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Soundscape mapping: comparing listening experiences

McGregor, Iain



The perceived auditory environment is an increasingly important part of people’s everyday interactive experiences. While sound design is an established discipline in media such as video games and cinema, this is not the case in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). HCI designers are rarely trained in sound design, and may not make the most effective use of sound in the design of interactions. Even when sound is at the centre of a design it is rarely evaluated to compare the experiences of designers and listeners. This dissertation reports work conducted to develop a way of comparing sound designers’ intentions for a sound design with the experiences of listeners.

Literature on methods of measuring, classifying and visualising sound was reviewed, as well as approaches to sound design in different forms of media and computing. A published method for representing auditory environments was selected for preliminary studies. The four studies addressed to the difficulties of describing auditory environments and how they might be visualised. Two surveys were conducted in order to identify attributes of sound that would be meaningful to 75 audio professionals and 40 listeners. A way of classifying and visualising sound events and their distribution in physical environments was developed and evaluated.

The soundscape mapping tool (SMT) was trialled with sound designs from a range of fields within media and computing. The experiences of both the designer and listeners were captured for each of the designs using the SMT. This work demonstrated that the SMT was suitable for capturing the intentions of 10 sound designers and the experiences of 100 listeners. The trial also provided information about how the SMT could be developed further. The dissertation contributes evidence that auditory environments can be abstracted and visualised in a manner that allows designers to represent their designs, and listeners to record their experiences.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2011
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Sound design; auditory environment; HCI; listening experience; soundscape mapping tool;
Public URL
Contract Date Mar 14, 2011
Award Date Dec 14, 2010


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