Nov 8, 2010

Liminal Sounding: Prototype Take 2

The third prototyping test was a bust. We had constructed a speaker to attach to the contact mic and amp, but once we hooked everything up, the speaker was not loud enough to hear any type of noise. This could have been for a variety of reasons, from wear of the contact mic to a lose connection.

Not to be deterred, we instead walked around the bridge for another round of sonic observation to determine the acoustics of the sounds coming from the cars below and the construction closer to the Brooklyn side. We found that the sound environment changed as we passed through the first tower, with the sweet spot of transformation occurring just as you walked past the tower: here the static and muddiness of the combined noise decreased significantly.

We also more closely observed the connection between heard and felt sound. That is, you wouldn’t expect to hear individual footsteps on the bridge, but the wood planks of the path give enough that you can feel them move as people walk on them. Within the acoustics of the bridge, these individual sounds of walking become audible over the wind and cars due largely in part to feeling the wood move.

A third observation that was the most fascinating from a behavioral point of view was the manner in which people chose to cross or not cross the bridge. We had been speculating what tourists would do when confronted with the mass expanse of street to travel once they arrived on the Brooklyn side – would they actually cross all the way or would they turn around and come back to Manhattan once they reached the middle or end of the bridge?

We divided people according to their goal for coming to the bridge, a division that correlated highly to the distinction between locals and tourists. We were working under the assumption that the majority of tourists would consider the bridge a destination, a place to knock off the list and to take in the entire city. Locals tended to actually cross the bridge, using it for either transportation from working Manhattan to home in BK or vice versa, and as a means of decompression or perhaps better put, a way to scale themselves against the city, or from habit or exercise. We made a point of watching specific groups of people as we prepared and crossed, noticing about eight different groups of tourists returning to Manhattan. For the moment, we are putting this observation away , but it was an extremely interesting find that we hope to integrate into further iterations.

An update of a few key changes to our project emerged from this round:

  • We decided to use headphones instead of a speaker; it is a much more intimate way to accomplish our goal of having people hear the bridge and interact with their surroundings.
  • Initially we had thought about focusing only on the locals. We justified this with the idea that tourists as outsiders generally experience a heightened sense of awareness in a new and exciting environment. After speaking with Victoria, however, we decided that we are not going to differentiate between an audience, or focus on engaging one more than the other: if the bridge democratizes, we certainly don’t want to infringe on that lovely side effect and alienate one group by focusing on a specific population.

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