06.23.22
Liz Danzio + Lee Moreau | Audio

The Futures Archive S2E8: The Car Radio


What do you listen to when you are in your car? Or when you are traveling? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Liz Danzico discuss the car radio and what sounds you are conditioned to hear.

With additional insights from Ian Punnett, Phylis Johnson, Karin Bijsterveld, Yuri Suzuki, and Olga Touloumi.

Liz responded to Lee about the importance of designing with a group:
It is our responsibility, not our role, but our responsibility to design with these audiences in context. And so it sort of could be a way to help engender empathy and is another way that we can do that and very much a valuable sort of tool or method in human centered design as just a reminder of kind of flipping that narrative a little bit and looking at yourself from a different point of view. This is what I sound like when I'm part of the city and the city is being played back to me. It's all comes back to human centered design.
Lee Moreau is President of Other Tomorrows, a design and innovation consultancy based in Boston, and a Professor of Practice in Design at Northeastern University.

Liz Danzico is part designer, part educator, and full-time dog owner.

Ian Punnett is Professor of practice at the School of Media and Communication at Kansas State University and the co-author of Moving Sounds A Cultural History of Car Radio.

Phylis Johnson is the Director and Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communications, Founder of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications Immersive Storytelling Lab at San Jose State University and co-author of Moving Sounds A Cultural History of Car Radio.

Karin Bijsterveld is Professor of Science, Technology & Modern Culture Technology & Society Studies and the co-author of Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel.

Yuri Suzuki is is a sound artist, designer and electronic musician, a partner at Pentagram, and the creator of the Make the City Sound Better London taxi campaign.

Olga Touloumi is Assistant Professor of Architectural History at Bard College and has co-edited Sound Modernities: Architecture, Media, and Design, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture.


Subscribe to The Futures Archive on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app. And you can browse the show archive.

Kathleen Fu created the illustrations for each episode.

A big thanks to this season’s sponsor, Automattic.



Transcript

Lee Moreau
Welcome to The Futures Archive, a show about human centered design where this season we'll take an object, look for the human at the center and keep asking questions. I'm Lee Moreau...

Liz Danzico
...And I'm Liz Danzico.

Lee Moreau
On each episode, we're going to start with an object with power. Today, that object is the car radio. We'll look at the history of that object from our perspective as designers who've done work in human centered design, not just how it looks and feels, but also the relationship between that object and the people it was designed for.

Liz Danzico
And with other humans too.

Lee Moreau
The Futures Archive is brought to you by the design team at Automattic. Later on, we'll hear from senior design program manager Monika Burman.

Lee Moreau
Hi Liz, how are you? Welcome back to The Futures Archive.

Liz Danzico
Thanks, Lee. It's great to be here. I'm excited.

Lee Moreau
It's been a little while. We're going to continue our conversation on communication as it pertains to human centered design. And this week, we're going to be talking about the car radio. And I'm wondering, how much influence car radio had in your early life? Like how did you grow up with car radios?

Liz Danzico
I have very fond and vivid memories of car radios. So thanks for asking. I am the oldest of four kids. And so for me, the car and then the car radio represented for me sort of freedom— not freedom to sort of be with, you know, friends or to go places, but freedom from little brothers and sisters.

Lee Moreau
Ah.

Liz Danzico
And then, you know, you as a kid, you kind of make your bedroom your own. And then I realized I could then make the inside of the car, including what I played on the radio my-my own.

Lee Moreau
For example, what might you have— programed, I think, is probably talking about a time where we didn't talk about playlists so much, right — but what was on your playlist?

Liz Danzico
I had a very barebones kind of car and radio. The car was much older than the time I was driving. It was almost an antique, and I think that was, in retrospect, my dad's way of limiting the speed at which I could drive. It only had four gears, and so the radio itself had no cassette. It was very much what was on the radio stations, which in our area where we grew up in Pennsylvania, classic rock was very popular. So there was one college radio sta- actually there were two college radio stations that would play like alternative. So in high school, I was wavering between things like the Grateful Dead or these kinds of things, but also maybe the Steve Miller Band, but also the Sex Pistols or The Dead Milkmen or that kind of thing. So it was like all over- I was just kind of in every category kind of trying things out. And the college radio stations were the ones to tune in to.

Lee Moreau
Okay. You had me at Dead Milkmen. I grew up in and also in a kind of rural area. So I was in the car a lot. And you know, what I think about the programing that I was listening to was definitely for music. So I was listening to music in the car. I wasn't listening for news. News happened like at home, and it would be in the newspaper, on television. But later in life, I think it's transition. Where now what? I'm in the car, I'm listening more to news that I don't really take in news in other parts of my life in the same way. So it's interesting how programing shifts as you grow up and age and context changes.

Liz Danzico
Agreed.

Lee Moreau
Liz, as you were talking about the things that you were listening to some of that sort of music and entertainment content. But as we think about the car radio as a technology, how are car radios like fundamentally technologies of communication and what-what is the landscape that they fit into?

Liz Danzico
It's a great question because on one hand, it hasn't changed over time. On the other hand, there are so many ways in which it can do more now. The final has gotten bigger and bigger in terms of what it is able to do and what it's able to provide. As a communication device, my impression, my opinion working either in or adjacent to the space is that it is, you know, providing critical news and information the same way that the radio in your house is doing that. But the car radio being an early mobile device is providing you up to the minute information on traffic. If you think about there's a station called 1010 Winds in New York that that plays the the traffic information every 10 minutes so that people at one point before smartphones and things could get that information up to the minute. So as a mode of communication and a mobile communication device actually providing local critical news and information, weather, traffic and information that's situated in context as you're moving through local neighborhoods and local rural, urban settings, you could actually change, you know, where you are and the information, the technology device would remain relevant. So that was true, you know, in the 1940s, and it is true today. The way that it happens today is much more advanced in that we can interact with the communication device, with our voice, and it can tell us what we don't even know we need to hear at the moment. But that same sort of like critical news and information communication device being local and situated in context still is true today. Today can do so much more because we can pretend we're local in, you know, the south of France if we want to instead of, you know, in northeastern Pennsylvania, where I grew up. But we can do it nonetheless.

Lee Moreau
The idea of a car being a portable listening or portable communication device is so absurd on some level, but it's exactly what it is. I love that. So we're going to build on that notion of this sort of portable listening and broadcast device or broadcast reception device. And we'll talk a little bit more about the car radio and hear from a few experts and historians and designers who can help us make sense of the car radio.

Ian Punnett
From the very beginning, long before cars were designed to have radios in them, people wanted to drive and listen to the radio. And it's kind of one of those things where it came as an organic force, the blending of these two things.

Lee Moreau
Ian Punnett is a professor of practice at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University. Is the coauthor of the book: Moving Sounds A Cultural History of Car Radio with Phylis Johnson, professor and director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University.

Phylis Johnson
People were, you know, they had their living room console, the radio console. They all sit around the house and stuff, and then they had to go on a road trip so they would rip that living room console and this big thing and they put it in the passenger's seat and would fill up the whole passenger seat. You know, by 1930, they started putting 1920, 1930, they started actually putting in the physical car radio inside the car. But it was a people idea at first.

Lee Moreau
It's a people idea. And people will do pretty crazy things when they really want to achieve a goal, right, so taking their whole console out of their living room and putting into their car. The last time we spoke, Liz, we were talking about, you know, in this kind of ongoing conversation about communication, we're talking about the dongle and how as designers in our effort to design things or fashion things for the world, there's a certain accountability that we need to be mindful of as we're doing it. So not to make, in that case, you know, wasteful technology that can't actually grow or I think we actually both dismantled and redeemed the dongle and that in the context of our conversation. But today, this isn't about an object that has a relationship to space where, you know the environment of the car and the vehicle— and we picked this specifically as car radio, not just radio, so that we can talk more about the experience of design in that space. Can you talk about the work that you're doing both professionally and probably academically in thinking about these issues?

Liz Danzico
Yeah, thinking about, you know, an object in relation to its space or space in relationship to people in this space where the objects kind of imperceptible is something that from an academic perspective, we've been trying to craft a program at SVA in many, many programs that are thinking about interaction design or, you know, human centered design in some way, and thinking about how to come at that from different perspectives to teach the tools and the methodologies, but also the research methods as well as the the sort of tactics of designing for that, because the environments are fluid oftentimes. Even when you're talking about the architecture, when you add people to that physical volume, you're going to change it, you know. So — how do you then specifically give, you know, that design direction? And how do you then come out with a very specific brief that you can work with?

Lee Moreau
So most people think of design as making things, right? An object that you see on the shelf at the supermarket and you'd purchase, or-or the car itself. But what you're talking about with experiential design, it's really intangible. Can you talk more about that? But that's not the typical way that people think about what design does.

Liz Danzico
Right.There's the car dashboard— just speaking about cars, specifically —the car dashboard itself and the ways that you've either delighted in or been frustrated by an icon or a dial. What is that? I don't know. I don't know what this particular knob does and those like hard coded relationships between an actual button or a dial. And what that gives you back the feedback that it gives you. But then there are the more experiential things that happen in relation to the series of things on the dashboard. So, is it intuitive? Is it enjoyable? Is it usable? Is it useful? These are some of the questions that a person who's thinking about experience design might ask before we begin the work to sort of unpack how that dashboard might be designed or redesigned or doing the work to do that. And those questions of sort of desirability, intuitiveness, delight, usability, even safety to certain degree, which has binary things, but also things that are more nuanced are all sort of like part of this experience that are less quantifiable and more qualitative, that make up this idea of the experiential aspect. Some of them will have something that you can touch, you know, a button or knob or a screen or— but some of them are not sort of not perceptible and tangible.

Lee Moreau
Thank you for bringing it back to the car. So I think with that, we should probably, let's hear a little bit more from Ian again on the history of the car radio.

Ian Punnett
Post-World War Two when GIs were coming home, suburbanization of America was well underway. The commute time that people spent in their cars in the morning and in the evenings on their way home back to their new, you know, GI Bill homes got longer and longer and radio adapted. So instead of running programs like it had up to and through World War Two that were focused on living room consumption, now the consumption gets changed to the lifestyle of the consumer. And so that's the big shift when radio in cars begins to take on a larger percentage of the market of radio consumers. The programing is tied to place, and the place changed, and so did programing.

Lee Moreau
Liz, earlier we talked about your personal experience with with radio and the fact that you were kind of curating your playlists and listening to certain things in the car, and that was your space. But talk a little about your professional radio history in the light of what Ian talks about, the place changing and the programing changes and basically the world is kind of shifting.

Liz Danzico
And that's a perfect example of what we know, by and large, about how people listen to spoken word audio, which is—people listen while doing something else. So in my time working with NPR over several years, whether it's researching a new feature for an app or a digital product, or doing work with podcasts, or even thinking about how to put NPR on a new product that you would never expect in the home, for example, a Smart Home products. Part of the brief was to think about the fact that, you know, people would be listening to this audio, these stories while doing something else. So in a way that's not changed per se, except the predictability of what people will be doing has changed. You're not just thinking about one context, which is the architecture of the interior of a car. So you can think about how can I program a driveway moment, as they're called, for the inside of a car? We know approximately the average length of the American commute. We know about what times people are driving. Those kinds of things are changing, particularly over the course of the pandemic. They changed dramatically. But then the way that people are listening to podcasts, the kinds of content has changed as well. And I'll mention too, in terms of designing for the architecture of a car and the space and time of a car, people's expectations for carrying audio with them has also changed. And I think we have maybe Netflix or Dropbox or early sort of cross-platform pioneers to credit or blame or credit for that and such that people would then expect to pick up their listening experience somewhere else. So in Ian's example, it's the living room or the car, and now today, many years later, it's both — and. It's the living room, the car. And as I move to the gym and back to the kitchen, back to the car, I want to continue the same sort of audio experience.

Lee Moreau
So you almost want people are kind of craving a continuous stream of content in spite of the fact that they're shifting locations and moving about.

Liz Danzico
That's right. And it's not just you carrying a device with you. This is as you move from device to device across your home, you know, you're sort of like where you left off follows you. And that's, again, an expectation that, you know, people who participate in things like Netflix or others have come to expect because that's the expectation of the behavior and the experience design of those digital experiences.

Lee Moreau
But I'm wondering, as I think about programing like on NPR, there are certain shows or programs that I'm kind of comfortable or excited to listen while other people are with me listening to them. And then there are some that actually, I don't know, I kind of want it all to myself and I know it's a broadcast and I know other people are listening to it elsewhere, but I don't want them near me. Is that something that from a programing perspective that ever gets thought about? Is there a reason why I'm having this this this feeling?

Liz Danzico
It's a good question. I um- I know that there are certain types of content that is social, not in the social media way, but more social that parents will want to put on in the late afternoon, early evening while dinner's being made kind of thing, such that families can listen together versus things that might have sensitive content that you don't want to listen to with other people. But I wonder, I think what you're talking about is a different kind of maybe sound or something that feels more personal versus more kind of participatory with a group. And that that's an interesting idea. I don't know. I know there's a group at NPR that pre-pandemic was just designing these participatory experiences where groups could go out and listen to a podcast together with headphones on in the context of the place that the podcast might be describing. So if the podcast was, you know, about the redwoods in California, that would be the context that they would be in.

Lee Moreau
That sounds like an example of experience design, for sure.

Liz Danzico
Indeed. What isn't?

Lee Moreau
Well, yeah. Once you start to, you know, peel the onion, everything starts to feel like. I mean, all designs experience, design on some level, right? So if we're going to understand the radio, we have to also understand this larger history, that sound and music also exists within, which is really the history of noise.

Karin Bijsterveld
So history of noise and history of technology are related.

Lee Moreau
Karin Bijsterveld is a historian and professor of science, technology and modern culture at Maastricht University. She's the author of numerous books about sound, including Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel.

Karin Bijsterveld
At each age of history, people have talked about noise. But at the end of the 19th century, it became more and more important. And that was not only due to technology but also to cultural change in which more and more people lived in cities. I mean, it's interesting, but it's also super strange that we use the car, given the fact that the car was originally very noisey as a way to find tranquility, as a way to find that sort of relative silence and auditory privacy. So the question was: How how did that come up? How is that possible?

Liz Danzico
What's interesting about what Karin is saying is that in previous years and I think still today, people will go into the car to get privacy. And it was sort of this notion of tranquility and, you know, privacy for some and for others, you know, thinking back to my own experience, you know, freedom and personal expression and sometimes your personal expression is silence. What's interesting today is that that personal expression of silence is signaled by putting earbuds in, right. And so what happens when you put earbuds in is the same thing that might have happened if you're sort of like closing the car door. You know, it's a different mindset. So it's a different thing. It's not just a signal to you, but it's also a signal to those around you that you are having a private moment and cannot be disturbed. You will not be stopped for directions on the street. You will not be disturbed unless it is critical if you have headphones on. That is, I think, the parallel example to what Karin is talking about now.

Lee Moreau
That's a really interesting reflection on our society, too, that we have started to create ways to close ourself off from the world around us using the technology of the car door or the earbud, which is maybe a sign more than a piece of technology, but it's certainly something that we've developed.

Liz Danzico
Right. And so you can create your own personal soundscape— if-if you're nervous to go to an interview, you know, drop your headphones on, you get to have your own personal walkup music. What is your soundtrack as you go to your first date with someone? If you are about to do a lecture and you need your soundtrack — so these kinds of things, which I think had happened and still happen in the car, are happening more on a micro level at the headphone level and the personal device level.

Lee Moreau
I love that you keep invoking the car as like the the first mobile device, like the OG mobile device. I think that's great. Let's hear a little bit more from Karin Bijsterveld.

Karin Bijsterveld
On the one hand, by bringing your soundscape, you could make the unfamiliar more familiar, but also you could make the very boring something that it's too familiar, like a commute, you could make it more interesting, more exciting.

Lee Moreau
So for me, I love this notion of the almost hybrid soundscape where you're hearing the sounds of the city, but then you also plug in your own.

Liz Danzico
Yeah, it gets it's interesting. There's a magic to the layering and then there's a magic to the dismantling such that you can sort of isolate one. And I think what ties them together is being observant and sort of focused on what it is, you know. Is it the layered sound? You know, how many sounds can are you aware of? Are you aware that over the machine noise there's robins and sparrows and all these, you know, your neighbor's dog or isolating one and, you know, being conscious of that and that being sort of magical.

Lee Moreau
I'm picturing, as you're saying that, I was picturing sort of walking across Manhattan and you're on the the west side and you are like hearing certain sounds and then you enter Central Park and then the soundscape kind of changes. You might have the same song playing or the same podcast or show playing on your headphones, but the sound around you changes and suddenly the content almost shifts with you. And then of course, you cross the park, you get to the east side, and then it picks up again.

Lee Moreau
The Futures Archive is brought to you by the design team at Automattic, which is building a new web and any workplace all around the world.

Monika Burman
I'm Monika Berman. I am the senior design program manager. Automattic and I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Lee Moreau
Monica works on the designer experience team supporting all designers at Automattic.

Monika Burman
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Lee Moreau
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Monika Burman
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Lee Moreau
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Lee Moreau
So over time, our relationship to sound and space changes, whether we're kind of moving through through a city or the historical time shifts. Space change sounds change, technology advances.

Yuri Suzuki
In terms of the kind of context of the car, I think noise has a quite big meaning on the car.

Lee Moreau
Yuri Suzuki is an experience and sound designer who works at the intersection of installation, interaction, and product design and has worked on a couple of projects that look at cars and noise, including one project called The Sound Taxi.

Ian Punnett
I was thinking, what if we creating a lot of speakers around the car, creating like massive sound. However, on top of the car has a high definition microphone widley picking up sound on the street. That sound too was kind of a translated into a software, like analyzing frequency and volume and all that, and then we translate that sound into something one might digest better, like one might treat as music.

Lee Moreau
This is a really cool project where basically in London they took a, you know, iconic London taxicab and they put all these like horns, like big speakers on top, and then also speakers on the side of the car, just like blasting out the side. But they also had like very sensitive microphones, so they're both picking up the sounds of the city and then mixing it up and turning into music and then playing it back out, kind of like in real time. We'll, we'll post a link on our on our show notes for this this week. But it was a it was a really kind of, I think, a provocative expression of some of the things that we've been talking about, which is like taking the noise from the city and then reformulating it and pushing it back out. There's a video which shows like people seeing the car go by and looking at it and they're recognizing that they're part of what goes in and also what comes out.

Liz Danzico
There's something to taking something out of context. I mean, we're really talking about, you know, John Dewey's notion of like perception versus recognition and like taking things out of context so we can truly perceive them rather than to have them kind of wash over us and sort of like a generic recognition. And so I think this idea of sort of like taking the context of the city sounds and playing them back for the city as if they're new is wonderful.

Lee Moreau
One of my favorite assignments to give to students in design is called Polyphony, and in the assignment, I ask every student to make a sort of musical instrument or noise making device something crude. But, you know, often these are engineering students and they're pretty good at making things that make sound, but they're working as a team. And so everyone has to come together. It's like 12 students in a group and then make a composition where all of those things are working together. And the idea is like not necessarily to achieve harmony or sort of harmonious sound, but just to like be aware of the fact that you're working against constraints. And those other constraints are the other projects and the other sounds that are being made to try to create that. So this, this kind of confrontation of either complementary or sometimes dissonant sounds kind of working together and just being aware that that's happening is, I think, really important for students to perceive when they're starting to think about working at larger and larger scales where there are more and more conflicts and constraints, that come into the equation.

Liz Danzico
Yeah. And I think something about what we've been talking about for, you know, designers, engineers, students who are thinking about these things in the efficacy or the value of this, taking things out of context and letting them perceive them rather than recognize them and showing them that we are part of these systems. And here's what it sounds like or in this case not looks like, but sounds like or behaves like when it's out of context, is so valuable because it is our responsibility, not our role, but our responsibility to design with these audiences in context. And so it sort of could be a way to help engender empathy and is another way that we can do that and very much a valuable sort of tool or method in human centered design as just a reminder of kind of flipping that narrative a little bit and looking at yourself from a different point of view. This is what I sound like when I'm part of the city and the city is being played back to me. It's all comes back to human centered design.

Olga Touloumi
The question of sound is very ephemeral and speculative in some way.

Lee Moreau
Olga Touloumi is assistant professor of architecture history at Bard College. Olga is the coeditor of Sound Modernities: Architecture, Media and Design, a special issue of the Journal of Architecture about communication and mass media.

Olga Touloumi
What we perceive to be noise is really connected with aesthetic ideas about what is a good sound, what is a enjoyable sound, and what is not. And the esthetic ideas most of the times are connected with social processes, right. So there is not one agreement on what is noise and what is beautiful sound. It's all debated because it is all socially constructed.

Liz Danzico
So think about generating empathy or fostering empathy and the idea of sort of taking things out of context, you know, as designers and engineers and people of all kinds who make things, we're still. Decades and decades and maybe centuries later are still getting used to the idea that we are not our audience, nor can we predict the contexts that they'll be in. And so at a moment where we're thinking about designing for all people who may not be excited or be able to hear in the same ways or, you know, or thinking about noise, have other things happening in their household that are causing stress? It is, you know, part of our role to think about how to bring all of those things to bear and design with communities like those so that we can not imagine those scenarios, but truly try to understand as best as we can those scenarios. And and that will continue to be a challenge. But I just want to say that just playing sound back, you know, as we were talking about, is not the only way. That's not that's not enough. There's much more that we need to do to really understand the people we're designing with.

Lee Moreau
And to meet them where they are in the world, in their world.

Olga Touloumi
Architects do talk about sound and they do talk about broadcasting, and they even imagine their buildings as broadcasting organisms from really early on. As soon as radio becomes like a technology that is popularized and accessible to the public.

Lee Moreau
So this is we're scaling up, right? We're getting bigger and bigger. This is bigger than the car radio. It's bigger than your portable listening device or portable audio device. It's really about the whole city and how designers need to be focused not just on designing for people, but also designing for the world.

Liz Danzico
I love this idea as a building, as a broadcasting device or a city as a broadcasting device, for that matter, what can't be a broadcasting device. But hearing Olga talk about this makes me think of Christopher Alexander, architect who recently passed away, in one of his books — and I don't remember which one, it might have been A Pattern Language — he talked about the way to design a city or design a community, a large community is to start with the doorknob. And once you can design a doorknob, you can design the door because it's the walkway between two rooms. And then once you can design that, you can design the room, the room design the house, the house, the, you know, the street, etc.. And so I wonder if the car radio is the key to designing the city. In other words, starting small and getting these small contexts right is the is the way to think about, you know, going big and into the whole city, which is very much how we tend to work anyway, you know, small increments.

Lee Moreau
Mm hmm. The sort of nested concerns that impacts much larger systems. So start small, but start to think large. And and this is definitely I mean, when you look at the cities that we built and the kind of cacophonous environments that we've created, both in there like almost difficult, challenging and at times, you know, there's sirens in the background, noises that are hard to manage up against one another, but also like the kind of beautiful sounds that you get from all of that energy and and activity happening at the same time, at the same place. I mean, this is kind of the beautiful balance of the world that we've created. And, you know, oftentimes in human centered design, there's a tremendous benefit in designing, for one. But really in this topic, though, at moments we're in our portable listening device, the car, or we have our headphones on and we're designing for one in some sense, we are designing for shared experiences and about engaging at different scales. And I want to talk about how, as Olga was saying, like thinking about the the the broadcasting systems of the city. Where do you think this is going to take us in the future, Liz?

Liz Danzico
Yeah, I would love to know. I have some some ideas, but I'll say that, you know, even just a few years ago, I with a couple of colleagues of mine, we started thinking about what does public media, you know, the not just NPR but the network of public media look like in a world where people don't drive. Because while the car radio is a significant device in the car as we know it, the car as we know it as a mobility device, which is is now changing. Not just electric vehicles and that, but the way that people will be commuting. Ridesharing is already what it is also changing with the pandemic. So how do we think about listening experiences, either designing for one or designing for many in a shared vehicle where there is no driver who is in control? You know, who sets the playlist? You know who gets to choose the dead milkman or, you know, or spoken word audio. And and so I think those are the kinds of decisions that we'll we'll have to make. The good news is the good news is, in addition to electric vehicles, which is good news, that we have experience with this kind of community with public transportation. Right. So we already take busses and trains and airplanes too, although that's kind of a different media experience— so we have good research that has been done and good observational ethnographic research subjects already doing this kind of work. And we just sort of have to take it to a different a different context with much more advanced sort of like computing happening in these moving vehicles that are sort of more personalized, have more personalized potential, I guess I should say.

Lee Moreau
So let's hear a little bit more from Olga Touloumi on maybe the ways that she thinks we should be thinking about our spaces as a as a historian and scholar.

Olga Touloumi
Listened to your environments and practice active listening. Where am I right now? What kind of sounds are around me? And then, what kind of lives and systems and social spaces this sounds come from? Is it the sound of the infrastructure, the sound of labor, work on the streets? What kind of sounds am I immersed in and what can I learn about my environment by listening to the sound?

Lee Moreau
So balancing, like listening to the world with also engaging the world in bringing your own sound to it, right. So we're we're also instruments of sorts as we participate in these spaces.

Liz Danzico
That's right.

Lee Moreau
So, Liz, it's interesting, as we've gone through this conversation, we started talking about how through the car radio, the car kind of speaks to us. It's broadcasting to us as the listener in the car. And then recently, we've been talking about how the fact that while we can start to engage the car through Alexa, through different things, we're now talking to the car and are almost in conversation with it. What does this tell us about where we're going?

Liz Danzico
Yeah. It will be interesting to see how many people take up voice apps in the car, you know, and how popular they are, I don't know, the latest on them. So if they become more ubiquitous, it continues to reinforce the devices dissolving in the background of human behavior. So that natural language, natural behaviors, human behavior is the only thing left present rather than, you know, chrome and hardware and, you know, metal. And we're not sort of standing between us and what we want. I think that's ultimately what we're seeing in the same way that even the radio itself, in the living room or in the car, they've gone from these beautiful pieces of furniture in the home, beautiful fixtures in the car. They've gotten smaller and smaller. And to the point where now it's not really it's not a radio. It's a it's a conversation that you're having with your car, a la you know, Kit.

Lee Moreau
That's a great reference.

Liz Danzico
But I think I think that's that's probably what it means if it does take off. I do think that that jump of voice recognition in the car is probably a little harder for people, and there's lots of usability issues with it because of a car and multiple people. Who's doing the talking? Do you pick up the backseat? So there's some usability issues to overcome, but I think it's all in the spirit about reducing the friction between a person and what my goals are. And that's really maybe a thesis statement for human centered design, you know, is really kind of reducing the barriers, reducing the any friction between a person and their goals.

Lee Moreau
So, Liz, I want to kind of direct us to the sort of thought exercise that we do at the end of every episode. And I'm wondering if, as we've been talking, if you have something in mind that would be a good thing for listeners to kind of engage with briefly as they're going about their day.

Liz Danzico
Here's an idea: something I've been curious about as we've been talking, which is if you press tap, say, stop right now doing whatever you're doing, a the end of this podcast, after you listen to the credits and everything else at the end, how many sounds do you hear around you? You know, how many are machine made and how many are natural? And just what does that sound like right at this moment? And if you're curious to do that at the same time every day for a few days, that kind of keeps your interest. Is it more than you expected? Is it less than you expected? Truly listen in active listening as one of our our our guest said practice active listening such that peeling away the layers of the onion. Once you think you've heard listened deeper and continue to kind of listen to what's what's around you.

Lee Moreau
That's a that's a wonderful exercise. Great. Thank you, Liz.

Lee Moreau
The Futures Archive is a podcast from Design Observer. To keep up with the show, go to TFA dot design observer dot com or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you liked what you heard today, please make sure to rate and review us and share this with your friends.

Liz Danzico
And you can listen to me in various podcasts, but all the places you can find me, I am at B-O-B-U-L-A-T-E. That's bobulate dot com, at bobulate on Instagram and Twitter and every other social network.

Lee Moreau
The Futures Archive is brought to you this season by Automattic. Thanks again to Phylis Johnson, Ian Punnett, Karin Bijsterveld, Yuri Suzuki and Olga Touloumi for talking to The Futures Archive. You can find more about them in our show notes at TFA dot design observer dot com along with a full transcription of the show. Our producer is Adina Karp. Owen Agnew edits the show. Thanks as always to design Observer founder Jessica Helfand and to Design Observer executive producer Betsy Vardell.


Posted in: Product Design, The Futures Archive



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