Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Audio Architecture

Much of our aural landscape is carefully engineered by twenty two "audio architects" in Fort Mill, South Carolina. In this New Yorker article, David Owen describes how much Muzak has changed. Instead of bland "elevator music" Muzak now draws on more than 1.5 million songs, analyzes the "topology"--the cultural and temporal associations carried by tunes--to craft hundreds of disitinctive aural soundscapes.

Their efforts help distinguish the brand identity and shopping environment of Old Navy from the Gap. I am fascinated by the degree to which elaborate data collecting, design, and analytic techniques are used to create the environments we inhabit. These environments may be more enjoyable and diverse than older environments, but we have much less of an understanding, let alone the power to reshape, how and why these newer environments are constructed.

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