Monday, 21 March 2011

Research Proposal


My proposal is to investigate methods of signifying and enhancing the appreciation of quietness in public open spaces. In particular to use and combine existing structures and approaches to bring an understanding of the value of quietness to users of open space, and eventually as an element of open space policy for local authorities.


I intend to work with an existing group of people who have an interest in a potential "quiet area" to explore opportunities to better understand the soundscape of the open space and thereby bringing an appreciation of quietness to users. The area I have in mind is Arno's Vale Cemetery in Bristol. There is an active group (Arno's Vale Cemetery Trust) and a series of activities already under way. I will start a discussion with the public engagement officer of the trust to determine if quietness and soundscapes can be brought within any of the existing activities, or if new activities, e.g. sound walks could be added to the programme.
I believe there is scope for using the Bristolstreets quiet mapping at a micro level to record the experiences of visitors and participants to build a picture of the emotional response to the soundscape of the area. I will investigate potential for this approach.

Who will be involved?

Arno's Vale Cemetery Trust, colleagues from Ways of Hearing(?). Gian Luca's work at Kensal Green Cemetery could inform some of my work and it would be interesting to hear more of his project. My proposal could also be of benefit to DEFRA in considering how the public can be engaged in the process of designating quiet areas. Public consultation is a key aspect of the Environmental Noise Directive, which mandates the designation of quiet areas.

What am I expecting as a result of doing the project?

I am expecting to learn more about the management of open spaces, the techniques for assessing soundscapes and the dynamics of groups who manage and visit open spaces. I would also like to be able to understand and reproduce a process that could be used to engage citizens on quiet areas.

Next steps

I will arrange a meeting with the public engagement officer for an exploratory discussion and do some online research to see what has been done already on this topic.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Ways of Hearing

Its been quiet here since the Citizenscape project ended, but i'm reinstating this blog as the vehicle for my involvement in the Ways of Hearing project. I've just returned from the first workshop which I found to be challenging, stimulating and rewarding.
I intend to use the blog as my action research learning journal \ planner, so thought I'd get busy and post my thoughts on the emerging ideas behind what will become my research proposal. Having not prepared at all for today's workshop, I was forced to pull an idea out of thin air as the basis for my proposal early today. Rather than continue unfruitful railing against traffic noise I decided to focus on quiet areas and how to indicate their presence or status to citizens. My initial thoughts were about introducing some kind of enforced silence by some kind of public art intervention to stimulate active listening and thinking about tranquility and sound. I was thinking about quiet areas in Bristol, particularly Arno's Vale Cemetery - near where I live.
I was inspired by reference to sound oases and also parabolic sound concentrators, like those used as a primitive radar to warn of impending aerial attack in the early years of WWII. The silence could be introduced in the entrance to the quiet area to mark transition from noise to quiet, or be a discrete feature within the quiet area. The bristol group's active learning set later on challenged my ideas about this, particularly regarding whether an "installation" was appropriate, i.e. whether the goal could be achieved using people rather than things. I was encouraged to consider the proposal in the context of my role at work and research this aspect, and also the idea of using sound instead of silence to infer the quietness of the space.
Cycling back from the workshop I considered this idea further, exploring what the opposite of quiet and tranquility could be. The theme of war and battle sprang to mind. There are some military graves in Arno's Vale and it struck me that these could be the focus of an intervention which could highlight quiet, tranquility, reflection, history and emotional response.