Prompt for Blog Forum 2: Voice, Persona, Homophily

Tech Square: Voice, Persona, Homophily
In a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about those “disembodied” voices we call Siri, Cortana, and Galaxy (among others) and how their “personalities” are (or should be) suited (or not) to the kinds of tasks we expect them to do. This week, we’re reminding ourselves that interfaces can be analog. We’re also projecting personalities onto the imagined voices of some common interfaces.

For your second blog post, choose one of the activities you and your group identified at the Tech Square intersection of 5th and Spring. How would that activity benefit from a sound- or speech-directed interface (or an improved interface) at the intersection? (That’s your claim.) Why? (Present and analyze the evidence of how at least two different “users” perform the activity in that environment.) As part of your analysis, characterize the voice and persona of the (improved) interface and justify your choice of vocal properties and personality. If you think the interface should be sound- but not speech-directed, justify that choice instead. Draw on WFS chapters 1, 4, 6–8 to support your justification.

Posts due September 28. Comments due September 30. Remember that at least one of your blog posts must be an audio post, so you may want to record sounds at the intersection to include in your blog post. For an example of an audio post, see Nina Moorman’s post for forum 1.

Sounds of Monterey vs. GT Fountain

Over Labor Day Weekend, I visited Monterey, California, which is a mid-size beach town just twenty-something miles north of the famous Big Sur (which unfortunately is currently experiencing forest fires). Much of the first day there, I spent kayaking on the bay. While on the open waters, staring back at the beach, I began to think: does the soundscape of a beach really contribute to (or even determine) how relaxed or rejuvenated someone may feel from spending time at the beach. After listening to the amalgamation of all the sounds in Monterey, I was a firm believer in the therapeutic effects of taking the time to listen to the various sounds at the beach. I was hoping that I would be able to replicate the same feeling, during a quite time on the GT lawn, by the fountain.

I first took the time to explore the sounds that were audible to me in that soundscape, while in California. I was on an individual kayak between 3-5 miles off from the coast, facing the beach where we initially took off. I could hear the low pitch rustles of the uneven waters. I could also hear the higher pitched (much more infrequent) sounds of the sails of anchored boats snapping, every time a breeze came through. Of course, I couldn’t forget the barking of the sea lions to my right that were resting on the jetty, right next to the Fisherman’s Wharf. The light sound of the waves rocking would almost immediately create the taste of seawater in my mouth. Finally, I’d hear the occasional boat coming in to park at the bay marina, giving off a rhythmic sound, somewhat disrupting the natural soundscape described in the aforementioned.

I then compared my experience on the kayak to my experience on the beach, as I waited for my friends to return from the open waters. Much of the soundscape was still the same (the waves crashing, seagulls, light breeze), minus many of the man-made sounds I listed, such as the boats. Maybe in part bias from feeling tired from kayaking all afternoon, I felt an immediate sense of relaxation. From a young age, we are almost taught to associate the beach to being a relaxing place, but not necessarily why. The sounds of the waves crashing coupled with the light whooshing of the breeze almost immediately invoked a sensation of relaxation and calmness. It was very interesting to see how different I felt in very similar soundscapes, minus a few man-made sounds.  I connected this to our discussion in class and readings on Foley’s article on How Sound Effects are made. This made me think of the countless movie scenes where the director almost plays the sounds of the beach prior to actually letting the frame show the beach to first grab the watchers attention by invoking the sensations attached to sounds from the beach.

Finally, I took the time to sit on the Georgia Tech lawn with a friend of mine, to see if we could find a similar sensation from the soundscape there. We thought that the sounds of the Fountain coupled with the quite breeze seemed to bring the same sensations I felt on the beach. We did a test of closing our eyes to see the effects of seeing the actual origins of the sound would change the way we perceived the sounds (as we discussed in class). We were able to conclude that actually seeing the origins of the sound completely altered the actual experience. Although, an water fountain can’t really be compared to a beach, the basics of that soundscape (running water/breeze) did invoke similar sensations (although with less intensity). If only the GT lawn were really a beach… Although, I’m sure the GT Lawn was constructed as a relaxation spot for students, we may have found an alternate use for it – a great way to relax with a group of friends after a long day.

In closing, I wanted to include a song that I believe has done an amazing job of replicating many sounds of the beach (I actually frequently listen to this song to fall asleep):



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