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Our cities are decaying. We circulate as fast as possible through public spaces or we inhabit them in a consumerist way. The urban dweller feels little engagement with its environment. Besides, the normalization of what we could call “the headphone city” in which people is creating their own soundtrack for the urban space is contributing to new forms of urban detachment and isolation. The Virtual Urban Sonic Acupuncture App (vusaa) is an artistic invitation to listen to the city with different ears and to feel how a subtle sonic intervention can drive our attention to urban areas and hidden corners fostering a more conscious urban dwelling and social dialogue.

What is Urban Sonic Acupuncture?

We can define acupuncture as a local action by means of a pressure point on a key spot with the power to change the situation globally, beyond the local area in which the pressure point is applied. Sonic acupuncture relies in applying sonic pressure points on key spots affecting the global sonic situation. Urban Sonic Acupuncture parallels the practice of Urban and Public Space Acupuncture in the Aural architecture field. Aural architecture deals with spatial and cultural acoustics, it also assigns four basic functions of sound in space: social, navigational, aesthetic and musical spatiality. Artistic sonic acupuncture interventions are placed along this axis by starting a negotiation between artistic intentions and the local knowledge and practices.

vusaa creates a virtual urban sonic acupuncture intervention in the public space by sensing elements existing in the place the user is in. A generative system is set in motion generating a sonic acupuncture specific to the given conditions the user is at every moment by using the microphone to listen to the environment, the camera for luminance sensing, the clock; and the GPS data.

Besides the inspiration from the practice of Urban Acupuncture, vusaa refers to psychographic techniques that Guy Debord defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” and to the soundwalk practice that Hildegard Westerkamp called to “… any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are.”

Credits and acknowledgements

Concept and algorithm design: Josué Moreno
Algorithm design and programming: Vesa Norilo
vusaa logo: Josué Moreno

vusaa has been developed with Kronos programming language developed by Vesa Norilo at Sibelius Academy.

vusaa is made possible thanks to the support of Sibelius Academy’s Music Technology Department and Sibelius Academy Development Centre. The research involved in the development of the Urban Sonic Acupuncture concepts is supported by Kone Foundation, University of the Arts Helsinki Mutri Doctoral School and Niilo Helander Foundation. The application will be presented at the Venice Research Pavilion, 16th of  June 2017

Privacy policy

The sounds are stored in the device only while the app is running, the camera data is not accessed or stored in any server or in other third-party service. The audio data accessed when using vusaa remains private and local.
Vusaa uses the microphone to listen and process the soundscape around you.
Vusaa uses the video camera to sense luminosity in your surroundings.
Vusaa uses the location services to generate location-dependent soundscapes. Location data will be sent to to determine daylight status. The information disclosed to the site is similar to accessing it with the web browser and providing gps coordinates.

VUSAA Conference PaperApp Advice Link