Cresson Research Visit
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In February 2011, Andra McCartney visited the Cresson research centre (Centre de recherche sur l’espace sonore et l’environnement urbain) in Grenoble, France, to present the Soundwalking Interactions project and further contacts and research exchanges with members of the lab. McCartney met with several faculty and research members and took part in three soundwalks.
First, Rachel Thomas, author of Les trajectoires de l’accessibilité, led a walk in which participants experienced four types of disabilities: physical disabilities, hearing loss, partial sighting and blindness. Special goggles, wheelchairs and headphones (through which a soundtrack was played) were used to simulate each disability.
Participants where led through a path that presented challenges to each of these disabilities. Discussion were encouraged throughout the walk.
A second walk was led by Jean-Paul Thibaud, CNRS research director, through the neighborhoods of L’Estacade and St-bruno. The walk was an opportunity for the two researchers to exchange of their practice, and more specifically on soundwalking in urban environments.
The ambiance market of L’Estacade, which was just opening at the moment of the walk, was described by Thibaud
The walk ended in St-Bruno, described by Thibaud historically and in comparison with surrounding neighbourhoods
Finally, McCartney organised a silent soundwalk which took place in the Villeneuve district, and in which students from Cresson participated. The silent approach was new to the students, who commented on their experience in a post-walk discussion:
The work of researchers at Cresson is centered around the concept of ambiance, and uses a wide range of innovative methodological tools to do ethnographic, in situ studies that deal with the subjective perceptual experience of inhabitants as well as the relationship between spatial configurations and the resulting ambiances they create. Their work can therefore extend to different fields of research; Nicolas Tixier, for example, led a case study of the transformation of Bogota, Colombia. Using a metrology comprised notably of field observation, audio and video recordings, commented soundwalks and interviews, the team has analysed both the historical and social context that transformed Bogota and the perception, by inhabitants, of these changes.
In Les trajectoires de l’accessibilité, Rachel Thomas examines the importance of the definition of disability in the context of urban design. The originality of her work resides in her alternative approach to the many ways and modes in which one moves around the city. By highlighting the importance of sensory configurations in the shaping of our movements and the accessibility of places, Thomas propose to comprehend disability as something that is created, or suppressed, by architectural and ambient choices.
Suggested readings from Cresson researchers:
Amphoux, Pascal, Jean-Paul Thibaud and Grégoire Chelkoff. Ambiances en débat. Bernin: À la Croisée, 2004.
Augoyard, Jean-François, and Henry Torgue. Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds. Translated by Andra McCartney and David Paquette. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
Thibaud, Jean-Paul. Regards en action: Ethnométhodologie des espaces publics. Bernin: À la Croisée, 2002.
Thomas, Rachel. Les trajectoires de l’accessibilité. Bernin: À la Croisée, 2005.
Tixier, Nicolas (dir.). Bogota: Case Study. Research Report. Grenoble: CRESSON, 2009.