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      Public Space Users’ Soundscape Evaluations in Relation to Their Activities. An Amsterdam-Based Study

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          Abstract

          Understanding the relationship between people and their soundscapes in an urban context of innumerable and diverse sensory stimulations is a difficult endeavor. What public space users hear and how they evaluate it in relation to their performed or intended activities can influence users’ engagement with their spaces as well as their assessment of suitability of public space for their needs or expectations. While the interaction between the auditory experience and activity is a topic gaining momentum in soundscape research, capturing the complexity of this relationship in context remains a multifaceted challenge. In this paper, we address this challenge by researching the user-soundscape relationships in relation to users’ activities. Building on previous soundscape studies, we explore the role and interaction of three potentially influencing factors in users’ soundscape evaluations: level of social interaction of users’ activities, familiarity and expectations, and we employ affordance theory to research the ways in which users bring their soundscapes into use. To this end, we employ a mixed methods design, combining quantitative, qualitative and spatial analyses to analyze how users of three public spaces in Amsterdam evaluate their soundscapes in relation to their activities. We documented the use of an urban park in Amsterdam through non-intrusive behavioral mapping to collect spatial data on observable categories of activities, and integrated our observations with on site questionnaires on ranked soundscape evaluations and free responses detailing users’ evaluations, collected at the same time from park users. One of our key findings is that solitary and socially interactive respondents evaluate their soundscapes differently in relation to their activities, with the latter offering higher suitability and lower disruption ratings than the former; this points to qualitatively different auditory experiences, analyzed further based on users’ open-ended justifications for their evaluations. We provide a methodological contribution (adding to existing soundscape evaluation methodologies), an empirical contribution (providing insight on how users explain their soundscape evaluations in relation to their activities) and a policy and design-related contribution, offering additional insight on a transferable methodology and process that practitioners can employ in their work on the built environment to address the multisensory experience of public spaces.

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          Most cited references 53

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          The unequal variance t-test is an underused alternative to Student's t-test and the Mann-Whitney U test

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            Affordances and Prospective Control: An Outline of the Ontology

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              A principal components model of soundscape perception.

              There is a need for a model that identifies underlying dimensions of soundscape perception, and which may guide measurement and improvement of soundscape quality. With the purpose to develop such a model, a listening experiment was conducted. One hundred listeners measured 50 excerpts of binaural recordings of urban outdoor soundscapes on 116 attribute scales. The average attribute scale values were subjected to principal components analysis, resulting in three components: Pleasantness, eventfulness, and familiarity, explaining 50, 18 and 6% of the total variance, respectively. The principal-component scores were correlated with physical soundscape properties, including categories of dominant sounds and acoustic variables. Soundscape excerpts dominated by technological sounds were found to be unpleasant, whereas soundscape excerpts dominated by natural sounds were pleasant, and soundscape excerpts dominated by human sounds were eventful. These relationships remained after controlling for the overall soundscape loudness (Zwicker's N(10)), which shows that 'informational' properties are substantial contributors to the perception of soundscape. The proposed principal components model provides a framework for future soundscape research and practice. In particular, it suggests which basic dimensions are necessary to measure, how to measure them by a defined set of attribute scales, and how to promote high-quality soundscapes.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-1078
                29 August 2018
                2018
                : 9
                Affiliations
                1Urban Planning Group, Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam , Amsterdam, Netherlands
                2Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, University of Twente , Enschede, Netherlands
                3University of Groningen , Leeuwarden, Netherlands
                Author notes

                Edited by: Sarah R. Payne, Heriot-Watt University, United Kingdom

                Reviewed by: Harry J. Witchel, University of Sussex, United Kingdom; Neil Bruce, University of Salford, United Kingdom

                *Correspondence: Edda Bild, a.e.bild@ 123456uva.nl

                This article was submitted to Environmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Article
                10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01593
                6123620
                Copyright © 2018 Bild, Pfeffer, Coler, Rubin and Bertolini.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 6, Equations: 0, References: 63, Pages: 16, Words: 0
                Categories
                Psychology
                Original Research

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