You might want to go to the park but when you get there, there is a football game going on and you were hoping to relax.
Imagine zooming in on an area and listening to the local sounds: the lapping waves from the seaside, the bar room hum or the hollers of the market place.
Hume says, “I decided to focus my project on the sounds of places because I thought that was a good representation of the atmosphere. You might want to go to the park but when you get there, there is a football game going on and you were hoping to relax.” The concept, called ‘Listen Here’, was Hume’s end of year project which she will be showcasing at this year’s New Designers Exhibition in London.
The prototype was made and situated in Dundee, where Hume was studying design. While most of the sounds are pre-recorded one is live – in the future, if the concept takes off, all the sounds will be live.
The map, which has inbuilt speakers, is located in the city center. The live microphone, which comes with an RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag, is taken by a local to a spot of their choice. Hume says, “That is then marked on a map and there is an RFID reader which reads the number of the tag. This is placed in a stethoscope shaped device.” When you hover the ‘stethoscope’ over a particular tag that has been placed in the map it picks up the sound from the microphone and plays it through the speakers.
The idea behind the map was to encourage tourists coming to cities like Dundee, to find more interesting places off the beaten tourist track.
Hume says, “I was trying to find a way of combating globalisation -people are using the same products and media worldwide. I was looking at tourism and I was interviewing a group of exchange students who had just arrived in Dundee, to ask them about their first impressions of Scotland. They all talked about stereotypical things like kilts and Haggis. I realized, when you are travelling you usually get stuck in the tourist traps and tend not to get a good impression of local life.”
With this in mind she invited local residents to choose places they were particularly fond of in the City and asked them a series of questions on these areas including what they sounded like.
People really remember the sounds of a place and I hadn’t really thought of that before.
Hume says, “People really remember the sounds of a place and I hadn’t really thought of that before. So I decided to focus my project on the sounds of places because I realised it would be a good representation of the atmosphere.”
One problem people might conceive of is the invasion of privacy. Is it not similar to bugging a place? Hume is confident this is not an issue. She says, “The microphones really only pick up on ambient sound. A microphone would only pick up a private conversation if you were to go up and speak into it.”