Here we are: my first months at TU Berlin & the setting up of the pilot study


Today, I am happy to launch my first academic blog in the frame of the appointment I started a TU Berlin in April as an IPODI-Marie Curie Fellow.

The principal aim consists in keeping record of my post doc research progress and related side activities, however I hope it will not be just adds-on to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it, as Tim Hitchcock recently argued in a post published on  LSE blog where he discusses the importance of social media in academia. Indeed, as Erik Qualman states in his best-seller book Socialnomics: “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media. The choice is how well we do it.”
And, of course, I hope to do it at my best!

Now, let’s start from the beginning of the story. I have been awarded the IPODI-Marie Curie Fellowship to develop my post doc research project Beyond the Noise: Open Source Soundscape at the Technische Universität Berlin Institute of City and Regional Planning under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dietrich Henckel and Dr. Joerg Kaptain of the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment.

The aim of the International Post-Doc Initiative (IPODI) of the Technische Universität Berlin is to increase the number of women in leadership positions awarding 21+5 two-year fellowships to international female researchers in four internationally open calls between 2013 and 2018. The IPODI program has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration (Marie Curie Co-funding of Regional, National, and International Programmes).
It is an extremely relevant initiative and a great opportunity to contribute to fill the gender gap in academia. Here you can have a look at the IPODI fellows’ profiles and their research projects spanning from Neuroscience to Urban Planning. Many interesting side activities are also organized by the IPODI Office led by Dr. Elke Gehweiler to provide additional training in career development and research management, specifically tailored to experienced female postdoctoral researchers.

My research work consists in the development of the the Beyond the Noise: Open Source Soundscapes project that focuses on the issue of urban quiet areas. I have envisioned a qualitative and experimental methodology based on the “open source soundscape” approach that will be tested through a citizens-driven pilot study using web-based open source tools in a neighbourhood affected by environmental injustice in Berlin.
The application of the methodology will result in the protection of existing quiet areas and the planning of new ones at the local scale. There would also be a positive impact on the public’s awareness of the sonic environment, and on the spread of the open-data/open-source movement.

In the first months of the research, several activities have been addressed to set up the pilot study:
1) the choice of the most appropriate area for the pilot;
2) the analysis of the state of the art of mobile applications for crowdsourced noise-& soundmaps
3) the choice of the best method for crowdsourcing data with the citizens.

In order to select the most appropriate area for the development of the pilot study, the following criteria were selected in accordance with the Berlin Senate: Environmental Justice Index, Position, Size, Morphology, Land use, Social Diversity, Distance to quiet & recreational areas of the Berlin Plan, Accessibility to green areas, Soundscape.
The fulfillment of the criteria was verified combining two methods: the onsite method and online one. The online method implied the collection, analysis and comparison using the software QGis of the data made available by the Berlin Senate and by the TU GIS Lab.
The onsite method implied the direct exploration of the areas applying the intimate-sensing approach (Porteous, 1986). Soundwalks have been performed and the following data have been collected: audio recordings, pictures, dB levels, notes. Informal interviews with the locals were also be conducted.
From the comparative analyses of the data collected, the most appropriate area results to be the Reuterkiez and its sourroundigs in Neukölln.

Along with these research tasks, in the past months I was busy with other side activities.

In May I had the pleasure to be invited by Professor Henckel to give a talk at TU Berlin depicting my research work on soundscape studies, digital media & urban planning. This is the title of the talk: The City, the Noise and the Quietnessthat got very positive feedback from the students and many insightful questions, which I always like very much.

Then, Professor Henckel and me flew to Firenze where we had been invited to give a tandem speech at the Major Cities of Europe Conference 2016 City Renaissance in the Digital Age.
The MCE 2016 conference aimed to “be a journey of discovery to determine what City Renaissance means in the Digital Age”. The goal was achieved hosting distinguished speakers from European cities alongside worldwide experts from ICT providers and academia, who discussed pioneering practices as well current pilots and implementations. It was a very stimulating venue where we met interesting people from all around the Europe. I had the opportunity to test the CITY-SENSE tool developed by Tecnalia. The organization was outstanding as well as the quality of the social events organized, especially the social dinner in Palazzo Vecchio.
Here you can have a look at the abstract and the presentation of our tandem speech titled: Sense-Scapes: Quietness and Natural Darkness for the Sustainable City.

Finally, I also attended several conferences as listeners. Among those, I would like to mention the INTERNOISE 2016 Satellites that took place in Berlin at the DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. on August 25-26. I very much enjoyed the events and a special post will be dedicated to it and launched soon!

And now? What’s next?

To give you a taste of my near future, I would like to name only but a few of the activities I will be involved in!

ON ARTIFICIAL LIGHT AT NIGHT (ALAN 2016) will take place in Cluj-Napoca on September, 26-28. I will be attending the conference and, along with Professor Henckel and the ISR researcher Josiane Meier, we will give a speech titled “Urban Planning Challenges: Toward integrated approaches to sustainable lightscape and soundscape planning. We are working very hard on the presentation and we all are looking forward to geeting feedback from the audience!

+ TU Berlin Studienprojekt Master WS 2016/17: Lichtverschmutzung und Lärm – Aufgaben wachsender Bedeutung und Strategien ihrer Bewältigung. Vergleich Berlin –Florenz. In the fall semester I will collaborate with Prof. Henckel in this Master Class where students will be asked to analyse, compare and evaluate ligh and noise planning approaches adopted by the City of Berlin and Firenze. The Master Class will also imply a field trip to Firenze where field analyses will be conducted such as: interviews with the stakeholders and citizens, light&soundwalks.

Stay tuned!

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