Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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Remember when you could enjoy a meal with friends without screaming through your meal?

Those days could be coming back: Why quiet restaurants are having a moment.

Debora Robertson, writing for The Telegraph, reports about the efforts by Svante Borjesson, director of the hearing charity Oir es Clave (“Hearing is Key”), who has launched an initiative called “Eating Without Noise.”  Borjesson signed up 22 restaurants to join the initiative, though most seem on the higher end.  Which is a shame, because a comfortable restaurant should be available for everyonthe rich. That said, when you consider the effect noise has on the dining experience, it’s foolhardy for any restaurateur to ignore the acoustics of their restaurants.  As Robertson notes:

Restaurateurs who pay more attention to the art on their walls than acoustics might want to rethink. The quiet restaurant movement is backed up science. A recent Cornell University study found that decibels definitely have an impact on deliciousness.

Yep, noise affects flavor.  And it’s important is to remember that a visit to a restaurant, especially with family or friends, is about much more than the food.  Robertson writes:

Most of us go to restaurants not just for the food, but also to enjoy the company of our friends. If we can’t hear what they’re saying, we might as well stay at home with Netflix and a bowl of pasta. But there are few things more enjoyable than sitting in a beautiful restaurant, eating something wonderful, catching up on the latest scandals and (possibly) watching other diners creating scandals of their own. Is it too much to ask for the gentle, sound-absorbing comfort of a well-insulated floor, the odd soft banquette, perhaps – whisper it – a tiny swathe of curtain?

Short answer: No, it’s not too much to ask.

And this is the perfect opportunity to introduce our sister site, Quiet City Maps, where we review restaurants, coffee shops, bars, parks, and privately owned public spaces based on how loud they are (or, one hopes, aren’t).  The focus at Quiet City Maps is comfort, i.e., whether the space allows for easy conversation.  We have started in Manhattan and hope to launch an app before very long.  And then?  Onward to Brooklyn, Queens, and points beyond!

Link via @QuietMark.

Now this is what a robust enviornmental protection statute looks like:

Playing loud music can set you back by Rs 1 lakh* and put you behind bars for 5 years.  Or you could just lower the music after you’ve been warned.

*100,000 rupees, which = $1,488.21 on August 22nd. 

Sounds like hell on earth:

Baltimore Church offering Zumba classes receives multiple noise complaints.

Surely the neighbors must have very sensitive hearing to be annoyed by the music accompanying these clases, yes?  Well, no.  You see, the Zumba motivational class is “held in the parking lot of the Koinonia Baptist Church.”  I assume the church members don’t even attempt to proselytize in the neighborhood.

If only the New York City police were as vigilant against motorcyclists:

Police report lodged against Pokemon GO players for noise pollution.  The complaint was that “the activities of Pokemon GO players have disturbed the peacefulness of the area,” and the police responded.  Imagine making that call to 311 and the response thereto.

 

We want walls:

the future of office design – and the demise of open plan.   God willing.

Open floor plans, particularly poorly executed plans that are intended to shove as many bodies into the smallest possible space, hurt employee morale and interfere with work.  Many employees may resent a perceived loss of status as they are removed from offices and given a space for which there is little or no privacy.  But open floor plans do more than hurt employees’ self-esteem.  Dr Matthew Davis, a professor of the psychology of office design at Leeds University Business School, has researched “the poor hygiene and frequent distractions of open-plan offices,” with one report finding that “the loss of productivity [was] so great in an open-plan office that it outweigh[ed] the money saved by putting everyone in the same room.”

So what is business doing in response?  Apparently, “organisations are now seeking flexible, modern offices with private pods where workers can hunker down without interruption, with protocols such as no talking on mobile phones, for instance, and no eating.”  Or perhaps your employer will invest in a “chair with zip-up sides.”

Or CEOs could stop listening to the finance guys when making decisions about workplace design and opt for space that lets their employees do their work.  Just throwing that out there.

Link via @QuietMark.

Would it kill people to use a rake instead?

My Turn: The leaf blower, a perfect American invention. 

Why is the leaf blower a perfect American invention? Well, according to Jim Miller:

They are the quintessential American invention, combining all three of our requirements for a modern labor-saving device. They burn fossil fuel — the most important requirement. They make noise  — because nothing says “work” like a hundred or so decibels of petroleum-sourced flatulence.

And finally, they take your problem and make it someone else’s — usually in the form of a fine patina of dust on a freshly washed vehicle, or an imminent asthma attack.

Sounds about right.

At what point does your brain perceive sounds as music?

Psychologist zeros in on when sound becomes music.

Medical Xpress examines the work being done by Adam Greenberg, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who is using a type of brain imaging called imaging to study how the brain recognizes and responds to music.  Professor Greenberg found that “some of [the] brain regions that process the basic properties of sound are shared with regions that are involved in processing low-level properties of visual information.”  He adds that the “finding has implications for the kinds of things that we sometimes experience, like when you’re listening to music and you get visual imagery popping into your head or feelings of wanting to dance.”  In short, because the activity of sight and sound regions overlap, “the experience of may be much more than just an auditory phenomenon.”

Link via @HyperacusisCure.

How Background Noise Can Ruin Productivity

and the Gadgets That Can Help.

Open floor plans may excite the finance department, but their effect on worker productivity–and morale–is less than fabulous.  Spare us the noise cancelling headphones, please, and design quieter places where people can do their work.

There’s a new ally in the fight against noise pollution:

The Noise App will help you to make a complaint about your noisy neighbours.  The Standard reports that The Noise App will allow users to make 30-second recordings and apply timestamps and GPS location data so that their local authority has full information about a noise complaint. The recording doesn’t serve as evidence of a noise violation.  Rather, it’s meant to “prove to [the] local authority that noisy neighbours are a problem worth investigating.”  In addition, “[u]nlike the voice recorder on [most] phones, which compresses sound so [there’s no] background noise interfering, The Noise App records uncompressed sound so it picks up everything [the user is] hearing.”

The Noise App sounds like a good and efficient way to take in necessary information to investigate noise complaints while filtering out unreasonable complaints.  Some people obviously agree as one council and five of London’s biggest housing associations have signed up to The Noise App.  Now the important question is this: When will it be coming to the U.S.?  Please?

Link via @QuietMark.