Results Of 'Community Of Soundscapes' Project To Be Presented By CU-Boulder Researchers

September 5, 2007

An acoustic map of Boulder's sonic environment created by a cadre of volunteers working with the University of Colorado at Boulder will be presented to the community Sept. 14 at a demonstration and talk on "Capturing and Sharing Sonic Experiences."

The presentation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the ATLAS auditorium at CU-Boulder. The ATLAS building is located on 18th Street directly north of the Euclid Avenue Autopark.

Researchers at CU-Boulder's Center for LifeLong Learning and Design developed the tools for creating a Community of Soundscapes as part of a long-term project they call "The Silence of the Lands." The researchers enlisted the help of 20 community volunteers, who recorded natural and urban sounds around the community using the center's digital recording devices or "sound cameras" outfitted with GPS mapping software. The software allows the recorded sounds to be annotated and placed on a map, which can be accessed online at www.thesilence.org.

In the pilot project, which ran from July 23 to Sept. 4, the volunteers were asked to record sounds along the Boulder Creek Path and Flagstaff Mountain, as well as other locations of their own choosing. While the time and date were entered automatically, the volunteers were able to add descriptions of the sounds they heard and to indicate through the use of colors whether they liked or disliked those sounds.

Examples of sounds recorded during the pilot phase of the project include wildlife sounds, airplanes flying overhead, music playing at the Dushanbe Teahouse and voices from the Happy Thursday Cruisers bicycle ride.

"By extracting sounds from the local environment and composing them in a personal acoustic ecology, people produce soundscapes that reflect their individual knowledge, daily practices, needs and concerns," said research associate and project coordinator Elisa Giaccardi. "The results allow us an opportunity to learn from each other and engage in a long-term social dialogue about noise and peacefulness."

Hosted by the computer science department, the Center for LifeLong Learning and Design creates innovative systems to enhance lifelong learning and to facilitate communication and collaboration based on complex information.

The center partnered with city of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, the Boulder Water Quality Department, the CU-Boulder ATLAS Institute and other universities in the United Kingdom and Italy on the Community of Soundscapes project. ATLAS stands for the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society.

Speakers at the Sept. 14 event will include Giaccardi, interpretive naturalist Deborah Matlock and water education specialist Jennelle Freeston. Boulder City Manager Frank Bruno and CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Administration Paul Tabolt will make welcoming remarks.

Additional volunteers will be able to sign up at the event to participate in sound mapping activities next year. Other possible applications of the technology, such as for land management and preservation, urban development and community planning, also will be discussed.

The project was supported by the National Science Foundation and the CU-Boulder Outreach Committee.

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