New Auditory Map Helps You Hear The Sounds of Cities

By Jordi Lippe-McGraw |

Courtesy of Chatty Maps

This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

Maps are great for locating points of interest, determining the distance between two hot spots, and getting the overall lay of the land. But, one website is kicking it up a notch by also plotting the sounds of destinations. They call it Chatty Maps.

The site takes on 12 major cities including London, New York, Barcelona,San Francisco and Rome, and maps their sounds street by street in the categories of transport, nature, people, music, and buildings. An overview of the city shows where there’s a large concentration of these particular sounds to help better inform travelers who are looking for a place to stay, go out, or get away from it all.

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Not surprising, Central Park in New York City is filled with nature sounds—and areas of the Financial District are, too. Perhaps even more fun is seeing where there’s a concentration of music. In New York it’s scattered throughout, but there are denser pockets along Houston Street and Ninth Avenue.

The collection of data that makes up the map wasn’t gathered by sending people out on the streets, but by using social media posts. Researchers looked specifically at Flickr for posts that had “sound-related terms” and they further explained their techniques in a paper published for Royal Society Open Science.

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"We showed that social media data make it possible to effectively and cheaply track urban sounds at scale," the researchers said in their study, published Wednesday on the Royal Society Open Science website. "No matter what data one has, fully capturing soundscapes might well be impossible. The ultimate goal of this work is to empower city managers and researchers to find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape where the relationship between the human community and its sonic environment is in harmony.”