the orchestration of the soundscape’ (Schafer 1993, p.238).

Strategic Noise Map developed in 2007 for the City of Prague and its close surroundings, confirmed that the most important source of noise in Prague is road traffic.

To many, noise is an inescapable fact of city life, which they push to the back of their minds. To others, noise becomes distressing. Either way, it is a quality of life issue. As more people want to live and work in big cities, it has become even more important that noise is properly managed. Sound plays many positive roles in the lives of people, and of the city, including communication, cues about the environment in which people live, and culture. Sound environments may contain features of special interest, which contribute to cities richness and diversity. Big cities have buzz, but this needs to be balanced by identifying and taking opportunities to secure improvements in ways which respect the many different needs of


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the inhabitants. Noise in fact can have many different effects on people, even negative, as described in the Guidelines produced for the World Health Organisation. A summary review of the evidence on health effects of noise for this strategy concluded that: ‘Environmental noise has been shown to have effects on annoyance, children’s learning, sleep and cardiovascular health. The effects of noise on health operate through a number of different pathways, including direct effects, interference with cognitive processes and through reaction to interference in daily activities and communication’ (Greater London Authority, 2004, p.9). At most of the ambient noise levels commonly encountered, studies show a wide range of individual responses. How people react to a sound appears to depend not just on how loud it is, but on what it means to the hearer, including how justified they think the intrusion is. Thus noise has meaning, it is not just pressure fluctuation. Therefore, noise mapping should be used not just to quantify noise exposure in general terms, but to play a part in optimising some of the key actions affecting noise generation. Historical accounts suggest that the public sounds of cities have become less varied. In general life is lived less in the street, the traditions of public political oratory and rabble-rousing are almost extinct, the street markets have dwindled, and a lot of spoken information has been centralised through recorded announcements on buses and at train stations. However, some areas do have quite distinctive sound signatures for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, members of different ethnic groups don’t live at random around the city, there is some

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tendency towards clustering (Fig.7). As well as the obvious examples of various accents and languages being spoken, you also hear different kind of music playing from shops and from cars. For example in London, there is almost no street life in upper-class areas like Knightsbridge and Kensington, once you get off the main shopping streets, thus residential areas result to be very quiet. West London is dominated by the noise of jets going to and from Heathrow, and well-off neighbourhoods in north London have more sounds of building and house renovation work. Thus there are still all sorts of local sound signatures, even though the general trend in the sound environment is to be one of increasing sameness. Most of the noise complaints in London and many other cities derive from road traffic, railway networks, underground, sirens and aircraft noise. London ambient noise also includes noise related to water transport, referring to all of London’s navigable waterways, including the River Thames, other rivers and canals. (Sounder City, The Mayor’s Ambient Noise Strategy, 2004). So while the vitality and stimulation of the urban environment can be pleasant, there are times and places when the sounds of the city are unwelcome and become just too noisy. The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce, the struggle for mental and physical space and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. Mapping sounds could be a useful tool for locals and visitors to escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in these cities.


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The Mayor’s Ambient Noise Strategy

4D noise on rivers and canals 4D.1 The Mayor’s London Plan seeks policy and action which takes account of the unique character of the ‘Blue Ribbon Network’ - the semi-natural and man-made system of rivers, canals and water spaces which plays such an 07 essential role in sustaining London. Chapter 4C of the London Plan seeks to protect and enhance the Blue Ribbon Network, supporting a complex mix of demands. Principles include making more use of it, contributing to 07 | London map by language economic success, accessibility, inclusivity and safety while ensuring that (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ graphic/ 0,5812,1395103,00 .html) it is both a healthy and a calm series of places. Maps of ethnic diversity in London.

ure 21 The Blue Ribbon Network

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4D.2 In relation to all his strategies, the Mayor has a duty under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to have regard to ‘the desirability of 08 | London water map (2004) promoting encouraging the city: use of the River Thames safely, in (Greater Londonand Authority, 2004, Sounder particular for the provision of passenger transport services and for the the Mayor’s ambient noise strategy, fig.21) The Greater Londonof Act,freight’ in requiring preparation transportation (section 41(5)(d)). The Greater London Act of1999, a ‘London Ambient Noise Strategy’ in requiring preparationstates of athat ‘London Ambient Noise Strategy’ ‘ambient noise’ includes ‘noise related to water states that ‘ambient noise’ includes ‘noise related to... water transport’ transport’. (section 370(3)(a)). This is taken here to refer to all of London’s navigable waterways, including the River Thames, other river navigations, and canals. With river tributaries, lakes and docks, these are vital parts of London’s structure, heritage, environment and urban quality. Their widely varying character includes contrasting soundscapes. Water is acoustically hard, and sound propagates readily over its surface. Higher wind speeds

Mayor of London 151


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09 | London noise map (2007) (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4138936.stm)

Birmingham City Council developed the first comprehensive noise map for a major UK city in 1999 as part of a pilot project backed by Defra.

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10 | Noise Exposure Contours for Stanstead Airport (2002) (Greater London Authority, 2004, Sounder city: the Mayor’s ambient noise strategy, fig.18).

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Visualising Sound

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As the purpose of my project is to develop the visualisation of the environmental noise, in a visually attractive and informative way, I focused part of my research on exploring existing examples of visualisation of sound. There are three main graphic notational systems available: that of acoustic, by which mechanical properties of sound may be exactly described on paper or cathodic screen, that of phonetics, by which human speech may be projected and analyzed and finally music notation, which permits the representation of certain sounds possessing musical features.

Musical notation was the first systematic attempt to fix sounds other than those of speech, borrowing some conventions from writing but also from visual arts. The descriptive notations of acoustics are more recent, and they are based on the physical description of certain parameters of sound such as intensity, amplitude and frequency, which are in constant interaction. Research has shown that acoustic diagrams result ambiguos for some people and don’t correspond with the natural instincts of aural perception. (Schafer 1993, p.124) Besides, all visual projections of sound are fictitious and arbitrary. Therefore it would be useful to have a


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11 | John Cage (1958), Fontana Mix (Woolman, 2000. Sonic graphics/seeing sound, p.8) Fontana Mix is a score by John Cage, made up of a series of translucent overlays. The performer creates the score by randomly layering selected sheets and, once set, it graphically plots when and where the instruments are played. Once this arrangement has been made, the performers must adhere to the score to avoid any improvisation or personal experience that might interfere with the performance.

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12 | Roy Lietchestein (1963), Whaam! (http://www.scienzepostmoderne.org/DiverseArti/ Autori/Lichtenstein/OpereLichtenstein.html) One of the earliest known examples of pop art, ‘Whaam!’ is based on an image from ‘All American Men of War’ published by DC comics in 1962, by the artist Russ Heath. The cartoon style is heightened by the use of the onomatopoeia ‘Whaam!’

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notation system that could be read easily by anyone and by professionals in many fields, particularly those who study soundscapes most closely: architects, urbanists, sociologists, acousticians and musicians (Schafer 1993, p.53).

the clarity of the information. A clear example are the different types of music player softwares, including various kind of “visualisation” plug-ins, which draws very complex digital images that react to the sound of the music.

Sound is obviously an interesting subject in terms of visualisation, because it has a well-defined structure. Many attempts to visualise it can be found in different fields, such as art, design, architecture, generative art, notation, and installations. Most of these attempts do not contain any kind of information about the sound they try to convert, as the focus is in the entertainment value rather than in

Other attempts are connected to music and its structure. An example is the new modern graphic notation (Fig.15) that broaden the communication between composer, performer, and listener. Composers now stretch the limits of what they can communicate through symbols, in terms of intuition, imagination, improvisation, time, and space.


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Other examples of visualisation of sound can be found in digital art. The example shown in figure 13, by the designer Tina Frank is the video ‘iii’, where the artist took digital audio files of music and opened them as raw pixel data in Photoshop, superimposing an oval image mask. Among the first attempts to visualise sound is also that of the italian futurist Filippo Marinetti. ‘Parole in libertà’ (Fig.14) is a sound poem where the dynamic rhythms and the onomatopoetic possibilities were made more effective through the revolutionary use of different typefaces, forms and graphic arrangements. I found it useful to look into these examples of conversion of sound into graphical image, especially when, towards the end of my project, I was trying to create the basic elements of a notation system, that could allow users to represent visually city sound.

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13 | Tina Frank (2005), iii (http://www.tinafrank.net/1_video/iii)


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14 | Filippo Marinetti (1912), Parole in LibertĂ  (http://soundandinteraction.wordpress.com) The text features a large use of onomatopoeias and different typefaces in order to express the variety of sounds and noises of battle.

15 | Leon Schidlowsky (1972), Music Score for piano (Sauer, 2009. Notation 21, p.213)


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Mapping My project aims to explore the possibilities of bridging the gap between public space and personal space, inviting its users to experience their own auditory sense of place.

As my project explores the relationship between sound and space, part of my investigation included mapping systems. During the development of my methodology, I was confronted with a series of questions that I had to answer to, so as to make the visual reproduction readable and the presentation successful. The problem was to represent sound in space in an accurate manner, as sound is not visual whereas the map is two-dimensional, also maps are static while sound is highly dynamic. In order to solve these issues it was essential to look at a series of maps and their different representations, studying the usual way adopted to reproduce space. Being aware that the purpose of cartographic representation is to communicate to the user, the information that the map maker has encoded in the map, I had to look for graphical solutions that were fitting my purpose. In an age of information overload, the map has become a favourite interface for data sets of all types, geographic and otherwise. A map embodies the vision of a place that

we may never have seen, or shows a previously unseen pattern of things we thought we knew intimately (Owen 2008, p.8). Much more than just functional instruments or aids to fixing destinations and following routes, maps are bearers of urban meaning and character: so the map becomes to some extent the territory. (Abrams, Hall 2006, p.148). Cartography is indeed a creative intervention in urban space, shaping both the physical city and the urban life peformed there. In his theory of the DĂŠrive, the founder of the Situationist International Movement, Guy Debord quotes the sociologist Paul Henry Chombart de Lauwe: 'an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors but also by the image that its inhabitants have of it' (Abrams, Hall 2006, p.201). My project aims in fact to explore the possibilities of bridging the gap between public space and personal space, inviting users to experience their own auditory sense of place.


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Cartography has an arsenal of iconographic, geometric, linguistic and formal conventions with which to mediate source data into pictorial representation and I found useful to explore this aspect, for the creation of my visual code, that aimed to represent sound visually. The systems of signs used predominantly are icons and text but there are further sign systems that helps to define spatial relations, position, spacial boundaries and divisions. The different elements create layers of information by means of distinction in shape, value, size and especially colour. As the designer Tufte (1983, p.65) pointed out ‘failure to differentiate among layers of reading, leads to cluttered and incoherent displays, filled with disinformation’, thus ‘graphic excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency, giving to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space' (Tufte 1983, p.51).

16 | Silent London, Simon Elvins (http://www.simonelvins.com) Using information the government has collected on noise levels within London, a map has been plotted of the capitals most silent spaces.


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Psychogeography As my project aims to encourage people to explore space from a different perspective, one more emotional and personal, I looked at existing alternative approaches to space exploration, like the one undertaken by the Situationists, an artistic movement active between 1957 and 1972. By exploring cities in terms of their emotional contours, the Situationists developed the ‘science’ of Psychogeography, that Guy Debord, the founder of the movement, defined as ‘a way to understand the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’ Their methodology was the practice of the ‘dérive’, an urban ‘drift’, which Debord described as ‘the practice of passional journey out of the ordinary, through rapidly changing ambiances’.

places they felt were no longer worth visiting and had been spoiled by capitalism and bureaucracy. However, there is no doubt that, even with its imprecise nature, the dérive offered a different way of surveying space, and what the Situationists went someway towards developing, was in a sense, a social geography: a theory of space as the product of society. I researched further into mapping, and I found some interesting sound maps drawn by the Professor Michael Southsworth. He created experience maps of 1960 Boston’s sonic environment (Fig.18-19), trying mainly to investigate the strength of the relationship between soundscape and place.

Psychogeography was an inexact science that dealt with imprecise data, and attempted to combine both subjective and objective modes of study. By its very nature it seemed to rely primarily on chance and largely on a subjective response from the individual.

Another emotional approach to space that I found, was the series of maps created by the designer Christian Nold, offering a different vision of cities, based on emotions and desires of local people (Fig.20-21). His activity involved people walking freely through cities equipped with a special device invented by the artist, that measured their emotional arousal in relation to their location in the town during their walks.

The results of these drifts were primarily a series of psychogeographic reports and maps, that were seeking a new visual way of surveying the city. They created these new maps by literally cutting out

These concepts inspired me in creating my own sensorial experience of the city and the concept of dérive seemed to suit my purposes, but it needed the sonic twist.


CITY SOUND MAP | FIELD OF STUDY | 17 | Situationists maps (http://artofmapping.blogspot.com/ 2010/09/debord-psychogeography.html) The Situationists wanted to map the experience of the city as fragmented, subjective, temporal and cultural. They recognized that the city was dynamic and changing and that old maps would need to be updated and changed.

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18 - 19 | Michael Southsworth Map of Boston sonic environment. (Southworth, 1967. The sonic environment of cities, p.49)

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20 | Christian Nold (2005) Greenwich Emotion Map (http://biomapping.net) The participants explored the city, whilst equipped with the special Bio Mapping tool invented by the artist. The device measured the participants’ emotional arousal in relation to their geographical location in the city.


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21 | Christian Nold (2005) Stockport Emotion Map (http://biomapping.net) Over 200 people were involved in this project of mapping emotions, desires and opinions of the Stockport population. It represents the inhabitants personal experience of the town.


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22 | Radio Aporee (http://aporee.org/maps) The project Radio Aporee maps has started in 2006. It connects sound and space in order to create a cartography which focuses solely on sound. It contains recordings from numerous urban, rural and natural environments, showing its audible complexity.

22 23 | Barcelona Free Sound

(http://barcelona.freesound.org) This community consist of archival databases of sound recordings from the cities, but they don’t provide any kind of navigational information. It is a continually evolving projects with the goal of a constant addition of new recordings, being placed into a browsable tagging system.

23 23 | Montrèal Sound Map (http://www.montrealsoundmap.com)

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25-26 | Kevin Lynch (1960) Cognitive Maps Of Boston (http://bostonography.com)

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Lynch wanted to know how people sense their city and how they use that sense to go about their lives within it. He was more interested in the sense of people who live in the space, than the science behind the stuctures within it, for Lynch, key to the process of teasing out the individual and collective perceptions of a city was the concept of imageability. That said, 'imageable' is a term Lynch invented to indicate how well a place can be taken in, mentally mapped and experienced.


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Chapter two

METHODOLOGY This chapter clarify the process that I followed throught my project: I started by doing 'soundwalks' around London, during which I was gathering visual and audio data. The following step consisted in the analysis of the data collected and in the creation of typologies.


CITY SOUND MAP | METHODOLOGY |

Methodology I started my qualitative research by doing ‘soundwalks’ around different areas of London, bringing with me a voice recorder and a camera.

This chapter will explain the process that I followed through my project, and even if my methodology has been developed in London, the same experiments could have been pursued in other cities or areas. At this stage of my project, I didn't know exactly what my final outcome was going to be, but I was narrowing my research to the concept of sound, used as a means of navigation in space. So I started my qualitative research by doing ‘sound walks’ around London in different areas, bringing with me a voice recorder and a camera. I was looking to discover the variety and the typical soundmarks of London soundscape, focusing my research on busy roads, urban green spaces, pedestrian areas and voices. While walking, I was recording sounds and taking notes of the areas explored on a map. I was also taking pictures of the locations visited, and this process helped me in the next step to classify sounds by typology and loudness.

The purpose was to explore sounds and to make critical judgement about their contribution to the balance or imbalance of the sonic environment. What I first noticed was the loudness of certain areas and the dominance of machinery sounds on other ‘organic sounds’. The typical London soundscape feature most noticed, was the mixture and overlapping of sounds, which made it really difficult to distinguish each of them clearly. What I was focusing on, in particular was their loudness, pitch, duration and the emotional response that they were producing on me. After focusing my initial interest only on a specific category of sounds, in particular police and ambulance sirens, I then started to analyze all the sonic data gathered and I decided to create a system to classify the overall sound experience. After looking at the pictures taken and listening to my recordings, I grouped the sounds collected into different typologies, such as transport,


CITY SOUND MAP | METHODOLOGY |

human, natural, spiritual, emotional, warning, and voices. Then I coded each one with a colour and afterwards, I classified them according to their volume. I created a scale of loudness, refering to the decibels scale: faint, moderate, loud, very loud, painful, intolerable. After organising the data collected, the next step was the visual translation of the information

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gathered: I started to test different ways to visualise sounds, in relation to their geographical position. The different visual approaches with which I have experimented, are illustrated in detail, in the next chapter.


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HOLBORN STATION

REGENT’S STREET

OXFORD CIRCUS

CHARING CROSS

SHAFTBURY AVENUE

SOUNDWALK / Analysis of sounds recorded Holborn Station / UNDERGROUND TRAIN / 70 DB / LOUD Oxford Circus / TRAFFIC NOISE / 110 DB / VERY LOUD Oxford Circus / PEOPLE FOOTSTEPS NOISE / 60 DB / MODERATE Regent’s Street / BUS BREAKS / 70 DB / LOUD Regent’s Street / AMBULANCE SIRENS / 125 DB / PAINFUL Shaftesbury Avenue / MOTORBIKE / 105 DB / VERY LOUD Long Acre / POLICE SIRENS / 120 DB / PAINFUL Charing Cross / TRAIN ANNOUNCEMENT VOICE / 75 db / LOUD


26 | Pictures taken during my soundwalks


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SOUNDWALKS

TYPOLOGIES

NATURE HUMAN

MACHINERY ANALYSIS OF DATA COLLECTED

WARNING

TRANSPORT

RELIGIOUS

LEISURE

SILENCE


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Chapter three

VISUAL EXPERIMENTS The following chapter describes the visual experiments that were performed during the project and that lead me to the final outcome.


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

Visual Experiments After the analysis of the data gathered, I started to undertake my first visual experiments on sound mapping, trying to represent visually my ‘sound walks’. I started by designing maps of the portions of London explored, placing on the corresponding geographical position, the picture of the sound

object that I had recorded, classified by loudness and typology (Fig.26). In figure 28 and 29, I tried to create a different code, representing sounds with circular shapes (Fig.28) or speech bubbles (Fig.29) and using colours to

LOUDNESS HOLBORN

FAINT: 0-30 DB MODERATE: 30-60 DB

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD

LOUD: 60-90 DB OXFORD CIRCUS

VERY LOUD: 90-110 DB PAINFUL: 110-140 DB COVENT GARDEN

TYPOLOGIES NATURE LEICESTER SQUARE

TRANSPORT

PICCADILLY CIRCUS

EMOTIONAL CHARING CROSS

LEISURE

26

SPIRITUAL VOICES


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

42 | 43

LEISUR Holborn

Tottenham Court Road

Oxford Circus

Covent Garden

Leicester Square

Piccadilly Circus

Charing Cross

27

differentiate typologies of sounds. The variable of

At this stage of the project, my first idea of outcome,

size corresponds to the level of loudness.

was the creation of a brand that aimed to educate young people to listen and be aware of their

After evaluating these first experiments, I then

surrounding soundscape.

approached a different visual language and I tried to display on the map the pictograms representing

So at first I thought that the visual solution that better

the sound sources (Fig.30). The choice of using

suited a young audience could be based on the use

pictograms was driven by the fact that it is

of pictograms and colours. Thus I coded each sound

already a traditional and recognized language for

typology with a colour and I visualised each sound

navigation, already found in public places, like

with a pictogram, representing the sound object.

airports, stations and undergrounds.


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

LEISURE Holborn

FAINT

MODERATE

LOUD

Tottenham Court Road VERY NOISY

Oxford Circus PAIN

INTOLERABLE

Covent Garden

EMOTIONAL Leicester Square

FAINT

MODERATE

LOUD

Piccadilly Circus VERY NOISY

PAIN

Charing Cross

INTOLERABLE

28

Holborn

Tottenham Court Road

Oxford Circus

Covent Garden

Leicester Square

Piccadilly Circus

Charing Cross

29


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

44 | 45

Leicester Square

30

Finally I translated the scale of loudness with six

After the analysis of these first experiments and

graphic speech baloons of different shapes, each

after gaining feedback about them, I decided to

one corresponding to a certain level of volume

look for other solutions, as the visual language

(Fig.31). The next step was to combine together

used was too cold and didn’t really suit the young

pictograms and speech baloons, trying to create

target audience.

a pleasant visual language (Fig.32-33). At first I was thinking to apply this visual code to the design of a Sound Journal, which explained the process that I undertook and contained the pictures taken and the sounds recorded (Fig.34). Then I thought that a web-site would have been a more proper media to fit the purpose to educate kids in a playful way, to listen to the surrounding environment (Fig.35).


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

31 | Visual code to represent sound

LOUDNESS

0-30 decibels FAINT

60-90 decibels LOUD

30-60 decibels MODERATE

90-110 decibels VERY NOISY

110-140 decibels PAINFUL

140-160 decibels INTOLERABLE

SOUND TYPOLOGIES

TRANSPORT

LEISURE

EMOTIONS

VOICES

NATURE

SPIRITUAL

WARNING

SILENCE

PICTOGRAM REPRESENTING THE SOUND OBJECT

BUBBLE SPEECH INDICATING THE VOLUME OF SOUND


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

46 | 47


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

32 | Transport sound map I combined together pictograms, speech ballons and onomatopoeias, trying to create visual maps for each category of sound.

32


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

48 | 49

33 | Voices sound map

33


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

34 | London Sound journal Book explaining the process that I undertook and containing the pictures taken and the sounds recorded.


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

50 | 51

35 | Web site Educational web-site, designed for a young target audience. HOME

SOUND CATEGORIES

BLOG

MY SOUNDWALK

SIGN IN

CONTACT

ROOARRRRRR

BEEEP SPLOSH SPLOOSH

GLUG GLUG

AHAH

LONDON

TALKING

WROOM

AAGHH

BONG BONG

HOME

SOUND CATEGORIES

BLOG

MY SOUNDWALK

SIGN IN

CONTACT

LEISURE

ROOARRRRRR

BEEEP SPLOSH SPLOOSH

GLUG GLUG

AHAH

LONDON

TALKING

AAGHH

BONG BONG

WROOM


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

Since the feedback revealed that the previous experiments were not as successful to communicate as intended, I took a different direction and first of all I redefined the target audience of my brand.

a sort of notation system (Fig.36) through which users could represent sound and I decided to use a more abstract visual language, based on lines and shapes, as it seemed to better suit the new target audience.

I decided to focus on designers and on creative professionals interested in sound. Changing target audience meant that I had to find a new visual language, but before that, I chose the three creative coordinates to characterize my brand ‘City Sound Map’: educational, emotional and informational.

At this point, my idea of outcome was the design of a web-site, which was meant to be a database, containing the ‘sound memories’ of the users, classified by location, hour of the day, date, sound and emotion. The web-site contained an application that allowed the user to draw sound maps, using given tools. The feedback I received was that, even if it was visually pleasant, the notation system was way too complicated.

Afterwards, before I started to approach the design of my final outcome, I conducted a survey (see full details in Appendix) within my target audience group. The survey was helpful to gain information about how people relate to sound. Also I gained feedback about my idea of creating an Open Source Community that mapped people’s perception of environmental noise. In other words I was thinking to create an interactive map, composed of community-generated data sources, submitted by volunteers, and mashed-up by a database: the result of this process would have been the entire map of each city. Since I gained a positive feedback from my target audience about my new direction, I experimented several visual solutions. Firstly, I needed to create

The next step was the attempt to simplify the code (Fig.39-40), but the solutions I came up with were too simple and visually less interesting. Moreover I wanted to visualise more physical features of sound, than just volume. Through the survey I conducted, the results showed that, what people notice most about sound is volume, emotions produced by sound and rhythm: this result helped me to re-evaluate the design of the notation system. All these experiments undertaken were necessary to progress towards my final visual solution, which will be explored in the following chapter.


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

36 | Notation system Code through which users could have designed their 'sound memories'.

52 | 53


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

37 | Web site


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

54 | 55

38 | iPad application

SEARCH BY: LOCATION DATE TIME SOUND

MY SOUNDIAR Y


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

39 | Web site Experiment done in the attempt to simplify the notation system.

LONDON CITY SOUND MAP

LONDON | CAMDEN

6AM-12AM | 12PM-6PM | 6PM-12AM | 12AM-6AM |

LOCATION CITY SOUND MAP

LONDON | CAMDEN | 12PM-6PM |

6AM-12AM | 12PM-6PM | 6PM-12AM | 12AM-6AM |

Camden Road NW1 0AY

“Bird-singing make me feel happy” -2 hours-

DESIGN YOUR MAP CITY SOUND MAP

INTOLERABLE VERY LOUD LOUD MODERATE

LOW

FAINT

HIGH

PITCH VOLUME

A PITCHA

The sound of bird-singing brings back the good memories of my childhood.

DD YOUR THOUGHTS

SUBMIT

SAVE


CITY SOUND MAP | VISUAL EXPERIMENTS |

56 | 57

40 | Web site Experiment done in the attempt to simplify the notation system.

LONDON

CITY SOUND MAP

LOCATION

CITY SOUND MAP

LONDON DON | CAMDEN CAMD | 12PM 12PM-6PM M-6PM PM |

Camden Road NW1 10 0A 0AY

“Great music from next door pub” - 6 hours ago -

LOCATION

CITY S SOUND SOU ND M AP A

LONDON LOND ON | C CAMDEN AMDEN A EN | 12 12PM-6PM P 6PM |

Camden Road NW1 0AY

“Bird-singing make me feel ee el happy” p pp -2 hours ago-


CITY SOUND MAP |

Chapter four

OUTCOME

58 | 59


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

Outcome

This chapter describes my final visual outcome, which tries to answer to my initial research question 'How can sound be used through design, to offer a different way to perceive space?'. As my previous attempts did not communicate visually as intended, I decided first of all to redefine the visual language and I started with redesigning the notation system, because that was going to become the basis of the visual identity of the brand 'City Sound Map'. I ended up choosing four different circular shapes, which visually suggest different types of sound: one for impulsive sounds, one for periodically repeated sounds, one for continuous and one for travelling sound objects, like aircrafts, motorbikes, and cars (Fig.41). To highlight the difference between the typologies (human, mechanical, natural, leisure and silence), I relied on the use of distinctive colours, finding that

uniformity could be achieved through the use of similar saturation or lightness. I associated stronger colours, like red and orange to the typologies of machinery and warning, as they are considered the more disturbing sound sources. Softer colours like green, light blue and pink correspond to the typologies of nature, leisure and human sounds. As I did in the previous experiments, I kept the variable of size to represent visually the level of volume, and I created a range of five levels of loudness (faint, moderate, loud, very loud and painful), in reference to the threshold of hearing, measured in decibels (0-160 db). Moreover the code created becomes the necessary tool for users, to design a sound map and it has been applied to an iPad application (Fig.43) and to a website (Fig.42), which are the main means through which the brand communicate and promote itself.


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

60 | 61

41 | Notation system and code to visualise sound

Periodically Repeated Impulsive Travelling sound sources Continuous

Nature Leisure Human Machinery Warning Silence

Using shapes and colours, users can map different areas of cities: the application in fact works together with a map provider (like Google Map or Open Street map), that will bring up the exact geographical position, which the user wishes to map. After selecting the location and the specific area, users will be able to design their map and submit it. The entire world can be mapped this way between zoom levels 1 and 5. Zoom level one shows the entire map of the world, while at zoom level five neighbourhood details are shown. Users not only can contribute to the world mapping, but they can also browse through the cities sound maps, to get information about the sonic environment of cities and specific neighbourhoods, so that they

can visualise the noisiest or the quietest areas. Users that could benefit from this could be architects and urban planners. Also, the map by highlighting the aural quality of everyday streets, gives the users valuable information, before making a large financial commitment in real estate: the environmental noise originating from freeways, traffic, bars and restaurants seems to be one of the most common complaints of residents, and one the most important factors when deciding on where to live. The application contains several parameters (sound, hour of the day, location and emotion), that enable the user to filter data. The selection of different search criteria will change the sound pattern displayed on the map. In this way, users


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

42 | Website

City Sound Map

are able to see how the urban soundscape changes according to the time of the day, or they can select a particular sound that they wish to hear and the map will highlight the areas where that specific sound has been mapped mostly. Finally the user can filter the sound pattern by selecting an emotion, and the application will show as a result, only the areas of the city that previous users have associated with that specific emotion. My outcome also includes other items, through which the brand promotes itself. I have designed two posters (Fig.44), that are part of the advertising campaign. The posters will be placed around the city and their aim is to suggest, without being too explicit, what the brand is about, trying to create interest in the project. In fact they only display the sound pattern of different cities, giving very little information about location, date and hour of the day represented. Another promotional tool for the brand are

projections (Fig.46), placed in underground stations, showing animated sound maps, endowed with microphones that produce sound. Through the projections, the brand aims to give more clear information about the project, showing the connection between geographical location, sound patterns and people’s emotion. Figure 42 shows the homepage of the web-site, that, as well as the iPad application, has a double function: users can search for sound maps of cities and can design and submit their sound map. Pocket maps (Fig.45), are an educational tool, aiming to inform the audience about the urban sonic environment of specific areas and neighbourhoods. They can be placed in airports or in tube stations. Finally I decided not to design a logo, as I believe that the brand identity is conveyed through the recognizable visual language based on abstract


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

62 | 63

43 | iPad application

London

City Sound Map

London Camden

Hour

Sound

Search

Emotions

London Camden | NW8 7JT

Hour

Sound

Emotions


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

43 | iPad application

London

Hour

Sound

Emotions

London

Hour

Sound

Emotions

31 University Street | WC1E 6JL | Camden

18 Lodge Road, London NW8 7JT | Camden

Camden WC1E 6JL “Annoying live music until late every night” - 4 hours ago “Excessively loud sirens coming from the street” - 2 days ago “Noisy kids screaming under my window” - 12/09/2011 “Noisy group of people in front of the pub at site” - 24/08/2011 “Great band playing live music” - 05/07/2011 -

“Loud annoying music coming from the pub next door” - 2 hours ago -

London

Hour

18 Lodge Road, London NW8 7JT | Camden

Sound

Emotions

London

Hour

Sound

10 PM–6 AM | 6 AM–2 PM | 2 PM–10 PM

Emotions


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

London

64 | 65

Hour

Sound Emotions

Rivers

London

Hour

Sound Emotions

Hour

Sound

Rivers

OCEANS RIVERS RAIN FOUNTAINS WIND BIRDS

London

Hour

Sound

NW8 7JT | Camden

Emotions

Design your map London

NW8 7JT | Camden | Exciting

Loud

Add a description Constant noise caused by road works and traffic.

Emotions


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

44 | Posters

City Sound Map www.citysoundmap.com

LONDON | CAMDEN TOWN | 02.10.2011 | 2 PM


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

City Sound Map www.citysoundmap.com

66 | 67

VENICE | SAN MARCO | 13.09.2011 | 4 PM


Legend

Silence Warning Machinery

Painful

Human Leisure Natural

Typologies Very Loud Continuous Travelling

Loud

Impulsive Periodically Repeated

Sounds

Moderate Faint

Volume

Venice / San Marco

City Sound Map

City Sound Map Learn more about the sonic environment of your city and experiment a different way to navigate space. Follow the sound!

AN ALTERNATIVE MAP OF LONDON, VISUALISING THE SOUND OF THE CITY

For further information about the project check the website www.citysoundscape.com

www.citysoundmap.com

45 | Pocket Map CITY SOUND MAP | FIELD OF STUDY |


CITY SOUND MAP | FIELD OF STUDY |

City Sound Map

LONDON | CAMDEN TOWN | 6 AM - 2 PM

68 | 69


CITY SOUND MAP | OUTCOME |

46 | Animated projections


CITY SOUND MAP |

70 | 71

Conclusion This project has been a challenge for me and I was conscious at the beginning of it that a lot of research would be needed. In fact I knew very little about the chosen field and needed to expand my knowledge in the area. The research took me long time, both in terms of literature as well as technically, but I felt it was important to do so and I am satisfied to have increased my knowledge on a very interesting subject. At the very beginning of the project I found particularly difficult to represent visually something intangible like sound, and to combine it with the language of the geographical system. I feel like my final solution, based on geometric shapes, achieved the attempt to represent something inconsistent but with a precise structure, as has sound. During the development of my project I conducted a survey to get feedback about it, from my target audience group. The positive result indicates that the project could be developed further. Also I tested the first prototype of the iPad application mainly through my peers and my tutors and the feedback I got confirmed that it was working. This project has also been a challenge, due to having to deal with a digital product, which was a totally new field for me, and made me step out from my comfort zone, but I believe it was the best approach for it. I was not able to build a physical display of the application, which was my

original intention. For this I would have needed earlier experience in programming or the close collaboration with an expert in the field. Because of the lack of time, I have reached the point of having built a functioning interactive model that shows how it should work. The overall experience was very interesting and worthwhile. I think this project could be developed into something tangible and it could become a useful and entertaining tool, that not only gives information about the aural quality of cities, but also educates users to listen and encourages them to experience the city in a more sensorial way. Moreover organizing sonic data about cities, and locating them geographically, could lead to improved noise management policies. What I was looking for from this project was mainly a chance to explore, to investigate, and to find a more structured method of working, which I feel I have achieved. In particular I learnt the importance and the value of an accurate research to approach any project. I think I could have worked more on the branding side, trying to apply the visual language to other media and tools, but the lack of time didn't allow me to. I would like to thank my tutors John Bateson, Eugenie Dodd and Andrew Monk for their valuable advice and for guiding me throughout the development of this project.


CITY SOUND MAP |

Bibliography Books

Abrams, Hall (2006). Elsewhere: mapping new cartographies of networks and territories, University of Minnesota Press

Costa (1996). Theory of the dérive and other situationist texts, Actar Fawcett-Tang, Owen (2008). Mapping graphic navigational systems, Mies: RotoVision

Greater London Authority (2004). Sounder city: the Mayor’s ambient noise strategy, London: Greater London Authority

Maeda (2000). Maeda & Media, London: Thames & Hudson

Sauer (2009). Notation 21, New York: Mark Batty Publisher

Schafer (1993). The soundscape: our sonic environment and the tuning of the world, Destiny Books

Sonnenschein (2001). Sound design: the expressive power of music, voice, and sound effects in cinema, CA: Michael Wiese Productions

Jackson (2003). Sonic branding, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Taylor (1970). Noise, Penguin

Toop, D. (2004) Haunted Weather. Music, silence and memory. London: Serpent’s Tail

Tufte (1983). The visual display of quantitative information, Graphics Press

Tufte (1990). Envisioning information, Graphics Press

Uebele (2007). Signage systems & information graphics, Thames & Hudson

Wishart (1996). On sonic art, Harwood Academic Publishers

Woolman (2000). Sonic graphics/seeing sound, Thames & Hudson. Southworth (1967). The sonic environment of cities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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72 | 73

Web sites

http://services.defra.gov.uk/

http://www2.dft.gov.uk/

http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/clean-calm-city/noise http://fuckyeahcartography.tumblr.com http://www.maproomblog.com/ http://maps.cloudmade.com/ http://mapequalsyes.stamen.com http://mappingweirdstuff.wordpress.com/ http://www.tlclark.com/atlasofthehabitual/ http://makingmaps.net/ http://visualcomplexity.com http://flowingdata.com http://infosthetics.com/ http://sounddogs.com http://freesoundeffectsandloops.com http://stonewashed.net/sfx.htm http://a1freesoundeffects.com http://www.worldlisteningproject.org http://locusonus.org/ http://services.defra.gov.uk/wps/portal/noise http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/london_map/intro/ http://soundcities.com/ http://www.weirdvibrations.com/2010/01/13/sound-maps-ii/ http://noisetube.net/ http://barcelona.freesound.org/ http://ybuffet.posterous.com/tendernoise-the-visualization-of-noise

http://tendernoise.movity.com/

http://daftpunk.themaninblue.com/ http://12gatestothecity.com http://www.writtensound.com/index.php?term=musicts http://www.infovis-wiki.net/index.php?title =Visual_Variables


CITY SOUND MAP |

Appendix Survey

1. Do you usually pay attention to the soundscape that surrounds you?

Yes

72%

No

28%

2. What are the features that you notice more about when you listen to sounds and that you would use if you have to describe a sound?

Loudness

25%

Duration

10%

Rhythm

10%

Timbre

0%

Reverberation

0%

Emotions

55%

3. When you try to remember a sound what do you mostly recall in your mind?

Images

28.6%

Emotions

34.3%

Colours

2.9%

Loudness

11.4%

Rhythm

22.9%


CITY SOUND MAP |

74 | 75

4. If you were given a software, through which you could reproduce visually your memory of the sounds of a part of your city, which of the following options would you prefer: A technical software that translates sounds in a scientifical and precise visualisation (by pitch, volume, timbre, duration). A software that had a more emotional and personal approach to the visualisation of sound, by giving you the tools to create your own image of it.

Emotional Software

70%

Scientific software

30%

5. If you had to represent visually a sound what are the main features would you choose to visualise it? (For example: Volume, Duration, Pitch, Rhythm, Colours, Reverb, Emotions, Memories)

Colours / Rhythm / Rhythm / Colours / Rhythm / Rhythm / Rhythm and colour / Volume, Rhythm and Emotions / Colours / Colour, duration and volume / Volume, rythm, tone, sound wave / Emotion / Volume, Duration, Rhythm / Colors / Emotion and memories / Colours and rhythm / Colours / Shades of darkness or light for volume and strokes for rhythm / Volume and creating beats / Volume, pitch / Tones /Rythm / Volume, Duration, Pitch, Rhythm / Rhythm, colour, images, memories, associations / Colours / Colors, rhythms, emotions Volume duration colour rhythm / Emotions, volume and rhythm / Memories of an event / Memories / Volume and rhythm / Rhythm, memories and emotions associated to it / Volume, Rhythm / Pitch Colour, emotions / Volume and texture / Emotions / Rhythm Happiness / I would choose colour to visualize it, and the colours would be associated with emotions / Amplitude of the sounds / Volume / Colours, smells and texture / Emotions associated and rhythm / Emotions for the color, all the other features for the shape / Emotion associated to it / Emotions associated and the Pitch / Pitch / Emotions associated, tonal expression.



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