Let’s go soundwalking!

David Woolworth – dwoolworth@rwaconsultants.net

Roland, Woolworth & Associates, Oxford, MS, 38655, United States

Bennett Brooks and Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp

Popular version of 4pAAb1 – Introduction to Soundwalking – an important part of the soundscape method
Presented at the 185th ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0023505

Please keep in mind that the research described in this Lay Language Paper may not have yet been peer reviewed.

Our acoustic environment is a critical part of our everyday experience; it is often unconsciously processed with all other stimuli to form an impression of a place and time, but its impact is not always fully understood. Soundscape is a method of assessing the acoustic environment where perception is prioritized. The soundscape method and the soundwalk tool integrate measurements of the human perception of sound with other observations that characterize the environment, such as the sound levels, the type of location and the various sound sources. The combination of these perceptual measurements with other observations helps us to understand how the acoustic environment impacts the people there and can provide directions for possible changes that can improve their quality of life.

The soundscape method suggests assessing all sounds which occur in an environment using collected data related to human perception, the physical acoustic setting, and context. Context includes visual cues, geographic, social, psychological and cultural aspects, including one’s mental image or memory of a place. Soundscape transcends the common studies of noise and sound levels, and is a powerful tool for effecting positive results with regard to the quality of life for stakeholders in the acoustic environment; standardized methodology has been developed that can be adapted to various applications, using sound as a resource. Soundwalks are an important part of the soundscape method and are a useful way to engage stakeholders who participate by consciously observing and evaluating the soundscape.

Figure 1

A soundwalk is an element of the soundscape method that typically will include a walking tour of observation locations over a predetermined route to solicit perceptual feedback from the participants regarding the acoustic environment (see Figures 1 and 2). The participants of the soundwalk typically include stakeholders or “local experts”: members of the community that experience the soundscape daily, users/patrons of a space, residents, business people, and local officials. Soundwalks can be performed from urban areas to wilderness settings, indoors and outdoors; the information collected can have many applications including ordinances and planning, preservation or improvement of the acoustic environment, and building public/self-awareness of the acoustic environment.

Figure 2

The perceptual information collected during a soundwalk includes the sounds heard by the participants and often directed questions with scaled answers; this along with objective sound level measurements and audio recordings can be used to assess an acoustic space(s) in an effort to effect the purpose of the soundwalk. (see Figures 3 and 4) In some cases, the participants are interviewed to get a deeper understanding of their responses or the data can be taken to a lab for further study.

Figure 3

The soundwalk and post processing of collected information is flexible relative to soundscape standard methods to target an acoustic space and purpose of the investigation. This makes it an adaptable and powerful tool for assessing an acoustic environment and improving the quality of life for the those that live in or use that environment, using their own perceptions and feedback.

Figure 4