Tuning Into The Task: Sonic Environmental Cues And Mental Task Switching
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This position paper suggests a novel approach to enhancing productivity for professionals whose core business is deep thinking, by manipulation of the sonic environment. Approaching the issue from the perspective of sound-design, it proposes the composition and algorithmic generation of background soundscapes that promote a psychological state of flow , and can become mentally associated with particular tasks through exposure, so as to facilitate task switching by switching soundscapes. These background soundscapes are intended to mask distracting clatter, oppressive quiet, and other suboptimal sonic environments frequently encountered in office workplaces. Consequently, I call them active-silences: soundscapes designed to be not heard, although they may be relatively loud. The most commonly used active-silence is white noise, though there are surprisingly diverse other approaches to crafting active-silence. This variety suggests the possibility of training associations that pair distinct active-silences with distinct mental tasks.