Saturday, January 17, 2004

The sounds of living

AUDITORY INTERFACES: The Use of Non-Speech Audio at the Interface
Unpublished manuscript by William Buxton, William Gaver, Sara Bly

The chapter on Everyday Listening is particularly interesting:

Hearing the pitch of a sound or its loudness is an example of musical listening. But we often hear events, rather than sounds. Listening to airplanes, water, birds and footsteps are examples of everyday listening. This is a different sort of experience than that described by traditional psychoacoustics. Instead of being concerned with our ability to perceive attributes of sounds themselves -- their frequency, spectral content, amplitude, etc. -- everyday listening is a matter of listening to the attributes of events in the world -- the speed of a passing automobile, the force of a slammed door, whether a person is walking up or downstairs ...

... while walking down a city street we are likely to listen to the sources of sounds -- is that car heading our way? How close is that guy walking behind us? Most of our experience of hearing the day-to-day world is one of everyday listening: we are concerned with knowing about the events going on around us, what is important to avoid and what might offer possibilities for action. But occasionally we might listen to the world as we do music -- to the humming pitch of a ventalator punctuated by a syncopated birdcall, to the interplay and harmony of the sounds around us.

(via InfoDesign)


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