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Silence of the Lands( September 14th)
Elisa Giaccardi, Deborah Matlock, Jennelle Freeston

This talk summarized the pilot phase of the Community of Soundscapes research project, a collaboration between L3D, The ATLAS Institute, Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, and universities in Italy and the UK. The purpose of this presentation was to present preliminary findings to project participants, collaborators, and the Boulder community. The goal of this work was to provide a new medium in which community members could communicate, learn, and understand each other by sharing meaningful sounds. For little over a month, twenty participants used “sound cameras” to record noises within the community and upload them to a website (, where they were displayed by geographical location. Participants could rank sounds as pleasant or not using a color chart as well as annotate sounds with additional information. The website enabled volunteers to share audio experiences by simply hovering over select sounds on the map. Many of these participants very satisfied with their experience and found that engaging in active listening lead them to appreciate their environment more.

Near the conclusion of this talk other research projects and domains were suggested that would benefit from similar studies. One man in the audience felt that method could be used to help transportation boards understand the potential negative impact that adding highway lanes would have on the surrounding neighborhoods. Currently the board uses an arbitrary number of decibels to determine what is disruptive, which seems uncorrelated to the community’s feelings.

The next phase of this study includes analyzing the collected audio data and participant information. It was mentioned that an inordinately large number of the volunteers were female, and it will be interesting to see if there are any major differences between genders in the recordings. Also it would be very interesting to see how similar sounds were ranked by separate individuals, as well as comparing what sounds were collected from analogous geographical locations.

Overall I found the idea of collecting and sharing community sounds very exciting. Although visualization is highly valued and extremely expressive, I think there is tremendous potential to utilize other senses like hearing to foster and enhance new methods of communication, particularly in community settings where sounds are a shared experience.

Last modified 25 November 2007 at 2:27 pm by jane