"We experience spaces not only by seeing but also by listening"

Barry Blesser recently sent me sample chapters of his book called "Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?" (written with Linda-Ruth Salter, at MIT Press). The main thesis propelled by this book is that social relationships are strongly influenced by the way that space changes sound ("aural architecture"), an issue I can fully agree with given my background in cognitive psychology and ergonomics. Some excerpts:

The composite of numerous surfaces, objects, and geometries in a complicated environment creates an aural architecture. (...) consider displacing familiar sounds to unfamiliar environments. Transported to an open desert, urban traffic would not have the aural personality of a dense city environment. (...) In addition to providing acoustic cues that can be interpreted as objects and surfaces, aural architecture can also influence our moods and associations (...) Aural architecture can also have a social meaning. For example, the bare marble floors and walls of an office lobby loudly announce the arrival of visitors by the re-sounding echoes of their footsteps.

Why do I blog this? I am interested in how the environment structures social and cognitive interactions, therefore this book seem to deal with that issue from the auditory perspective. It reminds me of a study I did five years ago about which sort of awareness cues FPS players (Quake II...) deployed while competing; in the interview, lots of players told me that they were listening to footsteps noises as an indicator of which weapons the opponents were carrying.