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A listener-centered approach to soundscape analysis

Foale, K 2014, A listener-centered approach to soundscape analysis , PhD thesis, Computing, Science and Engineering.

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Abstract

How do people listen to soundscapes in the built environment? Current soundscape research within urban planning disciplines tends to focus on measuring outdoor spaces in the built environment by interviewing the people within. This thesis, by contrast, followed individual listeners, using a qualitative, Grounded Theory methodology, examining listening preferences and habits across multiple environments. This approach gave a broad range of reactions to different soundscapes, from homes to workplaces to bars, clubs, and places of worship. This thesis reviews various soundscape epistemologies, methodologies, and methods, and argues that we need a stronger theoretical understanding of all these elements. It questions what is being measured, and how people are measuring it. The thesis suggests some ways qualitative and quantitative research can work together more effectively, and move soundscapes from the current multidiciplinary research landscape to a truly interdiciplinary one. In defining the soundscape as ‘the listener's perception of their auditory surroundings’, I shift the focus from measuring people's evaluation of spaces, to evaluating people themselves. This leads to a radically new empirical approach and theoretical description of the soundscape, using social science methods to build thick description of listening habits. Twenty people were given audio recorders and log books, and asked to record their day-to-day lives for two weeks. They were then interviewed about their experiences. The main finding was that soundscapes are not noticed most of the time, with participants seeming to have a ‘noticing threshold’: affected by factors such as control, expectation, and activity. Soundscapes which were noticed fell into one of four categories: positive--loud, positive--quiet, negative--loud or negative--quiet, with different judgement criteria for each. Participants were also highly adept at using coping mechanisms, such as recorded music and TV, to counteract undesirable sound environments.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Davies, WJ (Supervisor) and Bagnall, G (Supervisor)
Themes: Built and Human Environment
Memory, Text and Place
Schools: Schools > School of Computing, Science and Engineering > Salford Innovation Research Centre (SIRC)
Related URLs:
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Depositing User: Kim Foale
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2014 17:01
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 00:23
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/32043

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