Research Output

Mapping workplace soundscapes: Reifying Office Auditory Environments

  This paper reports an empirical study to investigate how individuals perceive and classify elements of their workplace auditory environments. The participants were 18 university employees chosen for their varying degrees of room occupancy, from single occupants through to those sharing with up to 11 colleagues. Participants in single rooms were expected to have greater control over their auditory environment than those who shared, and as such, the desire and opportunity to influence the soundscape could be studied, in both positive and negative terms. A key aim was to discover what terms individuals used when describing sounds, whether they were technical, musical or object-orientated.

Participants were interviewed individually, in their usual office environment, using a series of questions on a variety of topics such as the ideal working environment, and any desire to alter it, as well their experiences with auditory interfaces. After the interview, participants were asked to listen to their auditory environment for 15 minutes and describe what they could hear. Following this, they were asked to classify each sound they had mentioned using a modified version of Macaulay and Crerar’s (1998) Soundscape Mapping Method. Subsequently the responses were combined onto a single diagrammatic map for ease of comparison.

The interviews revealed how seldom descriptions of sounds go beyond object-orientated identifications, irrespective of the individual’s background, bearing out Ballas and Howard’s (1987) experiences when trying to elicit descriptions of environmental sounds. A clear indication from this series of interviews is the reliance on the source when describing sound, as Metz (1985) states, when individuals are describing sounds they are “actually thinking of the visual image of the sound’s source”. We discuss codes derived from the interview transcripts and revisions made to the soundscape mapping method as a result of our findings.

  • Date:

    02 November 2006

  • Publication Status:



McGregor, I., Crerar, A., Benyon, D., & LePlâtre, G. (2006). Mapping workplace soundscapes: Reifying Office Auditory Environments. In World Forum on Acoustic Ecology Conference (334-344)



Noise; sound charcterisation; workplace; computer simulations; soundscape; mapping; classification; visualization;

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