Strolling through Soundscapes: Remystifying the City with Personal Audio
Paul Schmidt, born in the German capital Berlin just a few months after the wall came down, is currently a second year-student of the research master Media, Art & Performance Studies at Utrecht University. After obtaining his BA in Philosophy with a focus on Logics and Epistemology at University of Konstanz in Germany and graduating as MSc in Information Studies (track Game Studies) at University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, Schmidt is now working to find his spot in the intersection of the research fields of Playful Cities, Urban Games, Soundscapes, and Urban Interfaces. His latest writing can be found at remystifyblog.wordpress.com.
The 19th century concept of the flâneur describes a personal city walk as an exploration of urban mysteries. Contemporary cities have lost their affordance of mystery and exploration to the paradigm of rationalization of society and public space. There is no room for Flâneurism in contemporary cityscapes. However, media and sound scholars and artists hypothesize that the addition of musical sounds can highly influence a subject’s perception of the surroundings. On the basis of a case study with five subjects and in-depth interviews, comparing experiences of non-musical and musical city walks, I can conclude that the application of musical audio walks can make for a remystification of a rationalized environment by putting the walker in a flâneur perspective, and therefore evoking richer oberservations, associations and memories with their surroundings. Traversing the city engulfed in a personal acoustic bubble therefore allows a digitally augmented flâneur experience that should drive considerations towards the application of soundwalks in the future.