Naturally the phone booths highlighted in the article aren’t on the street. Rather, they are expensive ($3995 and higher) add-ons companies have had to squeeze into their open plan office spaces for those times that co-workers want less “collaboration” and more privacy. Something that used to be accommodated with these things called offices.
If phone booths are back, might offices be around the corner? [Not holding our breath.]
Jeanine Botta, of Silence the Horns, expresses some doubts in her post, “Marketing quiet while adding to noise pollution.” Botta writes about a recent post on Huffington Post that discusses the health effects of traffic noise. She notes that the piece, which “tells us that ‘EVs are bringing the quiet’ and concludes that ‘…you could say we’re about to enter a golden age of silence,'” was promoted by Nissan, with “Brought to you by ELECTRIFY THE WORLD – A NISSAN INTELLIGENT MOBILITY INITIATIVE” appearing next to the Huffington Post banner. “Welcome to the world of advertorial marketing,” she says.
What follows is Botta’s thoughtful analysis of why electric cars may not be “bringing the quiet” any time soon. More importantly, if concern about vehicle noise is more than a marketing ploy, manufacturers should look at Botta’s suggestions on how they can “substantially reduce vehicle noise pollution” right now in both electric vehicles and in internal combustion engine cars by simply phasing out audible alarms and signals.
Click the first link above to read Botta’s entire piece. It is well worth your time.
and it’s not for a good reason. Claire Asher, BBC, reports on how climate change and animal extinctions have altered the way our world sounds. Asher writes that human activity is changing our natural soundscape irreversibly:
And it is more than our oceans that are affected. Asher notes that “natural spaces are now polluted with human-made noises. As we change forests into farms and drive species to extinction, we are fundamentally changing how our world sounds.”
Click the first link to read this interesting, if depressing, article.
The Best White Noise Apps & Sites. Lisa Poisso, Techlicious, reviews websites and apps offering pink noise generators for better sleep as well as options to enhance concentration and focus when you are adrift in a sea of noise.
Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, The Boston Globe, writes about the quiet spaces Tufts Health Plan offers to its employees. While quiet spaces may seem like the newest perk du jour startups offer to lure talent, there’s another reason for these amenities:
Watertown-based Tufts is among many companies now offering quiet spaces where employees can step away from their desks for a few minutes and recharge. Such spaces are especially welcome in open offices, where workers sit in close quarters and noise carries easily. The garden and the quiet room at Tufts, which opened in recent years, have been popular with a small, enthusiastic, and growing group of employees. “The more people hear about it, the more they’re willing to try it,” says Lydia Greene, Tufts’s chief human resources officer. “Pretty soon we will need a bigger room.”
Yes, the reason for the quiet room and garden is to compensate for the uncomfortably noisy work space Tufts imposes on its employees. Sadly, the article prints the unsupported assertion that “firms eliminate private offices to foster collaboration,” when it’s not exactly a secret that the business case for open plan offices is simple: They’re cheaper.
When one considers the cost of providing quiet spaces plus the time lost when employees seek out a quiet space in which to decompress, perhaps the new trend will be a return to offices?
But nearby sous chef saves the day by engaging crowd in playful revenge prank. That the car owner found his or her car in one piece and minus deliberate scratches or slashed tires shows the compassion and self-control most people are able to exercise. Kudos to the chef for coming up with a clever way for people to vent. We can only hope that the car owner was publicly shamed as he or she came to retrieve their automobile.
Electric and hybrid cars are noticeably quieter than cars powered by an internal combustion engine. This fact drew the attention of advocates for the blind and visually impaired a decade ago, ultimately leading to the passage of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) of 2010. The PSEA is intended to reduce the risk of harm to blind and visually impaired pedestrians, as well as cyclists, or anyone unable to hear the very quiet approach of these cars, by requiring electric and hybrid cars to emit a minimum added sound. The issue regarding this requirement is complex and contentious, and it has generated a lot of research and extended discourse both for and against added sound. Many electric and hybrid cars have used added sound for years; samples of some sounds can be found online.
A significant concern is that some automakers see the need to comply with the rule as an opportunity to invent branded sounds, while critics of branded sounds would prefer sounds as similar as possible to a vehicle engine, noting that discordant or unusual sounds could actually create confusion. In addition, environmental advocates and soundscape preservationists have expressed concern about adding more noise to an overburdened soundscape.
One problem with reaching a sensible solution is that the instructional videos produced by industry tend to show cars and pedestrians interacting in open spaces, but real world experiences are more likely to occur in busy parking lots or residential streets. Measures such as traffic calming and slow zones could result in a growing number of areas where driving below 20 miles per hour would be the norm in order to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. One thing is clear, vehicle engineers must incorporate these details into the planning of current and future warning sounds.
Asked about branded sound design, Jeanine Botta, who runs the Green Car Integrity Project blog, said that she hopes sound designers will follow the rule’s requirement that sound be recognizable as a motor vehicle in operation, and let go of branding concepts. “Our attention is already stretched to its maximum potential. No pedestrian – or cyclist or motorist – should have to quickly process and interpret any sound, especially one intended for safety. If a sound is the least bit discordant, it runs the risk of being misinterpreted and ignored.”
Automotive product developers considering new and improved added quiet car sound should include industry outsiders in the research and development process. Consultation with environmental psychologists, environmental health researchers, acoustic ecologists, and soundscape preservationists would be a step in the right direction.
We can’t help but think that the removal of any noise–even something as seemingly innocuous as the startup chime on a MacBook Pro–is a good thing. That manufacturers insist on using sound to indicate that some act or thing was achieved really needs to end. One hopes Apple’s move will herald similar action by other computer manufacturers until eventually one common layer of sound comes to an end.
The Cult of the Quiet Car. For those of us who have suffered silently (well, except for the passive aggressive throat-clearing) as unthinking monsters shout into their phones during an hour plus train ride, the advent of the quiet car heralded a return to civility, life before mobile phones. All hail the quiet car!