Using the urban portmanteau terms “coffice” and “coffitivity” as a starting point, this paper examines ideas around sound and productivity with a focus on coffee shop ambiences. The project considers café soundscapes “soundscapes of productivity” reflective of changing attention spans, work process, and stress management that invoke cultural histories of Muzak, personalized sonic spaces, and the sonic management of everyday life. A result of over six years of ethnographic observations, recordings, and decibel measurements, Soundscapes of Productivity has also been compiled into a Story Map as a kind of soundwork collage of different coffee shop ambiences in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is used here for its local specificity, including a rapidly gentrifying urban infrastructure and a creative freelance haven with aspirations to be the Canadian Silicon Valley. The project presents an opportunity to link scientific discourses of the stimulus response model of sonic productivity historically and politically with the modern practice of productivity playlists, and bridge them together with acoustic environments seemingly replicating former factory production—environments such as the urban coffee shop.
Soundscapes of Productivity: The Coffee-Office and the Sonic Gentrification of Work
Milena Droumeva is an assistant professor of communication and Glenfraser Endowed Professor in Sound Studies at Simon Fraser University, specializing in mobile technologies, sound studies, and multimodal ethnography, with a long-standing interest in game cultures and gender. Milena has worked extensively in educational research on game-based learning, as well as in interaction design for responsive environments and sonification. Milena is a sound studies scholar, a multimodal ethnographer, and a soundwalking enthusiast, published widely in the areas of acoustic ecology, media and game studies, design, and technology. Their current SSHRC-funded project is called “Livable Soundscapes” and it explores best practices for soundscape design in cities and civic participation approaches to storytelling with sound. Milena is co-editor of a newly published edited collection with Palgrave Macmillan, Sound, Media, Ecology, which updates practices and theories of acoustic ecology through the work of contemporary researchers.
Milena Droumeva; Soundscapes of Productivity: The Coffee-Office and the Sonic Gentrification of Work. Resonance 1 September 2021; 2 (3): 377–394. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2021.2.3.377
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