Silence is not the Ideal Soundscape for Productivity

 

The 4th floor of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons is a study location frequented by many Tech students. The space is always “buzzing” with a white noise that provides the ideal backdrop for finalizing a lab report due to the 5th floor at noon or reviewing for that calculus quiz in Skiles at 3:05. Many noises contribute to this soundscape—the ding of elevators, the clamor of feet ambling up and down the central staircase—but the babbling of voices is the keynote sound that makes the Clough a perfect place to study.

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Though conventional wisdom preaches utter silence as the best promoter of productivity, the noise of the Clough offers something that silence cannot—stability. In a sparsely populated soundscape, such as the Library, the squeak of a chair can radically alter the entire soundscape, shattering concentration like a pane of glass. In contrast, the chatter of the Clough creates a soundscape that is difficult to alter, discouraging selective hearing and promoting sound as an aid to productivity. Voices from all levels of the building bounce from concrete face to concrete face, mixing and mingling to create an unintelligible hum of conversation. The constituent signals comprising this hum have been blended so thoroughly that decoding any information regarding their original content or source is near impossible. It is a uniform and indistinct sound that does not lend itself to semantic or causal listening and allows the brain to focus fully on comprehending a text or composing a paper.

Yet, the amalgam of human voice that is the soundmark of the Clough is not entirely void of meaning. It retains a bustling timbre that is insidious. It chants “there are things to be done.” It energizes on the subconscious level and provides the vigor necessary to accomplish the tasks at hand. The next time you are getting ready to crank out a big paper, skip the Library and employ the excited hum of the Clough as the backdrop for your toils.

Finding the Perfect Study Spot: An ode to nature lovers

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Clicking Credits: Anushk Mittal 🙂

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time walking between different buildings, getting lost and exploring the almost unbelievably beautiful campus in midtown Atlanta. Being an international student, I didn’t have an opportunity to tour the campus prior to the first week of school but I began my exploration for the perfect study spot on Day 1 of FASET. Living in a traditional dorm, I instantly recognized the inherently flawed soundscape of the small dorm room withit naturally victimised by noise pollution. After exploring the conventional student favourites of Library and Clough, I could finally find serenity in an area with soundmark designed to calm, relax, and concentrate a human being. The backyard of Eighth Street Apartment is the perfect outdoor space for concentrating, relaxing and solitary meditation during the day. The visual and acoustic traits of this landscape are remarkable.

First, the place lies at the near end of West Campus, allowing it to enjoy isolation during the daytime. This permits channelizing your senses into single focus and have a true nature experience which we, as an urban society, are rarely blessed to experience. While walking around the city, one often finds people trying to take refuge from the urban noise pollution by wearing headphones and immersing themselves in other gadgets. In stark contrast, the keynote sounds of the landscape — whistling breeze, sounds of crickets and birds chirping, hum of insects and susurrate of leaves along the tall trees — collectively creating an ambient experience.

Second, the background “music” of the soundscape allows for reduced listening while being plugged-out and experience the harmony of nature’s sounds. You must take a telephonic approach to the soundscape of this conducive environment as the background “music” helps to get away from any distractions (inner as well as outer) and really allows to concentrate at the task in hand. Further, the spatial signature of this sound prompts me to consider it as a POV sound that has strategically benches placed to have the best sound experience cut off from the hustling life of metropolitan Atlanta. The pitch and rate of the voices is just perfect to match with the rhythm of our breath and heart beats. It seems that we are intimately bound to mother nature by a unique ethereal connection.

Research results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers – NYT

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As Henry Derozio experienced the bliss of nature under moonlight, you’re sure to find a similar but unique experience at this not so often visited place on campus. Scientifically speaking, the American Psychological Association certainly would support this perfect study spot. I’m glad to suggest you the perfect outdoor study spot when you don’t want yourself to be surrounded by many people.

A Garden of Tranquility (And a Fight Between Insect and Machine)

    One of the most unique places on campus has to be the Rooftop Garden on top of the Clough building. It is a fantastic place to study, read a book, contemplate life, or even just relax and chat with your friends. It offers a very different environment to most study spaces on campus. Part of this is due to the fact that there are trees and shrubs growing on top of a building in the middle of campus. Part of this is due to its unique soundscape that can’t be matched anywhere.

    When you first walk out into the garden and sit down at a table, the first thing you notice is the quietness. If you have never been to the garden, this may come as a surprise. Just a few moments ago you were probably in a bustling crowd of students, trying to get to their next class, and now you are plunged into strange silence. But after a moment you realize it’s not quiet at all. The dominating soundmark is actually crickets and other insects chirping. In the mornings, when there are fewer people and the roof is cooler, the insects can actually get quite loud, but not obnoxious. I have found that you don’t really notice them unless you focus on listening to them. They actually create a soft hum that is not distracting and is conducive to work or writing a blog post.

    There are other noticeable keynote sounds, but they are not nearly as dominating as the insects. The breeze through the trees. A cordial conversation. The scoot of a chair across the cement. Overall, these sound combined with the insects create a calm ambience that I have only experienced in the rooftop garden. This tranquil space is the perfect environment for almost whatever you want to do. I have seen people go there to talk with a colleague, study and do homework, work on a group project, eat lunch, and just read a book.

    Unfortunately, the garden’s bubble of peacefulness has been invaded and will not be left undisturbed for quite some time. For the past few months, Van Leer Building, just across Tech Green from the CULC, has seen quite a lot of construction work in front of it, all of which is audible from the garden. At times, the construction overwhelms the garden’s natural soundscape and can be distracting from whatever you’re doing. I recorded a video of the garden while there was a lull in the construction work so you could hear the insects alone. 

This second video shows how the sounds of the construction site disturb the natural sounds of the first video. 

    After a while, your mind starts to disregard the construction and focus on the intelligibility of the sounds of whatever the task at hand is. There may be a moment when there is a pause in the construction, which is relaxing, but once it starts again, you need to take a moment to refocus and ignore the cacophony below you. I even felt the urge to just put my headphones in and listen to music instead, so I would not have to worry about the construction at all. Selectively ignoring the construction can get difficult when it is unpredictable. On the average day, the Rooftop Garden is a wonderful and peaceful place to study outdoors. However, while the construction continues, it may be best to stay inside the CULC, in the air conditioning, listening to your favorite playlist.