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  • 07.20.10

Hear This: UK SoundMap Creates Audio Landscape

Back when Greg J. Smith and Max Ritts launched their Toronto Sound Ecology project, for which they hiked the city and recorded its sounds for an interactive map, we asked if anyone had heard of any other similar audio tours.

SoundMap

Back when Greg J. Smith and Max Ritts launched their Toronto Sound Ecology project, for which they hiked the city and recorded its sounds for an interactive map, we asked if anyone had heard of any other similar audio tours.

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Turns out, Google had. Its Google Maps partly powers the UK SoundMap, a crowdsourced survey of the acoustic landscape of Britain. Users can register for free via AudioBoo (it’s easiest to register with your Twitter account) then submit sound files to the UK SoundMap website via browser or smartphone. The project is a partnership between the British Library and the Noise Futures Network.

It’s been done in the States–see Open Sound New Orleans and San Diego, California‘s sound map. There are more in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Zurich, Switzerland, and other places around the world, too.

What’s the point? A sound map paints a more thorough sociological picture of a place. And it helps provide a rich historic archive (the UK SoundMap is searchable by place). As the UK SoundMap folks put it, “By capturing sounds of today and contributing to the British LIbrary’s digital collections you can help build a permanent researchable resource.”

There are some obvious no-no’s here. The site itself warns against workplace, staged, or confidential recordings. And someone cursing you out for your bad driving or you belching the alphabet isn’t really unique to a particular locale.

The UK SoundMap has begun with sounds of Sheffield and is expected to extend to the rest of the UK later this year. With any luck, we’ll finally know exactly what Crapstone sounds like.

About the author

Tyler Gray is the former Editorial Director of Fast Company and co-author of the book The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel and Buy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out in fall 2014. He previously authored The Hit Charade for HarperCollins and has written for The New York Times, SPIN, Blender, Esquire, and others.

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