As our cities become smarter, the data of daily life is becoming increasingly granular. Sensors and cameras can tell us things like how many people cross a particular street during the morning commute, whether air quality improved over the past year, and whether buses are running on time. And the rise of the smart city has promised to solve fundamental urban problems and make our cities more efficient. But often lost amongst the numbers and hard data is an equally important fact: Cities are populated by humans. Now a team of researchers is looking to quantify the more slippery metric of how people feel about their cities, through a series of alternative cartographies.
Ever wanted to escape the big city hustle and just find a quiet place to sit and rest for a minute? A new project called Chatty Maps might help you find that ideal spot. The project aims to map the most common sounds in cities, turning the results into beautiful maps that tell you what an urban area sounds like. SEE ALSO: Surprising map of the Internet shows tiny U.S. and huge mystery island Created by researchers Luca Maria Aiello, Rossano Schifanella, Daniele Quercia and Francesco Aletta, the project currently includes maps of New York, London, Boston, Madrid and Barcelona. The sounds are divided into five categories: Transport, nature, human, music and building (mechanical), each represented with a different color (red, green, blue, yellow and grey).
Sound defines a city, whether it's the din of New York City traffic or calls to prayer issuing from Istanbul's mosques. Now, you can see what cities sound like with Chatty Maps, a new set of online maps from research group Good City Life. The site currently features maps of Boston, New York, Barcelona, Madrid and London. Users can click on streets in each city to see what kinds of sounds dominate in that area. Using what researchers call an "urban sound dictionary," the maps trawl geo-located Flickr photos for tags associated with particular noises.
If you're a tree frog or an ovenbird in mating season and you happen to live in the 83 percent of the continental United States that lies within 3,500 feet of a road, bummer for you. Not only are you more likely to collide with an SUV, but you're going to have a harder time finding a mate. Research suggests that human-generated noises also mess with nesting behavior, predator-prey dynamics, and sleep patterns. In other words, wildlife gets stressed out by noise. The physical responses that helped save our asses from predators back on the veldt have obvious downsides in the middle of a school lesson.
KUALA LUMPUR – When composer Ng Chor Guan started commuting by bicycle in car-obsessed Malaysia a decade ago, he was struck by how quickly his city was changing and the sounds he would not have heard if he had been driving. It led him to start recording the everyday sounds of Malaysian cities, one of a growing number of artists in Asia from India to Hong Kong who are seeking to preserve audible heritage in the region's fast-changing urban hubs. "Sound has many powerful hidden messages. It's not only about recording a certain event, but also the evolution of a place," said Ng, 39, who records urban soundscapes from pockets of jungle to communal areas threatened by redevelopment. Today the award-winning composer combines sound preservation with contemporary art, taking his performances to audiences across Asia and Europe.