Overhearing: An Attuning Approach to Noise in Danish Hospitals


Marie Koldkjær Højlund


overhearing, attuning


Denmark is building new and improved super hospitals, based on a vision of improving overall quality by switching the focus from hospitals for treatment to hospitals for healing, guided by research in the field of evidence-based design and healing architecture. Users mention noise as one of the main stressors and research has discovered that noise levels in hospitals continue to rise. Noise has therefore become a central point of concern, recommending strategies to reduce measurable and perceived noise levels.

However, these strategies do not support the need to feel like an integral part of the shared hospital environment, which is also a key element in creating healing environments linked to a reductionist framework underlying the field. This framework regards broad concepts such as noise and silence as objects with quantifiable properties, and assumes that these properties can be understood independently of the perceiver as a bodily and situated subject. The aim of this dissertation is accordingly to develop an alternative framework capable of accommodating the multi-sensory, affective and atmospheric conditions that influence the experience of noise, with a view to complementing the existing approaches in the field.  

Consequently, the dissertation develops an ecological framework capable of accommodating these issues, established by viewing sound and listening through the lens of atmospheres. The attuning approach highlights the reciprocal relationship between the way in which atmospheres condition shared rhythms that shape us, but also the way in which we can tune them in different ways. In the context of sound and listening, this creates the potential of ecological overhearing as an atmospheric mode of listening capable of reconfiguring habitual background and foregrounding relationships. 

Attuning strategies should thus provide opportunities for diverse acoustic situations and possibilities for active choice-making to meet different and shifting needs through an enactive approach in order to enhance empowerment and ecological overhearing. Embedding diverse enactive sound installations and interactive sound technology in hospitals can facilitate such zones of overhearing. These zones become places for ruptures that strengthen the possibilities for engaging in counter-attunements of existing negative atmospheres. In this way, zones of overhearing not only provide continual sense of presence without demanding full attention, but also create ample opportunities for the restoration of  attention.

The dissertation takes an experimental practice-based approach through artistic- and constructive design-research and comprises six peer-reviewed papers (Part IV), framed by a general overview article (Parts I-III) that develops the theoretical and methodological foundation for the papers, and provides a synthesis and discussion of their main findings. The practice-based work is founded on a range of experiments, but focuses on two main experiments: Light, Landscape & Voices and KidKit, and the way in which they elicit sensitivities within the topic of investigation. This contribution also concerns the concrete development of installations through the experiments. These installations are in themselves manifestations of and challenges to hypotheses about the topic I aim to address.




30 juni 2017

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