Hell is other people

An interesting look at the cultural response to noise

Photo credit: Julian Mason

In “Living loud in China’s lively public spaces,” , BBC News, writes about noise in China’s bustling cities. McDonnell states that “[t]here is something incredible about the way in which societies, cities, subcultures find their level in terms of acceptable public volume.”  For example, he notes that there are “bustling cities – rammed with millions of people – where you could be frowned upon for disrupting others with a raised voice: Seoul, London, Tokyo… especially Tokyo.” But McDonnell has lived the last 12 years living in China, where, he notes:

There are some societies where people are expected to avoid being noisy in public and they behave accordingly. Then there’s China.

He describes the “cacophony of chaos” he experiences in a cafe, where someone “starts a phone call at the top of their voice,” as two buddies loudly play video games on their phones, and “a young convert to Christianity sits down next to [him] and starts praying” just as a nearby “hippie looking Chinese bloke has booted up his laptop and Coldplay starts belting out of the speakers.”  This experience is not atypical, he writes, and adds that, looking around, “nobody but me has reacted as if this is anything but completely normal.”

Interestingly, he says that there is only one other city where he has seen this phenomenon–New York–where he describes a similar experience in a diner.  McDonell ponders, “[m]aybe you have to speak up in order to be heard amongst a huge population?”  That is, maybe it’s the space and not just the culture that determines the “acceptable public volume?” After all, he asks, “what noise does a Chinese farmer have to compete in the field?”

 

The Internet of Things’ answer to bad Airbnb guests:

Dallas startup offers noise monitors for rentals. Melissa Repko, The Dallas Morning News, writes about NoiseAware, a noise monitoring startup out of Texas. NoiseAware is the brainchild of Dave Krauss, who was engaged in the (sketchy) business of reletting apartments for short-term rentals on Airbnb. One Airbnb guest threw a loud party that resulted in Krauss getting a “cease and desist letter from a Dallas apartment manager.”  He ended up with a $30,000 loss on the apartment. To help others avoid his fate, he and his co-founder developed a noise monitor that alerts an owner when the noise in his or her apartment passes a certain level:

The sensors, which are manufactured in Plano, are bolted into an electrical outlet and connected to Wi-Fi. A property owner can customize quiet hours or adjust noise level sensitivity. If the noise rises above that level for a sustained period, the owner gets a text message.

And then, presumably, the owner calls the renter and harangues them for being noisy. Or something.

While we an understand Krauss’ motivation for developing this product, we do wonder about the implications of real time monitoring. Sure, NoiseAware only monitors the decibel level–as far as we know–but could it be adapted to allow the owner to listen in real time? And what about broader applications? Krauss was essentially subletting apartments for short term rentals via Airbnb.  Could or should a landlord could attach these sensors in longer-term rentals? That said, no doubt there are plenty of parents who would love to monitor their kids’ activities when they are away.  As for us, we’re just waiting for the startup that offers an app that allows you to hack the NoiseAware sensor.

Accommodation for autistic customers gaining steam in the UK

Photo Credit: Clive Darra

Tesco trialling a ‘quiet hour’ to help autistic customers do their shopping. Maya Oppenheim and Katie Forster, The Independent, write about Tesco’s pilot scheme, which it is trialing at one of its locations for six weeks on Saturday mornings. If the trial is successful, the quiet hour will be rolled out across Tesco stores nationwide.  What will Tesco be doing to make the shopping experience more tolerable for autistic customers? “The trial includes a wide range of measures to improve the browsing and paying experience for autistic customers such as dimmed lights and quieter tannoys [loudspeaker systems].”

Tesco is the largest grocery chain in the UK, and it also has stores in 12 countries across Asia and Europe. If the pilot scheme is successful and Tesco implements a quiet hour on a larger scale, this could be a significant victory for autistic and noise sensitive people.

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

 

Please, god, no:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine every billboard screaming for your attention — forever

The sound of the Internet of Things (and why it matters for brands). Yes, yet another article about using sound for branding.  Apparently we aren’t spending enough money so branding gurus–or whatever they are calling themselves these days–are trying to figure out how to make their brands stand out from competing products and services through the use of sound.  And in an attempt to appear thoughtful as they invade public and private space with invasive sound, they write stuff like this:

Brands need to start creating a sound ecology that differentiates them whilst supporting their consumers. As we interact with a product, watch a commercial or experience a retail environment, it is only the brands of the future that have a fully considered, cohesive and familiar sonic identity that will stop us reaching for the mute button.

How about no?  We are already assaulted by layers of noise whenever we enter the public sphere, do we really need to have even more layers of competing sound added to our increasingly chaotic soundscape?  As if that’s not offensive enough, these branding fiends want to use sound for alerts for our now connected home appliances, leaving us not a moment of silence in our homes as our dishwashers and refrigerators beep and pop, competing for our attention. Because reasons!

At some point, if business refuses to show restraint, someone must step in to stop this anti-social behavior.  No matter how convenient it may be for some people to have their devices scream at them for attention, what of the innocent bystanders who are simply attempting to go from Point A to Point B?  Will no one think about our right to be left alone?

Link via @QuietMark.

This was reported as if it were a good thing:

Kentucky’s Rupp Arena breaks Guinness World Record for indoor crowd noise. According to the Kentucky Athletics’ twitter account, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena gets to claim the Guiness Book of World Records title for “the loudest indoor crowd roar ever!”  Yay, noise!  And just how loud was the roar?  It was 126.4 decibels.  How loud is that?  Well, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations provide that the permissible exposure limit for 126 decibels (A-weighted) is 0.054 hours or 3.25 minutes, so we are going with “really really loud.”  The article doesn’t say how long the roar was maintained, but even if it bested 3.25 minutes only the team staff and arena employees are protected under OSHA regulations.  Sorry fans and team athletes.

At least “[c]omplimentary earplugs were placed in most seats for fans who didn’t want to brave the noise.”  The article doesn’t explain why complimentary earplugs weren’t offered to all fans, nor does it ask why the Guinness Book of World Records is encouraging such irresponsible behavior.

One day, when people find out that most hearing loss is due to noise and that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, they are going to be very justifiably angry.  Until that happens, folks who follow the stock market may want to check out hearing aid companies.

What’s missing from this story about stadium noise in Atlanta?

Aaron Rodgers: It’s loud in Atlanta, whether it’s all natural or not.  How about a discussion about the dangers of stadium noise?  It’s nowhere to be found. Instead, this NBC post focuses on noise as a tactic and the stupidity of getting caught juicing natural crowd noise with fake crowd noise over the stadium speakers. To wit:

The Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and fined $350,000 after an investigation revealed that they had been using fake crowd noise while the opposing offense was on the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

And? Were the Falcons penalized for injuring the hearing of every person in the stadium, or were they fined for violating whatever passes for sportsmanship in football?

This chest thumping over which stadium can produce the most noise–as if that’s a measure of anything good–would be merely pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous.

Not surprised at all:

Noise tops list of complaints to NYC’s 311 last year. Noise complaints made up 9.3% of all complaints to 311, New York City’s official complaint line, according to Trulia, a real estate listings firm.  So, just how many complaints was that exactly?  212,318.

There’s a reason why New York City is known as the city that never sleeps.

Noise-activated camera to nab noisy motorists? It might just work:

Taipei, Taiwan installs sound-activated cameras to target noisy motorists. The Taipei Times reports that the Taipei Department of Environmental Protection has “unveiled a noise-activated camera to photograph motorists who make excessive noise at night.”  The camera is activated when noise recordings reach 84 decibels or more between 10:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.  When that happens, the camera will send the image and decibel level to a laptop computer operated by inspectors who will be by the roadside.  So how much will you have to pay for the privilege of honking your horn at night?  Between NT $1,800 to $3,600 (roughly US $57 to $114), depending on the decibel level.

Sleep well, Taipei.

Link via @hyperacusisresearch.

We know the feeling:

In “Why I hate my fellow commuters in the quiet carriage.” Brian Yatman, The Sidney Morning Herald, writes about commuting by train and how the quiet car is abused by the rude and ignorant.  We’ve been there, although unlike Mr. Yatman we may have asked someone to keep it down once (or three times).  In any event, his suggestion for maintaining quiet car decorum is spot on:

What we need is some kind of official presence authorised to apply the shushing finger of the law. These marshals would glide about in comfy shoes, separating chatty couples, handing out Reader’s Digests, keeping the peace. They would issue warnings in the form of aphorisms. “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods,” they would intone, invoking the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Repeat offenders would be escorted off the train.

Or offenders could be thrown off, literally, to save time (and quickly escape the sound of their screams).  Do not violate the sanctity of the quiet car.

Link via @QuietMark.

God save us from the sound branders

Imagine all of this “sound branded.”

Because there isn’t enough noise in the world. Goldstein, a “music and sound consultancy with an outstanding track record in film, advertising, experiential marketing and sound branding,” writes about sound branding.  What is sound branding, you ask?  Goldstein explains:

There is a common misconception that the term Sound Branding refers only to the creation of ‘sonic logos’ or ‘sound signatures’. While these elements undoubtedly played a significant part in developing the field, it has expanded into something much richer and more valuable than a synonym for jingle-making. In its totality, it’s about the strategic curation of anything that can be usefully heard by a target audience – this could be a bespoke composition for an interactive product, the playlisting for a chain of hotels, or even an installation of generative sound art for a department store.

We would suggest a simpler–and more accurate–definition: the purposeful intrusion into an individual’s’ personal soundscape by someone trying to sell them something.  Adding that the idea of companies competing by employing sound branding could quickly spiral into hell on earth in public spaces.