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robertogreco : headphones   7

Justin McGuirk on Bose headphones and the Internet of Broken Things
"You know when there's a teenager on the bus listening to music on his mobile – without headphones – and all the other passengers are stealing glances, unsure whether he's oblivious or sociopathic? Well things like that give the impression that cities are getting noisier, and that we need to retreat ever deeper into ourselves. I'm not convinced it's true. But one man who would have taken this incident as cast-iron proof was the social critic Ivan Illich.

"Silence is a commons," wrote Illich. He argued that just as the communal pastures were privatised in the 18th century, so now the collective sense of calm is being invaded by technology. He was thinking of loudspeakers, computers and electronic gadgets, which he lumped together in a single category: "the machines". This was in the 1980s, before email, mobile phones, texting and the infinite stream of social media. One can only imagine what he would have made of this daily communication firebombing. But the battered and shrivelled human attention span, if not quite a commons, would certainly have appeared to Illich as a victim of noise.

What struck me about Illich's argument is that my own response to the erosion of silence was the exact opposite of what he would have advocated. Faced with a dwindling commons, I was forced to privatise my own patch. I did this with a pair of Bose QuietComfort ® 15 headphones. Not only do they sequester the ears behind a wall of black leather, they feature "Acoustic Noise Cancelling ® technology". The way noise-cancelling works, in brief, is by measuring enemy sound waves and retaliating with their mirror image – the sonic equivalent of anti-matter. It's an invisible battle in which competing sound waves cancel each other out. Victory is the sound of orbital noise flatlining – silence is a sonic massacre. In other words, the QC 15s are the product of an arcane branch of physics that the rest of us know simply as "magic".

Man invented noise-cancelling to improve the signal-to-noise ratio for helicopter and airplane pilots, but later found a much more lucrative market in music lovers. I confess that I am no high-fidelity obsessive. I do not (although I think I'm in the minority here) manoeuvre through London in my own private sound bubble, listening to Eye of the Tiger as I power-cycle down the Clerkenwell Road. I shelled out for this exorbitantly pricey piece of equipment at a time when I was sharing an office and found that I simply couldn't concentrate. It's not the roiling drone of the city that is distracting – white noise is just fine. It's specific noise that is invasive, that conversation that earworms its way into your consciousness and, like a bad guest, won't leave.

Ideally, I was aiming for a portable isolation ward. Donning the QC 15s, you are met with the gentle roar of a conch shell. But flick the switch on the right ear-cup and you are suddenly hooded in silence. It's not the hollow sound freeze of outer space, but at the very least a tech-y tea cosy that takes the edge off. (Tip: for persistent earworms, add a layer of ambient insulation, something Brian Eno-ish or Arvo Pärt-ish.)

Easily distracted people such as myself attune all too readily to the peripheral, and there are times – pace Illich – when what is central must be walled off and gated. This is beginning to sound an awful lot like the neoliberalisation of sound, isn't it?"



"Weren't the DIY and Maker movements supposed to deliver us from the cycle of dispose-and-consume?"



"Despite being mechanically inept, I tend to romanticise a world of mechanical objects – of motorcycles and replacement valves. The obvious problem with today's hyper-performing, magical products is that they are black boxes. We are so in love with their metaphysics, with their gestalt, that we forgive their ephemerality. No one will ever write a book called Zen and the Art of iPhone Maintenance.

It seems to me that the logic of today's products is heading ineluctably one way. Our devices will be able to do more and more, while lasting less and less long, until eventually they can do everything for no time at all. In the future, we will bestride the Earth like gods, wielding awesome, omnipotent gadgets that break after two minutes. Calling up customer services at [insert evil tech company] we will be told that the warranty was only one minute, and didn't we read the terms and conditions?"
justinmcguirk  2014  headphones  noisecancellation  ivanillich  silence  dosposability  fixing  urbanism  urban  attention  noise  noisepollution 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Blackhole Media - Noise
"pink noise masks background noise to help you concentrate. Now with source code and white noise, for those less colorful. Drown out annoying roommates and co-workers today!"
attention  productivity  focus  work  software  osx  sound  audio  noise  freeware  headphones  ambient  adhd  distraction 
april 2008 by robertogreco
SUSA headphones feel the noise, rock the boyz, get wild, wild, wild
"SUSA opted for neither and chose the style of the working man--blue collar chic!--designed specifically to mimic ear protection gear that blocks out the noise, except they totally pump up the jamz crazy style!"
headphones  design  music  concepts 
june 2007 by robertogreco
http://web.media.mit.edu/~nvawter/thesis/index.html
"Ambient Addition is a Walkman with binaural microphones. A tiny Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chip analyzes the microphone's sound and superimposes a layer of harmony and rhythm on top of the listener's world. In the new context, some surprising behavi
ambient  audio  cities  electronics  music  sound  space  interaction  place  play  architecture  psychogeography  soundscapes  sounds  mit  art  walking  wearable  installation  headphones  medialab  ipod  future  interface  noise  processing  portable  multimedia  monitoring  mobile  environment  dynamic  newmedia  wearables  mitmedialab 
december 2006 by robertogreco

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