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.

Presentation: Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting, 2023 (Ottawa)


Please see: http://bit.ly/msl-ua for Cameron Library room 1-40 Listening Sessions instructions and schedule

The soundscape will adjust to your preferences automatically if you provide feedback via your WiFi enabled device (phone, tablet, computer). Note: This device will not have access to the internet during the listening session, so if you want to work on the internet please use a second device connected to UWS or via mobile internet. For instance use your phone for feedback, and your laptop to work.

The interface displays three buttons: "Like", "Dislike", and "Neutral". You may tap any of these buttons at any time to indicate your satisfaction with the currently playing soundscape. Everyone has one vote, but you can change your vote at any time. Whenever a soundscape is selected your vote is reset to "neutral". A total value displays the number of likes or dislikes.

At intervals (currently set at 3 minutes) the system tallies all the votes and decides whether to continue the current soundscape, or select a new one. Over time it "learns" what the participating group likes, using a simple reinforcement learning algorithm.

Feel free to listen to our soundscapes while...

  • studying
  • writing
  • reading
  • chatting
  • resting

...or doing anything else you would ordinarily do in the Library.

We hope these sounds will help you both relax and focus, contributing to a state of mindfulness conducive to student mental health! (But if they don't you can always vote "Dislike"!)

Again, please see: http://bit.ly/msl-ua to learn more and connect.

After you leave or the session ends, please complete our survey to provide feedback on your experience. You may also use this web form to join our mailing list.