AGM & Latrogenic sound – a call for interdisciplinary socio-acoustical research

AGM & Latrogenic sound – a call for interdisciplinary socio-acoustical research

Date: 14 Feb 2017
Time: 18:30

Location: Dolby Europe’s London Office
4–6 Soho Square
London W1D 3PZ

See below for location map.

Annual General Meeting: Tuesday 14th February 2016 at 6:30pm, Dolby Europe Ltd., 4-6 Soho Sq, London. W1D 3PZ. Please note the AGM is open only to members of the AES.

London 14th February lecture, approximately at 7:30pm following the AGM. Open both to members and non-members of the AES. Iatrogenic sound – a call for interdisciplinary socio-acoustical research. A lecture by Andy Farnell.

Sound design is a broad practice. Beyond entertainment media, sonic design principles are used to shape products, listening spaces and much more. Sound design thus also aims to make the world an easier, safer and more pleasant place to live and work. One of the worst sound designs in the world, due to arbitrary evolution and negelct, is emergency vehicle warnings (EVW). For legal reasons EVW sources fall through a loophole covering noise abatement. Unlike other prominent urban noise sources they are not coherently covered by standards and best practices, and the guidance that does cover them is based on poor research. In this case, noise abatement involves a complex social interplay between overlapping spheres of interests, residents, pedestrians, drivers, patients, insurance companies and local authorities. Yet it is possible that at the same time as averting traffic collisions, police fire and ambulance sirens are actually responsible for thousands of deaths per year. Noise pollution is the invisible but not so silent killer. Cardio-vascular diseases, which result directly from noise exposure, and hypertensive symptoms affect millions, yet because sound responses involve pre-verbal and unarticulated processes people are rarely aware of their impact or causes, so do not complain. This leads to a tragic phenomenon of Iatrogenic sound, where sirens ostensibly employed to save lives are killing people. The design of the modern EVW is a mess, having roots in the electromechanical air siren. That familiar, penetrating wailing sound is nothing more than an accident. It mimics a relaxation oscillator sweeping an all-harmonic source over about one kilohertz. This signal is highly inappropriate, it bounces around urban environments, far beyond its intended range of utility, causing confusion and disorientation of pedestrians and drivers. The cuts to public services, closing fire, police and ambulance stations means that vehicles have to travel further. Sirens are often employed inappropriately, when travelling at low speeds, or aggressively and punitively. EV crews are under pressure to employ them because of poor guidance around the law, health and safety, and pressure from insurance providers. The entire subject is a golden oppportunity for thorough, evidence based, and design informed research. New understanding from cognitive science, social sciences, urban and vehicle acoustics, directional arrays, and smart location-aware devices can be brought to bear here. The aim of this lecture is to highlight the problem and research opportunities to get rid of this insideous form of noise pollution, make EV response faster and safer and create safer more pleasant cities to live in.


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