Together with Olivia Kung and Son Luu, we hereby present our very first soundwalk project, Elevator, utilizing our insight on the elevators in the Tisch building. We take elevators to classes every day, yet, few of us really pay attention to them. Here is a chance for you to experience a little elevator audio journey. Listen to our elevator soundwalk with your eyes closed in an elevator, see if you find yourself in an awkward silence in the tiny elevator space filled with 10 people, or eardropping a random conversation of two strangers.
Please see the bottom of this page for instructions before going on our elevator soundwalk.
We thought about how to deal with the situation that other people in the elevator want to go to other floors, or if the elevator stops on other floors as people on that floor want to get on the elevator. At first, we supposed that the listeners could just pause the audio, and resume it later on, so there are not anything that we should address in our soundwalk. As we already gathered all of the recordings that we wanted last week, this week during our first group meeting, we quickly assembled our very rough first draft within 2 hours and tested it, just to see how it would turn out. Surprisingly, it turned out way better than we imagined. However, we also noticed some challenges.
The start point might not be precise enough for listeners to start the audio tour, which might lead to a discrepancy of the audio and what actually happens with the elevator.
The elevator stops randomly not only as we might get into the elevator with other people who want to go to other floors than we designed in the soundwalk, but also there might be other people waiting to ride the elevator on other floors.
The first problem was easy to solve, we could just assign a standing point for the listener to start walking towards the elevator while pressing the "Play" button the second they start walking. Yet, the second problem was relatively serious. We found out we were too naive about the thought that we could just pause the audio during the soundwalk as it is very confusing for the listeners to know when to pause and when to resume, especially with people coming in and out of the elevator. And we figured out WE JUST CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ELEVATOR! Well, that sounds pretty obvious, but it might really reduce the quality of the experience of our soundwalk. To solve this problem, we came up with the idea of finding the Lowest Common Mutilple of the beeping of the elevator when it reaches each floor, and the sound of the door opening and closing, so that we find a pattern. We thought once we duplicate that pattern throughout the whole soundwalk, regardless of which floor the elevator stops, or if other people go to the floors other than the floors we designed, it would not feel as abrupt that the audio does not match with the actual elevator ride experience as we designed it as if it stops at each floor with a constant beeping.
Based on what we timed from riding the elevators for so many times (that I was afraid the security guard would think I was someone suspecious), the beeping happens with a roughly-3-second interval when reaching each floor, while it takes about 9 seconds for the elevator door to open and close. To combine the two so that it keeps aligning throughout the soundwalk, we thought we could create a pattern with 4 beepings(3 * 4 =12 sec.) adding 1 beep(3 sec.)+ door opening and closing(9 sec.) as it reaches the floor whom the buttons was pressed upon. We tried to copy and paste the pattern throughout the audio, but then we had to micro-alter A LOT more so that the beepings we added match with the actual beepings occurred during the conversation we recorded in the elevator. As the elevators in the Tisch building are pretty old, we found out that the beepings do not necessarily have the same interval in between, which makes the editing process extremely hard. We spent 3 hours trying to solve this problem. However, after we tested the new version, we found ourselves leaning more towards the first edition, as the concept and the message we were trying to convey in first draft was much clearer. Even though we ended up editing more and using the first draft, I believe "the same is not the same" as our final decision was made after try and error, and comparison.
To solve the existing problem though, we decide to add the instructions to ask our listeners to choose a time when the elevators are less busy, and close their eyes during the soundwalk. As when eyes are closed, our other senses become stronger, including our hearing, allowing us to imagine whom the conversations are from, how the people in the elevator interact with each other, how the elevator reaches each floor, and how the elevator door opens and closes. With less people using the elevator with us, the listeners could receive the elevator ride experience we designed for them; with the eyes closed, it not only enhances our soundwalk experience, but also reduces the potential discrepancy of the audio and the reality. After all, the soundwalk could never be perfect, but only close to our ideal because there are many factors affecting the soundwalk experience, and that is one of the key nature of a soundwalk, mixing the audio with the reality, in my perspective.
Little Take Away
Throughout the whole editing process, all three of us had been working closely with each other. We thought about dividing parts and assigning them to each of us, but during our first draft, we also realized that we constantly need each other's opinions on how we would like the soundwalk to sound like. If we decide by ourselves when we edit it individually, then when we meet up to share and discuss, it might be a waste if we end up not liking it and wanting to change it. Hence, we thought having the discussion while making the soundwalk together, so everyone was on the same page as we encountered discrepant opinions, we could solve it then and there without wasting any of our time.
We also realized there there is more time needed for testing and debugging than the production and editing, just as what our professor, Marina Zurkow, emphasized. In my opinion, a soundwalk is basically a user experience design for an audio tour. Therefore, it is very important to test out how the listeners would experience the soundwalk regardless of how perfect it seems to us. The ideal could also be different in reality.
Below is our messages and instructions to the listeners.
“Elevator” is a 3-minute journey that begins in the lobby of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU located at 721 Broadway. The school is known for producing some of the greatest names in film and theatrical performance.
Elevators are the only place where strangers actually spend time together in the same space. This walk highlights the nature of human interaction among students, faculty, and staff riding the elevators to the different floors that house various academic departments.
“Elevator” takes listeners on an everyday elevator ride. However, listeners are encouraged to stand in the back, observing, listening and experiencing every sound, whether it be human or mechanical, and silence while inside the elevator car.
Prepare the audio track and headphones.
Arrive at the lobby of the Tisch School of the Arts.
Press the elevator’s “up” button and stand around 3 feet away from both doors.
Play the track as you enter the elevator.
Upon entering the elevator, press the following floors: 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, and 12.
For the best experience, it is highly recommended to close your eyes and listen to the track. Imagine your own elevator ride. Create your own unique experience, without the influence of external factors. Furthermore, the walk does not depend on visual aspects, making it widely accessible.
It is recommended that the listener try and choose a time when the elevator is less occupied (late at night or during designated class times) in order to maximize the quality of the experience with little external interruption. Before beginning the sound walk, think about the basic functions of an elevator and how it affects personal space and human interaction. Recall instances of riding the elevator alone or with others who may have been an acquaintance, a friend, a classmate, a professor, or a complete stranger. Recall your behavior or what you typically do inside that space, alone or occupied. Can you relate to what goes on in the track? Do you notice anything different on this elevator ride, what is your take on it? What are the different sounds you hear? What thoughts or emotions are evoked?