Sounds Of Productivity

Droumeva ( Milena Droumeva )
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Sounds of Productivity is a soundmap of coffee shop soundscapes in Vancouver, Canada, charting aural environments that foster productivity.

created by Dr. Milena Droumeva

I first encountered the term “coffice,” or coffee-office, in a tweet: a fitting beginning to a hipster portmanteau that references an ever-popular urban labour practice – working in a coffee shop. The tweet also referenced the notion of “coffitivity,” or the kind of productivity one derives not only from the stimulation of the coffee drink itself but also from the chaotic, communal, semi-public space of the urban café. Coffitivity is also an app: a service that delivers the coffee shop ambience to your personal headphones, whether you are at home, school, or wherever you happen to work. The app combines a selection of trademarked coffee shop ambiences with your chosen music tracks, promising to “boost your creativity and help you work better.” A study conducted by Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema (published in the Journal of Consumer Research) suggests that ambient sound levels above a certain decibel level – one we typically think of as too loud to be conducive to intellectual work and concentration – are actually conducive to “creative cognition.” The “sweet spot” noise level for this is suggested to be around 70dB – incidentally, the average ambience level for most North American cafes based on my six years of unstructured observations and decibel recordings, primarily in Vancouver, British Columbia. This project explores cafe soundscapes as "soundscapes of productivity:” reflective of changing attention spans, work process, and stress management. And while Coffitivity and Starbucks will have us consider cafes as homogenous globalized phenomena, there is a pertinent locality to the coffice soundscape. How does the coffice sound in Vancouver? 
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