AttenSOUND

by Anthony Pecqueux + Nicolas Tixier

This conference aims at measuring some of the CRESSON studies against, on the one hand, theories of attention and, on the other hand, a pragmatist approach on social life.

Many of us complain about the noise we endure in our everyday life, especially in town: noise from our neighbours, traffic, construction sites, subway, etc. Whether it is at home, underground or on the surface, we are constantly enveloped – even harassed – by sounds, which we more or less easily get used to, since it is very difficult to literally close our ears to them. Therefore, and at least since the first industrial revolution, in cities and more specifically in metropoles, we have witnessed a multiplication of sound sources. It goes hand in hand with the lowering of the sound tolerance threshold, which can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively with regular surveys on these questions, on their place on the political agenda against urban noise, the recent addition (2003) of a “crime of sound aggression” in the French Penal Code, etc.

Listen

Translation :

  • Hello, welcome.
  • Sociologist, anthropologist for the CNRS
  • Before tackling the notion of sound (for about an hour), he will speak about something else: the government decided to start “Campus France” – the academic fees for students out of Europe are going to skyrocket.
  • Petition against that decision. They’re against it. Denial of right to access education, enhance social/financial gaps, selection of very rich students to send them to private schools. Damage to the humanities. It could also damage research, and threaten sociology, geography and history programs. They support the actions currently carried out by the students.
  • The Minister announced that they will talk about it, but nothing is going to change. Open debate if you want?
  • Website: research log book on the different petitions against “Bienvenue en France”.

Conference

  • Hark theme: title hard to translate – AttenSiON (JuL proposed AttenSOUND)
  • Idea to follow almost literally the concept of Hark – listen carefully
  • As a sociologist, many questions related to “listening carefully”: who, what, when, how? A lot to discuss from that point.
  • Many of us complain about the noise we endure in our everyday life, especially in town: neighbours, traffic, construction site, subway… Whether it’s at home, underground or on the surface, we are constantly enveloped – even harassed – by sounds.

The sound of things, the rustle of the city

It is very hard to compare cities from the past and cities from our contemporary time. Multiplication of sources of sound.

  • Frequent surveys
  • Studies on sound nuisances

Between inconvenience and necessity

However, it does not seem very desirable to get to the point of a silent city, or at least devoid of its sounds, where only the “good sounds” would remain, like the birds singing. According to Schafer’s terminology, this is the division between lo-fi and hi-fi sounds (make lo-fi disappear and prefer hi-fi), which are preferably audible in the countryside.

Schafer: Canadian composer and research. He coined the notion/term of “soundscape”. Many CRESSON works built themselves in opposition to this concept. “What is good to hear?” We can talk about that later.

A city like that would force us indeed to revise many of our ordinary behaviour patterns, routines and habits (in terms of action, displacement, coordination, etc.). To support the observation of a necessary inconvenience, less provocative that it seems: the sounds coming from motorised vehicles are most often defined as noise (disturbance), and as such, they are countered by public policies. + honking sounds, etc.

However, electric vehicles could bring about a more silent solution, and it is this silence that is now condemned as a potential danger for pedestrians. The main car manufacturers are currently looking for sound, even musical, solutions so that they can make noise/sounds again: some with the IRCAM (Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music), some with Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, some using the futuristic sound effects from Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), or even by recreating through speakers the sound of a petrol engine, etc.

The same problem of “dangerous silence” arises, to a lesser degree, with cyclists. To grasp that notion, one only needs to ride behind a pedestrian to see their surprise when they realise that you are here, often at the last minute (when the faint sounds you are making are close enough to be perceived over the urban continuum). + motorised scooters, they can arrive really fast and it gets even worse than on a bike (which is slower).

The struggle of current policies in terms of urban displacement (juggling between necessary sustainability, which noise disturbance is a part of, and the dangers that these new silent beings represent for urban coordination) highlights more generally an obvious paradox on urban sounds. On the one hand, there is the lowering of sound tolerance; on the other hand, the inability to live or even imagine a silent city, as if that could no longer qualify as a city. Instead of seeing it as a paradox, and that’s the CRESSON’s position, we choose here to use it as a starting point and a way to reveal the richness of a statement focused on the sounds of the city.

Its interest lies in this in-between that can sometimes be confusing, between inconvenience and necessity of sounds, between diverging, even conflicting, definitions of the same (types of) sounds: depending on who produces them, the moments and the places where they are produced, etc.

Indeed, the common points of contemporary urban dynamics (more and more noise, which annoys us more and more, but without which we can live less and less as they are intrinsic to our urban culture) showcase the city as a soundscape; more precisely, as a territory composed of all our sounding activities. We can talk about that difference later.

In short, analogy with an eminent art historian (on Italian art)

à similar to the way an Italian individual from the 15th century could appreciate, even order, a painting depending on a number of parameters from his everyday and religious life – in particular his commercial life, to evaluate quantities and volumes of goods in barrels or bags (or other containers for transportation and trade) – and thus acquire a “moral eye” to judge the painting of the Quattrocento, a citizen from the 21st century is used to move according to/within a sound environment, and learned something close to a “moral ear” of the city to adjust their everyday actions. For example, they would probably not walk in the same way if their ears were not able to warn them of changes and events around them. Works on hearing disabilities can confirm this statement.

In the city, the ears are not only an organ to warn and alert. They are also moral, given that they cannot not assess some prominent sounds (within the sound continuum) that are presented to them. Dimension of evaluation of the sound/noise.

“Noise” is a first moral assessment about what is neutralised as “sound”; moral evaluation that could be opposed to characterizations like “music” or “musicality” (positive), which could then lead to definite judgments like “sound pollution/disturbance” (negative). As often, it is useful to use ordinary language, our own manners of speaking, as recommended by John Austin. Therefore, we use expressions like “shush, I hear noise” instead of “shush, I hear sounds”, since it happens in contexts where the sounds are suspicious, should not come from such place (“… it’s coming from upstairs but we’re all downstairs”) or at this moment (“… but the children are asleep”).

We might come back to this on Wednesday. Question of the term of “sound” – idea of “sound studies.” In French, we rarely/almost never use the word “sound” (except “I have some good sound”). It’s not a natural way to express yourself to talk about sound. We use other words.

Sound in English is more “ordinary” than in French.

Interesting to talk about “sound studies” – studies on professional contexts/milieus/environments. A division of “science studies” at the origin. They worked on professional environments – people from the radio, working on sound.

The sound of activities

A recent example represents well the social and moral nature of this semantic conflict. In Germany, a certain number of citizens have brought forth the “Law of May 14, 1990 on the protection against harmful effects on the environment produced by air, noise, vibration pollutions and similar phenomena” (big “green” law) (Bunder-Immissionsschutzgesetz) to prove in front of courts, with proof from sound level meters, that the residents of nurseries were producing noise that was harmful for them; for their peace of mind, and even for the value of their property.

Many judgments were declared, the nurseries had to pay a lot, they were imposed the erection of noise-reduction barriers, and sometimes leading to the closing of some nurseries after many trials. These convictions are only the result of the quantitative character of the law: such quantity of noise, measured with sound level meters, automatically implies a conviction. They are also in part due to the German mindset: noise is defined in an absolute way, as opposed to the French law, which qualifies it relatively to the global soundscape. Therefore, in France, the same sound value could be defined as “noise” in a residential neighbourhood, but not on a boulevard with a lot of traffic, which would not happen in Germany. In France, it’s relative and in Germany, it’s absolute.

Following the multiplication of complaints and convictions against the nurseries, especially in a context where the birth rate has been concerning for years, the German public policies have had to adjust themselves. For example, in 2010, Berlin enacted a local law “tolerating” the sounds made by children, as a sign of their “development”. Recently (June 2011), the federal government adopted a decree that modifies the law from 1990. It states that the sounds/noise made by children is socially acceptable, regardless of their decibel levels, to the point of promoting them to the rank of “living music of the future. As a result, it forbids anyone to file a lawsuit against them. Good news. The semantic journey is realised: from nuisance to music, via noise and rarely via sound as such.

In this example, the entire semantic journey is realised: from disturbance to music, via noise – but rarely via “sounds”.

This is the reason why the name given to this issue favours the descriptive and already evaluative category (“noise”), rather than its more objective equivalent (“sounds”). In the everyday city, where we live our life, it does not appear that the delight for sounds is a natural, usual attitude.

Moreover, if we are there constantly exposed to noise and endure it, we also produce it as much, directly or not – each urban dweller is, in a way, noise for another (the origin or source of noise for someone else). In short, “noise” would refer to a “social sound”, as apprehended by social agents who are exposed to it, whether it warns or disturbs them, or that they are looking for it. “Noise” would thus reveal a sound at the heart of urban life, and potentially at the heart of its conflict, just like it is with the history of music, at least since Luigi Russolo and his Art of Noises, which broadens in 1913 the definition of music to all the sounds and noises possible, up to the New York rappers with Public Enemy and their manifesto-song “Bring the noise!” in 1987.

These introductory remarks aim at showing that, in this perspective, sounds are not understood in themselves or for themselves (based on the relative scarcity of studies centred around the sound dimension of social life – compared to the visual one). Schafer, at the beginning of CRESSON, in those pioneer moments, these points must have been mentioned (scarcity), but nowadays, we cannot stay on that statement. We need to study other aspects.

It is here more about sounds with/amongst other sensory invitations, as they represent a relevant access point to analyse urban mutations, and some transformations in the urban social connection. Jean-Paul Thibaud might talk to you about this on Wednesday, especially related to ambiances. Broadening of the interest to the notion of Ambiance.

It relates both to basic coordination and more extraordinary ones (following events, even sound conflicts), and to the definitions of the city based on its sensory ambiances. In this context, if the analysis of sound emissions is heuristic, it is because they refer to activities or effects in connection to them (especially if we agree on the “event nature of sounds”). We’ll talk more about that “event nature” later – epistemological implications.

Therefore, sounds immerse us in the city in motion, in action, in the city of urban dwellers between one another, in their activities and their interactions. In a word, the main argument is to focus, based on the sounds, less on the “sound landscape”/soundscape itself and more on the “landscape of activities”/taskscape they grant access to.

Against soundscape – article available online (strong arguments against that notion) Taskscape, cf. Laure Brayer (Cresson)

Such a work programme involves the reproduction, as finely as possible, social agents’ urban experiences, by paying special attention to their perceptual activities (mainly auditory) and sensory expositions (mainly sound related), and their social consequences.

The consequences appear as effects of the experiences, capable of action on the agents, as well as on the urban territories.

Thus we can question the “passability” to sounds (and more broadly to sensory invitations) – term that implies how we are affected by a set of elements, not to include them in the study (as a theme among others), but to try to understand how they base/inform our urban cultures, our uses of urban public spaces, in summary our societal behaviour, at the elemental and routine level (everyday sounds), at the extraordinary level (sensory mobilisations), or at the more general level of definition of the city (sensory ambiances).

Everyday sounds

Within this general statement on urban sounds, a first approach revolves around sounds, in the way they represent important elements of everyday life in the city: they punctuate our activities to the point where they have a part in making them possible, they regulate or ensure others, etc. The theme of the articulation of sounds according to the pace of urban life shows that at an elementary, routine-like, almost invisible level, sounds represent a major point in urban and social coordination.

It is even more visible with the example of the honk, as the first coordination regulator between drivers, or between drivers and pedestrians. On the contrary, as we mentioned, the cyclists or electric cars’ silence makes this coordination uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Sensory mobilisations

Cf. German example from earlier.

If sounds already represent a challenge for urban coordination on the elementary scale, it only becomes more pregnant at the “extraordinary” level, during events, for example in the case of sound disturbances: conflicts between neighbours often happen because of the noise. Sounds (just like smells) go through walls, which completely disputes the demarcation between private and public space, or, more specifically, it reveals its porosity in a blunt way. This is why, when Erving Goffman works on the invasion of personal space in public, he includes “sound interferences” in the different territorial offences. Examples of sound provocations are interesting to study, since they are often more complex than what seems at first.

Let’s see the example that has been developed in the last few years: using mobile phones for music without earphones, via the built-in speaker. These public listening parties, often taking place in public transportation by groups of young men at full volume, are to be studied in parallel with the use of ghettoblasters in the 1970s and 1980s (the big boombox on the shoulder that used to spit music and used a lot of batteries).

They thus create real territorial offences for the people who are exposed to them, to the point of creating local “urbanity conflict”. However, the same practice in another setting (for example urban lawns on a beautiful day) does not endure the same social penalty, and can even be seen as a positive sign of young sociability. This turnabout can be explained in different ways: the noise is no longer confined to the train, it spreads into space and volume; the dwellers of these spaces are no longer forced to endure the proximity entailed by public transportation; lastly, the supposed social origins of these practitioners is also not the same (in short: “students” versus “youth from pauperised neighbourhoods”).

Ad for Fnac (online): 5/6 people waiting for the bus. Rap music is coming closer, everyone turns to the young Black boy, but actually it’s the old white man receiving a call.

Such an example addresses several important dimensions of sounds in society.

It shows how social and spatial data interact in a determining way in the emergence of noise disturbances, even sensory mobilisations. It also demonstrates that the “sound” qualification is only one possible way to describe these sounds: the positive way, as a sign of sociability, is always possible, like Jean-François Augoyard reminded. Sociability to be heard. This afternoon will be on another topic.

Here, the sound territorialisation dimension clearly appears, as well as the possible interferences with other territories: other examples involve sensory mobilisations: it is against the law to smoke in bars, which leads to phatic conversations between strangers in front of establishments (pleasant discussions between smokers), but also triggers the inhabitants’ annoyance when it happens at odd hours.

Entertainment shows (musical or sport) often creates the pleasure of making noise together, which is only rarely shared by the local inhabitants, etc.

Interesting to have the position of symmetry – to adopt different points of view to understand the same phenomenon.

We can also consider the sensory mobilisations that can arise from this principle of sound symmetry in the city.

Sensory ambiances

Therefore, we understand that the sound dimension of urban life, as an issue of ordinary, elementary coordination, as well as regarding conflicts, even sensory mobilisations, largely contributes to the definition of the city: in quiet or loud, lively (at night) or residential neighbourhoods, etc. These definitions go beyond the sound dimension to point more broadly at the sensory qualities of the city.

From that arises the question of sharing the space that is the city (which implicitly crosses the previous two parts: how to create conflict or to get involved with others without sharing?).

Indeed, addressing ambiances requires sharing and a collective agreement on the sensory qualities of the city. This allows to remind, regarding quick analyses, that the urban public space is not only composed of an addition of private, airtight spheres. In essence, we keep sharing the same sensory space, even if we all take up a particular space that can modify our perspective.

Moreover, addressing ambiance requires articulating several questions, such as that of actualised perceptions (often via linguistic reports), practices, and spaces in which the practices and perceptions are undertaken.

An example:

Coming back to an epistemological stake that is fundamental. We need an epistemological position in a research work. Concrete example on that.

“Event” nature of sounds: from two philosophers (Philosophy of sound). The aim was to establish the even nature of sounds. The sounds

A bias: sounds and affordances of events

In this general context, I tried to focus on sound because of one of its specificities. Indeed, Roberto Casati and Jérôme Dokic established the “event nature of sounds”, which is different from the visual perception of “qualities” (forms and colours): sounds, “contrary to colours or forms, are usually perceived and recognised as events and have a constitutive dynamic aspect” (Casati and Dokic, 1993, p.6). They explain this ontological different (events versus qualities) as follows:

“Even if the object is passive, it remains coloured, whereas the sound characteristics of the object are connected to an activity about it. The presence of sounds is a statement of something that is happening, an event, whose origin is in the object that is, in a way, the actor or the victim.” (Ibid. p. 37)

In our case, the idea stemming from the event theory of sounds is that hearing sounds in the city sets the agents more directly in connection with the urban situation and events, involves them more strongly in their urban environment than with the sole perception of its visual qualities. Artificial – in real life, we never separate sound from vision. Our perceptions are intertwined.

This theory resonates with different authors, who have highlighted the strong connection between sounds and the world of activities in which we are evolving. Many phenomenologists worked on that (cf. taskscapes)

One of his important theories is the following: pragmatism (cf. John Dewey – philosophy focusing on the effects of activities & their consequences. Theory on truth – interesting to study in the Trump-era. Truth doesn’t have to be defined in an essentialist way, but it needs to be studies regarding its effect/consequence.

Therefore, in Art as experience, John Dewey outlined a theory of sounds as the manifestations of effects of/in the environment:

“The eye gives the scene where things happen and on which changes are projected – always leaving it as a scene, even in the middle of turmoil and agitation. The ear, relying on the overall information provided by the joint action of vision and touch, informs us, changes after changes. For the sounds are always effects: effects of collision, impact and resistance of forces of nature.” (Dewey, 2005, p. 278)

Sounds are effects. In a symmetrical way, they are effects on the agents, just from the vibrations that fill the body.

Dewey thus stresses a change in perceptual position (and, even more broadly, “agent” position) between vision and hearing: on the one hand, spectatorality, and on the other hand, involvement or participation in the world.

We would like to suggest a concrete example to better highlight the interest of a descriptive entry point in urban experiences via sounds: the example of the siren.

It would be a paradigmatic element of what Gibson (Americanpsychologist) calls “affordances of events” (1979, p. 102),

but he only mentions it briefly in his theory of visual perception based on affordances, their influence on the environment inviting action, and about which he uses the example of the mailbox from Gestaltpsychologie. The mailbox is part of urban furniture. If I see it when I want to send a letter, I immediately use it for that. Fixed example. There’s another element that could be interested: affordances of EVENTS. (Gibson doesn’t mention them)

Example of the siren (events):

A siren whose noise is coming closer informs me, as a car driver, not only that something happened in my environment (the siren holds information), but also the necessity to drive to the side to let an emergency vehicle through (the siren triggers an action).

A counter-example can also highlight the importance of affordances of events and their sound origins: it is the example of the particularly quiet “vehicular units” (Goffman) that are bikes (and more recently electric cars) when they arrive behind a pedestrian – to the point of making the urban coordination difficult, if not dangerous.

To resume the example of sound recognition of different emergency sirens, it allows first to encounter a sound particularity, called the Doppler effect (sound effect): the siren is perceived at a higher tonality when the vehicle is close, and a deeper one when it drives away.

Then, it “gives a way to hear” sociocultural elements of an urban environment, where social habits and expectations are a part of perception. Not just architecture, but also sociocultural events.

Indeed, perceiving an incoming emergency vehicle urges the driver to pull over: this is not a self-preservation reflex (like a pedestrian who is being honked), but because we are part of a society in which this sound has a specific signification, that compels to act. This example shows how the hold in urban events can be first auditory, but is essentially inter-sensory in situation: hearing an incoming vehicle is often confirmed by checking in the mirror, even sometimes by slowing down our own car to alleviate the feeling of speed (proprioception).

Lastly, this example highlights to what point these affordances can go: the exact recognition of the emergency can lead to a nearby pedestrian’s participation, depending on his skills (doctor, police officer, firefighter, emergency worker, etc.). This example, in the context of terrorism in many cities – the sound dimension became generalised, about the event (explosion, etc.) and what follows (sirens, etc.),

In that sense, the affordances of events help to involve a more important social wealth compared to the mailbox (or the chair, which invites me to sit down when I’m tired – classic example of affordances). They do not simply suggest frozen settings where I can choose one element or another. They pull me in, involve me in situations.

Thank you!

Next, unusual part – Q&A/discussion.

N.T.: Very rich and dense. Academic field that is very active. We can start a debate together, but we can have some specific aspects.

2 examples on the first case: electric cars (silent), that question our everyday life in an unexpected way.

With Nicolas Remy, they went on a conference. BMW was doing some marketing on new electric cars. They had the opportunity to try it. The proposition done at the time (2001) doesn’t exist anymore: the idea was the sound communicated to the outside, and the sound communicated to the driver (how do I know that I’m going faster?). Perceptions slowed down. Gap between sound and vision – sound was one of the first warning mechanisms.

They had thus taken microphones to capture outside and inside environments, and, with speakers on the backseat, the driver could choose what kind of car they wanted to sound like (or silent – 2 CV/ 4/ 6). At the time, very impressive. The sensation of driving was completely different from a classic electric car. In A. Pecqueux’s example: sound we communicate, and sound we give ourselves.

2nd case: 2006 – South of China. Motorbikes (petrol) were forbidden.

They arrived by train, in a ghost city – electric vehicles and, to save energy, with no lights on the engines. Sliding “ghosts” all around.

We have learned how to perceive via mechanisation/electricity. In the 21st century, the urban sensitivity might result in other sensitivities/experiences/paradigms. Don’t we base our sensory experiences on the technology of the 20th century?

Second question/debate points: Impossible to live a “silent city”, just like “all-sounding city”. We can’t preserve everything.

We can’t consider that everything is worth listening to. But those are dangerous slopes to take.

Difficult position: sound is everything at the same time. à What can the designer do, then? Intervention on sound. Not addressed. What is the place of sound design in locations that, apparently, could live without?

Devisme: descriptive urbanism. We need to describe the city, talk about it, represent it, discuss it – tools to grasp it. In a way, talking about it involves its future, how we might be able to design it (differently). 20th century – disappearance of the idea of composition (main idea) – advent of space, as the heart of every project.

“Spatial turn” slowly disappearing again, and composition is coming back.

Idea of ambiance.

Same question with time – event theory/effect theory. Can (sound/other) ambiance stem from theory of events, or is event theory a part of ambiances?

How do we not fall into the “extreme” that affected space, when talking about time?

Concept of conception/design of the world we live in.

Generic questions – what kind of answers, now? The intervention makes us think about space in a broader sense, beyond sound.

A.P.: 2001/BMW: German manufacturer, certain type of vehicles. On German highways, no speed limits (currently in debate). BMW – very powerful cars. Pleasure of driving.

2006: is our conceptual baggage not already late to tackle this new reality?

First contact with CRESSON (around 2005/2006): end of thesis, post-doc with Orange – at the time, still a public provider. Still a phenomenal R&D department. Lab on sociology of uses – one of the only ones in France at the time. (Réseau journal)

Surveys on the different objects they used to produce.

When he arrived, he was free to do his research work, but he had to work on one of their objects (in that case: mobiles) – music with earphones in his case.

Investigation about walker-listeners. (Jean-Paul Thibaud worked on the users of the Walkman device)

Back to the question à he grew up with the Walkman device, it was part of his everyday life (listening with headphones, then earphones). During his investigation, he followed the walker-listeners (younger than he was); he realised that their way of using earphones was already different from his time. Completely different: integrated to everyday life. People were using earphones differently, taking one out to talk to someone, but no longer turning the whole device off to communicate.

The feeling of being in the world was different.

The world discovered in China in 2006 – people driving without their lights on, is obviously surprising. This world is a set of coordination parameters (very precise knowledge on the city). We are always late, as researchers, when we study phenomena like that, we catch them as they happen, on the fly.

These practices are not without meaning. When we describe/study them, we end up with a universe of nuances – virtue of research.

When he was walking on the Walkman, people tended to say that people were “in their bubble”. But that’s wrong. Different abilities to coordinate yourself. You just have to be ready to describe them.

Other question: more complex. Introduction to a world of nuances. We can study the “in-between” world. The “real” world never happens at the extreme poles of the spectrum.

Question of routine. We can think the event only if we understand the routine of perceptions. What can designers do? “I’m a sociologist, I’m not a designer” – not a good answer. Cf. Laurent Devisme – descriptive urbanism.

Cf. Dewey – one of the central questions: proposition of general philosophy. Events and habits. Dewey says that we are constantly set in a world of routine/habits, everything works, the interactions between the world and me are working. Something happens, and a gap appears. It can be big or small (ex: the light switches off unexpectedly.) I’m going to see why. Chain of investigation.

I’m going to try and make my relationship to the world harmonious again. I will intervene to make that happen. This scheme is reproduced in many fields of life, for Dewey. Science, art, and education. Dewey is very famous of his theory of education (cf. Montessori, education based on experience).

Political theory. Dewey published another book – one of the first expressions on public participation. Social life: a group of people, affected by some consequences, will form a public and will investigate, to see what puts them in this situation. Participatory democracy.

What interests him, therefore, is to follow and possibly take part in a public in formation, without basing himself on differences of knowledge.

NT: different questions that involve everyone.

Open discussion

Question: How can the designer adapt himself to the evolution of sound events? Walkers now have big speakers. A person on a bike becomes a fleeting sound event as he bikes away, for example.

Answer: cf. experience at Orange. Development (more than research) – futurology (kind of). Are we able to grasp the new trends as they appear? As manufacturers, there is an obvious interest. To him, it’s not a bad thing if we are a little late. If we are able to understand the phenomena, it’s already good.

Contemporary example: the yellow vests – if you read the news, they do not stop making people talk. Researchers are interviewed on that topic, but they haven’t done any research on the subject. We need a proper investigation on the subject. The only ones who can actually talk legitimately are the historians, as they can create comparisons.

Mass of comments since the beginning of the movement.

Question: Materiality of places – something similar happened in their research on foodscapes. Draw a location, and comment the drawing.

Woman: drawing of a market – very familiar with that space. Adults and children. She liked the place because there are children. Question – same with supermarkets? But no, because the children there are annoying. Perception of places – different experiences. The market is familiar to her, and the supermarket is functional.

Idea of public – following a public, people who are thinking about a problem. What do we do about the people who cannot be part of a public, but who are involved in that environment?

Answer: Foodscape/Drinkscape (on wine).

Question of methodology – methods. Field work + theoretical input at CRESSON. When we talk about investigation, we have to mention methods. Drawing, good one. Another one, elaborated here: commented walks. Disseminated in many different contexts. We follow people to understand how they experience the world. You will learn about other methods throughout the week. To tackle the sensory experience, we need methods. Hard to study otherwise.

Other question, on people’s abilities: the investigation (with Laure) consists in following a space on precarity, homelessness. The aim is to include in the participation those who are not usually participating: being poor is to be there but not take part. Usually, we talk about everyone, but not those who do not have an address. Space where we gradually empower (careful with that term) people, those who do not usually interact, or are not able to do it by default.

We need to include more and more people/participants. We know that participative systems are noteworthy for those who do not participate. We need to include everyone.

Question: Method. Idea of sharing – at what point does it end? Cf. ad for Fnac. Question of point of view. If we’re in that same bus shelter, how can we analyse that population sample at that specific moment? How is it studied? Is it representative? How can we report on that situation, that involves so much at once?

Answer: Everything is in everything. Methods, politics, everything is involved. It depends on the side we choose. By being careful of expressions/phrases – objectivity/subjectivity – The concept of objectivity in science is something new. It wasn’t always the case. Personally, as a socio-anthropologist, he doesn’t care about representativity (that’s the work of a statistician). He cares about diversity. Constant preoccupation. Every investigation is biased – if we talk about diversity, we’ll try to talk about everyone: age, social class, etc.

Political question: democratic model. Democracy is not about consensus. It is the system that allows for disagreements. Question of agreement, now. How can we reach an agreement? Tricky. Different ways to reach there.

Democracy: vote. Best way to reach an agreement. Is it the best way?

Question/Remark 1: The sensory part that we can grasp with sound and odours – he worked for an association, to study at-home assistants. He witnessed different situations, ambiances, sounds, smells, etc. Very interesting to describe actors we cannot define. Hard to describe. To describe the heart of a profession could be possible via the sensory elements. Sounds punctuate a day, a moment, and can re-define perceptions.

Answer: Very good point. Scope of the sensory world. Theory of care. If we are not attached to the sensory part, we cannot understand this world of care. Cresson helped making visible the relationships to environments. Many other fields can be affected.

Remark 2: Classic scheme of analysis. Content/Actors. Nowadays, we talk about actors, and no longer about designers/architects/etc.

Users can be the producers of the ambiance, and not the designers.

How can we position ourselves in the production of ambiance? How can we integrated all the relationships like that? Evolution of function and ambiance.

Significant car manufacturers take care of every sound, as it becomes their “brand” in a way (the sound of slamming doors, etc.).

Answer: Interesting. Sterile dual separations, like form/content, etc. It’s natural, but we need to take the time to step back and distance ourselves from the easy division. Before/after is another one of those examples. Inhabitants are not necessarily specialists of the “before”. A public space doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Regulation and functioning of a public space – need the users. We need to step back from those divisions and be more complex.

Remark 3: Question of science, education, art. Participatory architecture, before and after – abilities of the residents to live their space. Practice of education and architecture. Other dynamics that can be developed – reaction against some sort of homogeneity in public space. The spaces give a form to practices and habits. How can a participatory and sensory architecture re-open possibilities? Acoustic awareness – new relationship between the senses?

Answer: Political question (again). Pragmatism – American democracy is very special. Conception of education & politics. Alternative pedagogy. Development of individuals and collective aspects. HAND IN HAND. Individual abilities AND communities.

Diversity in individual expression on every level.

Translation by Sophie Provost


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