Accepted Paper:

Being alone among others : the ambivalent interpretation of sound in the subway, between isolation and relation   


Benjamin Cartron (RATP)
Denis Sochon (RATP)
Xavier Brisbois (RATP)

Paper short abstract:

The RATP leads a pluridisciplinary study about sounds perceptions, interpretation and feelings, among users and workers in Paris subway. Three themes were considered : comfort (sound as an ambiance), navigation (sound as an information) and identification (sound sketching the scene’s identity).

Paper long abstract:

The metro is a monument itself for Paris ; a public place as well as a transportation for ten billion users every day. In a user-oriented fashion, the RATP seeks ways of a better experience for underground passengers and workers. Throughout the understanding of perception and interpretation of sounds, we aim at evaluating their impact over emotions, cognition and attitudes. In addition to acousticians matter, we put together sociology and psychosociology methods, with ethnographic observations, as an asset for this exploratory, in progress research.

First, a qualitative data collection focused on discourses and free speech of travelers (randomly chosen for interviews, or following a given route inside the subway). We eventually tend to build experimental tryouts in "subway real-life", collecting the feedback and attitudes of passengers towards portable or set sonorous devices.

In our primary analysis, we sort and compared the elements of collected discourses, then showed the ambivalence of sound reception in the metro. Although every person points out noises and disturbance, many revealed how sound would reassure them, and guarantee an intimacy area among other travelers. Moreover, we see how the interpretation of a given sound relies on the source it refers in the mind of the user. Therefore, a great deal of mechanism sounds are perceive as typical and acceptable. On the other side, a human-sourced sound will disturb the intimacy "bubble", giving rise to positive or negative emotion, connecting them with others (music, discussion, eye-contact…) or feeding surprise, fear, anxiety or solitude.

Panel W088
Sound environments: forms, perception, and meanings