Have you ever attended a conference or trade show, and felt so inundated with information that you actually stop being able to meaningfully connect to the people around you? All of the sights, sounds, sessions, and networking opportunities leave little chance to process, absorb, and form truly meaningful connections.
With the Museum Computer Network’s Annual Conference beginning this week in Pittsburgh, Earprint is excited to debut a new type of conference experience called the Listening Lounge to encourage these connections. We are thrilled to co-host the Listening Lounge with Christine Murray from Antenna International.
I have spoken at MCN many times and attended a lot of other industry conferences. The problem of providing group listening environments in the conference setting has always troubled me. First, it’s hard to even get a conference room set up with decent sound, let alone stereo speakers. Secondly, there aren’t many places where you can share or experience audio content in an intimate and comfortable human scale setting, especially where you can relax and experience “Comfortable Listening.”
Museums in general seem to be trying to solve this problem with more comfortable chairs and some very notable examples of intimate audio sharing. I went to the Cecil Taylor exhibition at the Whitney in New York and was overjoyed when I could sit in a comfortable armchair (with real cushions!), put on a pair of headphones and listen to a music track or interview, while gazing out at the incredible skyline of NY through large, wall-height windows.
Earprint has spent decades creating spaces for people to be immersed in sound in order to feel connected to the objects on view, or to feel transported to a different time and place. I talked with Jennifer Foley, MCN Program Planning Committee Co-Chairperson last year in New Orleans, and shared an idea I had to help people find a way to connect and find comfort for their ears and bodies while at the MCN. We discussed the possibility of creating a special place for listening to the stories of the 50th Anniversary of the MCN this year, and the Listening Lounge idea was launched.
This week we are pleased to debut the Listening Lounge at MCN’s 50th birthday celebration! The Lounge will be set up to be a quiet and cozy space for conference attendees to enter and feel welcome to decompress by listening to sounds. The Lounge has 3 “pods” where visitors can relax, put on blackout eye masks if they want, put on a set of headphones, and listen to a playlist of sounds.
The playlists are publicly-sourced, built around suggestions from conference attendees that draw from podcast episodes, binaural audio experiments, original music, interviews, natural environmental sounds and much more! These sounds are intended to quickly transport people into new environments and showcase some of the awesome sounds being produced today.
By highlighting the sounds chosen by immersive storytellers of all kinds, the Listening Lounge has the potential to not only provide a moment of calm for visitors, but also serve as a point of connection to other attendees. These playlists bring up new and exciting ideas about how we share information and ideas at conferences and gatherings.
I am excited to see where this audio experiment leads. Since the sourcing of the sounds is so communal, the Listening Lounge is a fluid concept that will evolve as the day progresses. The connections made through the sounds will depend greatly on the sounds themselves, the people who chose them, and the people who came to listen to them.
Come join me in this experiment by taking some time to be quiet in the Listening Lounge, actively listening and building interpersonal connections in a new and exciting way.
The Listening Lounge is taking place on Wednesday, November 8, from 1:15 to 5pm at the MCN Annual Conference in Pittsburgh.
*Following this conference, Earprint is taking on a leadership role in creating a listening research project that will be featured at the Museums and the Web conference in April 2018. Come back to our blog to follow the project as it progresses.*