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Urban sound has a huge influence over how we perceive places. Yet, city planning is concerned mainly with noise, simply because annoying sounds come to the attention of city officials in the form of complaints, while general urban sounds cannot be easily captured at city scale. To capture both unpleasant and pleasant sounds, we propose a new methodology that relies on tagging information of georeferenced pictures.

We propose the first urban sound dictionary and compare it to the one produced by collating insights from the literature: ours is experimentally more valid (if correlated with official noise pollution levels) and offers wider geographic coverage.

From picture tags, we then study the relationship between soundscapes and emotions. We learn that streets with music sounds are associated with strong emotions of joy or sadness, while those with human sounds are associated with joy or surprise.

Finally, we study the relationship between soundscapes and people’s perceptions and, in so doing, we are able to map which areas are chaotic, monotonous, calm, and exciting.Those insights promise to inform the creation of restorative experiences in our increasingly urbanized world.





Daniele Quercia
Nokia Bell Labs
Rossano Schifanella
Turin University
Luca Maria Aiello
Nokia Bell Labs