The role of activity in urban soundscape evaluations
McGill University - School of Information Studies & CIRMMT
Tuesday 2 june, 2015, 16:40 - 17:00
0.6 Madrid (49)
While soundscape as a research field continues to grow, there remain few opportunities to put its ideas into practice in cities. Without reaching broader audiences who make key decisions on urban environments, the application of soundscape theories will be hindered. We present a meta-analysis providing converging evidence for the influence of urban activity on soundscape evaluation from the perspective of city users. A review across literatures from urbanism to environmental psychology supports the analysis. Three studies conducted by the authors each focused on urban activities in various ways. The first is a series of interviews with urban planners, addressing the gaps between planners and soundscape researchers. Questions were posed about how planners consider sound, activities and other factors in their plans. Results show that planners primarily consider negative effects of sound (i.e. “noise” interrupting relaxation). In contrast, planners recognized non-sound factors for their potential to generate positive outcomes, utilizing activity or quality-of-life arguments to justify intervention. These concepts could be ported for improving soundscapes. In the second study, city users were presented with recordings of varied urban environments while envisioning different activities. They were asked to rate how appropriate each soundscape was for a given activity. The results of this controlled experiment show a significant effect of envisioned activity on appropriateness. The third study was carried out using the Experience Sampling Method where momentary (i.e. in-the-moment), in-situ evaluations were collected at various points of the day along with information on activity-at-hand and mood, attention, and mental effort. We observed that activity had a significant effect on pleasantness and further influenced psychological factors. Besides contributing generally toward a theory of soundscape, the meta-analysis establishes that activity is relevant for planners (study 1), city users (2 and 3), and researchers (as an observable behavior), providing a common link to achieve cross-disciplinary synthesis.
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