Thursday, August 30, 2007

320 The Acoustic Environment

Message no. 320 Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Sunday, February 11, 2007 10:23am Subject: The acoustic environment

Hello class! As you know, we navigate through and interpret our environments via at least five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Some people (the Aleiser Crawley crowd for example believe we also use a "sixth sense" but it has so far proved unverifiable with any statistical rigor so we don't treat it in this class.

So far, because of the technological limitations of most of our personal computing and telecommunications environments, we have been limiting ourselves primarily to the sight medium. We are unlikely to incorporate taste and smell, and the only way we can use touch that I can think of is to find some way of using a "dual shock" game pad controller (in some environment like second life?) to transmit forces across time and space. While that is technically possible I don't think we will get to it in this course.

That leaves us with two media, sight and sound. In the videos I have posted for the class (both under the course content area and on my blogs that I link you to) we have both sight and sound represented. In the next few weeks I may experiment with uploading audio files (like radio broadcasts) and will provide links to radio discussions on topics related to our class. I also encourage you to try working with this medium.

Many of you have talked about telephony as a medium and its benefits and limitations.

Question: How many of you have SKYPE - the free internet telephone service that lets people talk from their computers? Right now my wife is sitting next to me in this cafe in Cairo and is talking to a childhood friend of hers, Arifah Gebhardt, who is currently in Dubai (Adrienne, perhaps your daughter can meet her!). My wife is using my computer while I type to you. She has her headphones with built in microphone (they cost us about 10 dollars) plugged into the computer and we downloaded the program, SKYPE from here:

It was really easy to set up, and now we can talk to anybody in the world for free (well, we have to pay for the cinammon roll and mozarella sandwhich in the cafe to use the free internet!) . Skype allows us to conference call too, so at times we have called my wife's mother in Germany and my mother in New York and had a three way conference call. The latest version of skype also permits video conferencing, so with a usb internet camera (or the built in camera of the macbook pro) we can also see who we are talking to in real time . True audio video.

IF you guys are interested, and you download skype and get internet headphones with microphone (see here: we can arrange "OFFICE HOURS" and real time discussions. Let me know!

Also: Many of you have written and complained about being stuck in traffic. Our book suggests (on page 341, Figure 10-3) that "commuting can be a source of urban stress. Road rage seems to be at least partly triggered by cues in the environment". However, while "conditions that interfere with a commuters movement (e.g. congestion) elicit stress reactions such as physiological arousal, negative mood, and performence deficits" one can utilize a technique known as "cognitive reappraisal" (see page 329) to compensate and cope. One way to make commuting stress diminish is to establish a sense of control over your commuting environment. And one way to do that is to reappraise the situation as being an asset rather than a liability.


By looking at every traffic jam as a chance to study for this class!

Look at it this way ("look at it this way" is a technique of cognitive reappraisal!):

When you are "stuck" in traffic, people rarely bother you with demands on your attention. The slowness of the traffic means that you don't have to be particularly alert -- accidents in dense traffic usually amount to little more than fender benders and are rarely life threatening, so they don't fatigue you with survival arousal. Traffic is usually stressful because you can't move fast and you feel UNDERSTIMULATED.

solution: use the time to engage in deep thinking and cognitive stimulation. Since you need your sense of sight and touch to pay attention to the road, this leaves your sense of hearing.

Everybody who has utilized books on tape (or CD) to get through long boring drives has already experienced this. You feel a sense of relief because you are a captive audience while in traffic. Nobody can interrupt you.

What I used to do to get through Harvard was to tape record myself reading the chapters of my textbooks aloud. Usually I would put on my favorite symphony or movie soundtrack music (the James Bond film scores were some of my favorites -- they made everything exciting!) and read the chapter into the tape recorder. Then, while commuting (by car or subway or bus or even walking) I would listen to the chapters. that way I was always studying. For foreign languages I would buy language tapes. And one summer when my grandfather Jiddo was visiting from Baghdad I got him to read Arabic childrens stories into a tape recorder that I could practice with.

Recently I had my mother who was visiting Cairo do the same thing with comic books.

Now I don't expect that any of you have the time to read the chapters of the book twice, once into the tape recorder and once while you travel through listening. However -- you could HELP EACH OTHER.

Here is how: Each person in the class could agree to read one chapter of the book into the computer and save it as an .mp3 file (or an .aiff or .wav, but .mp3 is the most compact). then we could post the chapters in our course content area for the others to download. You just then save it to your ipod or mp3 player and get one of those little adaptors that let you play the .mp3 through your car stereo. All of a sudden you don't have to worry about sitting down to read. You can study the textbook while commuting.

Sure, it doesn't help in taking notes, and you will have to look at the textbook before writing your relational chapter summaries, but using the acoustic environment may help you to manage your time better, and who know, it may cause a cognitive reappraisal of traffic jams that may surprise you: You might end up looking forward to them!


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