Mindful Social Listening project

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Mindful social listening: Intelligent immersive soundscape environments for student mental health and wellbeing

short link to this page: https://bit.ly/MSL-UA

Michael Frishkopf

How can soundscapes enhance student wellbeing and academic success? Academic life is replete with exploration, discovery, learning, creativity…and stress. Across all disciplines, postsecondary students suffer from the stress that inevitably accompanies the harried occupation of university life, impeding learning and jeopardizing wellbeing. This dire situation has become a recognized mental health crisis. As university mental health programs are woefully under-resourced, students perforce rely on various forms of self-care. Our pilot study revealed that over 75% of students experience high levels of stress; 94% use music and sound to cope; and about 80% find it highly effective. They use personal listening devices (headphones, earbuds) to enhance concentration, mask distractions, and reduce stress, by listening to preferred genres. However, students may not be optimizing their sonic environments for stress reduction and focus, and personal listening devices contribute to social isolation. We address these limitations by developing an autonomous system generating a responsive soundscape environment in a social listening space. Building on AAS, combining data mining, machine learning, and algorithmic composition, and drawing on field recordings, applied ethnomusicology, and sound art, we are designing a responsive soundscape environment that can autonomously adapt to feedback from socially interacting users, enhancing mindful calm, and supporting academic wellbeing.