Everyone in the intersection is waiting to get going
Pedestrians waiting in the crosswalk at 5th and Spring are prone to multitasking. They listen to music, talk on their phones, and stare absently at the flow of traffic; they do all this, while waiting for the white, “walk,” sign. Occasionally, when it does change, the pedestrians do not notice because they are distracted.
To facilitate speedy movement through the crosswalk and clear cars from the intersection faster, a speech component should be added to the crosswalk interface. This way, distracted users will be brought back to awareness. Clearing the intersection faster will reduce the number of opportunities for accidents, protecting pedestrians and drivers. It will also help people reach their destination more quickly.
The sound component needs to have specific characteristics to aid intelligibility, since that is the most important kind of sound for this situation. It should be a voice because a repetitive tone could be confused for the construction sounds in the area. The voice should be female; most of the sounds in the intersection are low pitch, so a high pitch, feminine voice would stand out and improve intelligibility. A fast speech pattern will evoke a feeling of urgency, aiding in the clearing of the intersection quickly. The speedy delivery will also pair homophilically with the state of mind of most pedestrians increasing the effectiveness of the interface.
The acoustic environment of a space greatly defines how well one can use the area. Intelligibility allows a person to use only the necessary sounds from that area no matter the environment. It only takes a small trek to the back corner of the top floor of the student center to reach Paper & Clay. The hum of the air-conditioning and the murmur of the people in the offices surrounding it fill the room as keynote sounds. The lack of other sounds allow the artist to fill the air with the truly important sounds they create. Arriving early in the day allows for silence from the lack of other peers in the studio space. Otherwise one would experience the music, hair dryer noises, and generalized chit chat from the others. The most important sounds aren’t even from the space surrounding the artist, but the sounds created by their actions: the water rushing off the spinning clay, the tools scraping against the wooden bat, and the pegs repeatedly hitting his or her hands at different tempos. This kind of causal listening is key when forming a new piece with one’s hands. Fidelity is trumped by intelligibility in this instance due to the task at hand. The keynote sounds are easily drowned out by the focus of the creator and are limited by the time he or she decides to work in the studio space.
The Curran Parking Deck is one of my least favorite places on campus, and as such, my mission is to get in and out as quickly as possible. From inside a car, the lulling droll of the car engine’s purring is heard while the clear and high pitched clicking of the blinkers ring out in a steady tempo over the air conditioner’s low whistling. From outside the car, the volume of the car engines are transformed into thunderous roars, and a steady stream of gritty, crackling noises are audible as the tires crawl over the ground. The echoes of my footsteps resonate loudly, and the faint buzz of flickering overhead lights fills the restful silence in between these keynote sounds.
The most important goals in this environment are dependent on one’s location. When I’m driving my car, I’m actively looking for a parking space while being cautious of pedestrians. Therefore, I must hear selectively and only prioritize the sounds that indicate approaching cars or people. I end up turning my radio down as any other sounds become dangerously distractive. The acousmatic beeping of a locking car is a signal that indicates I’ll have to travel further to find a place to park. Once I’ve left my car, my focus shifts to leaving quickly and safely. It is important for me to hear with fidelity in order to gain a wholesome understanding of everything that comprises my surroundings. Causal listening also comes into play as the sources of all sounds must be assessed as to whether or not they are a threat. The same sound of the locking car now acts as a signal with a different meaning. It indicates the presence of another person exiting their vehicle, and I judge the distance between us by listening to the volume of the sounds created by their jingling keys and footsteps. In the end, sounds created by vehicles and people are the most prominent features of the Curran Parking Deck’s soundscape and the most critical factors to successful parking.